China: Crackdowns, Converions, Hungry Hearts
So what is the state of the church in China these days? It all depends on who you ask. I have heard several knowledgeable people say the same thing. “Everything you hear about China is true somewhere.” It’s a big country with 1.3 billion people. Everyone agrees the church is growing at a phenomenal rate. That obviously makes the Communist government nervous. Next year the Summer Olympics are coming to Beijing. People have assumed that the government would allow more religious freedom in preparation for the worldwide scrutiny that accompanies the Olympics. But there are clouds on the horizon. A few days ago China Aid Association reported that 100 suspected foreign missionaries have been forced to leave China since February in a campaign called Typhoon 5. Compass Direct reports that Chinese Christians fear a crackdown in the year leading up to the Olympics. A commenter on the CT Liveblog added these words:
"It’s extremely difficult to get accurate numbers in China. But one thing we know for sure, there definitely are many more believers in China than there were 16 years ago. Thank God. But growth costs. And there will very likely be continued crackdowns. Pray for the church in China."
That leads me to an article called Christianity Sparks China’s New Cultural Revolution.
"The evidence is undeniable: Despite the government’s official doctrine of atheism, its general disapproval of religion, and its occasionally ruthless suppression of those Christian groups that it views as threatening, millions of Chinese are now choosing to convert."
The article notes that the wave of conversions has come from the new Chinese middle-class that now grapples with an inner spiritual emptiness. Rampant consumerism leaves many newly-prosperous Chinese searching for meaning and purpose in life. If they don’t turn to Christ, perhaps they will turn to Confucius. After a century of neglect, many Chinese are rediscovering the wisdom of this ancient sage.
"'The economy is developing very fast, but people feel the need for wisdom and morality,' says Gu Qing, who publishes books on traditional Chinese culture. 'Now we’ve solved the problem of filling people’s stomachs, they are looking for something to fill their minds.'"
According to Ecclesiastes 3:11, God has set eternity in every heart. This brings us face to face with the famous statement that there is a “God-shaped vacuum” inside each person. God made us to know him. He designed us so that we would want to know him–and then he guaranteed we wouldn’t be happy unless he himself fills the void within. This explains the restlessness of the Chinese people–and indeed of all people everywhere. We were made to know God and we won’t be truly happy without him. Confucius may satisfy the mind but only Christ satisfies the heart.