I have written before about the 3 “Kinds” of Churches in China. One of those is what we refer to as the three-self church. I wrote:
“Three-self – Or for the full name, Three-self Patriotic movement, are churches that are meeting with the government’s permission because they have agreed to follow all their regulations. The name stands for 1) Self-governing, 2) Self-supporting, and 3) Self-propagating. The ones that we have been able to see have hundreds of people at them with the majority of the people and leadership being women. They believe they are the true church in China because they are in submission to the state.”
After moving to our new city, I learned more about the three-self churches in our area. We had people come to our church that had visited the three-self church before. They would go hoping to learn more about the Bible and the Gospel only to walk away confused.
I have had the same testimony from several different people about what I am about to say. According to different testimonies from Chinese people who have visited or took part in the three-self church in our area and then came to our church and heard the truth according to the Scriptures, here is what they reported: The churches border belief in baptismal regeneration and works for salvation.
Let me explain. Upon inquiring how to become a Christian, they will be asked how long they have come to the church or have been interested in Christianity. Then they are told they need to learn about what Christianity is and learn enough to pass an exam. If they study hard enough and pass the exam, and enough time has passed, they are permitted to be baptized to wash away their sins. If they don’t get baptized, they can’t claim to be a Christian. If they don’t pass the exam, they can’t get baptized.
There are exceptions of course. One of the women paid a pastor 200 RMB ($33) for the pastor to go to her house and sprinkle (baptize) her mother who was sick and not physically able to go.
Others have given testimony of not understanding the preaching because it is too “lofty” and not “simple.”
Also, many have said you are required to pay when you go. This was hard for me to believe at first until we started passing out flyer for our church. People would call me to ask about the church and almost everyone that called asked how much it was to come! I gladly told them that all of our services are free.
Foreigners who partner with the three-self church need to be weary. If you don’t speak Chinese you need to be extra cautious.
If these claims are true, then they are preaching another gospel, and there is no other, no not one!
Note: After writing this I personally visited a three-self church one afternoon. There was an older lady sitting in the back pew so I thought I would ask her about baptism in relation to salvation. She was probably in her 80’s! I asked her if a person can be saved apart from baptism. She looked at me confused, like she had never been asked the question before and said “I don’t know.” She followed-up saying that she wasn’t sure but that she was knew that salvation was by faith in Jesus. From asking her a few more questions, it seemed she really did believe, knowing enough of the gospel to believe it, but never considered the other areas.