As you all know, I am very active in the Chinese Church in Haifa. The news coming out of China these days is disturbing, to say the least. I thought you might want to know some of what is happening, not from a news channel but from an almost direct source, i.e. what I’ve been learning from people who are experiencing what is happening.
Social Credit in China
A former student in the Chinese Church posted a news article about a new “Social Credit Score,” with the following commentary:
At this moment I am still a good Chinese citizen with a social credit of 727 out of 800. It might not last long once it includes more factors for evaluation. Welcome to “digital dictatorship”!
What is he talking about? Well, he is a Christian, and he is studying in Israel. But his home is in China, where there are currently some 200 million closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras installed for surveillance purposes throughout China, and more are being installed. The purpose is for a fully functioning “social credit system” by 2020, so as to assess the economic and social reputation of citizens and businesses. On the surface, its all about providing a credit score to help make better financial decisions. However, its ultimate use will be in the realm of rewards and punishment based on economic and personal behavior. Economic behavior is understandable, but this is going much further, looking at a person’s behavior—what they are doing, where they are going, with whom they are associating. Welcome to George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four… a few decades late.
Logically, the implications are huge. But there is more.
Beijing church crackdown
The Chinese government has been increasing its anti-Christian activity in the form of crackdowns on home churches. Most recently, a large and famous congregation in Beijing was shut down this month. According to the congregational leaders, the reason is because they would not allow CCTV installations on their premises! You can read more about it in Christianity Today.
I mentioned this to one of my students, “Michael,” while driving him home from our meeting in Haifa on Friday. He nodded in agreement and said he knew some people there. It really happened, and they are not the only people having problems.
It starts with signing papers, and then…
Michael then added, “People in my home church are also having problems.”
“What kind,” I asked.
“They are called in to the police and asked to sign documents explaining why they are in a home church. To describe what they learn, what they do, and why. But its more than that, they are asking personal questions, they want to know everything about them, personal information that they have no right to ask about.”
“Is that all?” I wondered out loud.
“Something happened while I was at home.” Michael said, and then he began to share.
A student in Israel, Michael had been visiting his home for the summer break. While there, his home church held a conference with a guest pastor from America. The pastor had come special to give more in-depth teaching and training, more like discipleship. He had brought materials with them and the plan had been for him to teach for three days. However, the pastor had completed the materials faster than he thought he would… and at the end of the second day he learned about Hurricane Florence. He was from the affected area and felt that since he was ahead of schedule, he needed to get back home to his family. The people in the home church helped him with his arrangements and he flew out of China that evening.
The next day, everyone in the home church met for the third day of the conference. Just because the pastor wasn’t there, didn’t mean they weren’t going to meet and worship the Lord. However, this third day was different… as people gathered, the local police joined. They were looking for the foreign pastor—to arrest him.
Michael and everyone else were thankful that the pastor had left. However, Michael was also deeply impressed by the danger he had been in… if the police had come the day before, the story might have been very different.
Responding to make a difference
Michael shared his heart with me. He had brought the study materials back with him to Israel. The women in our Chinese Church have already been meeting, but Michael felt it was not enough.
“I want to start a men’s group. I want us to begin with studying these materials, and then for us to study the Bible more. We need to pray and learn God’s word. We are the ones who need to go back to China and speak to our own people about God. No one will be suspicious of Chinese men getting together to talk and share… but a foreigner? I do not want people to have to risk their lives to bring us the gospel. We need to do it ourselves!”
Michael is passionate and determined, and I am excited. You see, right now there are far more women involved in ministry in China than men. In addition, much of the teaching is more emotional than Biblical. And so Michael is an answer to my prayers for God to raise up more Chinese men to work for Him—men who are willing to invest time in serious Bible study.
Answered prayer for the Chinese Church in Haifa
As you know, I have been praying that God would raise up people to help Kien Wong and his wife, who currently lead the Chinese Church. Recently Kien was diagnosed with cancer and he will start radiotherapy in a couple of weeks. We continue to pray for his healing, and for someone to help.
But in the meanwhile, God is bringing many someones, not just one particular person. We currently have four believing couples along with students who have been with us for four years, and are now staying on to do the MA and possibly PhD here in Israel. They have all grown in the faith. Everyone is starting to pitch in to help. One couple started a Shabbat School for the one regular child who comes, and the others who come from time to time. They are hopeful that other Chinese families with children will start to come, since there is an activity now for children. Others are helping in leading the worship, the meeting itself, and brief sharing… and I am praying that soon, these young men who are passionate about their God and their studies, will be able to begin teaching, and to help in ministering through the Word of God to the congregation.
Not the world we once knew
Most of my Chinese students will return to a very different China from the one they left 4-5 years ago. When they left the one-child policy was still in place, but they had much more freedom to do whatever they wanted, including going to church. Bibles have been easily available and it wasn’t too hard to get around China’s Internet blocks.
However, along with the new 2016 two-child policy, China has been further cracking down on just what its citizens can access on the Internet. This, in addition to the CCTV scheme, crackdowns on the church, and more, seem to indicate that repressive Communism—with a capitalist flare—is alive and well in China.
But likewise, America is not the country I knew when I was growing up (food for thought in a different post).
But the seeds to the world that is becoming before us were planted long ago in policies established years ago, in rights freely given up by people preferring safety and security to truth. And there will always be those who want to be a god, rather than to worship the one true God.
I hope this post, and the information herein, will be a reminder for us all to pray for China, for Him to prepare Chinese believers in Israel and in other countries to return to their homeland as effective witnesses for Him, and to pray for the persecuted church in China and worldwide. And as the world continues to change around us, may these thoughts comfort and encourage:
“May the name of God be praised forever and ever, for wisdom and power belong to Him. He changes the times and seasons; He removes kings and establishes kings.”
(Daniel 2:20–21 HCSB)
“You would have no authority over Me at all,” Jesus answered him [Pilate], “if it hadn’t been given you from above.”
(John 19:11a HCSB)