Sunday, September 18, 2011

Bibles are Scarce in World's Largest Christian Country

"I was an atheist, but then I surrendered to God and my life was changed. I had always heard the missionaries share how miraculous God's Word was. I started to hope that one day I could have my own Bible. I prayed to God that I could have a Bible to read his words.

"Today after the Sunday service, there was a brother in church who asked if there were people who wanted a Bible. My heart sped up. I was so excited, and I walked toward the platform to receive one. Finally I got a Holy Bible! I know this is through God's provision, and it is free! I will cherish his words, which are as precious as my own life."

This was written by one young man who has turned to Jesus. Last year, underground Bible distributors carried 165,000 Bibles to Christians in all 31 Chinese provinces. They distributed all the Bibles they had, but many believers are still without.

The Christian faith has grown incredibly in China over the last decade, making China one of the world's largest Christian countries. The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences estimates China's Christian population at 23 million, which includes only members of the state-sponsored Three-Self Patriotic Movement "church" (TSPM), but the number of Christians worshiping at unregistered house churches increases the total to an estimated 80-130 million.

With such rapid growth of Christianity and a population that is 91 percent literate, the need for Bibles is immense. "China needs Bibles," says Pastor Joel. "We need hundreds of thousands each year." Even with the output of the world's largest Bible printer, Nanjing Amity Printing Co., 12 million additional Bibles are needed each year. Bibles printed by Amity are distributed only through TSPM book stores, which are few in number and often have very limited opening hours. Our workers have found that some TSPM books stores are open for only an hour each week. China's largest book-store chain, Xing Hua, sells the holy books of Daoism, Islam and Buddhism but is not permitted to sell the Bible.

New converts need Bibles, and most cheaply produced Bibles wear out in about five years. In addition, more than half of all Chinese citizens live in poor, rural areas, and most could never afford to purchase a Bible even if they were available.

(from Voice of the Martyrs newsletter, September 2011)

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