Rural churches

China is home to one of the fastest growing churches in the world and growth in the rural church has been the engine-room for much of this transformation. While Chinese Protestants and Catholics remain a small minority among the total Chinese population, in many rural parts of the country Christianity has begun to take on an increasingly ‘Chinese look’: itinerant evangelists, local pastors, enthusiastic lay believers, a profusion of different theologies and practices, and in some cases a mixing with traditional Chinese religions.

The intrinsically simple model of Protestant Christianity has meant that it has transplanted particularly well into rural Chinese communities. Figures from the Protestant church indicate that in Henan Province, for example, the number of people coming to registered churches and meeting places grew by over 1 million between 1995 and 2004.

Many of these new believers have come to Christ through witnessing or experiencing miraculous healing, through being attracted by the close friendships offered by the church in a rapidly changing social situation, and through kinship and friendship ties. Pressures on many rural communities are particularly intense through migration to the cities, the encroachment of urban sprawl onto arable land, and the degradation of the rural environment. In such a context, the gospel message of hope, justice and love is particularly relevant.

Difficulties in local churches remain a low level of theological training, which can give rise to misleading and damaging teaching and practices. Often churches are run by a single evangelist, with little background in financial and managerial matters, which in some cases has led to temptation and mismanagement. Pseudo-Christian sects, like the ‘Established King’ also flourish in rapidly changing rural communities, and pose difficulties for church pastors and administrators.


You can also read the conversion stories of rural Chinese Christians. These give a flavour of the faith stories, the commitment and joy of Chinese Christianity as well as some of the issues faced by rural Chinese.


© Churches Together in Britain and Ireland 2010