China on Track to Have World's Largest Christian Population by 2030

Catholics sing on Christmas eve at a church in Taiyuan, Shanxi province, China, December 24, 2015.
Catholics sing on Christmas eve at a church in Taiyuan, Shanxi province, China, December 24, 2015. | (Photo: Reuters/Jon Woo)

Despite the increasing persecution of Christians in China, the Communist country is on track to have the largest Christian population in the world by 2030, according to Rodney Pennington who studies religious trends for OMF International.

"We are overjoyed with what the Lord has already done in China," said Pennington, vice president for mobilization of OMF, a missions organization, in an interview with The Christian Post on Tuesday. "But that doesn't mean the task is finished."

By 2030 "China will almost certainly have the most evangelical Christians," he said, "and that will greatly shape the global evangelical Church in the coming years.

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That said, Pennington emphasized that there are still many needs in China, especially in areas like discipleship, cross-cultural outreach and ministering to children and youth."

"While 200 million Chinese believers by the year 2030 may seem ambitious, it certainly gives us a strong goal to pray toward," he added.

Yu Jie, a Chinese Christian and democracy activist, said in an essay published in the August edition of First Things that Chinese Christians are known to say "the greater the persecution, the greater the revival." If recent reports are correct, the persecution has indeed been great but the revival has been, in Yu's words, a "gushing well or geyser."

The exponential growth of the Christian faith in China can be traced back to two moments in modern Chinese history, according to Yu.

Those two moments were the launch of Mao Zedong's Cultural Revolution in 1966 and the Tienanmen Square massacre in 1989. Millions of innocent people lost their lives in those events, and as a result many people have stopped believing in Marxism-Leninism and Maoist ideology, Yu said.

The director of the Center of Religion and Chinese Society at Purdue University, Fenggyang Yang, noted in an essay published in Slate magazine that Protestantism has been growing in China by more than 10 percent every year. In 1980 there were approximately 3 million Christians in China. By 2010 that number had risen to 58 million. He suggests that by 2025, there could be 255 million Christians.

Even with the impressive growth of Christianity, China is still officially an atheist country.

In April, CP reported that Chinese President Xi Jinping told his Communist Party members that they must be "unyielding Marxist atheists" who will command Christians and other religious groups in the country.

Since 2014, the Communist regime has been targeting Christians and demolishing churches, deeming the buildings "illegal." The government has demolished more than 200 churches and removed over 2,000 crosses in China's Zhejiang province in an effort to limit Christianity's influence in the region.

Human rights attorneys who provide legal support to churches in China have also been subjected to gruesome torture and forced to confess on television that they have disturbed the peace, and jeopardized national security.

While some churches have been allowed to operate under strict state surveillance, many others, especially house churches and ministry organizations not registered with the government, are heavily oppressed.

Yu noted that there are three times as many illegal house churches as state-sponsored ones, and that repression is particularly bad in Wenzhou, "China's Jerusalem" in Zhejiang province, where an estimated 15 percent of the population is Christian.

Despite the crackdown on Christianity in his native country, Yu said he is not unsettled.

"Neither the dead hand of Communism, nor the cynical imitation of Confucianism, nor capitalism, nor democracy, nor any earthly thing will determine the fate of my land," he said.

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