|More than 80 Christians gathered outside Faith Chinese North
American Baptist Church in Vancouver to support Beijing’s
Shouwang Church. (Photo courtesy of Faith Chinese North
American Baptist Church.)
(Vancouver, Canada—Feb. 10, 2016) The Faith Chinese North American Baptist Church in Vancouver held a prayer service in late December to support Beijing’s Shouwang Church after the sixth anniversary of the Chinese church’s move to exclusively outdoor worship services due to government persecution.
Below is an account of the service.
On Dec. 12, 2015, Faith Chinese North American Baptist Church held [a morning service], titled, “Walking together through trials and hardships with Beijing’s Shouwang Church on the sixth anniversary of their outdoor morning service.” On that day, though Vancouver’s weather was windy and rainy, more than 80 Christians from Faith Chinese North American Baptist Church branches came from Vancouver, Surrey, and the Tri-City area to the church, which is located on Fraser St. in Vancouver, to participate in this service. In addition, a number of church pastors and Christians also participated in the prayer meeting, expressing the love of the body of Christ to one another.
Ian Buntain, who used to preach in China and is now the senior pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Vancouver, first said a prayer. Before the prayer, he humorously corrected some misconceptions about the current state of beliefs in China. Someone said to him, “Thank God. Now, the Chinese finally have freedom of religion.” He replied, “Yes, Chinese Christians now finally have the freedom to be persecuted for Christianity.” In the prayer, he mentioned that Shouwang Church is relying on God’s power to spread the teachings of Christ in the large land of China, and that we support and fight for Shouwang Church’s freedom of worship. According to the teachings of the Lord Jesus, the testimony showing that we are Christ’s disciples is when the body [of Christ] loves each other.
Participants in the service listened to a special audio recording from the senior pastor of Shouwang Church, Jin Tianming, recorded specifically for this morning service. First, Pastor Tianming praised God and thanked Him for the six years of support from the pastors and Christians of Faith Chinese North American Baptist Church. Then, Pastor Tianming used Hebrews 11 to explain how Shouwang Church learned lessons of faith from the scholars sent by God; If people cannot see the end of the battle , we are to rely on God, learn from the scholars and follow the road that God established for us: “Believe in God, obey God, and witness for God;” [This is] the way of the cross.
Although Pastor Tianming has been under house arrest and supervised by three shifts of police 24 hours a day for four years, he doesn’t have self-pity but focuses his attention on the construction of Dagong Church [Editor’s Note: Dagong Church is a new project pursued by Shouwang Church.]. He believes all of God’s churches should similarly “believe, obey and witness for God.” He pointed out that this is not the responsibility of a limited, few churches or only the responsibility of churches of our generation, but as verses 30-40 in [Hebrews 11] say: “These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.”
This is the same as a relay race, running with the baton on the first, second and third laps. Even though only one [teammate] will run over the [finish] line to victory, all must make the effort to run well, in order to give their final victory a sound foundation. Thus, they share the joy of their victory. Similarly, even though today we have not seen the dawn of victory, we should still be loyal to God and remain under His leadership, trying to “believe, obey and witness for God” for our part in the final victory.
Pastor Tianming also shared his gratitude for God’s protection of Shouwang Church. Despite suffering severe pressure, all the church’s ministries are normal except for meeting on Sunday for services. All of this shows that everywhere Shouwang Church walks is a path God prepared for them rather than one decided on by human flesh. All the glory is God’s.
Pastor Tianming also was not blindly optimistic while he thanked God. He felt deeply that after such long and severe pressure, the Christians [of Shouwang Church] are currently physically and mentally fatigued, so much so that they can’t even worship on Sunday. Their mood is very heavy, for they see the persecution of all Chinese Christian churches as well as that of all the church members. They need to be held in prayer by all the members [of Faith Chinese North American Baptist Church] so that they may follow the road of the cross [Editor’s Note: “Follow the road of the cross” refers to Christians conducting their lives according to biblical principles.]. To this end, Pastor Tianming asked all the parts of the Lord’s body to participate in the meeting and prayer for Shouwang Church, the churches in China and the Chinese community [Editor’s Note: Christians use the imagery of a body to convey the idea that each person has his or her specific role in serving God, just as arms, legs, eyes, etc. have their own roles.].
