The encouraging signs of spiritual life that emerged among many Shandong churches in the late 1920s proved to be adequate fuel for the Spirit of God, who blew on the embers and fanned them into flame, as a powerful revival broke out among the churches of Shandong for much of the 1930s.
The outbreak of revival seemed to take many Christian leaders by surprise. The conditions could scarcely have been worse. With the Great Depression ravaging the world economy at the start of the decade, many missionaries wondered if there would be any financial support available to keep them on the field. The Lord Jesus Christ was ready to display His glory, however, and the results were thrilling and far-reaching. One witness of the Shandong revival wrote,
"One of the most amazing results of the revival was that it did what the word 'revival' implies. It revived spiritually-dead churches. Many of the churches had stopped holding worship services, and others met only when the missionaries had time to visit them. Following the revival they began meeting regularly, and when no preacher was available, laymen led the services....
Church attendance increased many times within a few months. Those who attended were serious workers for Christ. Many churches began to disciple their members. After an attempt was made to interest those who never attended, the church withdrew fellowship from them."1
In 1932, the Southern Baptists in the province reported,
"In the revival here at Huangxian last spring, the Bible school came in for a great blessing. Every one of the faculty got a distinct blessing, and nearly every one of them was filled with the Holy Spirit. It has become a new school....
At Jining our people have become of one heart and mind in the Lord Jesus as never before—we feel that the year has led us on to new spiritual heights.... At Laizhou and Laiyang it is absolutely beyond the power of human tongue to express the sheer joy and rapture of this new, marvelous, intimate fellowship into which we were brought with the glorified Redeemer Himself.
At Pingdu, God has been adding daily to His church. The general estimate is that 3,000 souls have been saved this year. There have been about 900 baptisms, with others waiting....
The evidence of changed lives includes: opium given up, idols torn down, quarrels of years' standing made up, village hoodlums turned into humble men of prayer and soul-winners. Many have given up home and land and gone out to the lost around them."2
The Holy Spirit fell in great power upon the Southern Baptist missionaries and Chinese believers at Huangxian, and they cried out in prayer for four days and four nights. Everyone present came under conviction and confessed their sins. Toward the end of the meeting, the Chinese Christians told the missionaries, "We thought you considered yourselves above us. Now we are all one."3
The church in Jinan experienced more conversions to Christ in 1932 alone than during the previous six decades combined. The churches reportedly "reached a new spiritual high plane. Nearly every one of the preachers, teachers, Bible women and missionaries had an experience of the deeper life, and each one began to have genuine victory and power in his life."4
Signs and Wonders
Like in the Book of Acts, miracles took place throughout Shandong as God confirmed His Word with signs and wonders. One missionary reported, "I saw a man who had crawled around like a worm because his legs had grown together. God responded immediately to the prayer of faith. As these simple believers waited upon Him, the flesh was separated, the man rose and walked, and he is now preaching the gospel."5
An old man in another town was dying of tuberculosis. His coffin and grave clothes were prepared, and his family and neighbors awaited his death. After an evangelist visited and prayed for him, the man suddenly jumped up and shouted, "I am well!" He sold his coffin and contributed the money to the construction of a new meeting hall.
In a small village a woman had laid out her burial garments and her family members gathered around her bed to mourn. Just as the woman's eyes closed, a lady who had only been saved a few days entered the room. She exhorted, "You must pray to the Living God. He hears prayers!"
She walked over to the bed and started to pray for the sick woman. As she prayed, "the dying woman opened her eyes and immediately became better. The believing woman witnessed to the power of the gospel.... The whole family and a large number of other people were saved. About 20 in the village were also filled with the Holy Spirit."6
Visions Lead to Repentance
As the Spirit of God was poured out on people with hungry hearts throughout Shandong, many insights were provided into the supernatural realm that caused people to repent of their sins and get right with Jesus Christ. Some saw visions of heaven, others of hell. In a meeting in one town, a Christian was praying when he saw a clear vision of a pitchfork. He didn't know what it meant or what to do about it, but he stood to his feet in the church meeting and simply shared what he had seen.
At the sunrise prayer meeting the next morning another Christian arose and confessed, "'Brethren, I am the guilty party; I stole a pitchfork 20 years ago. It had left my mind until the brother saw it in a vision last night'... After breakfast he took money to his neighbor to pay for the tool, begged him to forgive him, and brought his neighbor to church to hear of the Jesus who can change people's hearts."7
The Living God also gave a vision to a group of four schoolboys as they prayed together. The vision was deeply troubling to them. In it, they saw the Lamb's Book of Life being opened in heaven. They were thrilled to see the names of so many of their classmates and relatives whose lives had been impacted by the revival, but the name of their Christian teacher, Mr. Hou, was listed in a different book, the 'Book of Sin', which included a note that he had stolen $400 from the Christian school he worked for.
