New 2020 guidelines strengthen Communist Party control over China’s churches and public schools

New guidelines are now going into effect to strengthen Communist Party control over what is taught in China’s state churches and public schools.

The State Administration of Religious Affairs released in November Order 13, the “Administrative Measures for Religious Groups” to go into effect February 1. Article 17 of that Order states: “Religious organizations must spread the principles and policies of the Chinese Communist Party, as well as national laws, regulations, rules to religious personnel and religious citizens, educating religious personnel and religious citizens to support the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party, supporting the socialist system, adhering to and following the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics.”

Then on Tuesday January 7, the Communist Party issued guidelines for Chinese primary through high schools banning the use of foreign teaching materials. The guidelines also require that all curriculum undergo political review to ensure that it promotes the “spirit of Xi Jinping Thought” and traditional Chinese cultural values. 

Chinese Christians cannot turn to state churches for true discipleship, nor can they entrust their children to Chinese schools. At both school and church, they are now taught that Xi Jinping, not Jesus Christ, is effectively the Lord of China.

But the new policies may ultimately benefit the cause of Christianity in China. No matter what Chinese schools and state churches teach, Jesus Christ is Lord, and he is using all things for the good of Chinese Christians. For a while, there was a trend in Chinese churches toward Christian education being done in megachurches by pastors and trained professionals, just like in Korea. But we see God using the increasingly severe governmental restrictions to cause more Chinese Christians to take responsibility for the evangelism and discipleship of their own children.

Now the greatest need is to equip parents for this task.

Voice of the Martyrs Korea and its US partner China Aid become aware of this movement toward parent-led discipleship in China when leaders representing several hundred churches in 30 provinces of China approached us last year with a request to supply 5,000 “Sunday School in a Box” packages within 12 months. The church leaders envisioned a package consisting of materials that are still legal in some locations in China but not readily available: the leading legal children’s Bible in China, a compact video player, and a comprehensive curriculum of digital resources for parents and children.

Instead of importing foreign materials—which these new laws in China strongly oppose—Chinese church leaders developed a strategy that makes the project much more difficult for Chinese authorities to detect or shut down.

So far VOM Korea and China Aid and many of our sister VOM missions around the world have supplied funds for 2,500 boxes. The confidential acquisition and distribution efforts have begun inside China. The operation has begun not a moment too soon: Now that the new restrictions for state churches and schools have gone into effect, the wisdom and foresight of these the Chinese church leaders can be seen: Parents discipling their own children has always been Christ’s plan for his church. Now it is the only hope for the Chinese church. VOMK and China Aid are urgently raising funds for the remaining 2,500 boxes to be sent within the next six months.

The cost for one Sunday School in a Box is 75,000 KRW, or $75USD. Korean churches and individuals interested in making a donation to the Sunday School in a Box project can do so at https://vomkorea.com/en/campaign/ssib/ or via electronic transfer to:

국민은행 463501-01-243303

예금주: (사)순교자의소리

Please include the phrase “SSIB” (for “Sunday School in a Box”) on the transfer.

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What are you doing New Years Eve? Persecuted Christians are sharing their prayer requests with us in a 24 hour Facebook event

May I challenge you to ring in the New Year by praying for urgent prayer requests from actual persecuted Christians in 24 countries that will be posted on our VOMK Korean language, Chinese language, and Russian language Facebook pages hourly beginning at 6PM Korea time on New Year’s Eve?

From 6PM on December 31 to 6PM on January 1, we will post a new prayer request at the top of every hour from a Christian in one of 24 countries where Christianity is either banned or heavily restricted.

This prayer campaign is unprecedented because we will be praying for specific persecuted Christians by name, using their specific prayer requests, and we will be providing actual photos from these Christians to help us pray. These are not general prayer requests for Christians in hostile and restricted nations. These are specific requests from specific brothers and sisters whose stories we know and have verified. They are partners with us and with our sister Voice of the Martyrs organizations around the world.

Preparations for the 24-hour prayer campaign began in early fall. First, our sister mission Voice of the Martyrs US had to identify persecuted Christians who were willing to share. Then they had to gather their prayer requests and related photos, carefully sanitizing them by changing names and blocking out details that could put them in danger. Then we at VOMK translated the requests into Korean, Chinese, and Russian for each of our Voice of the Martyrs Korea Facebook pages.

