As western society moves further away from Biblical standards, we who are devoted to Jesus will become more obvious. We will be an increasingly bright light in an increasingly dark world. This is good news, really, because the hope of the gospel and the glory of God will be revealed. Where is your hope? Is it in your safety, reputation, or family? Or is it in the risen Jesus?
What if one Sunday morning, worship service underway, police officers marched into your church building, handcuffed your pastor, most of your congregation, and took them all off to jail?
This scenario is almost impossible for us in the West to imagine, but it’s a reality for the Early Rain Covenant Church in China.
In December 2018 the pastor of the Early Rain Church, Wang Yi, and nearly 100 of his congregants, including his wife, were hauled into police custody as part of a major crackdown on unregistered churches in China. While most of the parishioners were freed, Yi remained in custody.
One year later, during a secret hearing in December 2019, Yi was found guilty of subversion of state power and illegal business operations. He was sentenced to nine years in prison, personal assets worth $7,200 were confiscated, and his political rights were removed.[i]
‘This Is the Means by Which I Preach the Gospel’
The Early Rain Church maintains that Yi and their faith family are innocent of any wrongdoing. The church has not registered with the Three-Self Patriotic Movement led by the Communist Party, which is required by law in China. In addition, they have sought to minister openly as a means of building up and encouraging the church in China. Along with other congregations they have started a seminary, a Christian school, a college, and a presbytery. The church openly helps legal petitioners, families of political prisoners, the unborn, and women in crisis pregnancies. Yi has been outspoken against the Communist Party, the Tiananmen Square Massacre in 1989, the country’s abortion practices, and the rise of President Xi’s totalitarian rule.[ii]
Because of their open ministry and critical voice, Pastor Yi and Early Rain leaders expected persecution from the Chinese government and were ready for the crackdown. In preparation, Yi wrote a letter entitled “My Declaration of Faithful Disobedience,” which says, in part:
Separate me from my wife and children, ruin my reputation, destroy my life and my family—the authorities are capable of doing all of these things. However, no one in this world can force me to renounce my faith; no one can make me change my life; and no one can raise me from the dead.[iii]