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Robert Menzies: Is the Chinese Church Predominantly Pentecostal? Part 2: The House Church Networks

Author’s Preface
Is the Church in China Predominantly Pentecostal?
Part 1: Introduction
Part 2: The House Church Networks: A Theological Assessment

China for Christ (Fang Cheng)

Let us begin with what appears to the largest of the house church networks currently operating in China, China For Christ (sometimes called the Fang Cheng Church). The China for Christ Church began in the Fang Cheng district of Henan Province. It has grown very rapidly since the early 1980s and constitutes a large network of house churches which span the length and breadth of China.

On Nov. 26, 2002 I met with the top leader of the China for Christ Network, Brother Z. We met and discussed various items for about an hour and a half and then shared a meal together. While we were eating, Sister D, the second highest leader in the China for Christ Network, joined us.

During our meal Sister D, who was sitting next to me, raised a question about a book on Pentecostal doctrine that I had made available to them.[1] She suggested that baptism in the Spirit, although possibly an experience subsequent to conversion, could also take place at the moment of conversion. She felt the book implied that Spirit-baptism must take place after conversion. I assured her that we were all in agreement on this point and that when most Pentecostals speak of baptism in the Spirit as subsequent to conversion, we actually mean that it is logically subsequent to conversion, a distinct work of the Spirit. Temporally, both could occur at essentially the same moment (as with Cornelius and his household in Acts 10). We continued our discussion and Sister D indicated that their church was classical Pentecostal in nature.

The series, “Is the Chinese Church Predominantly Pentecostal?” is an excerpt from The Church in China. Robert Menzies used a pen name, Luke Wesley, to write The Church in China: Persecuted, Pentecostal, and Powerful (Baguio, The Philippines: AJPS Books, 2004).
Read the 2023 Author’s Preface to this series.

Sister D then stated emphatically that their church came to these classical Pentecostal conclusions, not of the basis of receiving this tradition from others; but rather, as a result of their own experience and study of the Book of Acts. She indicated that in the 1970s and 1980s they were quite isolated and experienced considerable persecution. In this context of persecution they developed their classical Pentecostal orientation. At this time their church began to grow. Today, as I have indicated, the China for Christ Network is widely recognized as the largest house church group in China.

I then asked the group if they felt the majority of Christians in China were Pentecostal. Brother Z answered and said that apart from the TSPM churches and various smaller house church groups, the vast majority were indeed Pentecostal. He considered, in addition to their own church, the China Gospel Fellowship, the Li Xin Church, and the Yin Shang Church to be Pentecostal.

On another occasion late in 2002 I had the joy of teaching in an underground Bible school associated with the China for Christ Network. During one of the breaks, the leader of the school showed me around and introduced to me some of the other faculty members. In the midst of our conversation, I noted that their theological tradition was similar (lei si) to mine (he knew of my classical Pentecostal orientation). He stopped, looked at me, and said emphatically: “No, our theological traditions are the same (yi yang).” Later, with great excitement, he spoke of the hunger for the things of the Spirit in the churches in the countryside.

This evidence, admittedly anecdotal in character, is substantiated by the responses I have received from the other researchers mentioned. Virtually all of them would agree that the China for Christ group should be classified as classical Pentecostal, although certainly there may be some in this large network that might be best described as Pentecostal.[2]
China Gospel Fellowship

The origins of the China Gospel Fellowship can also be traced to Henan Province. This network of house churches has grown rapidly since the early 1980s and now has evangelists working in virtually every province in China. I have developed close relationships with a young couple sent out as evangelists by this group. This couple has been very effective in planting churches among village people in our region. They are very open to all of the gifts of the Spirit listed in 1 Cor. 12:8-10. Their testimonies are laced with references to healing, visions, prophetic insight, and persecution. They also speak of being “filled with the Spirit,” an experience which enables them to face hardships and adversity. While they do not appear to view tongues as integrally connected to this experience, they do view tongues-speech as a valid and edifying experience. If this couple is reflective of the group as a whole, I would say that the group is Pentecostal. This conclusion is consistent with the judgments of the three other researchers I contacted with knowledge of this group, two of whom categorized the group as, at least, charismatic (A and B). One other (D) indicated that the group is Pentecostal in its orientation.

