Solid always wins.
The Rev. Jin Mingri peered out from the pulpit and delivered an unusual appeal: "Please leave," the 39-year-old pastor urged his followers, who were packed, standing-room-only on a Sunday afternoon, into a converted office space in China's capital. "We don't have enough seats for the others who want to come, so please, only stay for one service a day."
A choir in hot-pink robes stood to his left, beside a guitarist and a drum set bristling with cymbals. Children in a modern playroom beside the sanctuary punctuated the service with squeals and tantrums. It was a busy day at a church that, on paper, does not exist....
By some estimates, Christian churches in China, most of them underground, have roughly 70 million members, about as many as the party itself. A growing number of those Christians are in fact party members.
Christianity is thriving in part because it offers a moral framework to citizens adrift in an age of Wild West capitalism that has not only exacted a heavy toll in corruption and pollution but also harmed the global image of products labeled "Made in China."
This rise, driven by evangelical Protestants, reflects a wider spiritual awakening in China. As communism fades into today's free-market reality, many Chinese describe a "crisis of faith" and seek solace from mystical Taoist sects, Bahai temples and Christian megachurches.
Today, the government counts 21 million Catholics and Protestants -- a 50% increase in less than 10 years -- though the underground population is far larger. The World Christian Database's estimate of 70 million Christians amounts to 5% of the population, second only to Buddhists.
At a time when Christianity in Western Europe is dwindling, China's believers are redrawing the world's religious map with a growing community that already exceeds all the Christians in Italy.