First, pray for [the members of] Shouwang Church, asking that God gives them more strength and enables them to pass all trials that He allows [them to go through]. Pray that God may bless all the Christians, leading them to continue to serve faithfully with a spirit of solidarity. May the Lord grant a place for them to gather and worship soon, and [may the Lord grant] them to the ability to find and buy their own place for worship, so that [they may worship] as in Psalm 90:14-15: “Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days. Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, for as many years as we have seen trouble.”
Second, pray for the persecuted Chinese house churches, especially Huoshi Church in Guizhou, which is suffering. Also, [pray] that China might have normal church-state relations and that Christians would pass their days in devout righteousness and [be] safe and sound, surviving with their faith undisturbed.
Third, [pray] for Zhang Kai, a lawyer from Shouwang Church who helped fight against forced cross demolitions in Wenzhou, and other human rights lawyers arrested for protesting the demolition of crosses and fighting for righteous [people]. May the Lord protect them and give strength to them and comfort their families. May the Lord bless China’s judiciary and lawyers with the ability to exercise their duties according to the law and, by God’s righteousness, [the ability] to seek social justice and rule of law in China.
All of the Christians at the meeting prayed to God with praise and gratitude, asking that the Lord guide Shouwang Church to live as witnesses of God’s trust. [We] prayed for forgiveness for our own weakness and indifference [toward matters regarding the persecuted church in China]. They prayed for love, patience and remembrance of the persecution of the body of the Lord when following [Pastor Jin’s command to] “believe, obey and witness for God.” Continue to pray for Shouwang Church and other persecuted churches, that God may be gracious to Shouwang Church, and that they may rely on God and be led by God to manifest his grace, righteousness and glory in the land of China.
Hong Yujian, the senior pastor of Faith Chinese North American Baptist Church, used Matthew 5:10-12 to share a sermon, titled, “Being Persecuted with Christ.” First of all, Pastor Hong reviewed the first time they [Faith Chinese North American Baptist Church] held an outdoor morning prayer service to support Shouwang Church and other house churches in China and to fight for the freedom to worship on Oct. 7, 2010. They have been holding outdoor morning services ever since. Outdoor morning prayer services have been held for six consecutive years under the guidance of God’s grace, demonstrating our love of the body of Christ, and also expressing that our church will walk together with Shouwang Church through trials and hardships. We issue praise and thanks to God.
Pastor Hong continued using Jesus’ Scriptural teachings, including “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” [Matthew 5:10], in order to explain the significance of Shouwang Church’s suffering for righteousness. Shouwang Church implemented the extraordinary vision it received from God in order to manifest his glory in accordance with the Jesus’ teachings, which state that lamps must be placed on a lampstand and demand that they publicly proclaim the Gospel of Christ in a large city [Editor’s Note: “Lamps must be placed on a lampstand” is a loose paraphrase of Matthew 5:14-15, which mean that Christians should act and speak in such a way that their beliefs are visible for all to see. Additionally, “publicly proclaim the Gospel of Christ in a large city is also a paraphrase of the same verses.]. Consequently, [Shouwang Church] was suppressed and persecuted by an atheistic government. How can this be explained? This demonstrates that they are like Enoch and Noah, who walked [closely] with the Lord. What is walking with the Lord like? It is not comfortable or easy, with everything going well, but it issues a warning, blaming an unbelieving generation [Editor’s note: The Bible teaches that those who are not Christians will be punished for their sins, so this is saying that living a Christian life warns non-Christians of this punishment.]. Therefore, Shouwang Church is like the previous prophets, who, in attracting the world’s hatred, persecution and slander were able to receive a great reward in heaven [Editor’s Note: The Bible teaches that Christians who suffer persecution for their beliefs will be rewarded in heaven]. In this way, [Shouwang Church] is blessed.
