Christianity in China is growing at a rate not seen since the 1930s.
Strong political restrictions and religious regulations on the construction of church buildings require Christians to adapt to meeting in hotels or private premises for worship services.
I have had the opportunity to attend worship services in hotel buildings and meet with communities of believers that represent my faith.
I have shared fellowship with Christians from different countries, predominately Africans, all of whom had come to pursue higher education in China.
When I arrived in Beijing on Sept. 11, 2018, for a study adventure, I went looking for a church, supposing that I would quickly find church buildings, as I see in my country, Liberia.
Unfortunately, there were no church buildings around my university.
A week after my orientation on the campus of the University of International Business and Economics, I met a Ghanaian who invited me to the nondenominational church he attends.
On Sunday, we met at the church. I was astonished that the church was meeting in a five-star hotel.
It is rare in Africa to see a church meeting in a hotel for regular worship service.
In Liberia, we have many church buildings, almost in every community, where we usually meet for regular worship services. Christianity in Liberia is increasing steadily without any government restrictions.
As an African Christian, it was a strange phenomenon and unusual worship setting for me.
Most Africans believe hotels condone immoral activities because of the issue of prostitution. However, my experience in China has changed my perspective.
I realize worshipping God should not be limited to a particular place or building. God is worthy of our praises wherever and whenever. We ought to worship in Spirit and truth (John 4:24).
After we arrived at the church, my Christian friend and I walked past the hotel cashiers, entered the elevator and arrived on the floor where the believers gathered.
As we approached the worship center, the ushers ran to meet us, shook our hands and showed us to our seats. Other congregants promptly greeted us.
The church was a high-spirited English language congregation. The choir inspired me after rounds of singing songs of praises and adoration to God Almighty, followed by the preaching of the pastor.
My worship experience came out of the ever-increasing knowledge of God. The pastor spoke about the mysteries of God and elaborated on who God is and what God has done. Service ended, and I felt refreshed.
Soon, I became an affiliated member of the church and participated in a youth event called Glorious Encounter, where I had a life-changing encounter with God.
We learned about ways the love of God should be expressed in our lives and demonstrated toward our fellows.
After a few months of affiliation, I was called upon to serve a Pentecostal church meeting in a pastor’s house on the outskirts of Beijing. Most members stopped attending the church due to the distance of the pastor’s house.
I joined the church of five committed people, played the keyboard and executed other church functions.
The church relocated to a five-star hotel, which charged a monthly fee of about $150 for using their facilities for three hours each Sunday.
Members of our church were predominately unemployed students, so paying the monthly fee was almost impossible. As a result, we decided to conduct Bible studies and prayer meetings online as weekly activities.
Because the Chinese government began offering generous education scholarships, international students make up the majority of the churches in large cities in China.
Most of the students cannot afford to support the church financially, so pastors have to withdraw from their savings to ensure the doors of the churches are always open.
Hotel managers often raise the monthly rental fees for churches, and there are certain restrictions related to the worship services.
Many days, we were not allowed to shout as loud as we do in Africa, and we often lowered the volume of the sound system. We were conscious of ending service on time, for fear of being denied the next accommodation.
Despite these restrictions and regulations, pastors continue to make worthy sacrifices for the advancement of the gospel of Christ without demanding salary from their congregations.
For example, a few pastors who barely speak the Chinese language are taking Chinese language classes to be able to evangelize and collaborate effectively with the Chinese.
What we see today is an indication that the growth of Christianity will eventually increase in every region of China.
Pastors are presenting the gospel of Jesus Christ in diversified but simplified ways as they visit the campuses of Chinese universities to evangelize students and invite them to church.
Editor’s note: This article is part of a series focused on engaging the emerging generations of faith leaders. Learn more about EthicsDaily.com’s “Emerging Voices” and “U:21” series here.
Fayiah S. Tamba is a graduate of Liberia Baptist Theological Seminary in Paynesville City, a region of Monrovia, Liberia, and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in business at a university in Beijing. He is from Foya in Lofa County, Liberia.