In China, Three Self churches are ‘registered churches’ and house churches are ‘unregistered churches.’
Three Self Churches are Protestant churches registered with the government. The government pays for many of their buildings and funds the education of its pastors. They are public, many located in urban areas, often with spectacular architecture and sometimes with congregations of a few thousand.
House churches (formerly referred to as ‘underground churches’) are smaller. In the past members mostly met in homes to escape the control of the police. Today, at least in the city areas, they are larger—between 50 to 600 attendees—and most often rent space in commercial buildings.
House churches are not registered with the government and, in most cases, are not allowed to own a building or buy commercial space. They get no money from government and, in some cases, are harassed and even shut down. At the same time, there are still many small groups who meet in homes.
It is estimated that two-thirds of Christians attend a house church. The Christian population is guessed at between 80 to 130 (or more) million.
The enormous and rapid movement of rural populations into urban areas is growing house churches beyond what anyone anticipated. The variety of churches, circumstances, rules, and personalities among a people four times the population of the United States makes it almost impossible to cover even the most basic of its spiritual realities, church-related groups, and patterns of ministry.
What goes on in China matters to the Church worldwide; soon, it will be the country with the largest Christian population. In time, it might have the world’s largest missionary force.
When Jesus said he would build his Church, he surely had China in mind.
Read the entire article by tapping here. Christianity Today published this article; Brian C. Stiller authored this article.