I will tell you a story as related to me by an elderly professor when I was in school. I was awakened this morning thinking about the story he told us. He was a former missionary to China; one of the missionaries who was driven out of China when the Chinese Communist came to power.
After the victory of the Chinese Communist armies in 1949 and suppression of religion, the members of all missionary societies were driven out. The China Inland Mission, founded by notable missionary Hudson Taylor, was the last Protestant missionary society to leave China. Bibles were burned, churches destroyed and indigenous leaders imprisoned and/or executed.
The missionary community was distraught. What would become of the years of work? What would become of the weak little church in China – a number so small that it would be impossible to estimate their percentages of population? How would they survive?
The answers to these questions remained shrouded in darkness behind the Bamboo Curtain for decades. Many supposed that the Chinese church had been suffocated by the thick blanket of oppression. Without Bibles, without missionaries, how would they survive? There was grieving, weeping, and finally resignation to the very real possibility – the work of the Kingdom in China was dead.
President Richard Nixon is noted for having been largely responsible for the normalizing of relations with mainland China. Diplomatic relationships were eased, communications opened up, and westerners actually began to travel on the mainland. In the mid 1960’s my professor received a surprising letter from China. It was signed by a Chinese pastor, now an old man who had suffered many years of imprisonment and abuse. As a young man, he had been a promising leader in the budding Chinese church but with the revolution all contact with him had been lost. It was supposed he was dead.
The missionaries who had worked with him eventually learned that the church he led had been bulldozed and all of the leaders and many members imprisoned. The communist armies were determined to stamp out all western religious influence, especially Christianity.
The letter they received was an innocuous, even confusing communication. It greeted them cordially as “Grandfathers” and contained a few paragraphs of trivial report; information much the same as if a family member had moved to a faraway place and needed to report on the condition of the family. The letter was, as my professor described it, annoyingly “chit-chatty.” That is, until they began to read with discernment or “between the lines” if you will. Their hearts were filled with joy as they began to understand the deeper meaning of phrases like, “the family has survived well these many years,” and “we are alive and prospering.” Words like “our family has grown greatly with many children now,” began to leap off the yellowing, crinkled page. The government had redacted much of it, but between the thick black marks meant to conceal information the truth screamed out at them – “The family is ALIVE and WELL!”
Over the ensuing years as travel restrictions eased, many of the missionaries were able to visit China and as they met now aged friends they learned the fate of the abandoned Chinese church. The now free Pastor reported that when the missionaries were driven out the church felt alone. When the church buildings were bulldozed they felt broken. When their Bibles were confiscated and burned, they felt as the life had been drained from them. When their leaders were imprisoned or murdered they felt as if they had been orphaned.
In their desperation, they implored God for some shred of hope. In spiritual agony they wept before God and cried, “What shall we do? We have lost everything; our fathers, our leaders, our churches, our Bibles – EVERYTHING IS GONE! We have nothing left but You.”
“We have nothing left but You!” It was then that revelation came to the Chinese believers. They have driven our Fathers from the country, they have destroyed our churches, they have burned our bibles and imprisoned our elders – but we still have You, and if we have You we need nothing else. It was then that the resurrection Life of the Living Lord of the church began to flow into those hopeless, empty hearts. It may have been at that moment when the Chinese church was actually birthed.
In 1900 there were an estimated 100,000 Christians in China. By best accounts today there are more than 67 million Christians in China, making it the second largest population of professing believers in the world. Most agree that the Chinese church is also one of the fastest growing churches in the world, and may soon become the largest evangelical population in the world – eclipsing even the United States. Even as the government continues its relentless efforts to stifle the growth of the church by outlawing Bibles, tearing down crosses, and arresting leaders – the church is growing.
Instead of killing the Chinese church, opposition breathed life into it. It was an atmosphere of desperation that drove the church to its knees and to an utter dependence upon God alone. Like a grass fire on the prairies the church went underground and spread through the roots of the population like a wildfire. Once again, the enemy’s desperate attempt to kill the work of God among men only breathed life into it.
They had nothing – but God.
In America today there is a great and rising fear. A fear that the government is going to take our freedom away from us, destroy our crystal palaces we call churches, and tell us we cannot worship except under the strict control of the state. There is great panic among church leaders today that the church is going to “lose everything.” We are terrified of the specter of a Clinton/Kaine Presidency that will suppress, oppress and eventually sink the mighty Ship of Zion.
I simply propose a question this morning: Could it be that God has given permission to the agents of the Kingdom of Darkness to kill the church in America? Much like He allowed the demons to drive men to kill Jesus – will He allow them to kill us so that we might live?
Will God allow our government to take everything away from us so that we will cry out in our agony and desperation? Is the day coming when a cry will rise up out of the ashes of the once mighty American church, “God, they have taken everything. We have nothing left but You!”
My friend, we may be standing on the precipice of desperation where we have nothing but God. Our Chinese brethren learned what we desperately need to know:
Nothing but God is more than enough.
For your edification I have supplied these links
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HvgfCNIKp0A&sns=emChinese Christians receive their first Bibles