Why do we need to walk the road of persecution with Christ? Pastor Hong used what the Lord Jesus said, “The student is not above the teacher, nor a servant above his master,” [Matthew 10:24], “You will drink the cup I drink….” [Mark 10:39] and “You do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you” [John 15:19]. He explained that, in today’s crooked and depraved time, the Lord Jesus has told us the truth about inevitably being persecuted. If we are not persecuted by the world, it shows that we are not the disciples of the Lord, nor the Lord’s chosen people. However, the Lord himself promises that we can be preserved in persecution and gain victory. This is not because of ourselves, but because the Lord, who is a treasure, is within us, allowing us to have the ability. Therefore, even if we are suffering persecution, we [should] make known the death of Jesus; however, because of God’s protection and guidance, we will also reveal Jesus’ life. If the persecutions suffered by Shouwang Church were suffered by another association or organization, I’m afraid they would have already collapsed under the pressure. However, by God’s protection, they are not only preserved, but the construction of their church goes on without interruption. What proof of the grace and might of God!
Why does Faith Chinese North American Baptist Church need to walk with Shouwang Church through trials and hardships? Again, how can we walk together through trials and hardships with Shouwang Church? Pastor Hong pointed out that this is God’s teaching; it is what Faith Chinese North American Baptist Church received [as a command from God]. The Lord told us that if a member [of the church] suffers, all the members suffer with [him or her], and, if one member is honored, all the members rejoice. How can we, as the body of Christ, embody this kind of relationship? We must consciously share the hardships they suffer. Pure Chinese house churches [Editor’s Note: The word “pure” is intended to refer to those churches whose theology has not been changed from biblical principles by the Chinese government’s oversight] have a precious inheritance, and that is honoring Jesus Christ as the church’s only Lord and not letting Caesar [the government] interfere with the church. Faith Chinese North American Baptist Church accepted this precious inheritance, and clearly expressed it in the preface of their Public Confession of Faith: Faith Chinese North American Baptist Church, as a member of the large, universal family of churches, endorses the spiritual heritage of Chinese house churches, adhering to Jesus Christ as the one head of the church’s beliefs, worshipping on its own, and teaching the holy work of administration so that no secular force may dominate or control it. We are committed to joining together as the many hands and feet [of Jesus] to take part in Christ by suffering hardship for the Gospel. For this reason, we are willing to pay the cost of any persecution. “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” [Matthew 5:10].
At the same time, Pastor Hong thanked God for the true children hidden in the “Three-Self” church. If, in the past, they had delusions about the “Three-Self” church, now, an incident has happened in which a Three-Self Church’s cross was destroyed, allowing the pastors and Christians who focus on God to see that righteousness and unrighteousness cannot intersect. The [spiritual] light and darkness cannot be interlinked, and believers and unbelievers, who are the righteous and the unrighteous [respectively], cannot intersect. Light and darkness cannot be interlinked, and believers and unbelievers are not the same. The conscience of a Christian has finally awoken and will fight against the servants of Satan for the glory of God. We want to support their war and to expose the nature of the “Three-Self” church. May they be set free from exile.
Pastor Hong finally appealed to the brothers and sisters in the Lord who were at that meeting to walk in the way that we speak of. Let us, under the guidance of God, lean on the Lord’s strength, [Philippians 2:15]: “that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.” Be at one with Shouwang Church and other house churches persecuted by the secular regime of China, not fearing the hardships you may suffer for walking with the Lord. Rely on God’s protection and eagerly await Him, looking forward to the day when Chinese believers have the freedom to worship God.
Southern Vancouver Pacific Grace Mennonite Baptist Church’s Pastor Luo Yixin closed in prayer in Cantonese. He specifically mentioned Sister Zeng Miao, who used to study theology in their church and is willing to suffer for the Lord. [She] went back to do missionary work in her original church—Shouwang Church. The morning prayers ended with all the participants singing the Lord’s Prayer. We got to witness God’s grace and protection once again. Praise God! Hallelujah!