I have participated in a number of house group meetings associated with this group. The following example, an excerpt from my personal notes, reveals a bit of the excitement and sense of community that characterize these meetings.

On December 23, 2002 I participated in a house church Christmas service. I walked through the door of the small apartment, roughly 600 square feet in all, and entered into the main room. It was very simple, with concrete floors and bare walls. The walls were now adorned with Christmas decorations. One banner proclaimed, “Pu Tian Tong Qing” (The whole world celebrates [His birth] together). The crowd grew to the point that the small adjoining rooms had to be pressed into service. All told, around 70 people packed into the little sanctuary.

The people were simple, country people. This house church is situated at the edge of a large city. The people living in this area represent village people who have migrated to the city. Urbanization is taking place at a breath-taking pace in China. In cities across the country there are large populations of village people attempting to “make it” in the cities. It was apparent that these folks were marked more by the village than the city.

The service, [led by the capable young Chinese couple noted above], began and a sense of joy quickly permeated the small make-shift sanctuary. Songs and scripture readings celebrating Christ’s birth followed. It was then my turn to preach. I greeted the crowd, which now seemed like a large family, and began to share about Christmas.

After the short, simple message, a call to accept Christ as Savior and Lord was given. Nine people responded joyfully. There was a lot of clapping and celebration as they moved to the front of the room. I led the small group in a prayer of repentance, commitment, and thanksgiving and followed with a prayer of blessing.

The next stage of the service was filled with a number of truly amazing and very culturally authentic forms of worship. Small groups of believers, usually two or four, sang songs based on Scripture as they performed Christian folk dances. It was incredible – a wonderful form of worship which instructed and edified the entire group. Everyone entered in and the joy was almost tangible.

When the service finally came to an end, the nine new believers gathered together for instruction. I was especially touched by one family. The husband had just committed his life to Christ. He along with his wife and their small one year-old baby stood together. Their faces beamed with new-found joy.


The Yin Shang Church

This house church network began in Anhui Province in the late 1970s. It claims to have over 20,000 distinct congregations and approximately five million followers.[3]

On Nov. 25, 2002, I met with Brother C., the leader of the Yin Shang Network. Persecution was a major topic of our discussion. One of Brother C’s colleagues had been arrested a few weeks before our meeting and he was still in prison. After we prayed for this man, Brother C. noted that just two days prior to our meeting the Chinese government had conducted high level meetings with various departments within their bureaucracy. In these meetings they discussed their policy toward the house churches. The government officials concluded that they would strictly enforce new measures which demanded that all house churches register with the government. The government attempted to present this new policy as an opportunity for house church groups to register and receive government recognition. During our meeting, Brother C. received many calls from his colleagues asking how they should respond to the new policies. Brother C. said they would not register, but wait and watch how things developed. He felt that this new policy actually represented a new wave of persecution, not a new opening. In the past, the government had often issued fines for not registering. Now, Brother C. stated, they are intent on arresting people who do not comply. Brother C. indicated that they would only register if there were no conditions placed upon them. He stated that currently the government was asking for the names of leaders, the number and names of believers, and the location of their meetings. This was not acceptable to him. Approximately one month after our meeting, Brother C. was arrested and imprisoned. He is currently still being held in prison.

During the course of this meeting, Brother C. stated very clearly that the Yin Shang Church did believe in the baptism in the Holy Spirit and speaking in tongues. He stressed that they seek to maintain a balance between the Word and Spirit. Although I would not say that this group links tongues with Spirit-baptism in the classical Pentecostal sense, they are indeed Pentecostal. This was explicitly stated by Brother C.[4] It is likely that, in a manner similar to the members of the China for Christ Church (and, I would add, the early Christians in the book of Acts), their experience of persecution has shaped their theology at this point.


The Li Xin Church

This church takes its name from the Li Xin region in east central Anhui Province where it was first established. The church was founded around 1980 and was especially strong in Shandong, Anhui, and Henan. It then rapidly spread from this base to other parts of China. One of the strongest leaders of this movement is a woman.

