China — the first post-religious society or the nation with the most Christians on earth?

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A few notes from A Star in the East: The Rise of Christianity in China ….

In the 1940s Western academics like Harvard’s John K Fairbank, were proclaiming it had “become evident that few Chinese people are likely to become Christians and that the missionaries’ long-continued effort, if measured in numbers of converts, had failed.”

In 1949 the Chinese Communists came to power and within a few years had expelled all Western missionaries. China was to become the model of a fully secularized post-religious society.

By the best estimates, in 1949, there were around 1 million Chinese Protestants and 3.2 million Catholics. From the beginning the Communist Party opposed all forms of religious faith, although the fiercest and deadliest persecution awaited the Cultural Revolution of 1966.

The death of Mao in 1976 led to a relaxation of persecution, and by 1979 one million Protestants had become 5 million and 3.2 million Catholics had become 5 million, mostly due to fertility.

By 2007 there were as many Christians in China as members of the Communist Party. Today Christians greatly outnumber party members, although increasingly there is an overlap between the two affiliations. [Yes, there are now many members of the Communist Party who are Christians.]

If this rate of increase continues for just ten more years, there will be more Christians in China than any other nation in the world.

It appears that faith in a coming post religious China has been revealed as the opium of Western intellectuals. The foolishness of God has shamed the wise. The weakness of God has overpowered the strong.

Rodney Stark on the rise of Christianity in China UPDATED

I read everything Stark writes on movements. I haven’t been disappointed yet.

"A Star in the East: The Rise of Christianity in China" (Rodney Stark, Xiuhua Wang)

UPDATE: The publisher has provided a sample of the book.

The world's most and least religious countries

Screen Shot 2015 04 14 at 3 24 23 pm The world’s most religious country is Thailand where 94 per cent of respondents said they were a religious person.

China is the world’s least religious country with twice the amount of convinced atheists than any other nation (61%). Yet the gospel is advancing in China but it’s been hard going in Thailand for hundreds of years.

What does that teach us? Don’t tie your faith to statistics.

Other findings…

  • Young people are more religious than older adults
  • Religious people are a majority in all educational levels...
  • The majority of the world’s continents identify themselves as religious (Western Europe and Australasia are the exception)

Hudson and Maria

Hudson Maria Taylor

I’ve been captivated by the story of Hudson and Maria Taylor.

It’s a love story and an adventure story intertwined with one of the most significant breakthroughs in the spread of the gospel beyond the boarders of Western Christendom.

It’s the stuff great movies are made of. Yes I cried and yes I was inspired.

Lessons if you’re single and trusting God for a partner who shares your vision for multiplication movements.

Lessons if you’re married with a family. The joys and the cost.

Lessons for aspiring movement pioneers.

"Hudson Taylor And Maria: A Match Made in Heaven (History Maker)" (John Pollock)

Did Joy do the right thing?

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Joy did Following and Fishing training with me in Werribee, just south of Melbourne.

She's a twenty something and Chinese (centre of the photo). She works as a legal secretary.

Immediately she began doing Discovery Bible study with her family who live in a remote village in the north of China. After three weeks her brother gave his life to Christ and Joy baptised him over the phone!

Her mum is a believer, so while Joy said, "I baptise you in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit," her mum poured the bucket of water.

Joy asked me, Did I do the right thing?"

I asked her, "What does the Bible say?"

"Steve there are no mobile phones in the Bible!"

So I said, "Joy, was your brother lost and is he now found? Was he dead and now he is alive?" 

"Yes, she said."

"You did the right thing." I assured her.

There is no church in the village, so Joy is taking her mum, brother, his wife, and her nephew through basic discipleship using the Seven Commands of Christ.

Then she's going to help them become the first church in their village.


Joy has translated the first four discipleship studies into Chinese for her family and made them available to others. There's a Chinese-English version and a Chinese only version.

Lin Xingiao free at last

Pastor Samuel Lamb

I can understand Job’s victories and Job’s defeats. It taught  me that grumbling does not help. Not against God and not against those who  persecuted me. My dear wife died while I was in prison. I was not allowed to  attend her funeral. It was like an arrow of the Almighty, until I understood  that God allows the pain, the loss, the torture; but we must grow through it.

Samuel Lamb

Samuel (Lin Xingiao) Lamb knew firsthand what it meant to suffer for the sake of the Gospel. Eighty-eight years old when he died on August 3, he had spent almost twenty-two of those years in the prison and labor camps of the Chinese Communist regime. Although Lamb’s years in prison were spent in grueling labor in the coal mines and on the farms, he continued to preach and teach to other prisoners.

Born in Southern China, Lamb preached his first sermon at age 19. He was first arrested in 1955, during one of the first big waves of persecution under the dictatorship of Chairman Mao. After two years’ imprisonment, Lamb was released, but then rearrested in 1958, this time for a twenty year sentence.

Lamb’s wife died in 1977, the year before he was released from prison.

Lamb was targeted by the government because of his refusal to merge his illegal house church into the Three-Self Patriotic Movement, the state-regulated Protestant Church. The registered Three-Self Patriotic Movement churches functioned under many restrictions about what they could preach and not preach (could not preach about the Second Coming of Christ, for example) and who was allowed to attend church services (no one under the age of 18). Lamb believed that although Christians should obey their government, when the law of man conflicted with the law of God, they should obey God.

Lamb also believed that persecution caused the church to grow spiritually and numerically. During the decades of Lamb’s ministry, the church in China has grown from a few million people in the 1950?s till today, when it numbers anywhere from 80 million upwards, with many secret believers within the ranks of the Communist Party.

In his last years, Pastor Lamb would have seen great changes taking place in China. Lamb revealed in an interview last year that the police in Guangzhou were actually unofficially giving newcomers directions to his church now! But Lamb still wanted to make sure that Christians did not too easily assume that nothing would ever happen to them.

Lamb warned both Chinese Christians and any international visitors who came to his church:

We must be prepared to suffer. We must be prepared for the fact that we may be arrested. Before I was sent to prison, I already prepared a bag with some clothes, shoes and a toothbrush. When I had to go to the police station, I could just pick it up. I was ready. People are still being arrested. You don’t know what will happen tomorrow. Today the authorities are not bothering us, but tomorrow things may be different. I pray that we will receive the strength to stand firm.

No more prison bags for Samuel Lamb. Like Paul, who also suffered for the sake of Christ, Lamb can say that he has fought the good fight, he has finished the race, and he has kept the faith. Lamb has gone home.

Megachurch China


Things are changing for the church in China.

February 19, 2013 marked the beginning of a “Week of Thanksgiving” for the newly built church in Liushi Township, Yueqing District of Wenzhou, in Zhejiang Province. According to news reports, it is now China’s largest church, with regular seating for 5,000 people. During Thanksgiving Week there will be 6000 to 8000 people in attendance. The cross on top of the church tops out at 63 meters. Wenzhou is one of the most gospel-saturated regions in China, and is sometimes referred to as “The Jerusalem of China.”

more . .

If the trend continues, one day China will have some of the largest church congregations in the world.

If history is a guide, as the church receives a more favourable status in society, the the rate of increase in new disciples and new churches will drop.

As "Barney" once told me, "Until now the Holy Spirit and the Communist Party have been in cooperation to produce the best possible conditions for church planting movements in China."