— Recently, an unprecedented letter, signed by nearly 400 Chinese church leaders who risked everything, including their freedoms, their churches, and their lives, was released. Called A Declaration for the Sake of the Christian Faith, it openly condemns the Chinese government’s persecution of Christians and reiterates an obligation to continue teaching the Bible regardless of government oppression. Later, Wheaton College’s Dean of the School of Mission, Ministry, and Leadership, Ed Stetzer, wrote an article inChristianity Today, emphasizing the need of international Christians not to neglect the sufferings of Chinese believers.
Standing in firm agreement with these sentiments, overseas Chinese Christians wrote the letter below to vocalize their support of those persecuted by the Chinese state, and now they extend the invitation to sign to church leaders worldwide. If you work with a church or Christian organization, please take a quick moment to read over and sign this statement:
Standing in solidarity with you in Christ
Greetings to churches in China persecuted for the sake of righteousness
Dear church pastors and co-laborers in Christ in China,
We are a group of Christian leaders who share your call from God but serve Him overseas, proclaiming the Gospel and shepherding churches.
Please accept our greatest respect for you for standing up straight and speaking up courageously for the truth you have put your faith in amid the persecutions and sufferings you are facing, and please send our warm regards to our numerous brothers and sisters in Christ, whom you are shepherding.
May grace and peace from our Heavenly Father and our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all!
Dear chief shepherds of God’s people, we read A Declaration for the Sake of the Christian Faith [Editor’s note: Hereafter referred to as “Declaration”], which you jointly signed, and were moved to tears by the Holy Spirit. Although we are overseas and in a relatively easy environment, we belong with you to the body of Christ, and we dare not forget the Bible’s teaching that “body … parts should have equal concern for each other” [1 Corinthians 12:25]. “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it” [1 Corinthians 12:26].
In order to proclaim the Gospel of Christ, whom you believe is the Lord of the whole earth and the only and supreme head of the Church, you are sharing in the sufferings of Christ. What a great honor and blessing!
“To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps” [1 Peter 2:21].
If we are oblivious to and detached from your sufferings for the sake of Christ, we are no longer a part of His body, and we will be held accountable when we see Him on that day.
Therefore, we have no other choice and are obliged to stand in solidarity with you in Christ, praying and interceding in tears for the persecutions against you, and giving our thanks and praise to God for your strength, endurance, and hope in the midst of sufferings.
If we truly share in your sufferings for the Gospel, we will be able to share in your blessings from God, for the Bible says, ” … if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory” [Romans 8:17b].
Dear chief shepherds of God’s people, ever since China’s top authorities reinforced the idolatrous worship of a certain leader and a certain ideology in recent years [Editor’s note: This refers to Chinese President Xi Jinping and his administration, who are attempting to consolidate ideological power to the Communist Party and persecuting those who do not adhere to their beliefs], the Gospel message about Christ’s cross, which you have preached, became more and more repulsive to them, and thus, they intensified persecutions against you. This is because the Gospel of Christ opposes any form of idol worship by mankind and holds fast that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” [Romans 3:23]. All of mankind, including those in power, are saved from perishing through their faith in the redemption of Christ Jesus on the cross. As long as we refuse to back down from this claim of truth, the world won’t stop persecuting us.
As our Lord Jesus said, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you” [John 15:18-19].
Therefore, no matter what excuses or criminal charges the authorities use to interrogate, raid, demolish, fine, outlaw, confiscate, shut down, or even detain you, it is not because you are not cunning enough in your responses, or you’re growing too fast as a church, or you’re connected with “overseas forces.” It is only because you have been chosen out of the world by Christ. As the root cause of all persecutions suffered by Christian churches, this is also the secret to our partaking in the Lord’s glory in the future.
Dear chief shepherds, we thank and praise God for your faithfulness and goodness in Christ. As “stewards of the mysteries God” [1 Corinthians 4:1], you always put what he entrusted to you, “Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season” [2 Timothy 4:2a], above everything else, even in the midst of persecutions. Your Declarationbegins with the Gospel message, calling on the world to repent and reconcile with God through Christ, because this is the highest call you have received from God. For this you were called, and for this you will also live or die.
The four claims in your Declarationalso flow out of this. For the sake of the Gospel, you must lead the church, “obey God rather than human beings” [Acts 5:29] and therefore resist everything coming from men. Again, for the sake of the Gospel, teach the church to follow the biblical principle of separating the church from the state; “Christians are obligated to respect the authorities, to pray fervently for their benefit, and to pray earnestly for Chinese society” [Declaration, Item 3]
Even more so, you are “For the sake of the gospel, we are willing to suffer all external losses brought about by unfair law enforcement. Out of a love for our fellow citizens, we are willing to give up all of our earthly rights” [Declaration, Item 3]. All these have manifested that “it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose” [Philippians 2:13].
Dear chief shepherds, it is our belief that, were it not for God’s Spirit moving among you and his mighty arms sustaining you, you would not be able to stay faithful to the commission God entrusted to you, following in the footsteps of Christ, and being the good shepherds who lay down their lives for their sheep.
As of today, we have seen God’s power to preserve you and be present with you in your sufferings. He made you join hands and walk in front of your flock, bravely speaking up for truth. He meant for you to guide and protect his sheep, and inspire brothers and sisters in churches with your own example to not lose heart and fall captive to the world. Undaunted by the intimidation from the authorities, you boldly proclaim Christ as the only and supreme head of the Church, and make the world and God’s churches all over the world hear your solemn promise: “… under no circumstances will we lead our churches to join a religious organization controlled by the government, to register with the religious administration department, or to accept any kind of affiliation. We also will not accept any ‘ban’ or ‘fine’ imposed on our churches due to our faith. For the sake of the gospel, we are prepared to bear all losses-even the loss of our freedom and our lives” [Declaration, Item 4]. We believe your resounding voices, filled with God’s graceful and powerful proclamations, will spread with the content of your Declarationto inspire more Gospel workers to become fearless of persecutions, to preach the same Gospel, to be led by the same Spirit, to unite with you in one body, and to share the same resolve in front of God, under the leadership of Jesus Christ, our only Sovereign. This will bring a greater revival and unity to churches in China and make the Gospel spread faster and farther in the land of China.
Dear chief shepherds, when you lag in the midst of a hundred different ways to be refined by fire, your faith, evidenced by your practice of self-denial and endurance, is being reported all over the world, and is showing to us, in particular, people in overseas churches, how to follow Jesus’s example.
Gracious God, may your mercy be with overseas Chinese churches, and may you not abandon us. Don’t let us indulge in our comfort. Don’t let us become the church in Laodicea-“neither
hot nor cold”- and be spit out of your mouth [Revelation 3:16]. May God remember that we pray in tears day and night for you in your persecution.
May God fulfill in us his promise that you have received because of our willingness to share in your sufferings in Christ and to fight the good fight with you for the Gospel: “Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown” [Revelation 2:10]. Amen!
Lead Pastor of Washington Harvest Chinese Christian Church
*Note: If you are a Christian leader and would like to add your signature, pleaseclick here*