Western visitors used to seeing empty sanctuaries in the United States or Europe can be dumbfounded by the Sunday gatherings held in convention center-size buildings where people line up for blocks to get in – one service after another. In Wenzhou, not far from Hangzhou, an estimated 1.2 million Protestants now exist in a city of 9 million people alone. (It is called “China’s Jerusalem.”) By one estimate, China will become the world’s largest Christian nation, at its current rate of growth, by 2030.
Indeed, an acute problem facing urban churches in China is a lack of space. Chongyi Church is building a million-dollar underground parking lot to replace one that worshipers under age 30 have taken over as a meeting place.
“I come because I found a love here that isn’t dependent on a person,” says Du Wang, a young businesswoman in Hangzhou. “It is like a river that doesn’t go away.”
Yet there is also trouble brewing for China’s faithful. As evangelical Christianity grows sharply, officials fear it could undermine their authority.