China: God’s Word for the Rural Church
As the number of Christians in China continues to grow, the demand for God’s Word in rural areas also increases.
China is a land marked by economic progress. Clusters of skyscrapers reach to the heavens in sprawling cities throughout the country. Young people flock to urban areas where they get access to Starbucks, iPhones and McDonalds. Large cities, including Beijing and Shanghai, have become centers of culture, commerce and industry.
Yet despite this rapid urbanization, roughly 50% of China’s population still lives in the rural areas. With a population of 1.4 billion people, that equates to 700 million people—more than twice the total population of the U.S.
And although city dwellers benefit from advances in technology, transportation and communication, rural residents face a different reality. In the countryside, farmers live in humble houses, often with dirt floors and mud walls. Villagers count on the strength of their backs and the sweat of their brows to eke out enough of a harvest to feed their families. They travel by foot or motorcycles on rutted dirt roads that prevent any cars or trucks from passing.
But there—in the midst of wheat fields and date trees, among winding roads and herds of goats—the church is growing.
And thanks to the support of generous financial partners, American Bible Society supports local Chinese churches with some of their greatest needs. Together they provide Bibles for growing congregations, give local church leaders Bible study tools that they can use to lead their congregations and equip pastors and teachers with sound, Scripture-based training at local Bible schools.
In the next pages, you will see a snapshot of the life of the Church in rural China. And you will see how that life is marked by hope, joy and faithfulness grounded in the message of God’s Word.
Rooted in Scripture
Life isn’t easy in rural China. Many churches are made up mostly of women, who work in the fields while their brothers, sons and husbands try to find work in the cities. Money is tight, which can make it hard for Christians to buy Bibles. When people receive Bibles for free, they celebrate with music and special services. Bibles here last an average of three to five years due to the damage from the rainy seasons and unheated homes.
Faithful through the Ages
Much of the growth in Christianity is due to God working through local, faithful believers over decades. Now, their faithfulness is bearing fruit throughout China, and the demand for Bibles has increased as a result of their testimony.
Leading the Church of Tomorrow
There are currently an estimated 100 million Christians in China, but just 23 Bible schools and seminaries. The need for biblical training for pastors and church leaders is overwhelming. Local churches are training lay leaders to help fill this gap. Financial partners have enabled American Bible Society to support the church in China by supplying Bible resources to both lay leaders and Bible school students.
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China: God’s Word for the Rural Church
Wu Xiu Ying, 58, carries the Bibles she and her friends have just received during a distribution at their little rural church. Simei Tong helps Zhou Maoying, who is blind, to navigate the stream that they must cross to attend church each week. Simei Tong walks for three hours to get to Luo Shui Church, stopping an hour along her way to collect Zhou Maoying.
Farmer Wang Juxiang, 68, carries the new Bible she’s just received in a basket on her back. She is a member of Luo Shui Church, attended by poor rural farmers, some of whom walk for hours to attend services each week. Bible Societies have provided Bibles for congregation members, most of whom are very poor.
Pastor Tong Xin Jun, 40, at the altar of Luo Shui Church, set deep in rural Hunan Province, among paddy fields. Thirty Christians meet regularly in the small farmhouse that serves as the church building, some of them walking for hours through the mountains each week to get here. Members can only reach the church by using stepping stones to cross a stream. Bibles are treasured by the congregants, who are mostly rural farmers.
Rev. Zhao Seng An, 77, of Hunan Province, comes from a long line of Christians. His grandfather became a pastor in the early 1900s, and his father graduated from Hunan Bible School in the 1920s. He owns a tiny New Testament and Bible encyclopedias, which survived the civil war, the war with Japan and the Cultural Revolution.
Meng Xiu Ying, 71, became a Christian 20 years ago after encountering the kindness of Christians in another valley who prayed for her when she was ill. She was the only Christian in her valley in Hunan Province, but she began preaching and sharing her faith, inviting people to the small farmhouse where she and her husband Li Yong Fu, 72, lived. They say that sometimes as many as 200 people would cram into their home. There are now 1,000 Christians and several churches in the valley.
A woman smiles as she holds the study Bibles she’s received at a lay preachers’ training event in Zhangjiajie, China. The training helps lay preachers and teachers from churches in the area to help deepen their biblical knowledge. With a shortage of pastors, churches rely heavily on these lay teachers. American Bible Society works with the local church to provide study Bibles, and other resources to support their work.
Zhang Yenping, 46, is studying to become a pastor at Hunan Bible School in Changsha. “When I became a Christian, I used to get up at dawn to read and see if what the pastor had preached was biblically sound,” he said. There are more than 6,200 Christians for every ordained pastor in China. American Bible Society is working with the local church to help students at Bible schools and seminaries across the country by providing Bible study resources.
Hands on a Bible at a lay preachers’ training event in Hunan Province, which is held for 10 days each year. When local leaders receive training and Bible resources, they are better able to provide sound, biblical teaching to the people in their congregations and communities.
Thanks to the support of our faithful financial partners, American Bible Society has been engaging people with the life-changing message of God’s Word for more than 200 years.
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