I have not had much personal contact with this group or its leaders. One research colleague, D, who has had considerable contact with the Li Xin leaders insists that this group is Pentecostal, but that they are not classical Pentecostal in that they do not insist on tongues as the initial evidence of Spirit baptism. Another research colleague, A, characterized this group as charismatic with some Pentecostal leanings. B characterized this group as charismatic and C was not able to make a judgment due to lack of knowledge. It would appear that the group is predominately Pentecostal with some segments perhaps best described as charismatic.


The Word of Life Church

The origins of the Word of Life Church, sometimes called the “Born Again Movement” by outsiders, can be traced to 1968.[5] At this time, Peter Xu began to preach in his hometown in southern Henan. By 1979 he was leading a group of evangelists whose ministry was now reaching into other areas of Henan. Beginning in the early 1980s they experienced tremendous revival. Many accepted their message and hundreds of churches were established. In 1982 they began to send teams of evangelists to other provinces. The first teams were sent to Sichuan Province. Initially, a number of these teams were arrested and sent back to Henan. However, in spite of these setbacks, the church persevered and finally a strong work was established in Sichuan. This also became a major center of ministry.

In 1982 Peter Xu was arrested and imprisoned. However, he was able to escape from the labor camp and resume his ministry. In 1983 a wave of persecution came and many Word of Life evangelists scattered to other provinces. During this time they developed a “seven point missions strategy” (see below) and sent out other full-time evangelists to plant churches.

By 1988 more than 3,000 churches had been planted. Peter Xu was re-arrested in 1988 for attempting to meet with Billy Graham when he visited China. Xu spent three years in prison and was released in 1991. Xu was arrested again in March of 1997 and again spent three years in prison. He was released in May of 2000 and now resides outside of China. Since his departure from China, the Word of Life Church has experienced significant fragmentation. In 1998 an article in Christianity Today estimated that the church numbered around three million believers. This article also rejected some claims that this group was heretical and concluded that it was evangelical in character.[6]

The Word of Life bases its theology on John 3:3-5 and emphasizes that the only way to eternal life is to repent and have a new birth in Jesus. In some respects they are quite charismatic. They love the “Fire Bible,” the Chinese translation of the Life in the Spirit Study Bible, pray regularly for the sick, and are very much attuned to the power of the Holy Spirit.[7]

The have been criticized for supposedly emphasizing that believers must cry for prolonged periods of time in order to be truly saved. Thus, they have been called the “criers” and “the born again movement.” It is true that they are very emotional and frequently cry when they pray, but Peter Xu and other leaders insist that crying is not a requirement for salvation. It is quite possible that in a movement this size that some extremes might be propagated at the grass-roots level which do not in fact reflect the more orthodox views of the leaders.

Their theology, described as a “theology of the cross”, led to the following seven point missions strategy:

  1. Preach the salvation of the cross in order to make sure one repents and experiences the new birth.
  2. Take the way of the cross to persevere in faith during suffering.
  3. Recognize that the TSPM embraces a worldly authority.
  4. Plant churches (this is the goal of evangelism)
  5. Build up spiritual life (through spiritual life training)
  6. Build up fellowship (fellowship in church and with co-workers)
  7. Grow through planting churches (send out evangelists, plant churches, and establish Bible schools).

My first encounter with this group came in Beijing in October of 1998. I had the joy of meeting with a group of eight Word of Life leaders. The eight leaders, who came from their ministry posts in various parts of China, were, with one exception, all young, in their mid-to late twenties. Most, however, had already been preaching for close to ten years. Seven of the eight were women. Their testimonies were incredibly inspiring. All but one had been in prison. One young lady who had been arrested along with Peter Xu the previous year had only recently been released from prison.

A colleague of mine asked one young lady, D, if she had been mistreated in prison. In a very matter of fact way, she said, “yes, they beat me.” She recounted how the prison officials tried to prevent her from preaching or praying: they beat her and shocked her with an electric baton in the chest. In spite of these difficulties, she was able to minister to many in prison. One prostitute was healed and accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior. On one occasion a guard attempted to rape her, but as she prayed the guard fell unconscious and had to be taken to the hospital. Their testimonies of God’s faithfulness and protection were filled with many stories of miraculous intervention.

