Recently, with the help of our supporters, Voice of the Martyrs was able to encourage and equip Chinese Christians for persecution through discipleship training events and Chinese language discipleship materials.
China’s persecution strategy isn’t simply to throw underground Christians in prison and torture them (although this happens). There’s a strong focus on isolating Chinese Christians—whether they be from government approved churches or underground ones—from each other and from the world as a whole. Several training participants have mentioned how thankful they are to see other Chinese Christians, explaining that Chinese churches are kept from knowing what is happening to other churches—even ones in a neighbouring city.
Recently, the Chinese government has focused specifically on tearing the Chinese church away from the church around the world. Chinese Christians are punished for having relationships with foreign churches (something which is often interpreted as espionage). Missionaries from foreign countries are denied visas, visa extensions and are closely monitored. Some have even been arrested, interrogated and tortured.
Furthermore, the Chinese government “encourages” foreign Christians to interact with their official church, a church which admittedly puts the Chinese government above God and requires heavy surveillance. With each passing month, these government approved churches are being required to give up more and more of what makes them Christian… yet churches around the world—even Pope Francis, himself—are choosing to support and interact with these churches, as opposed to the growing number of underground churches. Christians from these churches, who have largely been forced to go underground due to their loyalty toward the true God surpassing the Chinese one, feel lonely, isolated, and even betrayed.
That’s why so many trainees during the most recent event were floored when a teacher told them that they are not alone, not forgotten, and not abandoned. The fact that Christians around the world would not only remember them but pray for them and risk the consequences to provide them with discipleship training deeply moved every Chinese brother and sister.
This, of course, leads us to another question—Why should we be discipling Chinese Christians? Shouldn’t Chinese Christians be discipling us? After all, Christians in China have been facing persecution ever since the introduction of Christianity. Wouldn’t Chinese Christians be experts in persecution?
The answer, unfortunately, is (for the most part) no.
Many Chinese Christians look up to and attempt to emulate their brothers and sisters from the West and from South Korea. While this is good in some ways, they’ve also picked up a few nasty ideas from these churches as well. One of these ideas is the thought that persecution is unnatural, abnormal and (many believe) a punishment from God. Several attendees wonder what the Chinese church is doing that has angered God. Most aren’t sure how to interpret persecution Biblically.
Furthermore, Chinese Christians have learned that they must dedicate everything to their mission and often sacrifice their family to serve the church. This belief not only contradicts scripture (in which the family is described as every Christian’s first church) but adds to the trauma their families are already facing. Several attendees described problems that their families are facing due to ministry and were confused as to why these problems are occurring if they’re sacrificing everything for God’s sake.
To add fuel to the fire, the Chinese government is cracking down on discipleship resources in China. Even innocent Christian literature like Pilgrim’s Progress are being rounded up and destroyed. Owning a book like this is enough to vet punishment by the Chinese government.
Our training is one of the few places where these Christians can access discipleship resources freely. Here, they learn the Biblical significance of persecution, which comes as a relief to all. One trainee even said, “I want to learn more about persecution and martyrdom because this is helpful for everything I’m going through right now”. Facing persecution without understanding it, is terrifying. That’s why our training equips trainees with a Biblical foundation for their experience.
And trainees share this teaching with other Christians they know.
Our training is dangerous but dangerous doesn’t always mean bad. Regardless of whether these Christians are attending discipleship training or not, they will face persecution. The real danger is that they will be unprepared when they face it.
Richard Wurmbrand once said:
In Muslim nations, in Red China, and so on, many believers have become victims. Many have gone into prisons and many have died in prison. We cannot be proud of this. The better thing would have been to be well so instructed on how to do underground work and not be captured.
In short, if Christians in China are better prepared for persecution, they can actually reduce the danger they face and the damage it does.
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