Derek Prince’s ministry in China really is making a difference as we approach our fourth decade of service to brothers and sisters there. This cry from China speaks on behalf of many who are hungry for Biblical teaching. “I’m longing for the Holy Spirit to guide me to live in truth and to study more biblical teachings, to live a life that will glorify God and be of benefit to others. Derek's books are so valuable. May God bless your ministry, enabling your ministry to equip more and more of the disciples of Jesus in China.”
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The Derek Prince Ministries China outreach began in 1984. Ross Paterson had spent 10 years as a missionary in Taiwan, speaking fluent Chinese, and had returned to England as China began to open up in 1979. The Lord spoke to him to “take Derek Prince’s teaching into China”. Ross had never actually met Derek, but that opportunity came shortly afterwards when they met in Ireland. Derek responded positively and the China Ministry was born, the first of the Derek Prince Ministries international outreaches.
In the early days, Ross worked with the Far East Broadcasting Company (a Chinese language Christian broadcasting company based in Hong Kong) to arrange for Derek's teaching to be broadcast over the radio into many parts of China. As that aspect of the ministry developed, Ross also worked with Elim Publications, a Taiwan Christian publishing company, to begin to print Derek’s materials in book form in Chinese, adapting them to the simplified script that China uses. The first of Derek’s books that was printed was the Foundation Series. Since then about 1.5 million copies of that one book alone have been distributed throughout China. We still continue with the book ministry, and have printed and distributed almost 15 million copies of Derek’s books. But the radio work has ceased some years ago and has been replaced by our Internet ministry.
The target of the Derek Prince Ministries China outreach is twofold: to raise up prayer for the church in China and for the nation itself; and secondly to serve China’s church by putting Derek’s anointed Bible teaching into the hands of as many believers as possible. China’s church has been described as a lake that is a mile wide and four inches deep, so the vision of the ministry is by any means that we can to strengthen China's believers in their faith.
“Praise God that now from Derek’s teaching we understand the working of the Holy Spirit.” commented a believer in China. “Because of Derek‘s books my church’s brothers and sisters love me and they are also very compassionate to me and I’m very thankful to Father and to Jesus who loves me and has helped me to be free from possession by an evil spirit. I was healed and have been delivered.” Such comments encourage the Derek Prince Ministries China team in their work to bless more and more Chinese brothers and sisters.
Over the last four decades of the ministry, four major changes have taken place:
Firstly, huge growth in China’s churches. China’s church and Christian population has seen massive growth. It is estimated that when China became Communist under Chairman Mao in 1949, and the missionaries were thrown out, there was something like a hundred thousand Christian believers. In the 1980’s, as China began to open up, which involved reopening churches that had been closed for a decade in the 70s, Chinese believers flocked to the newly reopened government permitted churches. But at the same time China’s unofficial churches, known sometimes as the house churches, exploded in growth. Thus the name “house churches” became somewhat inappropriate, given the large numbers of those who were coming to faith.
As China continued to open up in relative terms in the 80’s and 90’s, two other developments took place. Firstly, the house churches, which had been predominantly located in the countryside because of the persecution of the Cultural Revolution, began to move into the cities, establishing a presence there. At the same time, what is sometimes seen as the third wave of churches occurred, as more believers who could be termed as white-collar established their own form of urban churches. Many of those white-collar believers had found Christ while studying overseas, or had been led to Christ by foreigners teaching in Chinese universities. Thus the period of time towards the end of the 20th century and into the 21st-century saw astonishing growth in the Chinese church, arguably the fastest growth in the world. Experts argue about the numbers of believers in China today, but it probably exceeds 100 million.
Secondly, moving on-line. The ministry began, as mentioned above, with radio programmes containing Derek’s Today With Derek Prince materials and later other materials. At the same time the printing of Chinese language translations of Derek’s books began, which were distributed within China. But now a new and modern China has brought significant changes in what we do. The ministry has created a significant online presence over the last 5 years, given that China’s online population is somewhere in excess of 700 million people. So there are different platforms, with mobile apps and by using the Internet, supplying Derek’s materials and also enabling the team to interact directly with believers.
Why is this on-line work so important? Consider these facts: Take Henan province and Shanxi province for example, believers in almost all the small towns in these provinces access Derek’s materials on our WeChat platform. In Henan, our audience spans across 18 cities and towns; and in Shanxi, across 23 cities or towns. Across China we have already reached 512 cities or towns across 34 provinces and districts. That means our ministry has already made a very deep impact inside China. Almost everywhere in China there are users of our WeChat platform and websites.
