In China: The Church’s Long March (1985), David Adeney documents strengths of the Chinese house churches. Later, Paul Hattaway, in Back To Jerusalem (2003, pp. 14-15), listed, “some of the most important of these [Adeney’s documented] strengths.” The following text is taken verbatim from Hattaway’s list (may the Lord teach us through this):
- The house churches are indigenous.
They have cast off the trappings of the West and have developed their own forms of ministry. The dynamics flow from their freedom from institutional and traditional bondage.
- The house churches are rooted in family units.
They have become part of the Chinese social structure. The believing community is built up of little clusters of Christian families.
- The house churches are stripped of nonessentials.
Much that we associate with Christianity is not found in Chinese house churches today. Thus they are extremely flexible. One believer remarked, “In the past we blew trumpets and had large evangelistic campaigns. Some believed, but not great numbers. Now we have very little equipment…and many are coming to the Lord.”
- The house churches emphasize the lordship of Christ.
Because Jesus is the head of his body, the church must place obedience to him above every other loyalty; it cannot accept control by any outside organization. The word of God is obeyed and every attempt to force unscriptural practices on the church is resisted.
- The house churches have confidence in the sovereignty of God.
When there was no hope from a human point of view, Christians in China saw God revealing his power and overruling in the history of their day.
- The house churches love the word of God.
They appreciate the value of the Scriptures and have sacrificed in order to obtain copies of the Bible. Their knowledge of the Lord has deepened as they have memorized and copied the word of God.
- The house churches are praying churches.
With no human support and surrounded by those seeking to destroy them, Christians were cast on God, and in simple faith expected God to hear their cry. Prayer was not only communion with God but also a way to share in the spiritual conflict.
- The house churches are caring and sharing churches.
A house church is a caring community in which Christians show love for one another and for their fellow countrymen. Such love creates a tremendous force for spontaneous evangelism.
- The house churches depend on lay leadership.
Because so many Chinese pastors were put into prison or labor camps, the house churches have had to depend on lay leaders. The leadership consists of people from various walks of life who spend much time going from church to church teaching and building up the faith of others.
- The house churches have been purified by suffering.
The church in China has learned firsthand that suffering is part of God’s purpose in building his church. Suffering in the church has worked to purify it. Nominal Christianity could not have survived the tests of the Cultural Revolution. Because those who joined the church were aware that it was likely to mean suffering, their motivation was a genuine desire to know Jesus Christ.
- The house churches are zealous in evangelism.
No public preaching was allowed. People came to know Christ through the humble service of believers and through intimate contact between friends and family members. The main method of witness in China today is the personal lifestyle and behavior of Christains, accompanied by their proclamation of the gospel, often at great personal risk.