By Keith & Candace Malcomson
Many who once lived behind the old Iron Curtain but who now reside in ‘free’ western countries, have sounded an alarm. Are we listening?
For generations the Western Church has enjoyed freedom, yet we are seeing a steady erosion of these liberties.
State control, brought in through the smokescreen of a pandemic, has reached and breached the liberties of thousands of believers
State control, brought in through the smokescreen of a pandemic, has reached and breached the liberties of thousands of believers.
Wave after wave of restrictions
2Many who once lived behind the old Iron Curtain but who now reside in ‘free’ western countries, have sounded an alarm. What they see coming into ‘free democracies’ like Canada is eerily similar to what they grew up with in Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union: wave after wave of restrictions, just as the UK’s coronavirus laws have changed over 65 times in the last year. Moreover, these restrictions at first affected all their institutions but ultimately left the Church out on a limb as the one institution to lose most or all of its liberties.
Is this scaremongering or is it time to sound the alarm for the sake of preparing the Bride of Christ?
At the end of March 2020 the French government publicly blamed one evangelical church for France’s Covid-19 outbreak. Porte Ouverte (Open Door) Church in Mulhouse, Alsace, had held a prayer retreat for 2,000 people in February and 80 reported flu-like or head cold symptoms afterwards.
Health Minister Olivier Veran publicly denounced the evangelicals
At the time, however, the French government was “in Covid-19 denial”, according to religious freedom campaign group ADF International. “Even the President was busy meeting and greeting crowds in Bourtzwiller, 300 meters from the Mulhouse doorstep. Yet Health Minister Olivier Veran publicly denounced the evangelicals and stated that their gathering was the catalyst of the spread of Covid-19 in France.
“Other politicians were quick to join the witch-hunt, blaming the evangelical community for allegedly failing to respect sanitary measures. In fact, the sanitary measures referred to were not put in place until much later in March. Even the French Council of Science claimed that had the Mulhouse church not met that week, France would have enjoyed a similar outcome as Germany in terms of Covid-19 cases.” (ADF International, 7 July 2020)
Press reports blaming this one church led to the pastor, Samuel Peterschmitt, and congregation being threatened with Kalashnikovs, and that the church would be burnt down. Neighbours harassed neighbours with text messages.
The French government’s restrictions on religious gatherings, compounded by its officials’ accusatory statements concerning the Mulhouse church have had a chilling effect on religious communities all across France. This comes despite manifold protections of religious freedom in the law – the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, the 1905 Law on the separation of the Churches and State, and the government’s proud affirmation of religious freedom.
A large country like France would, without doubt, have had many other cultural or sport gatherings which would also have welcomed guests from all over the world, but we cannot know this for sure because both government and media chose to highlight the little evangelical church gathering as the place and point of the start of the nation’s pandemic. The church became the scapegoat.
In Canada there are now three pastors (at the time of writing) who have been arrested and one has been jailed for hosting more than the 15 worshippers permitted under Covid regulations in the area.
On Good Friday in London, police interrupted a Catholic Mass for breaching Covid regulations. In Ireland churches are still closed.
The Church in the West should not be surprised when in the future the scapegoat syndrome resurfaces just as it did for the burning of ancient Rome. Blame will be laid at the doors of churches, and this will go further to be framed in legislation where gatherings may be permanently forbidden. If this is likely (and it is), then we have much to learn from the Chinese Church behind the Bamboo Curtain.
About a century ago, China was considered one of the most difficult mission fields in the world. Nonetheless, great things were accomplished by faithful missionaries during the 20th century, labouring under extreme pressure.
The Englishman, Cecil H Polhill, one of the Cambridge Seven and the founder of the first Pentecostal mission in the world, PMU (Pentecostal Missionary Union for Great Britain and Ireland) in 1909, made his last missionary trip to China in 1931 at the age of 71.
Persecution would be God’s way to bring about this revival
He had watched how the subtle political undertones arising in China were threatening missionary and Christian activity. While he believed that the greatest spiritual victory for China was yet to come, he speculated that persecution would be God’s way to bring about this revival. How right he was.
Two-thirds of churchgoers fell away from the faith
In 1949 when the Communist forces of Mao won the civil war and enforced their form of totalitarian government upon the people, there were about one million professing Christians. When severe persecution broke out in the early 50s many Christians were arrested, with some imprisoned for decades. It is estimated that two-thirds of churchgoers fell away from the faith at this time as a result of the harsh oppression.
A heaven-sent revival with new leaders emerging, a restoration of the miraculous, a simple preaching of the Cross, and an embracing of suffering as a vital part of God’s will for them
But over the past 50 years, in an act of God’s sovereign grace, the Church in China has experienced a heaven-sent revival with new leaders emerging, a restoration of the miraculous, a simple preaching of the Cross, and an embracing of suffering as a vital part of God’s will for them.
Today it is estimated that there are between 100 and 150 million followers of Christ in China. This is more than ten per cent of the entire population and there have been estimates that this may reach 20 per cent by 2030, making it the most Christian country in the world.
More than 60 million meet in secret
More than 60 million of these presently gather illegally and as a result suffer persecution and live their lives daily under fear of imprisonment, but the Church continues to evangelise fervently and to grow exponentially.
If this is coming to a community near us soon, what are we to do to prepare ourselves here in the West? Firstly, know that this is not the hour to “fret because of evildoers” (Psalm 37).
Knowing God’s Word is our best preparation. Paul tells the Philippians (1:29): “For unto you it is given on behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake.”
And Luke writes (6:26): “Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets.”
To expect these things is to be prepared. Not all believers will be persecuted or suffer in the same way, but we “weep with them that weep” (Romans 12:15) and must all be aware of the need to pray for Christ’s bride, and not to be anxious.
