The underground church, also known as the family church or the home church, has been around for generations, illegal non-registered small groups meeting to worship and study the Bible.
These church goers opt to worship in what is widely known as the “underground church,” a place for Chinese Christians to practice in smaller settings and without fear of government influence on what’s being preached.
Underground churches are growing at a rapid rate, although their services don’t exceed 30 members in number, it is estimated that Shanghai is home to hundreds if not thousands of such churches.
Believers gather in small groups in homes, hotels, coffee shops and other discreet areas to practice in secrecy, for fear of government retaliation. This tradition of worshipping in humble places is increasing and can’t be stopped by the Chinese government despite their efforts.
“Our party is to believe in God. The government doesn’t encourage us to believe in God publicly,” a church goer states. “But the government cannot stop it.”
Simply practicing isn’t illegal but being unregistered is, according to experts. In the last year alone more than 1, 000 unregistered Protestant Christians were detained and sentenced, according to China Aid, a non profit human-rights organization based in the U.S. Some Protestant leaders were placed under house arrest for leading worship in unregistered churches.
The official church is a part of the China Christian Council or the Three-Self Patriotic Movement, a concept that preaches self-government, self-support and self-propagation. Most services feature a mixture of Roman Catholic and Protestant components as well as nondenominational elements. Others complain that the official church is too large, unfocused and connected to the government.
Dong Lee, a 29 year old newlywed who’s been practicing Christianity for four years will not attend official church services because of the traces of Catholicism in some. She chooses to attend an underground church where she feels she is surrounded by a family that understands her.
Despite the popularity of underground churches a U.S. commission reported that the Chinese government’s efforts to suppress the growth of the underground church remain “systematic and intense.”
China is experiencing a high increase in church growth but at the same time they are in need of our prayers as they are persecuted for their faith.
Posted by David Pilkington