In a recent Breakpoint commentary, Eric Metaxas writes: “You’ve probably heard a lot about China in the news lately: How it’s threatening peace in the Pacific by building military bases on artificial islands. You’ve heard presidential candidates warn that China may soon overtake the U. S. as the leading global economic power. But what you probably didn’t realize is that China is ready to overtake the U. S. in another area: the size of its Christian population.
You see, despite years of often savage oppression, the church in China is growing by leaps and bounds.
Yu Jie, a writer and dissident from China, tells the story powerfully in the August issue of First Things magazine. Yu reports that since 1949, when the communists took over and Christian missionaries were expelled, the number of Christians in China has multiplied from half a million to more than 60 million today. If current growth rates continue, “by 2030, Christians in China will exceed 200 million . . . making China the country with the largest Christian population in the world.”
And Yu, who became disillusioned with communism after the Tiananmen Square massacre, might very well be a little bit cautious in his estimates. The respected Operation World prayer guide counts not 60 million but 105 million Christians of all kinds in the country, far outstripping the 70 million or so members of the Communist Party!
Either way, it’s easy to see that the Chinese Church has been unbroken by decades of communist opposition. These days few Chinese outside the Party believe in communism, and the Church has begun to fill the resulting spiritual and worldview vacuums.
“Groups of young, well-educated, active professionals have gathered in urban churches,” Yu says, “smashing the stereotype in many Chinese people’s minds of Christians as elderly, infirm, sick, or disabled. These churches … are a first step toward Christians assuming leadership in the development of a Chinese civil society independent of government control.”