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.

About Pastor Foley

The Reverend Dr. Eric Foley is CEO and Co-Founder, with his wife Dr. Hyun Sook Foley, of Voice of the Martyrs Korea, supporting the work of persecuted Christians in North Korea and around the world and spreading their discipleship practices worldwide. He is also the International Ambassador for the International Christian Association, the global fellowship of Voice of the Martyrs sister ministries. Pastor Foley is a much sought after speaker, analyst, and project consultant on the North Korean underground church, North Korean defectors, and underground church discipleship. He and Dr. Foley oversee a far-flung staff across Asia that is working to help North Koreans and Christians everywhere grow to fullness in Christ. He earned the Doctor of Management at Case Western Reserve University's Weatherhead School of Management in Cleveland, Ohio.
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