And the numbers grow as people on-line discover or rediscover Derek’s materials. “It is really amazing that my husband and I found the online teaching of Derek Prince again after many years. My family actually benefited from Derek’s teaching many years ago, but we could not find it again. There are many different teachings in China, but we always think Derek Prince’s teaching is the best. Not only is it practical, but it also has many special spiritual insights. Praise the Lord we have chance to become students again together. We will share these teachings with brothers and sisters around us, and let more people get help from his teaching!”
Thirdly, the Derek Prince Ministries China team has had a change of identity. Now all the team are mainland Chinese, living inside and outside of China. Ross is the only exception to that, except for one Taiwanese Chinese sister. That means that the China Ministry team is working in their first language and within their own culture online and through digital apps to connect with their own people.
“I have followed your WeChat and website teaching for more than a year. These are the best ‘spiritual bread’ I have had. Today it is so hard to get pure spiritual food. I hope you will keep up such good work online. We really need it!” (Sister Rong).
“I am a third generation Christian. I always wear very critical glasses concerning a lot of sharing and preaching in the church. But after reading the sharing on your platform, it is so balanced and really fantastic. I will recommend them to my church and all my friends.” (Brother Wang)
Fourthly, difficult days in China. The situation for China’s Christians, and indeed for the ministry itself, has changed dramatically over the years. The ministry began shortly after the Cultural Revolution had ended in China, a period when almost all churches were closed throughout China. Then over the next 30 years or so China increasingly opened up, allowing considerable freedom, in relative terms, for China’s churches and believers. A number of churches functioned openly, inside and outside of the government permitted parameters. Training sessions could be held in person, and materials could be openly distributed.
However over the last six years under the present Chinese leadership the country has begun to turn back very much to the climate of the Chairman Mao era. Christian leaders have been arrested, churches closed, crosses torn down, children under 18 forbidden to attend church and so on. The situation for believers is made even more difficult because of China’s very highly developed surveillance system. A BBC reporter a couple of years ago had his photograph placed in a major city’s system, then he agreed to hide and to appear in a place where the authorities did not know he would be. He was ‘surveyed’ and ‘arrested’ in seven minutes! That and other surveillance and monitoring techniques add increased pressure to China’s Christians.
In the days to come, churches may become increasingly small group focused. In that context the need to supply Derek’s teaching in multiple formats through the best distribution methods becomes totally essential, so that Christians who are not able to meet with teaching pastors can still have access to good teaching from the Word of God.
One of our China team summed it up this way: “Not only is there now a global pandemic, but at the same time the level of persecution Chinese Christians face from their local governments has reached a completely new level. In some ways, we can call it the second Cultural Revolution. 2021 threatens to be a very hard year for believers in China.” One obvious reason for this renewed hostility against the church in China is that numbers of Christian believers exceed the numbers who are members of the Communist Party. New policies increasingly attempt to force the church to agree to teach Marxist doctrine.
One specific new approach to this recent situation in China is to put as much as we possibly can of Derek’s materials on to USB devices, then to distribute them to as many leaders and Christians of influence as we can. Given that China’s clampdown is growing rather than decreasing, it is possible there could be a day when it will be very hard to get materials into China. Thus the China team want to take as much of Derek’s teaching as we can and put them on to these USB-based libraries. There will be PDF copies of Derek’s books in Chinese, as well as multiple MP3 programmes, taken from the previous radio materials, and audiovisual materials either audio-dubbed into Chinese or with subtitles. Thus if there should come a day when it was risky for some leaders to go online to get teaching materials, they would not have to do that. They would possess these USB libraries. The devices can be used in a computer or through a connecting device on mobile phones.
“Many are hungry and look online for teachings, but there are many false teachings, cults and sects. Thank you for providing those USBs and audio devices, they help us avoid being led astray and to feed on the Bible. It is just what was needed” (Brother Zhang).
The ministry also reaches Chinese people outside of China. We have a close relationship with GoodTV, a Christian TV network based in Taiwan. Derek is one of their most popular teachers, and his materials in Chinese audio-visual format can be seen online or through direct broadcasting on TV channels, including within mainland China.
The hostility that the church in China faces in the current season reinforces our passion to reach out and serve the Chinese church. A major reason for that is the ongoing requests from our team inside China that we at this time supply as many materials as we possibly can. We are responding to their amazing devotion to the Lord, as they print and distribute the materials or the USB devices. The online team is constantly encouraged by the uptake in responses to Derek’s materials.
While the shadow of the Cultural Revolution was still looming over China, Chinese believers sought the Lord in prayer. In the years that followed we watched as that praying church grew by leaps and bounds. China has produced a new generation of leaders of significant anointing – it is their church. It is our job in the Derek Prince Ministries China team to serve them by responding to their requests for Derek’s materials.