China Aid Association
(Beijing – April 5, 2011) One of Beijing’s largest house churches, Shouwang Church, has issued a question-and-answer fact sheet to explain the leadership’s recent decision to move the church’s Sunday worship service outdoors and to prepare its 1000-member congregation for the possibility of arrest or other confrontations with the authorities.
This would be at least the second time the church has been forced to meet in the open. In November 2009, hundreds of members assembled in a park during a snowstorm. Both times, the decision to meet outdoors came after the church was repeatedly prevented from meeting in indoor facilities that it had either leased or purchased.
Shouwang Church provided the following translation of its Q&A.
Outdoor Meeting Q & A
1. Why do we want to conduct our worship outdoors?From a passive perspective, for our church to decide to worship outdoors might be viewed as the result of decision made under duress. It may not be the best decision, but at this time, it is an inevitable decision. The venue where we hold our Worship presently has been asking us to leave and find another gather place many times already; Xihua Business Hotel, the place where we have lately decided upon and had signed under the name of the church, is hedging on signing the agreement contract using various excuses; the space in Daheng New Epoch Technology building, which the church had spent over 27.5 million RMB to purchase, has failed to hand the key over to the church for the past year and three months because of government intervention. For the past year, our church has not had a settled meeting place. Today, yet again, we face the difficult task of finding a place of worship for our church.
From an active perspective, we believe that the Lord Jehovah has sanctioned the difficulties we face today. ‘I was silent; I would not open my mouth, for you are the one who has done this.’ God has brought His church to this seemingly hopeless situation to once again challenge our faith and to reflect upon the vision according to which He has led the Shouwang Church. We believe that whether it is in registration or in church building, our church remains true to the “City on the Hill” vision. Under the present circumstances when the church does not have a clear resolution for solving the church building problem, the external pressure alone would cause the church to divide and to stray away from the vision God has for Shouwang. This will naturally lead to the church break-up and to the success of Satan’s diabolical plan. Therefore, “Outdoor Worship” is a spiritual warfare resulted from pursuing God’s guidance.
2. What is the main objective of us promoting outdoor worship?Subjectively speaking, we promote “Outdoor Worship” simply because we want to worship our God. The Bible tells us, as Christians, we must not give up meeting together; furthermore, as the church of Jesus Christ, we should not change our mode of Sunday worship just because someone or some entity decides that we may or may not use a particular gathering place. Our attitude before God should be the same as Daniel’s, that is, despite of the pressure and difficulties our circumstance presents, we should behave as we normally would, coming before our God weekly to worship Him and offer up our thanksgiving, praises and petitions.
Of course, objectively speaking, our outdoor worship may deliver this message to the various departments of our government: attending Sunday Worship is the most basic necessity for Christians in their life of faith. As tax-paying citizens of the People’s Republic of China, the place of worship, whether purchased or rented, should be protected by all departments of the government, and not be subjected to unreasonable interference. If the Shouwang Church would be allowed to use its own place of worship (whether through ownership or rental) in peace, then it would set a healthy beginning for the future relationship between church and state.
3. What is the legal ramification of a church conducting Outdoor Worship?An outdoor worship is a religious activity and not a public demonstration. According to the laws of[Public gathering and demonstration of PRC], article two stipulates that “Entertainment, Sports Event, Normal Religious Activities, and Traditional Cultural activities are not included under this law.” Yet we understand in the [The Constitution of People’s Republic of China], the 36th article stipulates that ‘every citizen has the freedom of worship”, in addition to that, the Chinese government also affirms the [Universal Declaration of Human Rights]. In it, Article 18, which has to do with religious freedom, is defined as: “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.” Therefore, the so called normal religious activity is defined as: each believer acting according to the mandate set by his/her religion; any worship activities or observances which follow the tradition set by the religion, as long as they do not violate the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China.
We believe that the “Department of Religious Affairs”, in establishing the [Religious Affairs Regulations] has in legislating such laws, seriously violated the protocol and in its content, overstepped it’s jurisdiction. Out of respect for both the Chinese Constitution and Christian conscience, we cannot actively endorse and submit to the regulations which bid us to cease all Sunday worship activities outside of “Three-Self Patriotic Movement” – the only state-sanctioned church. Of course, we still must follow the teachings of the Bible which is for everyone to submit to and respect the governing authorities. We are willing to submit to the regulations with passivity and all the while shoulder all the consequences to which, by continuing to worship outside of what is sanctioned by these regulations, will bring us.