The boys were afraid to confront their teacher with the details of their vision, but were so overcome with dread for his lost soul that they visited his home. With tears in their eyes they knelt before him and said God had shown them something to share with him. Hou encouraged them to tell what they had seen, and when they did the teacher broke out in a cold sweat and said, "I am guilty. I thought no one would ever know." He made restitution and became a wonderful witness for Jesus Christ.8
A Mighty Wind Blows on the Southern Baptists
At Laiyang in eastern Shandong, church members had backslidden to a desperate state throughout the 1920s, and by 1930 many fellowships were described as "dead." A revival meeting was held in December 1930, and from the start the Holy Spirit powerfully manifested His presence in their midst. On December 3, a prayer service was held. The meeting began normally with singing and prayer, before a Southern Baptist missionary reported,
"A complete hush possessed the room. There were several of us kneeling in the front of the church. Mr. Li, our evangelist, had been suffering with hoarseness and could hardly speak. After quite a period of stillness, he began to sing a song. His voice had absolutely no huskiness in it. I realized that it was something extraordinary, and I suddenly cried out, 'The Holy Spirit has come!'
The next moment both he and I were hurled down on the floor and could not get up for about two hours. Oh! The rapture and the ecstasy of it! It seemed that I was so full I would burst, and the fire of the Holy Spirit seemed to be burning away everything....
Twenty people were really and truly converted. Born-again, in the truest sense of the word. At times I did not even get to preach, as we took up the whole preaching time dealing with souls who were crying out to God for mercy.... Man's feeble efforts were thrust aside, and we had the privilege of standing to the side and seeing the Spirit work. Praise His Holy Name."9
When reports of the Shandong Revival began filtering back to the Southern Baptist churches across America, many concerns were raised that the movement was merely based on hype and human excitement. The board back in Virginia expressed concern that the missionaries had "indulged in Pentecostal excess." Dr. M.E. Dodd, then president of the Southern Baptist Convention, decided to visit China to evaluate the movement for himself. Dodd summarized his findings with these words:
"The so-called Shandong Revival is a spiritual movement of tremendous force which has been going on in northeast China for more than three years. It corresponds quite markedly to the Welsh Revival of the past few decades and to other historic revivals of both Biblical and post-Biblical times.
I had heard something of this Shandong Revival before leaving America. I had facetiously said to my church, which so generously voted me a six-month leave of absence, that if I found the Shandong Revival to be anything like the reports I had heard of it, I might never come back. When I got there and observed and also experienced some of its power, I felt like Peter on the Mount of Transfiguration.... I also felt the more practical and useful thing would be to bring back with me to America as much of the revival spirit as I could."10
Miracles at Pingdu
Mrs. Luo, who was healed of paralysis after 18 years.
Although the missionaries involved in the Shandong revival preferred to focus on testimonies of repentance and salvation, numerous supernatural healings and deliverances of demons also occurred throughout the province.
A Chinese doctor who worked at the Pingdu Christian Hospital was not yet a believer in Christ. He belittled reports of the revival, and commented that only if two of his paralyzed patients were healed would he believe the gospel. Both women were described as "hopeless cases."
His first patient, a woman named Jiao who had been paralyzed for 28 years, was completely healed, by the power of the Holy Spirit, and a great number of people were saved as a result.
The second woman, Mrs. Luo, had been unable to walk for 18 years. Her "lower limbs were drawn up, large at the joints, but small as little sticks with no muscles at all."11
After both patients were healed by the supernatural power of God, the doctor, "trembling with fear and conviction, repented and accepted Christ."12
When a missionary traveled to Pingdu to investigate the healing of Mrs. Jiao, the local pastor told him,
"Mrs. Jiao has been a faithful Christian and a church member and is well-known throughout the community.... The 72-year-old woman came walking into the church. She bowed to me and said, 'Pastor, look at me. I am a new person from the top of my head to the bottom of my feet. Do you see these shoes? This is the first pair of shoes I have had in 28 years'....
