East China: Anhui, Fujian, Jiangsu, Jiangxi, Shandong, Zhejiang, 1 Municipality (Shanghai) Over 400 million people live here. Over 10% are Christian. Christian growth in East China has been amazing for several decades now! Every province but Jiangxi had enormous church growth, and even there the Church grows in some areas. TSPM, Catholics, and especially house churches all flourish. Fujian was one of the first provinces to receive the gospel from Protestant missionaries (19th century). Two of China’s largest house-church networks started in Anhui, where the Church keeps growing despite strong persecution. 20% of Zhejiang is Christian, the highest of any province (likely more born-again believers live here than in any European country!). Nanjing (in Jiangsu) is a key city for Christianity in China. The national seminary for the TSPM and the Amity Press (the biggest printer of Bibles) are both here. Christians from these areas, especially Zhejiang, work to evangelize other parts of China.
- Anhui lags behind China in most areas of development, especially economically. There is great economic disparity between rural and urban areas; farmers face especially difficult livelihoods. Failed Maoist policies, poor administration and corruption, combined with famine and frequent floods, bring desperation and disillusionment. These have led many to turn to Christ. As a result, Anhui enjoys one of China's highest proportions of Christians, 16.2%, and its second-largest number of Christians (after Henan). Pray for just governance and wise development that will uplift the millions of impoverished in Anhui; pray that Christians might be an integral part of blessing the poor.
- Christian growth has been amazing and sustained over several decades. From 50,000 Protestants in 1949, there are now possibly over nine million TSPM and house church Christians - counting proves too difficult due to the speed of the growth! Two of China's largest house-church networks started in the northwest of the province.
- Existing house-church networks face internal struggles. Large networks are fracturing and cooperation is lacking among networks, often because of very minor theological differences or issues of control. The sheer number of believers forms a Christian culture, which in turn isolates many churches and Christians from unbelievers. Churches and leaders are at times so beset by internal politics that spiritual development and evangelism get relegated to a lesser status. Pray for unity among Christians, leaders and networks, and pray that discipleship and evangelism can once again assume primacy in churches.
- Persecution of unregistered churches is notable in Anhui, more so than in most provinces. Many church leaders have been imprisoned and many ministries shut down, yet churches are not cowed and outreach continues. Pray for continued faithfulness in the face of persecution.
- Fujian was one of China's first provinces to receive the gospel. The first Protestant missionaries arrived in the early 19th Century. Over the decades, there has been much growth among TSPM and house churches and Catholics. The Assembly Halls (Watchman Nee) and the True Jesus Church are also strong, although regarded by many as aberrational in their teachings (especially the latter group). The provincial government here seems at times increasingly tolerant and open to the activity of unregistered Christian groups, but then at other times it cracks down on them. Praise God for what growth and freedom do exist; pray for the right steps that will release the Church into powerful witness and ministry in Fujian.
- Pray for the unreached in two significant groups:
- The 400,000 She (700,000 nationally) are a Hmong people related to the Miao, who had until recently been largely unevangelized. Most She are assimilated into Han or Hakka culture and are largely Daoist, with ancestral worship practices. But thousands in recent years have become believers; pray for this fledgling Church to grow in healthy ways.
- The 4,000 Ami, Bunun and Paiwan are Austronesian groups, together called Gaoshan in China. They are related to the mountain peoples of Taiwan, where most became Christian. Their mainland relatives have no known witness among them, and Christian resources in their languages (Bibles, the JESUS film and such), which are available to them in Taiwan, are not available in the mainland.
- Immigrants to Fujian from other areas of China, attracted by Fujian's prosperity, are looking for work. In Xiamen, as much as 70% of the population are from other regions. In most cases, they will have come from parts of China that are significantly less blessed with the gospel; pray that the vibrant Church here might reach out with boldness and love to these economic migrants.
- Church growth has been spectacular since 1980, with over three million associated with TSPM churches — the greatest church growth of any province except Henan. The burgeoning house churches account for approaching three million more. However, the Church cannot rest comfortably. The government still routinely cracks down hard on unregistered congregations, and cults are very active in this region. The Lingling cult began in Jiangsu. The increasing wealth in this area can also be a snare to immature Christians. Pray for God to preserve, purify and build His people in this already blessed province.
- Nanjing is a key city for Christianity in China. The national seminary for the TSPM is here, as is the Amity Press, China's biggest printer and the source of 50 million Bibles and NTs so far, with millions more published every year. Its sister organization, Amity Foundation, has a ministry involved in community development, medical care, rural education and social welfare. It also majors on promoting church involvement in social service, a crucial step in the maturation and development of Christianity in China.
- Christians are a lower proportion in Jiangxi than nationally, but numbers are growing substantially, especially among the house church networks. The Church is multiplying in many areas, but other parts of the province are relatively underevangelized.
- The peninsular province of Shandong is one of China's richest due to strong traditions in industry and manufacturing and solid investment from the proximate South Korea and Japan. Pray that its economic stability and connections to the wider world might be the means by which the gospel spreads within Shandong and to the rest of China.
- Shandong was the birthplace and home of Confucius, whose philosophy and writings deeply moulded Chinese culture, even to this day. Pray that the Chinese may be freed from the social demands that hinder many from commitment to Christ.
- Shanghai is China's largest city (and the largest city proper in the world), a financial and trading powerhouse and the nation's largest port. Materialism and even naked greed characterize much of the drive behind the city's growth. Pray that the great wealth fuelling Shanghai's rise might be used for redemptive purposes; pray also that those coming to Shanghai from the far-flung parts of China might be reached with the gospel.
- Shanghai municipality also hosts China's largest expatriate population, which includes large communities of Westerners, Koreans and especially Taiwanese and other overseas Chinese. There are many active Christians among them and much Christian activity by and for them. Pray for a positive interaction, when it is beneficial to do so, between national and foreign believers.
- Other demographic groups in Shanghai. Shanghai is a magnet for between 4.8 and 5.8 million migrant workers. These come from all over China but especially from neighbouring provinces. Shanghai also has more than three million residents over 60 years of age - 22% of its population. This group, the generation of the Cultural Revolution, needs specific and focused outreach. Pray for ministry to both Shanghai's aging natives and its immigrating outsiders.
- Zhejiang province enjoys China's highest proportion of Christians. At 19.5%, it almost certainly possesses more born-again believers than any European country. Wenzhou Prefecture is nearly 30% Christian. Yongjia county and Xiaoshan district both hover around 50% Christian! Praise God for this amazing growth in the Church - TSPM, Catholics and especially house churches enjoy sustained increases in numbers and maturity.
- Zhejiang's Christians have done much to evangelize other parts of China as well as the two million migrant labourers who work here. Many wealthy Christian entrepreneurs use their business skills to reach the rest of China, travelling around on business and setting up fellowships (and businesses) as they go. These "boss Christians" use their business acumen and their companies as a means to spread the good news. Other Christians are likewise generous in supporting the vision of China's evangelization. Pray for this vision to grow.
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Content taken or adapted from Operation World, 7th Edition (2010) and Pray for the World (2015). Both books are published by InterVarsity Press. All rights reserved.