In a recent prayer time I was meditating on our present condition in the West and wondered what awaits us in the days ahead and how we should prepare. I was led back to a book I first read in 2003 called ‘The Heavenly Man’ by Paul Hattaway (a pseudonym) which tells the story of Brother Yun, a great evangelist in China.
Yun escaped in 1997 and now lives in Germany. The same year I also heard him preach in Berlin on the Cross.
Returning to this book prompted me to immediately write to its author, Paul Hattaway, at mission organisation Asia Harvest, asking for his insights for the Church in the West. For 33 years Hattaway has ministered to the Church in China.
Hattaway explained that his face does not appear publicly, nor does he put his voice on record. This is the only way he has functioned without getting caught. He did agree to a written interview and immediately this newspaper came to mind.
In response to my query, Hattaway sent me this response:
“In recent years—especially since the start of the Covid pandemic—many believers around the world have contacted us to ask if we can share insights or do interviews into how Christians can survive persecution, as they see the storm clouds of persecution gathering on the horizon in their countries.
“First, we point out that we have written more than a dozen books on the Church in China, each containing principles and testimonies of how God has not only helped his children survive six decades of persecution, but has caused them to thrive, so that China is still experiencing the greatest revival in Christian history.
“When we try to help church leaders and believers in the West prepare for persecution, after more dialogue it usually emerges that they are not really looking for straight answers. Often, what people mean when they ask these questions is: “How can we survive persecution in our current church structures, so we don’t have to suffer or change?”
“The answer to this is…you cannot!
Gone will be the denominations, emphasis on church buildings, Reverends, division between “clergy” and other believers
“True, physical persecution (eg when Christians are being arrested, beaten, imprisoned, or even killed) will not leave most current church structures intact. It will completely dismantle them! Gone will be the denominations, emphasis on church buildings, Reverends, division between “clergy” and other believers, and all kinds of church traditions and outward imagery that are not found in Scripture. They will be swept away.
“This pattern is what happened when persecution was ramped up against believers in China, North Korea, Vietnam, Laos, and other countries we work in.
“We don’t know if severe persecution is coming to your part of the world soon, but we must be prepared. The Lord Jesus said, ‘Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake’ (Matthew 24:9), while the apostle Paul told Timothy that ‘Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted’ (2 Timothy 3:12).” In an interview for ‘Sight’ magazine (26 July 2018), Brother Yun stated: “Persecution against Christians was generally on the decrease over the last decade, until about 18 months ago, when the Church in China entered a new stage of severe repression that leaders say is worse than at any time since the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s and 1970s. Indeed, many say that things are even worse now because of the advance of technology, which makes it almost impossible to conduct normal Christian activities in China undetected.
Believers meet together in small groups of four to five
With 400 million facial recognition cameras all over the country, feeding information into mega-computers 24 hours a day, the believers in China face new and insidious challenges as they continue to live out their faith. Almost all congregations that numbered hundreds or even thousands of members have disbanded in the past year, and now believers meet together in small groups of four to five people, just as they did during Mao’s day.” Yet this led to further fast expansion as more souls were reached for Christ.
See Keith Malcomson’s series of four videos, ‘The Great Reset’ on YouTube, his book ‘The Scarlet Woman’ on Bible prophecy, and several hundred free sermons (including those on Bible prophecy) at Limerick City Church where he is pastor: www.limerickcitychurch.com
Keith Malcomson’s article on ‘Bible prophecy and the Great Reset’ and Philip Wren’s article on the ‘Global elite’ were in our April/May issue. To order previous issues, contact the HEART office or order via www.heartpublications.co.uk
Videos of the ‘Navigating the Pandemic Fog’, conference, at which Keith Malcomson spoke, as well as author Graham Bridger on the financial system and Dr Henry Reitzug on vaccines can be accessed free via www.christianstogether.net
We hope these five important truths about persecution will bring encouragement and focus to our fellow believers:
God is always in control!
If he allows persecution to come, it’s for the good of his Kingdom. In China, believers only experienced the full joy of intimacy with Jesus when they were in the furnace of affliction and after they came out the other side.
Persecution is the last thing our flesh desires.
But our faith must rest on the fact that the Lord Jesus will not let us down, and he will never leave nor forsake us. Persecution cannot destroy our relationship with him: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?” (Romans 8:35).
Importantly, when intense hardship comes, we shouldn’t see only the hand of Satan in persecution.
In China, God’s people looked back later and realized that it was actually the Lord Jesus overseeing the entire process out of love for his children. He is zealous to remove the dead religious structures that trap people in bondage and keep millions of unbelievers from being able to see the true Gospel.
Persecution is a pruning process, when the Holy Spirit removes half-hearted believers from among the flock.
In China, when fierce persecution first broke out in the 1950s, around two-thirds of churchgoers fell away from the faith. The Lord Jesus told us this would occur: “When trouble or persecution comes because of the Word, they quickly fall away” (Mark 4:17).
If two-thirds of Chinese Christians fell away at the onset of persecution, how might things be in your part of the world?
For those who do not give up, persecution often brings great revival.
In China, the number of Christians has grown from less than one million to over 100 million after 60 years of brutal Communist persecution! All glory to God. When that realisation dawned on believers, many learned not only to grimly endure persecution, but to embrace it as a special blessing from God.”
For further testimonies, books, and information see www.asiaharvest.org
As reported last issue, preparations were discussed for another respiratory virus, this time church-based. Hence there is SPARS, which stands for St Paul’s Acute Respiratory Syndrome.
It was war-gamed in 2017 at Johns Hopkins University and envisaged a disease outbreak at a church. The pandemic was envisaged as running from 2025-2028.