4. For our church to conduct outdoor worship at this time, wouldn’t we be vulnerable to the present political upheaval?First of, the church did not decide on the timing; ‘at this time’. Because all the doors that have been closed to us, the church no longer has a place to worship, our church, therefore, is forced to make such an unfavorable decision. The members of our church will do our level best to keep our church from being tainted by the current political fever, but whether we can successfully avoid it is not determined by us. However, just as we have clearly stated to our congregation this Sunday, if someone is determined to accuse the church of being politically inclined by availing himself to this “one-in-a-thousand” opportunity, may God examine and judge. When our Lord Jesus was falsely accused of being a political criminal, He still submitted to Father God and carried the cross toward Golgotha. ‘When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.’ Similarly, in order to worship God, we are willing to face the danger of political persecution.
As the church of God, in face of the present social upheaval, we are more than willing to share our nation’s burden to bring stability to the people who are suffering from societal ills. However, when the government’s desire to maintain status quo is in conflict with the loss of fundamental rights by most of her citizens, although subjectively speaking, “Outdoor Worship” may seem to satisfy the church’s own goal of worshipping God, but objectively, by this decision, the church is actually positioning herself with the weak and the disenfranchised.
5. Under what condition would we cease outdoor worship?On November, 2009, the church had decided to worship outdoors twice before returning indoors. That decision was incomprehensible to many brothers and sisters. The main reason was because that was our first attempt at outdoor service and we did not anticipate all the details. It was the fault of the church leaders. Therefore, this time, we have clearly designated four conditions under which we would cease outdoor worship:
• Firstly, if and when the government departments officially sanction the location where we can meet indoor for worship and give us proper certificate, then we shall return. On November 2009, we faithfully returned to worship indoor after the government gave a tacit consent. However, in May, August and again now, three times the government department stopped us from successfully renting a meeting place. We have been disappointed so many times that this time, we must obtain the government’s official permit before we return indoors.
• Secondly, the government would permit us to enter into the space in Daheng New Epoch Technology building, which legally belongs to the church. The governmental department has no right and reason to disallow us from using that space. In our opinion, this will be the best way to resolve our present dilemma.
• This spiritual warfare may last quite a long time; we must prepare ourselves well. If week after week, we cannot resolve the problem using either of this or the above mentioned means, then we shall continue to worship outdoors, week after week, until this Christmas, when the church will devise new plans for the coming year. By then, we shall reassess our situation and make the necessary adjustment. We believe that God will grant us a clearer vision by then.
• Of course, our situation may be worsened should some of the key administrative co-workers be arrested, and therefore no longer to lead the church in worship. In those cases, the church will install other co-workers. After we persist for a period of time, we can make new decisions based on the condition of the time.
6. What is the relationship between outdoor worship and moving into the new church building?The primary goal of “Outdoor Worship” is to preserve corporate worship, and not giving Satan the opportunity to split the church. At least this is our steadfast desire and attitude.
However, if God should have mercy on us and open doors for Shouwang Church, allowing us to enter into the new church building, then we shall count that as the tremendous grace from God. We are also certain in light of the continuous struggles to rent a worship facility and the pressure business owners faced while leasing their property to us, to be able to take possession of our own new building will be the best solution to our problems.
7. How should we prepare our mindset to participate in outdoor worship?Since we have already declared “Outdoor Worship” to be an act of worship, we should therefore prepare ourselves with a heart of worship when we attend “Outdoor Worship” services. We should bring our “usually worshipful mindset” when we approach our God; this alone would be a challenge to our faith. Perhaps each one of us would have a taste of the night at Gethsemane. We ask everyone to gain strength through prayer, to overcome the fears in your hearts. We also ask everyone to examine their own hearts, to see if there is any sense of unrest or things of the flesh lest we should abuse the “Outdoor Worship” and treat it as an opportunity for venting selfish ambition.