Since this meeting in 1998 I have had considerable contact with various members of this group. On June 4, 2003 I interviewed one of their leaders whom I know quite well. I asked her about her group’s attitude toward spiritual gifts and baptism in the Holy Spirit. She confirmed that they were conservative evangelicals. She also stated that:

  1. They do not encourage speaking in tongues. Although this may rarely happen, it is not really encouraged and a small element in the group would see it as demonic.
  2. They emphasize healing, but they do not practice prophecy or speaking in tongues.
  3. They do emphasize the importance of the Spirit’s power in their lives, especially in evangelism and ministry. And, although they might connect this with baptism in the Spirit, this appears to be an area where their theology is not clearly developed. They appear to be open to the Spirit’s empowering after conversion, but whether they would describe this as a definite experience available to everyone or connect this with Acts 2 is not clear. My friend did say said they did not emphasize the term, “baptism in the Holy Spirit.”

Image: Christian Lue

In short, the Word of Life Church represents an interesting mixture of conservative theology and experiential piety. They expect to see miracles, pray for healing, and look to the Holy Spirit for supernatural guidance and deliverance. At the same time, they are generally quite closed to some manifestations of the gifts of the Spirit, such as prophecy and tongues. One researcher, B, after classifying the group as “charismatic”, put it this way: “Overall, [the Word of Life Church is] similar to the Southern Baptists in theology (eternal security, etc.). Yet the first time I met Xu he was on his way to try to raise from the dead one of his workers who had suddenly died.” According to the definitions I have listed above, I would classify this group as non-charismatic. As I have indicated, they do not appear to see all of the gifts listed in 1 Cor. 12:8-10 as valid for the church today.


The House Church Statement of Faith

On November 26, 1998 a group of four house leaders, including the leaders of the China for Christ Network and the China Gospel Fellowship, signed a statement of faith that they had forged together during meetings convened throughout the previous days. This statement represents the most significant theological statement issued by house church leaders to date. It is thoroughly evangelical and organized around seven key headings: On the Bible; On the Trinity; On Christ; On Salvation; On the Holy Spirit; On the Church; and On the Last Things. The statement on the Holy Spirit is especially significant for this study. It reads:

On the Holy Spirit: We believe that the Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity. He is the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit of truth and the Spirit of holiness. The Holy Spirit illuminates a person causing him to know sin and repent, to know the truth and to believe in Christ and so experience being born again unto salvation. He leads the believers into the truth, helps them to understand the truth and obey Christ, thereby bearing abundant fruit of life. The Holy Spirit gives all kinds of power and manifests the mighty acts of God through signs and miracles. The Holy Spirit searches all things. In Christ God grants a diversity of gifts of the Holy Spirit to the Church so as to manifest the glory of Christ. Through faith and thirsting, Christians can experience the outpouring and filling of the Holy Spirit. We do not believe in the cessation of signs and miracles or the termination of the gifts of the Holy Spirit after the apostolic period. We do not forbid speaking in tongues and we do not impose on people to speak in tongues; nor do we insist that speaking in tongues is the evidence of being saved.

We refute the view that the Holy Spirit is not a person of the Trinity but only a kind of influence.[8]

This statement contains several significant declarations that highlight the Pentecostal leanings of its framers. First, the notion that charismatic gifts were given only for the apostolic period (cessationism) is explicitly denied: “We do not believe in the cessation of signs and miracles or the termination of the gifts of the Holy Spirit after the apostolic period.” Thus, it is not surprising that the statement also declares that the Holy Spirit “gives all kinds of power and manifests the mighty acts of God through signs and miracles.” This statement, at the very least then, identifies the framers and the house church groups they represent as charismatic.

