The American Bible Society tells us that 22% of the world’s population lives in China. And 1/3 of the world’s non-Christians also live in China. The actual number of Christians in China is difficult to be precise about. We are told from unofficial sources that the number can range from 20 million Protestants and 6 million Catholics to as many as 90 million collectively.
The Cultural Revolution in China between 1966 and 1976 virtually shut down the visible Church in China and forced Christians into the “Underground Church.” In spite of persecution and trying circumstances, Christianity is growing rapidly in China today. It has grown from 2.7 million church goers in 1979, to the unofficial figure of 90 million in the Christian Church today.
Wee Sang who is the coordinator of the United Bible Societies’ China Partnership states, “As was the case of the early Church, so it is we believe the case of the Church in China today. The Church is growing because the Word of God is spreading and increasing and growing in power.”
The Henan Province of China, which is one of the 23 provinces, has the largest population of 100 million people. Henan Province also has the largest percentage of Christians of any province, with 3 million believers. The 3 million believers in Henan Province are served by the diminutive number of 168 ordained clergy, 480 elders and 7000 churches and meeting points.
Most congregations are fortunate to see their pastor once a month. The ratio is about one pastor to 20,000 members, and a single pastor in Henan Province could have as many as 30 churches. There are about 7000 volunteer preachers in Henan Province who are looking after everyday activities. These individuals are not ordained clergy, but some are provided with training to preach, undertake financial management of church activities, coordinate worship in services and provide general leadership to the congregations.
This is why it is so important for organizations such as the American Bible Society and many others to help equip church leadership, first with the Bible, and then with help reading it, teaching it, and preaching it. Otherwise, the Church in China is facing the danger of false teaching and cults, and will be weak and easily swayed to and fro by every doctrine.