The pace of church growth in China means the country is heading towards becoming the world’s biggest Christian country, according to founder of the Alpha Course and former vicar of Holy Trinity Brompton, Rev Nicky Gumbel.
Speaking to the Church of England newspaper on his vision to make the gospel available for everyone in the world by Easter Day (17 April) 2033 – the 2000th anniversary of the resurrection – he said that a Chinese version of the Alpha course has been prepared.
“There’s a Chinese version out, which is totally Chinese, filmed in mainland China, produced by the Chinese with Chinese presenters, Chinese testimonies, Chinese experts," he said.
“There are 200 million people outside of China, let alone quite a few in China”.
The Alpha course is run by churches who encourage people to meet for a meal followed by Bible teaching and prayer. He told the newspaper that there are more Alpha courses in the US than anywhere else in the world.
But he added “China may be overtaking the US as the largest Christian country in the world”. And explained “I’ve found in every country it’s basically the same, everyone’s searching for purpose, everyone’s searching for love, everyone’s searching to belong.”
Confidence in the power of the Gospel to bring change to China comes at the same time as churches in the communist country are going through an intense period of persecution, according to rights activists.
Tighter regulations on religion in China were passed in 2018 and were underlined by President Xi in person in December 2021. The Chinese premier called for a more aggressive campaign against so-called 'illegal' forms of religion in China.
He insisted churches should be made to "adhere to Marxist religious views" and called for the stricter enforcement of religion laws.
Under this crackdown, unapproved house churches are prevented from posting, viewing or sharing links to their online church services.
The regulations also prohibit churches from running a children’s ministry, effectively blocking under-18s from church activities.