Although China is developed economically, and even has the influence of western culture, it is not a free land. We cannot forget that the communist party still rules. Many believe that things have changed for the better, that the grip has loosened on Christian churches because their culture is similar to ours, but that simply is not the case.
In December 2013, an American evangelist was arrested and jailed. Throughout 2014, there have been raids on many underground churches. In May, the Chinese government destroyed a nongovernmental church building, and the church closed.
This became all too evident when on our last trip to China, our pastors’ conference was raided. Kevin and I sat in the hotel waiting for a knock on the door and the following interrogation, but fortunately it never came. We had been well hidden in a hotel about 45 miles away from our conference site. While we waited, 12 police officers went door-to-door at three hotels, interrogating and arresting pastors, as they looked for the Americans.
We relocated the conference for day two, and waited in a safe house until it was our time to speak. The police raided our conference once again, and this time, it was time to run.
We took a pastor who had been attending the conference with us. John told us his story in the back of a taxi as we fled. He talked about the importance of ABC and how critical it was for he and his church members to have access to this vital Biblical teaching. They sought to learn from western churches how to build an effective ministry. However, it wasn’t just what he said, it was the passion in which he conveyed it. John represents driven, resilient, and strong pastors throughout China.
Now, World Compassion has approximately 1,700 students studying ABC in 65 Chinese cities. This isn’t your traditional “Bible School” material—another book pulled from the shelf. We have a brave Chinese staff, who tirelessly work hand-in-hand with pastors and leaders to ensure the materials are properly taught and that relationships are built through weekly meetings.
As we left China after speaking at multiple ABC graduations and underground churches in cities across China, I realized how energized these pastors and leaders are from the ABC materials, as well as from the support of World Compassion staff.
Pastors using ABC in their churches are truly on the tip of the spear in China. They still live with the threat of persecution and being imprisoned in China. But as John said, “This is our way of life, it’s just part of being a pastor in China.”