But there is more. This statement contains another significant declaration: “Through faith and thirsting, Christians can experience the outpouring and filling of the Holy Spirit.” Since this “outpouring and filling” may be received by Christians, this phrase must refer to a work of the Spirit subsequent to (at least logically, if not temporally) the regenerating work of the Spirit experienced at conversion. Although the purpose or impact of this gift is not explicitly stated, it is interesting to note that the language used to describe the experience (i.e., “outpouring and filling”) is drawn from the Book of Acts.[9] It seems obvious that a strengthening or empowering of the believer by the Spirit in accordance with the experience of the early church as recorded in the Book of Acts is in view here. The only prerequisites for receiving this gift which are listed in the statement are “faith” and “thirsting.” Surely this is another way of saying that this gift is available to all earnest believers who desire it. This statement then speaks of an empowering by the Spirit that is distinct from conversion and available to every believer. It thus identifies the framers as not only charismatic, but Pentecostal as well.

Finally, let us examine the reference to tongues: “We do not forbid speaking in tongues and we do not impose on people to speak in tongues; nor do we insist that speaking in tongues is the evidence of being saved.” Tony Lambert, noting this passage, states: “the careful neutrality concerning speaking in tongues is very far from the extreme teachings current in some charismatic or Pentecostal circles.”[10] It is not entirely clear what Lambert has in mind when he alludes to “extreme teachings current in some charismatic or Pentecostal circles.” Is he talking about the belief held by classical Pentecostals around the world that speaking in tongues is the sign or initial evidence of baptism in the Holy Spirit? If so, Lambert not only states that this doctrine is “extreme,” he also implies that this house church statement rejects this doctrine. I would suggest, however, that this ‘reading’ of the statement tells us more about the interpreter’s presuppositions than it does about the intent of the original framers. The phrase, “we do not impose on people to speak in tongues” probably should be taken in light of what follows to mean that they do not force believers to speak in tongues by means of emotional or psychological coercion (e.g., by declaring tongues to be a sign that they are truly believers).[11] It is highly unlikely that the framers, with this phrase, were consciously renouncing the initial evidence doctrine of classical Pentecostalism. This seems to be an obvious conclusion in view of the fact that one of the four cardinal framers is the head of a classical Pentecostal group, the China for Christ Network.

The only doctrine that the statement specifically rejects and which is relatively common in evangelical circles in the West is the doctrine that denies the current validity of speaking in tongues. The statement is very clear: “We do not forbid speaking in tongues.” The statement, of course, also rejects the strange and rare notion that tongue-speech is a sign of salvation. It is possible that this indeed is what Lambert has in mind when he speaks of “extreme teachings,” but it is such a rare and unusual doctrine, certainly not representative of mainstream charismatic or Pentecostal Christianity, that one can only wonder.[12]

In short, the statement on tongues does not appear to be a rejection of the classical Pentecostal position. However, it does not affirm this position either. It reads like a very diplomatic attempt to steer a middle path between two extremes. It rejects the position of those who would seek to forbid tongues and it refutes those who would seek to use manipulative means to force believers to speak in tongues. In fact, the careful way in which this statement is framed suggests that it is a wise compromise which accommodates both classical Pentecostals on the one hand and charismatics and (non-classical) Pentecostals on the other.

We are now in a position to highlight the implications which the house church statement of faith has for the question at hand. Our analysis has revealed that this statement is indeed significant. With its carefully worded phraseology concerning the work of the Holy Spirit, the statement of faith suggests that its framers and the churches they represent are, at the very least, Pentecostal and perhaps even classical Pentecostal in their theological orientation.



I have surveyed what are generally recognized to be the five largest house church groups in China. Collectively these groups almost certainly represent a significant majority of the house churches in China,[13] and possibly a majority of the Christian population in China as a whole. In any event, these groups represent a significant cross-section of the Church in China. More specifically, I have analyzed the theological orientation of these groups, particularly as it relates to Pentecostal and charismatic issues. My evaluation has been based on my own personal conversations, the findings of fellow researchers, and selected written documents. Although my conclusions must be viewed as somewhat tentative since hard sociological data in the form of grass-roots surveys are lacking, these conclusions are based on what would appear to be the most extensive research on this issue available to date.

