Fox News reports on a recent poll that discovered a surge of religion in China. This is a notable development because China’s communist government is largely intolerant of religious practice outside of state sanctioned religious facilities. According to the article:
A new government-sponsored survey on spirituality in China has found that the number of religious believers among the country’s 1.3 billion people is far higher than generally known, amounting to as many as 300 million.
The findings, based on a poll of 4,500 people conducted by professors at East China Normal University in Shanghai, supported growing indications that many Chinese are searching for new value systems to replace the communist doctrine that has been jettisoned in favor of market economics and a race for prosperity.
Historical Chinese religions, such as Buddhism, Taoism and Islam, accounted for 67 percent of those who declared themselves believers, the pollsters concluded. The number of Chinese who identified themselves as Christians also rose swiftly, however, reaching up to 40 million, according to the estimate derived from the poll.
Officially sanctioned Christian organizations have said 15 million Protestants and 6 million Catholics participate in their religious practices in China. But Chinese and foreign researchers have estimated that the number of those who practice religion outside the official institutions is several times greater. The semi-secrecy in which they practice their faith makes an accurate count impossible.
From friends who have been there to things that I have read, all seem to suggest that these numbers on Christianity are still underreported. The obvious reason is that much of the Christian activity is ‘underground.’
As one of the largest havens of unreached people groups still remaining, China is a strategic location for great commission focus. I am hopeful that the church there continues to thrive in a way that reaches these groups and continues to send out missionaries to engage in reaching other countries.
The primary concern that I have about an underground church in China is its ability to maintain theological precision. In addition to the challenges of translating scripture into new dialects, the bigger issue is the potential for lack of untrained leadership. The speed of church reproduction there likely creates challenges to identifying and developing the type of men who are biblically qualified for church leadership. The other challenge is the resistance of Christianized cults which can undermine doctrinal integrity.
Let’s continue to pray that this surge of religion in China will overflow in the gospel going to many peoples.