As we reach the end of our look at the wonderful things God has done in Shandong Province over the decades, one thing is clear: The Church of Jesus Christ has been established, and despite generations of battering and persecution, God has raised up a vibrant Body from among the huge population of almost 100 million people.
The history of God's kingdom in Shandong has been a rich yet difficult one. The early Evangelical missionaries in the nineteenth century overcame overwhelming obstacles to plant the seed of the gospel in the province, and as the Church gradually passed from foreign to Chinese control, it matured and strengthened into a powerful Body able to withstand decades of hardship.
Hundreds of Chinese Christians sacrificed their lives during the Boxer Rebellion of 1900, having learned how to endure when their faith was under fire from the extraordinary example of Lottie Moon and others like her who loved the people of Shandong even unto death.
The first half of the twentieth century brought many intense struggles, but the blessing of God was also seen as He sent servants like Marie Monsen of Norway, whose simple question, "Have you been born again?" searched the hearts of many believers and helped spark revival in Shandong during the 1920s and 1930s.
And what a revival it was! The Holy Spirit was poured out on hundreds of thousands of people throughout the province, and the Church which had been small in number suddenly burst into the open. The witness of the Jesus Family and other indigenous church movements added to the beautiful tapestry of the Body of Christ in Shandong, and the purity of those true believers shone like a beacon for the world to see.
During the powerful revival of the 1930s, few Christians realized that God was quietly strengthening the Church ahead of its most excruciating trial of all, when Communism would bring persecution at unprecedented levels. The Church in Shandong effectively went underground for decades in order to survive the battering.
The rulers of China at the time arrogantly thought they had destroyed God's people, with Mao's wife even proclaiming that Christianity in China was dead and buried and had been confined to the history section of the museum.
What she and many other enemies of God didn't realize, however, was that Jesus Christ had declared, "Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life" (John 12:24-25).
During much of the 1960s and 1970s, Christians in Shandong were hidden from view, but God had not forgotten them. Indeed, He had them exactly where He wanted, and in due course the seed sprung back to life and produced many more seeds.
Today, as the table in the back of this book reveals, we estimate there to be approximately 5.3 million professing Christians of all creeds in Shandong Province. Of these, about 2.9 million belong to unregistered house churches; 1.5 million attend government-approved Three-Self churches, while Catholics, despite a head-start of centuries over their Protestant counterparts, presently number around 800,000 in the province, distributed among both registered and unregistered congregations.
Although there is much to rejoice about as we reflect on the marvelous deeds God has performed in this blessed part of China, it is sobering to remember that today only about five percent of Shandong's population professes to be Christian. That leaves 95 out of 100 people yet to believe in Jesus Christ, while many have yet to hear the gospel in a way that would enable then to make an informed decision to accept or reject God's salvation.
Although there is a geographical divide within the Church in Shandong, with the southern regions of the province tending to be more Christian that the northern and eastern areas, the more pronounced divide is between Christians living in the cities and those in rural farming areas. The proportion of believers in Shandong is strongly tilted in favor of people living in rural regions, which is consistent with most other provinces in China.
This dichotomy between urban and rural Christians has created tension in some church movements, with those living in the cities tending to be more educated and sophisticated, while most rural believers lead hard lives and are trapped in poverty. In the past three decades a huge trend toward urbanization has been underway throughout China. Large numbers of rural Christians in Shandong have left farming areas in search of jobs in Jinan, Qingdao, or one of the other major cities. Others have left the province altogether in search of a better standard of living.
While some of the migrated Christians have done well in their new environments and have shared the gospel with those they meet, many others have struggled, and the dislocation caused by being away from their spiritual support base, and exposure to the vices and temptations of city life have devastated countless lives. Many without a strong root in God's Word have abandoned the faith.
In previous generations the churches in Shandong faced floods, famines, pestilences and wars. Today they are battling materialism, cults, and have struggles exacerbated by the lack of Bibles and a dire shortage of church leaders who are able to teach the Word of God in a balanced and effective manner.
The Church in Shandong today, despite its long history of revival and amazing testimonies, is in need of continual pruning and awakening if the fruit of the harvest is to remain useful for God's kingdom.
May Shandong long continue to deserve its reputation as 'China's Revival Province'!
© 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.