My research suggests that the five groups should be categorized as follows:

  1. China for Christ: largely classical Pentecostal, partly Pentecostal
  2. China Gospel Fellowship: largely Pentecostal, partly charismatic
  3. Yin Shang Church: largely Pentecostal, partly charismatic
  4. Li Xin Church: largely Pentecostal, partly charismatic
  5. Word of Life Church: largely non-charismatic, partly charismatic

Based on this analysis, I would conclude that the overwhelming majority of the Christians in China today are at least charismatic. This study suggests that 90% of house church Christians and perhaps 80% of the total Christian population in China would affirm that the gifts of the Spirit listed in 1 Cor. 12:8-10 are available to the church today.[14]

Furthermore, in the light of the significant strength of the Pentecostal groups listed above, it is reasonable to conclude that a significant majority of the Christians in China today are not only charismatic, but also Pentecostal in their theological orientation. I would estimate that 75% of house church Christians and 60% of the total Christians population in China are accurately be described by this designation.

It is also clear that classical Pentecostals represent a minority of the believers in China, but it is a significant minority nonetheless. This is evident from that the fact that what appears to be the largest house church network in China today is best described as classical Pentecostal. I would suggest that approximately 25% of house church Christians and 20% of the total Christian population in China are classical Pentecostal.[15]

In addition to these conclusions concerning doctrine or beliefs, some general observations may also be made concerning behavior. The praxis of the House Church Movement in China may be described as exhibiting the following characteristics:[16]

  1. A strong emphasis on personal experience, often reflected in emotionally-charged prayers and worship. God is understood to be present, personal, and vitally interested in communicating with and relating to individual believers. Exuberant, participatory worship and emotional responses to preaching are quite common and might be described as typical.
  1. A strong expectation that God will intervene in miraculous ways in the daily lives of believers. House church Christians exhibit a firm belief in God’s ability and willingness to work miracles in their midst. Their testimonies often refer to God healing the sick, raising the dead, granting special wisdom or direction, communicating through dreams, visions, or prophetic messages, providing boldness for witness, or granting miraculous strength and protection. This expectation is often expressed in an openness to the gifts of the Spirit and is certainly encouraged in part by such biblical passages as 1 Cor. 12:8-10.
  1. A strong sense of their own weakness and dependence upon God. Perhaps due in part to their experiences of marginalization and persecution, house church believers often reflect a keen awareness of their own weakness and a strong sense of dependence upon God’s supernatural power and leading. This is reflected in an emphasis on receiving strength and encouragement from the Holy Spirit, often in specific moments of prayer. This perspective is undoubtedly patterned after the experience of the early church recorded in the book of Acts. It is often associated with the expectation that one can receive needed strength or encouragement through a definable experience, regularly described as being “baptized in” or “filled with” the Holy Spirit.




Next Issue: Part 3: “Gaining Perspective: A Contextual Assessment”


This excerpt is part of Chapter 3 from The Church in China: Persecuted, Pentecostal, and Powerful (Baguio, The Philippines: AJPS Books, 2004). Used with permission.



[1] A Chinese translation of William W. Menzies and Stanley M. Horton’s Bible Doctrines: A Pentecostal Perspective (Springfield: Logion Press, 1993).

[2] B, C, and D all affirmed that the China for Christ Network is classical Pentecostal, although B and C suggested that some might be better termed Pentecostal. A’s response was more general, and simply acknowledged that this group and the others listed were at least charismatic and very often Pentecostal in orientation.

[3] D provided this information.

[4] A characterized this group as at least charismatic with Pentecostal leanings; B characterized this group as charismatic; C had little contact with this group; and D characterized the group as Pentecostal.

[5] The material for the following historical and theological survey of the Word of Life Church comes largely from two unpublished papers, both produced by Chinese Christians: one paper, “A Case Study of The Way of Life (New Birth): A Chinese House Church Network,” was written in March, 2001 by an outside observer; the other paper, “Our Church History,” was written by a Word of Life Church leader in April, 2003.

[6] Timothy C. Morgan, “A Tale of China’s Two Churches,” Christianity Today 42 (July 13, 1998), pp. 30-39

[7] The Life in the Spirit Study Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan/Life Publishers, 2003) was first published as the Full Life Study Bible (1992).

[8] See Tony Lambert, China’s Christian Millions, p. 62 for this English translation. I have included the sentence, “In Christ God grants a diversity of gifts of the Holy Spirit to the Church so as to manifest the glory of Christ,” which is found in the Chinese original, but which is omitted in Lambert’s version. This appears to be an editorial oversight.

