The Chinese house-churches


After the communist takeover in China and, some years later, the Cultural Revolution, all churches were banned. Church buildings were torn down, burned, or used for other purposes. Any and all religious gatherings in those years were strictly prohibited. So the Christians started to meet in secret: in barns, in the woods, in abandoned factory buildings, and of course, in the homes. As a result, a large network of “house-churches” started to form. It is from these humble house-churches that a great revival has swept through China, with hundreds of millions giving their lives to Christ.

While today there is an approved registered church, the Three Self Church, the house-church networks still make up a vast majority of God’s people in China and is the real strength of the body of Christ there. It is among the house-churches that the vision of Back to Jerusalem flourishes. The registered Three Self Church is only allowed to operate under strict rules governed by the Communist Party. One of the rules is that no proselytizing outside an approved church building can take place, let alone missions in foreign countries. A former Three Self pastor, now turned Back to Jerusalem missionary, said recently: “To send missionaries to other countries is strictly forbidden under the rules of the Three Self Church.”

Because evangelism is the heart of Back to Jerusalem, all activities within the BTJ vision take place in the house-churches. And while the BTJ vision started back in the 1940s, a new wave is now sweeping through the house-church networks where God is calling many young people to specific places on the way back to Jerusalem. This is an amazing move by the Spirit of God unlike anything seen before in missions history. From a western perspective, a largely unorganized networks of churches have become the basis for a divinely organized movement directed by the Holy Spirit Himself.

A house-church is not what we would think of as a “regular” church. But in fact, a house-church is probably more “regular” and Biblical than our concept of a church; it more closely mirrors the churches that we read about in the book of Acts. The first church was comprised largely of home fellowships where God’s word was taught and believers grew in their knowledge of the truth. And it was out of these house-churches that that the Word of God started to touch the world in the beginning. Through hardships, persecution, and the strong voice of the Holy Spirit, the first church was driven out, from Jerusalem to many other places, so that the Gospel would be spread in the early days of the Great Commission.

Now, in what could well be the final days of the Great Commission, the house-church of China—very similar to the first church in the book of Acts—is inspired to bring the gospel full circle back to Jerusalem through a unique move of God’s Spirit. The house-churches of China are not the product of some clever missions strategy by man. They came to be by the sovereign plan of God. And now they serve the purpose of completing the march of the gospel around the earth, the fulfillment of the Great Commission, and the return of King Jesus. We pray for these simple fellowships that are such an integral part of God’s plan at this critical time.