FOR the past couple of years, China’s tens of millions of Christians, most of whom are Protestants, have been watching events in the coastal province of Zhejiang with anxiety. The authorities there have been waging a relentless campaign to remove the large crosses that adorn the roofs of many churches; hundreds have been taken down, to the horror of their congregations. In January this took a turn for the worse with the arrest of Gu Yuese, the outspoken pastor of the country’s largest church, a colossal edifice in the provincial capital, Hangzhou, that seats 5,000 people…
But it’s not all bad news,
Police in some areas continue to harass and detain members of house churches. But in many places, house churches are flourishing, and often make little if any effort to hide their activities from the government. Officials appear to turn a blind eye. President Xi Jinping is waging a fierce campaign against dissent, rounding up hundreds of civil-rights activists and tightening controls on the media. He appears less keen, however, to take on the country’s fast-growing Christian community, as long as its members do not openly defy the Communist Party.
Some Chinese house churches are becoming mega-churches,
In the meantime, house churches continue to grow. In Beijing, one of the most prominent of them, called Zion Church (pictured), is so big that the house-church label seems wildly inappropriate. When it was founded in 2007 the congregation met in a small office in a commercial building. Since 2013 it has been using an entire floor of it. Some 1,500 people attend services each weekend.