A partial list of the 24 countries from which we will be sharing prayer requests includes Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Iran, Pakistan, Nepal, China, Syria, and Cameroon. As I write this, Dr. Foley and I are in Cameroon, which makes the sharing of the prayer requests from here deeply personal to us. We are here providing trauma counseling and persecution training to church leaders who are caught in the crossfire between government and separatists but who are faithfully shepherding the flock of God at great personal cost. The thing the Cameroon pastors asked us for again and again was for Christians in other countries to remember them in our prayers. By doing this 24-hour Facebook New Year’s Campaign, we can begin to fulfill the promise we have made to them this week.

The campaign will begin at 6PM December 31 on our VOMK Korean language, Chinese language, and Russian language Facebook pages, with a new prayer request being posted every hour until 6PM January 1. You may not speak Korean, Chinese, or Russian, but Facebook’s own translation function along with the photos accompanying the prayer requests should make things just fine for you–a little bit of linguistic suffering to empathize with the far greater suffering of our brothers and sisters in chains.

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Could church closures be a blessing for Chinese Christians?

Christians from a church in Shanghai asking not to be identified held their Sunday worship service on the street last week after authorities closed their church building. A video clip shows the church members singing in front of their building.

The closure of the church building is part of an accelerating trend across China since the implementation of new religious laws in January 2018. But even though that trend is concerning, Christians in China are responding with their own trend: Returning to old-time house church ways of meeting that are keeping the faith alive.

When you listen to the Christians in Shanghai singing outside of their closed church building, you can hear that they are not afraid of the authorities. Instead, they and the other Christians of China see the present moment as God redirecting the Chinese church away from modern “megachurch” models and back to the past where Christians met anywhere they could, anytime they could, using whatever Bibles and discipleship resources they had, to keep their faith and even to spread it.

Some of the Chinese churches that Voice of the Martyrs Korea works with are shifting their worship away from the central church building into members’ homes, while others are meeting in public parks or even while walking. The goal is to decentralize church activities and to shift as much of the ministry as possible from pastors and trained professionals to congregation members.

Now the greatest need is to equip all these new lay-lead and non-church building meetings with resources for healthy worship and discipleship.

Leaders from several hundred churches in 30 provinces of China have approached Voice of the Martyrs Korea and our US partner China Aid to supply 5,000 Sunday School in a Box packages over the next 12 months. The package consists of materials designed to equip parents of all educational levels to teach the full scope of the Christian faith to their own children and relatives outside of church buildings.

So far VOM Korea and China Aid have raised funds for 2,500 boxes, which will begin to be distributed over the holidays. That means we still have 2,500 boxes left to supply.

The contents of the box were determined by the participating Chinese churches. They consist of materials that are still legal in some locations in China but not readily available: the leading legal children’s Bible in China, a compact video player, and a comprehensive curriculum of digital resources for parents and children. Because there is no underground printing operation involved and no central purchasing or distribution hub, it make the cost higher than past centralized efforts. But it also makes the project much more difficult for Chinese authorities to stop or to oppose on legal grounds.

Each Sunday School in a Box is designed to reach an average of seven to ten children and to be used by parents and lay leaders, not ordained pastors or professional Christian educators. For many years the Chinese church followed the Korean mega-church model. Now Chinese Christians are realizing it is much easier to close one mega-church of 3,000 members than it is to stop 3,000 Christian parents from teaching their children and their neighbors’ children in hundreds of homes. This requires a shift in strategy and resources, but Voice of the Martyrs Korea and China Aid have committed to help provide Chinese Christians the tools to make this shift.

The cost for one Sunday School in a Box is 75,000 KRW, or $75 USD. Voice of the Martyrs Korea is challenging Korean churches and Christians, as well as our champions around the world, to sponsor one or more boxes this holiday season. China Aid has issued a similar challenge to American churches, as have other Voice of the Martyrs organizations in Canada, Australia, Germany, Belgium, Finland, and Holland.

Korean churches and VOMK champions interested in making a donation to the Sunday School in a Box project can do so at https://vomkorea.com/en/campaign/ssib/ or via electronic transfer to

국민은행 463501-01-243303

예금주: (사)순교자의소리

Please include the phrase “SSIB” (for Sunday School in a Box) on the transfer.

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