It has been six weeks since worshippers at Beijing's Shouwang House Church were abruptly shunted out of their long-time home in a nondescript low-rise building.
A week after their landlord succumbed to pressure from authorities and turfed them on to the street, more than 500 church members gathered outside the east gate of Haidian Park.
The icy winds that blew at their faces had also dumped the earliest and biggest snowfalls over two weeks since records began in 1949.
Authorities quickly erected an iron gate at the park's entrance, forcing churchgoers to meet wherever they could find suitable premises. On the eve of Christmas, China's Christians are once again under attack.
The latest trouble began in September when about 400 people attacked Christians attending the Golden Lamp, which had been built on the outskirts of the town of Lifen in central Shanxi province. About 70 church members were hospitalised. Later that month more than a dozen church leaders were arrested and paramilitary forces occupied the church, an eight-story edifice that had been constructed to serve a congregation of 50,000.
Their early Christmas present: in early December five pastors were sentenced to prison terms of up to seven years on charges including illegal assembly and five more were sentenced to two years in a labour camp.
There was another string of incidents in early November.
Christmas must be the silly season for media hungry clergymen.
A UK clergyman has advised his congregation to shoplift following his Nativity sermon.
Father Tim Jones, 41, broke off from his traditional annual sermon on Sunday to tell his flock that stealing from large high street chains is sometimes the best option for vulnerable people.
It is far better for people desperate during the recession to shoplift than turn to "prostitution, mugging or burglary", he said.
Father Jones insisted his unusual advice did not break the Bible commandment "Thou shalt not steal" - because God's love for the poor outweighs his love for the rich. Father Jones told the congregation: "My advice, as a Christian priest, is to shoplift.
"I would ask that they do not steal from small family businesses, but from large national businesses, knowing that the costs are ultimately passed on to the rest of us in the form of higher prices.
"I would ask them not to take any more than they need, for any longer than they need.
"My advice does not contradict the Bible's eighth commandment because God's love for the poor and despised outweighs the property rights of the rich."
The last in a series of posts on the greatest student missionary movement in history. We've seen is rise and its fall. Here are a few thoughts on the enduring lessons for us today.
1. History is made by people who don’t know any better.
The break throughs in the renewal and expansion of the Christian movement always occur on the fringe. One of the greatest Protestant missionary movement was launched by a group of students meeting informally over the summer to study the Bible.
2. Faith moves nations.
The brother and sister team of Grace and Robert Wilder became convinced that God going to do something great among the students of their day. They believed and prayed until that vision became a reality. God took the initiative and they responded with faith and obedience.
3. Serve a great cause.
Everything the SVM stood for was summed up in their watchword: “The evangelization of the world in this generation.” It was unrealistic and simplistic, and twenty-thousand workers responded to the call. Behind the watchword was a confidence in the power of the God to do the impossible.
4. Keep fit, fast and lean.
The SVM embodied its cause in structures and forms that added momentum to its advance. Student run groups were formed in every college campus. Leaders for the organization were raised up from within. Most of the work was achieved by volunteers. Traveling secretaries linked the groups and kept them on track.
These lean structures enabled the movement to expand rapidly without centralized funding, control or bureaucracy.
5. Narrow the focus to widen the impact
The SVM knew its boundaries. It did not get involved in the complexity of sending and supporting workers on the field. Its unique contribution was the recruitment of workers for existing mission agencies.
6. Beware the failure of success.
As quickly as it had risen, the SVM fell. At the peak of its success it embraced another gospel that was more in tune with the spirit of the age. The SVM betrayed its reason for existence: “The evangelization of the world in this generation.”
7. God has the last word.
The SVM survived for decades as a failed organization and then voted itself out of existence. Meanwhile, on the fringes, God was raising up other student missionary movements to take the gospel to the ends of the world. . .
In 1927 Robert Wilder resigned and returned to the mission field. He was the first and last of the founding leaders. The Student Volunteer Movement continued to distance itself from the missionary ideals that had launched it.
At the 1928 SVM convention in Detroit, Sherwood Eddy publicly repudiated the founding vision of the movement: “The Evangelization of the world in this generation.” No one challenged him.
As the SVM, YMCA, YWCA, and the mainline denominations embraced theological liberalism and the social gospel, the outcome was catastrophic.
In the 1920s the numbers of missionaries sent out by the mainline denominations declined by two-thirds. Faith missions replaced denominations as the primary senders of missionaries. They shunned the SVM which became increasingly irrelevant to the missionary enterprise.
In the 1940s the faith missions and conservative denominations turned to the evangelical Intervarsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF) for missionary recruits.
In its last thirty years the SVM wandered dazed through a series of mergers and restructures. In 1969, the ecumenical student alliance it had joined three years earlier, voted itself out of existence. What had once been the greatest student missionary movement in the history of the church was laid to rest.
Meanwhile many SVM leaders found their way into the ecumenical movement and the religious bureaucracy of the World Council of Churches (WCC). In 1946 John Mott received a Nobel Peace Prize for his contribution to the ecumenical movement.
Today Wishart’s dream of a non western indigenous missionary force to complete world evangelization is coming to fulfillment, but not through the SVM.
At the heart of the SVM’s demise was the loss of its reason for existence. A clear missionary mandate to evangelize the world in this generation was replaced by a vague social gospel agenda that eventually found expression, not in social transformation, but in the religious bureaucracy of the World Council of Churches.
The SVM embraced another gospel that was powerless to mobilize students for world missions. The movement was born in 1886, by 1924 it had abandoned its founding cause of world evangelization. For the next 45 years, the momentum of its pioneering era carried it through until what was left of the SVM voted itself out of existence.
When the SVM emerged out of a student summer camp in 1886 there were 2,000 protestant, cross-cultural missionaries serving around the world.
Over the next generation, nearly 100,000 students joined campus SVM groups, and over 20,000 of them sailed overseas to serve God among the least evangelized.
Robert and Grace Wilder’s prayers for a student missionary movement are still being answered despite the failure of the original SVM.
Next: Lessons from the SVM