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September 18, 2007

The truth about Bibles in China

One of the great blessings of my role at VOM is to be able to draw on the expertise of our friends around the world, people who see up close the persecution of our brothers and sisters in restricted nations; people who know what’s happening on the ground in restricted nations because they are there!

When I see a news report or other item that needs a response, I can draw on the expertise of many. One such item was recently posted by our friends at CBN, an item that parrots the Chinese government’s statements about printing Bibles in China and seems to question whether outside ministries (like VOM) need to be working to provide Bibles to members of the Chinese Church.

The article points to a report where the Chinese press trumpeted the fact that their own government-controlled Bible printer, Nanjing Amity Printing Company, had printed 43 million Bibles between 1981 and 2006.  Now 43 million sounds like a large number. But remember that there are more than 100 million Christians in China. That means that, over a 25 year period, the government didn’t even print enough Bibles for half the Christians to have one!

One of our contacts who works regularly in China, (I will not share her name for security reasons) offered some very good reminders about the battle to bring God’s Word to the many millions who need it and want it in China:

This (article) shows very clearly the battle that is being waged against the Word Of God in China today.  The Church of China has four primary enemies:  the government, false brothers in the church, the cults and misinformed people in the West. 

I will not take time to give you my entire essay on this subject, only some points to remember:

1.  Comparatively few Christians have access to computers and the internet on a regular basis so internet Bibles cannot reach (all of) the nation.  Also, what if you had to download and print out your entire Bible?  How easy would that be to read?

2.  Not only can I legally buy a Bible in my city, I can buy 10.  Problem is I don't need 10 Bibles in the cities where those book stores exist, I need 10 million Bibles in the country side. In most cases, if you go to a legal Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM) bookstore and order many copies, the authorities follow you home, and sometimes arrest you for doing so. (This is our experience.) Also, even with urbanization, there are not enough Bibles for sale even for the city Christians.

3.  If there are 100 million Christians in China, and one Bible lasts five years (I don't exactly know about this longevity number), this means that we need 20 million new Bibles every year just to replace the ones being worn out.  (Remember, Chinese Christians actually read their Bible every day and they travel much and they live in harsh environments, so a Bible does not last as long as in the USA where we use it mostly on Sundays and in a clean environment.)

With these three simple thoughts alone, please tell me if we need to provide more Bibles for China?  Can anyone come up with a verifiable number that shows 20 million new Bibles are being provided legally in China every year?

Friends, you will read much in the months between now and the Beijing Olympics about how FREE it is in China, how oppression and persecution have gone into the past and how our brothers and sisters are living and worshipping in freedom and ease.  Unfortunately, at times you will read such stories even from reputable Christian sources.

Our friends in the unregistered churches…and in Chinese prisons…have a very different story to tell. Do not forget them.

Todd Nettleton is the director of media development for The Voice of the Martyrs—USA.  He has been to China five times.