Christianity in China

Current Status of Christianity in China

Christianity in China

Christianity in ChinaChristianity in China took root after Robert Morrison, a missionary and sinologist with the London Missionary Society, arrived in 1807 and translated the first Chinese Bible in 1819.

During the 200 years since then, Christianity in China was tested and grew through fiery trials, including the Taiping Rebellion (1850-1664), Mao's Cultural Revolution (1966-1976, see Project Pearl), and persecution by the Chinese Communist Party (1948-present).

How many Christians are in China today?

Christians in China tend to attend either government-controlled Three Self churches or underground churches. Official statistics are sparse for both but still sufficient to deduce the number of Christians in China today.

In 2004, the Chinese Communist Party reported 18 million baptized Christians in China's Three Self churches. During the World Council of Churches (WCC) Executive Committee meeting held in China November 17-23, 2016, China's Three Self Patriotic Movement and China Christian Council reported that that number had risen to 38 million.

Eighteen million in 2004 growing to 38 million in 2016 represents an annual growth rate of 6.5%, based on which there are 43.5 million (38 million x 1.065 x 1.065) baptized Three Self church Christians in China in 2018.

This 43.5 million figure excludes the Christian children of Three Self church Christians because the Chinese government forbids baptism until 18 years of age. Using a conservative ratio of 1 Christian under 18 years of age for every 8 baptized adults brings the total number of Three Self church Christians in 2018 to 49 million (43.5 + 12.5%).

What is the total number of Christians in China including the underground church?

At a closed-door meeting at Peking University in 2006, Xiaowen Ye, the then head of the Chinese Communist Party's Religious Affairs Bureau reported that Protestants in China numbered 110 million.

Applying the same 6.5% annual growth rate to this figure for the 12 years since 2006 indicates 234 million* as the total number of Protestants in China in 2018.

Why do surveys report figures below 100 million?

Chinese Christians are persecuted for their faith (see Christian persecution in China), so survey that ask about their faith are far less reliable than the numbers compiled by the Chinese government's intelligence services for their internal use.

It is generally accepted that China has between 2 to 4 times more underground church Christians than Three Self church Christians. Ratios of 2, 3 and 4 underground church Christians for every Three Self church Christian yield 147 million, 196 million and 245 million, respectively, as the total number of Christians in China in 2018 (the 234 million figure above indicates this ratio to be 3.8 to 1)."

China's Christians already outnumber American Christians, as well as Chinese Communist Party members, yet still comprise less than 20% of China's 1.4 billion people.

2018 Update

The growth of Christianity in China has begun to stagnate due to the following 5 reasons.

1.  Ageing Congregations

Thirty-five years of the Chinese government's "one-child policy" has aged China's population, including China's Christian population. As the old die, there are fewer young people to replace them.

2.  Chasing Mammon

China has become a very competitive and materialistic society and one that lacks social security protection. Those in the work force are busy working for mammon to provide for themselves, their children, their retired parents and grandparents.

3.  Smartphone Penetration

Seven hundred million Chinese now own a smartphone and are busy on theirs, chatting, texting, playing games or watching things they shouldn't be watching. They have less time to know and serve God.

4.  Nationalism

Increasing numbers of Chinese feel China has caught up to the West and learned most of what it should from the West. Compared to a decade ago, they are less curious about Western ideas, including Christianity, which they consider a Western religion.

5.  False Gospel

The majority of Western missionaries in China teach denominationalism, health, wealth, prosperity and other false gospels (see Four Spiritual Laws) that create false converts who eventually fall away and become inoculated against the True Gospel.


* The Lord knows how many are truly born again Christians.