WCC Official: Church Growth in China 'Unique and Explosive'

The Church in China is experiencing tremendous growth like never before, says an official with the World Council of Churches (WCC).

Mathews George Chunakara, WCC's Director of International Affairs and Public Witness, says there had been a "unique and explosive growth" of Christianity among the Chinese people.

"I have been visiting China for the last 15 years. I am astounded to see the tremendous growth there. Their worship places are now overflowing," Chunakara told New Delhi-based Christian Today in a recent interview.

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"It is not just the poor you see in churches," he added. "Even the rich and educated are embracing Christianity. Beijing and Shanghai are the proof."

In the early 1970s, there were an estimated three million Christians in China. Now, the number may be as high as 130 million.

And while the government has been known for keeping a tight grip on the activities in churches, Chunakara said the situation has "much improved" and that the government is now starting to "favor" religious people.

"The Chinese government will not raid unless provoked," reported Chunakara. "Now being the fastest growing economy, they know the importance of a harmonious society. To promote such a society, they are giving religion a special role."

One example Chunakara pointed to was the Communist Government's amendment of the Chinese Constitution two years ago to accommodate the role of religion.

"You could not expect such a thing to happen 15 years ago," Chunakara said.

Still, the government is continuing to keep a close eye on the activities of official churches and there has been sporadic persecution against Christians belonging to unofficial house churches.

But Chunakara praised God for the growth of the Church in China and in other Asian countries.

"Not only China, in many Asian countries the Church is expanding," Chunakara noted. "More people are coming to God. In addition, the participation of young people is absolutely remarkable in comparison with those in West.

"There is genuine spiritual eagerness among the grassroot level people," he said.

Chunakara said he believes God is using the foolish to shame the wise.

"While Christianity is dying in the West, God is bringing a spiritual awakening in third world countries like India and China," he stated.

Before taking on his current role at the WCC, Chunakara served as Asia secretary at the ecumenical church body.

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