We ask God to give each of us a pure, peaceful and consistent heart; let us come before Him with the single-mindedness of worship. We believe that when we approach God’s presence with faithfulness and when we offer this kind of mindset up to Him, it would be pleasing to Him.
8. What shall we do if we were not permitted to leave our house on that Sunday?It is very likely that you would find a group of strangers standing outside your door as you leave your home on Sunday. Some of them might tell you that you are not permitted to leave your house to attend worship. Under such circumstances, don’t quarrel with them, nor should you force your way out of the group. If at that time, you should feel the prompting of the Holy Spirit, and if you should have enough courage and faith, you may peacefully express to them that worshipping God is the fundamental need and rights for a Christian. For them to block you, they would be violating the constitution of the People’s Republic of China; it would not be beneficial to the growth and development of the judiciary system of China and that their conscience may suffer. Then, you may go back into your house and close your door. That day, you may stay at home, sing hymns, read the scripture and pray. Even though you might be worshipping our Lord, all by yourself or with just your family members on that day, we believe that the Spirit of God will be with you or your family, to listen to your praises and prayers.
9. What shall we do if we were to arrive at the place of worship and not able to find the worship leaders?If some of us are able to get to the place of worship where we all try to form a circle. We ask the brothers to stand on the outside, encircling the sisters within. If on that day, at the time of worship, the leader cannot come (most likely this will be the case), then, some of us will lead singing with everyone else singing along; we will sing hymns, read scriptures from to the pre-printed handouts. We shall either pray for that day’s worship, or pray the ‘Lord’s Prayer’ in unison. Let everyone greet each other in peace before departing.
10. What shall we do if we were to arrive at the place of worship on that Sunday only to find that the place has been sealed off?In the situation when everyone arrives at the place of gathering only to find that the police has already sealed the place, don’t cross the police barricade. Find a nearby place where it is convenient to gather. If there is not a place big enough for everyone, then find different areas where we can gather in small groups. Everyone will sing together and read the scriptural passage from the handouts. If there are so many police that it is impossible to stay, then try to find an alternate place with brothers and sisters near you, whether it’d be a restaurant or a rest stop, where you may gather for a few minutes to exchange prayer requests and greet each other in peace.
11. What shall we pay attention to during the period of outdoor worship?What we want to avoid the most is any action out of flesh. While we cannot foretell what might happen during our time of worship, but we know that will be when the spiritual battle is at its fiercest. Any action out of flesh and blood may be taken advantage of by Satan. Just as our Lord Jesus said, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.” In this struggle, we do not rely on our flesh and blood, but we rely on the Holy Spirit who lives in us to instruct and guide us. More concretely, under all circumstances we should prevent physical combat. Do not return a blow for a blow, an insult for an insult. We trust the Lord Jehovah, our righteous God is the general of His army, He Himself will vindicate His people.
12. What if the police arrest me because of my participation in outdoor worship?Do not resist, let them take us away, just like a lamb to the slaughter. In our hearts, we know that we gather here to worship; and for the sake of worship, we will pay the price. We believe in what the Lord has said: “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” It is by the grace of God that we should be given the opportunity to offer up something for our faith, so that we who were unworthy will now be counted as a people who are worthy to suffer for His namesake.
To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. – 1 Peter 2:21-25.
Prayer Items:1. We ask that God will provide a way out for us, so that we can amicably resolve all difficulties of finding a place of worship; that we may either obtain the official written permission to rent a place for worship or that we may receive the permission to enter into the building we have purchased.
2. While we are preparing our hearts for “Outdoor Worship” by fasting, praying and seeking the Lord’s will, we ask that the Holy Spirit Himself will be at work in the lives of every brother and sister: to rid us of our selfish-ambition, impetuosity and fear, so that we may rely solely on the gentleness and humbleness of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit to pacify and silence all challenges in our work place, our family lives, our career paths or in our personal safety, which we will face while worshiping outdoor. We ask the Lord will protect every one of our hearts.
3. The Devil, Satan, would like to use this opportunity to split and breakup our church. We ask the Lord to preserver the unity of our church, that despite of our different view points, we may still be able to submit to and bear with one another.
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