None of the congregation had much faith; but Mrs. Jiao was so sure, and we began to have deep confidence in her. We put her in a big armchair, brought her to church, and placed her in front of the Communion table. I then asked all the members to kneel and pray, and I knelt beside the pulpit. In a few minutes I heard a noise and looked up to see Mrs. Jiao walking across the front of the church and down the aisle.... It was like an electric shock to the whole congregation. We all knew her condition, but there she was walking in our midst! We began praising the Lord and telling the story of what He had done."13
The Chinese pastor bubbled with excitement as he testified of the transformation that came into his life after witnessing this great healing and the mighty revival that followed. He said,
"I have been preaching for 30 years and have not been worth my salt. I was so lazy I could not walk a mile and a half to tell people about Jesus. Since the revival I go to prayer meetings at five o'clock in the morning, go home and eat breakfast, take a little bread for lunch and walk 25 miles witnessing in villages, then come home and go to prayer meetings at night. The next morning I am ready to go again.
When this revival began, we had about 50 members in our little church. Now we have at least one Christian in each of the 1,000 homes in this town. Dozens of villages surround us, and we have witnessed in all of them. There are hundreds of Christians in them."14
A large tent was used by missionaries and Chinese evangelists to preach the gospel in the Pingdu area, and thousands were exposed to the message of eternal life for the first time. A band of robbers decided to steal the tent, but the authorities were made aware of the plan and advised the Christians to end the meetings and take the tent to a safe place. The believers, however, decided to continue the meetings, and began to earnestly pray for the salvation of the thieves. A short time later,
"The young bandit leader was stricken blind and a swelling came upon his face. This frightened him greatly. He realized it was from the Lord, and came to the tent confessing his sins and asking for prayer. Converted, his sight was restored and the swelling left. Later he joined a Bible class. His life has been wonderfully transformed, and those who know him believe that now he will give the remainder of his life to preaching.
There have been between 2,000 and 3,000 conversions in Pingdu County this year (1932). Not less than 1,000 have been baptized!"15
More than eight decades later, evidence of the impact from the revival in Pingdu still lingers. Today, the city contains approximately 80,000 Christians of various denominations, more than half of whom attend Evangelical house church meetings. The percentage of believers in Pingdu is among the highest of any city in Shandong.
Revival in the Schools
Before the revival, missionaries had already established dozens of schools, orphanages, hospitals and other Christian facilities throughout Shandong. Those institutions were transformed into key hubs of blessing as the fire of God swept through the province.
In one town the revival began when two Christian students were filled with the Holy Spirit. The next day was the start of the new school year, and the students returned to class. At the Girls' School, which had a roll of 600 students, a teacher reported,
"When we arrived at the school we found the girls in groups of two or three in a room, all in deep conviction of cheating on examinations, stealing peaches from the school orchard, lying to their parents and to others, and stealing pencils, pens, and money.... The next morning even more were under conviction."16
The Boys' School experienced a similar outpouring of conviction of sin. The church leaders in the town wisely stood back and allowed the Spirit of God to perform a deep cleansing work. They threw open the doors of the chapel for the male and female students to use twice a day. The capacity of the chapel was 1,500 seats, but the two schools filled it to overflowing for each service.
To commence each meeting, a preacher read a passage of Scripture and gave a simple message of salvation. Dozens rushed forward, eager to surrender their lives to Jesus Christ and experience His salvation. The desperate students "filled the front and the aisles, kneeling, praying, and confessing sin. The conviction was so deep that tears flowed as they prayed. You could count the number who came forward by the tear-stained spots on the wooden floor.
The series of meetings lasted ten days. By the end of that time, "all 600 girls had made professions of faith. Nine hundred of the 1,000 boys also made professions. Most of the boys who weren't converted left school because they could no longer endure the warm spiritual atmosphere without receiving Christ."17
A Communist Cell is Destroyed
During a meeting in Huangxian in 1932, one schoolboy was so convicted of sin that his body became rigid and he fell against one of the teachers. He was instructed to pray to God, but the boy was sure he was about to die, so great was the weight of guilt upon him, for he had given himself over to terrible sin. After half hour of great agony, with his body still as rigid as a board,
"He cried aloud, 'O God, if you will not kill me, I will confess my sins!' And then for an hour he poured out his heart to God. He confessed the deepest and blackest sins, such as had never been heard in that school....
