Number of Christians
In 1949 there were approximately 700,000 Christians in China. Official statistics from the China Christian Council now puts the number of baptized believers in China at 21 million; this figure is, however, clarified with the statement, “We know there are many more.” They admit that it is very difficult to know the exact number since most Christians live in the rural parts of the country where keeping accurate statistics are very difficult and many churches have still not chosen to register with the local authorities and therefore, accurate numbers are not available. Nobody really knows the exact number. However, two surveys, one done by China Partner and the other by Shanghai University, put the number between 38-40 million. [Further information on China Partner’s survey may be found on the Articles and Books page of this site.] One half belongs to registered churches and the other half to non-registered churches. Comparing China’s 700,000 Christians in 1950 to today’s 38-40 million gives a perspective of how fast the church has grown in the last 50+ years.
Number of churches and Bible schools
The first church to reopen following the Mao’s death was in 1979 in Ningbo. Following this, reopening of old churches and building of new ones began. There are now over 55,000 church and meeting places. Though this number is certainly rising, these figures do not include the numerous unregistered churches (“house churches”). There are about 4,000 ordained pastors, one third women. In addition, over 100,000 lay workers minister in various capacities among the churches nation wide. Unregistered churches and registered churches alike are growing at a phenomenal rate. China has 20+ Bible schools and seminaries which have graduated over 10,000 students since the 80’s. In addition, there are many more “Bible training centers” that train bi-vocational Christian leaders. Statistics a few years ago indicate there are 500,000 baptisms in China each year. One of the ways the Church in China evangelizes its people is through weddings and funerals. Each church also sponsors its own spiritual renewal conferences. We have been told the most important way the Chinese evangelize is through personal witnessing and a changed life. In other words, lifestyle evangelism has been very effective in China.
In addition, there are thousands of home/family fellowships (jiating jiaohui, or literally, house churches), most of which are located in the country side but can also be found in apartments in the big cites. No one really knows how many Christians attend these fellowships because they don’t keep accurate numbers or records of baptisms. Many Christians who attend a home fellowship will also attend a registered church because they want to worship in a church building. And some Christians who attend a registered church on Sundays will attend a home fellowship during the week; there is quite a bit of overlap, especially in the cities.
A missional church
Many Chinese Christians have been involved in social projects like establishing kindergartens and providing help for the poor. This is often coordinated through the Amity Foundation, founded by the China Christian Council. The Amity Foundation has over 1,000 programs which include community development, water projects, and welfare projects. The Church considers this Foundation very important since it helps to change the image of the Church in society so that people don’t see only evangelism and other church-based ministry. Social service shows that the Church is an organization that serves society.
Example of church growth
The Chong Yi Church had 2,000 members when it was dedicated 2005. Today, it has over 4,000 baptized believers. It holds two services each Sunday with a total attendance of 7,000 each Sunday. The building is the largest currently in China. The senior pastor told us that there were over 400 new converts baptized in 2008. God is moving in the Church in China today.
The First 30 Years After Mao for the Church in China (1976-1996)
- 1976: Mao dies.
- 1979: First Church re-opened in China
Deng Xiaoping solidifies economic reform
- 1981: Nanjing Theological Seminary opens
80 official Church buildings open
Chinese constitution guarantees religious freedom
- 1984: Beijing expands the open-door policy
- 1985: 4,000 official Churches and 30,000 registered meeting points in China.
- 1987: 10 theological seminaries with 600 students
Amity Press opens in Nanjing
- 1988: Dr. Billy Graham visits China.
- 1989: Tiananmen Square unrest.
- 1991: First Training Seminar held by China Partner in Nanjing.
- 1995: 10 millionth bible printed by Amity Printing Press
Dr. Burklin lectures on religion at Wuhan State University
China Partner hosts mini-symposium between Chinese Church leaders and Western evangelicals in Nanjing
- 1996: 1,100 students study in 17 theological schools
You can learn even more about the Church in China today by exploring the information available on the China Partner Newsletters and Articles and Books pages of this website.