[9] The Chinese characters translated “outpouring” (jiao guan) and “filling” (chong man) of the Spirit in this statement are also found in Acts 2:17 (“pour out”) and Acts 2:4 (“filled”) of the He He Ben translation, the standard and most widely used Chinese translation of the Bible.

[10] Lambert, China’s Christian Millions, p. 64.

[11] The Chinese characters translated by the phrase, “do not impose upon” (mian qiang) certainly convey the notion of “force.” There is perhaps a slight difference in the nuances of the English terms “impose” and “force”, with force representing a slightly stronger term. The semantic range of the Chinese term, mian qiang, would certainly include the stronger connotations of “force.”

[12] Only a few ‘Jesus only’ groups, such as the United Pentecostal Church, would affirm this doctrine. These are fringe groups very much out of sync with mainstream charismatic or Pentecostal groups.

[13] This conclusion was affirmed by A, B, C, and D. Of course there are other large, significant groups that are non-charismatic, such as the Wen Zhou Church and the Little Flock. (I might note that I have spoken to one of the leaders of the Little Flock and he indicated that he has had a Pentecostal experience which included speaking in tongues. This experience and his contact with China for Christ leaders has encouraged him to relate more constructively to other to this and other church groups.) However, there are also other large, significant groups which are Pentecostal as well. One such classical Pentecostal group which C relates to is 400,000 strong.

[14] A word concerning the method used to arrive at these percentages is in order. I have taken the largest five house church groups as representative of house church Christians in China as a whole. I have used the estimated strength of these five churches listed in the methodology section above to arrive at specific percentages. Although these specific numbers may be high, the general proportions they represent are probably relatively accurate. Thus, the percentages for house church Christians were: non-charismatic (10%); charismatic (90%); Pentecostal (75%); and classical Pentecostal (25%). I have considered the China Gospel Fellowship and the two Anhui groups to be largely, but not entirely Pentecostal. This accounts for the variance between the percentages for charismatics (90%) and Pentecostals (75%). As a result of my own personal observations and my reading of the research available, I have also assumed that in China house church Christians are three times as numerous as Christians affiliated with the TSPM churches. I then estimated, based on my own personal experience, concerning the percentage of TSPM Christians that might be classified as non-charismatic (50%), charismatic (50%), Pentecostal (20%), and classical Pentecostal (10%). This was the rationale, then, behind the final estimates.

[15] These conclusions are generally consistent with the assessment of the other researchers consulted: A suggested at least 90% of house church Christians were, at the very least, charismatic; B affirmed that a significant majority were charismatic without stating any specific percentages; C and D also indicated that very large percentages were charismatic and Pentecostal.

[16] We have already noted the strong biblical focus of the house church movement and need not repeat it here.

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Category: Church History, Fall 2022

About the Author: Robert P. Menzies, PhD (University of Aberdeen, Scotland), has lived and served in China for over twenty years. Robert is currently the Director of Synergy, a rural service organization located in Kunming, China. He is editor at the Asian Center for Pentecostal Theology and the author of Speaking in Tongues: Jesus and the Apostolic Church as Models for the Church Today (CPT Press, 2016), Pentecost: This Story is Our Story (Gospel Publishing House, 2013), Making Pentecost Your Story: 50 Days of Reflection and Prayer (Xanesti Creative Solutions, 2015), Spirit and Power: Foundations of Pentecostal Experience (Zondervan, 2011), The Language of the Spirit: Interpreting and Translating Charismatic Terms (CPT Press, 2010), Empowered for Witness: The Spirit in Luke-Acts (Sheffield, 1995), and co-editor of Pentecostalism in Context: Essays in Honor of William W. Menzies (Wipf & Stock, 2008), The Spirit and Spirituality: Essays in Honor of Russell P. Spittler (Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2004), Robert Menzies, Christ-Centered: The Evangelical Nature of Pentecostal Theology (Eugene, OR: Cascade, 2020), and Robert Menzies, The End of History: Pentecostals and a Fresh Approach to the Apocalypse (Hong Kong: Asian Center for Pentecostal Theology, 2022).

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