He hated and wanted to take the life of a classmate who had kindly loaned him money, simply because his friend was better off than he. His hatred of the rich had become so great that he wanted to destroy them and seize what they possessed, for he had become a real Communist at heart."18
In another service a Chinese boy was moaning in agony as he lay under a bench at the back of the chapel. A missionary went to investigate and found the boy in an agitated state of mind. He told the missionary,
"You don't know me. I am a Communist. We have a secret Communist cell here in the school. I've threatened to kill you and all the missionaries, and I've sworn to wipe out Christianity and burn your churches. When I heard about this revival, I thought the missionaries were just hypnotizing the students and that the concept of God was foolishness.... I started to stand up and challenge you, but something struck me and knocked me under this bench. I know it was God. I know that you Christians are right, but I can't believe. I have gone too far. I can't believe!"19
After the meeting was dismissed, several teachers stayed behind and pleaded with the boy to give his heart to God. He kept insisting he had gone too far. The next morning he left the school, and a week later the school leaders heard he was dead.
Another schoolboy was so full of demonic hate against the people of God that he screamed out, "Oh God! You know I have said that when I have destroyed all the Christians I would like to climb up to heaven and kill You!"20
When this boy had finished his rant he became completely limp. Lifting him up by the arms, the believers were able to stand him up on his feet. After a while he was able to return to his room. For several days he was in a dazed condition, but "he finally accepted Christ and was saved. We discovered the Communist cell in the school consisted of eight or ten members, including these two boys. About half of the members were saved during the meeting, and the others left the school. The cell was destroyed."21
Struck to the Core
The revival in Shandong touched thousands of lives, as the Holy Spirit moved without regard to reputation or position. Countless church leaders and missionaries were struck to the core and repented of their sins. Many who presumed they had experienced God's saving grace were brought under deep conviction and had to face the reality that the quality of their lives was inconsistent with the Scriptures. A Chinese pastor in Feixian testified,
"I have been a preacher for 22 years, but for the last 17 years my ministry has been as it were in a dry and thirsty land, without fruit and without flavor, and my work has been by constraint rather than by inner inclination.
In the summer of 1930 the Lord made me feel an especially deep conviction of sin, and His judgments fell heavily upon me. I confessed my sins, and Jesus revealed Himself to me on two occasions. The most difficult of all to bear was to see the nail-prints in His hands. From this time on there was a change in my spiritual condition....
During the past four years I have led revival meetings. Many church members have been revived. Many have been changed from coldness to warm-heartedness, and their lives are different. Miracles of healing and driving out of evil spirits have followed my ministry. 22
At Huangxian a missionary with an outstanding reputation throughout the church was convicted of sin and pride by the Holy Spirit. Under the searching finger of God, the man's conscience was pricked to the core, and he realized he was a hypocrite. He went to the church and asked to make a statement. The believers were used to him speaking so nobody expected what was to come. The missionary confessed that he was proud and loved the acclaim of men, and that his heart was so burdened by the realization of his sin that he didn't believe he could live any longer. He later wrote,
"While I was speaking, the Holy Spirit so deeply convicted those present of their own sins it seemed they could not bear it. I watched their faces grow pale. Then they began to cry and drop on their knees or fall prostrate on the floor. One missionary, sitting on the front seat, dropped to his knees and began to weep. When he got up, he went across the chapel to a Chinese preacher and said to him, 'Mr. Jiang, I have hated you.' The Chinese gentleman answered, 'Yes, and I have hated you too.'
Missionaries went to missionaries confessing unpleasant feelings toward one another. Chinese preachers, guilty of envy, jealousy and hatred, confessed their sins one to each other.
No one had said a word about public confession of sin, but the Holy Spirit brought such conviction upon the group that none could keep from it. It was so unexpected and unplanned that no one realized what was happening. The time scheduled for ending the meeting passed, but all wished to continue. When we would try to close, someone would say, 'Please don't go! Pray for me! I am in desperate need!' As soon as we would pray for that one, another would confess his bitter inner feelings.
One could sense that the Holy Spirit controlled the confessions because no one accused or implicated others. There were no unwholesome confessions, only broken and contrite hearts making things right with God and each other."23
Anointed for Burial
The results of the 1930s Shandong revival went deep and were long-lasting. Before the outpouring of God's grace, churches had generally become fragmented and were struggling. The gospel was advancing but slowly and inconsistently. The visitation of Jesus to the midst of His people totally transformed the Body of Christ. One observer wrote,
"I saw missionaries and Chinese Christians embrace each other as God removed pride, envy, jealousy and criticism from all of us and molded us together in Christian love. I saw Chinese preachers put their arms around each other and weep and laugh together in the renewed joy of Christian love.... We sang one song after another for two or three hours. No one wanted to go home because it seemed that heaven had come down, and we wanted to praise God and rejoice."24
Although most reports from Shandong focused on the extraordinary salvations and miracles taking place, Satan was enraged by the revival, and persecution was commonplace. Much of the strongest opposition came from within the local communities, where unregenerate individuals lashed out in anger at the joy and peace experienced by those who had submitted to the Lord.
A Chinese evangelist named Li was preaching the gospel to a crowd of people on the street when a soldier approached and asked, "If I become a Christian, can I have two wives?" Li told him the Scriptures forbade such arrangements. The soldier was incensed, "beat Evangelist Li severely, and hung him on his thumbs for over an hour, when some foreign missionaries came to his rescue."25
Before the revivals of the 1930s, the churches of Shandong had become lukewarm and many were falling away from the faith. After being transformed by the Holy Spirit, they were characterized as a praying Church, with one report noting,
"The spirit of prayer was an outstanding result of the revival. People loved to pray. Many times prayer meetings lasted two or three hours. The prayers were not long and monotonous but fervent, sometimes tearful, always as if those praying were simply talking to the Father with the confidence that He was listening. It was beautiful to hear them pray for each other. Many parents came to know the Lord through the prayers of their children."26
As seems the case with many revivals throughout history, the mighty outpouring of the Holy Spirit in Shandong in the 1930s appears to have been part of God's plan to strengthen His children before coming persecution. For the next two decades war and political unrest was rampant in Shandong and elsewhere in China, before a long and brutal persecution commenced at the hands of the Communist government beginning in the early 1950s.
When the Japanese launched a full-scale war in China in 1937, Shandong was a major piece of their imperialist goals. A large group of Japanese pastors accompanied the invading soldiers. These men, most of whom were government stooges with little or no understanding of the Bible, wreaked havoc among the churches of Shandong, spoiling some of the fruit of the mighty revival. The Japanese "pastors" were said to have
"functioned primarily as agents of their country with instructions to put pressure on the churches to form a union and to influence the churches to support their program for 'a New Order in East Asia'.... These pastors infiltrated local churches and mission schools, disseminating their propaganda. One student complained that in his school class a Japanese pastor spoke of the Godhead as consisting of four persons—Father, Son, Holy Spirit and the Emperor of Japan."27
The Japanese occupation ended at the conclusion of the Second World War, and a time of civil war and widespread calamity ensued, followed by decades of brutal suppression of the Church under Communist rule. Before Satan could do his worst, however, God had set aside a remnant for His glory in Shandong, one that had been divinely fortified to withstand the approaching storms.
Shandong church leaders at a meeting in Yantai, 1934.
1. Culpepper, The Shantung Revival, p. 62.
2. Carlberg, China in Revival, pp. 120-1.
3. Eloise Glass Cauthen, Higher Ground: Biography of Wiley B. Glass, Missionary to China (Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1978), p. 152.
4. Culpepper, The Shantung Revival, p. 27.
5. Culpepper, The Shantung Revival, pp. 63-4.
6. Culpepper, The Shantung Revival, p. 65.
7. Crawford, The Shantung Revival, pp. 79-80.
8. Crawford, The Shantung Revival, pp. 88-9.
9. Crawford, The Shantung Revival, pp. 41-2.
10. Culpepper, The Shantung Revival, 73.
11. Crawford, The Shantung Revival, 57.
12. Culpepper, The Shantung Revival, 66.
13. Culpepper, The Shantung Revival, pp. 31-3.
14. Culpepper, The Shantung Revival, pp. 33-4.
15. Crawford, The Shantung Revival, pp. 35-6.
16. Culpepper, The Shantung Revival, p. 42.
17. Culpepper, The Shantung Revival, p. 43.
18. Crawford, The Shantung Revival, pp. 26-7.
19. Culpepper, The Shantung Revival, p. 44.
20. Culpepper, The Shantung Revival, p. 45.
21. Culpepper, The Shantung Revival, p. 45.
22. Carlberg, China in Revival, pp. 123-4.
23. Culpepper, The Shantung Revival, pp. 35-6.
24. Culpepper, The Shantung Revival, p. 40.
25. Dykstra, Triumphs of His Grace in Shantung, p. 34.
26. Culpepper, The Shantung Revival, p. 63.
27. Norman H. Cliff, Fierce the Conflict: The Moving Stories of how Eight Chinese Christians Suffered for Jesus Christ and Remained Faithful (Dundas, Canada: Joshua Press, 2001), p. 156.
© This article is an extract from Paul Hattaway's book 'Shandong: The Revival Province'. You can order this or any of The China Chronicles books and e-books from our online bookstore.