Wang Ming-Dao (1900–1991): Faithful amid Political Coercion

All people suffer through various hardships, and Christians aren’t exempt. While Christians might wonder why they suffer, they must continue to “trust in the Lord without the slightest shadow of doubt, uneasiness or fear.”

This exhortation for Christians to suffer well was written in the mid-1900s by a Chinese pastor named Wang Ming-Dao. He was no stranger to suffering, and the most significant hardship he faced was government-led religious persecution. As a pastor who encouraged Christians to suffer well, one might presume that Wang remained faithful in the midst of persecution.

But he did not. At one point, he abdicated. His compromise was public and even noticed by Christians outside China.

In the aftermath of his unfaithfulness, Wang found restoration in Christ, and by God’s grace his failure proved to be no barrier to later effectiveness in ministry. Wang shows us that even when we cave to pressure and are unfaithful, God can still faithfully use weak men for his glory.

Faithfulness

There were seasons when Wang held to his convictions and paid the price. In 1920 Wang came to believe that biblical baptism is by immersion. Though some in his Presbyterian school attempted to convince him otherwise, Wang wouldn’t budge. Warned he wouldn’t be able to teach at the boarding school if he continued to espouse believer’s baptism by immersion, he refused to compromise. He lost not only his job but also an opportunity to continue his studies abroad. Though he was greatly discouraged by these losses, Wang began preaching at various conventions and evangelistic campaigns in 1923.

Wang shows us that even when we cave to pressure and are unfaithful, God can still faithfully use weak men for his glory.

In 1937 Beijing fell to Japanese forces during the Second Sino-Japanese War. In 1939 the Japanese Ministry of Information required all publications, including newspapers and magazines, to publish patriotic slogans supporting the Japanese military. The Spiritual Food Quarterly, which Wang had written and edited for more than a decade, faced a stark choice: be a political tool or shut down. Wang decided to continue publishing without the slogans.

In 1942, the North China Christian Federation Promotion Committee was established by the Japanese, and Wang was pressured to lead his congregation to join or “subsequently encounter difficulties.” Wang believed many false Christians had already joined the organization, and he refused to be yoked to it. Amid growing pressure to capitulate, he preached on the suffering, faithfulness, and protection that Daniel and his friends faced in Babylon. He continued to stand against the ongoing pressure from Japanese authorities and other Chinese Christians.

Later, the rise of communism in China brought with it the Three-Self Patriotic Movement, a state-sanctioned, interdenominational Protestant body that sought to tie Chinese Christians to Chinese nationalism through removal of Western influences. The Three-Self Patriotic Movement actively pursued political reform in the religious sphere through publications and accusation meetings. Wang was strongly convinced of regenerate church membership, and he refused to meet with unbelievers in an ecclesiastical setting.

Failure and Restoration

On the evening of August 7, 1955, two months after publishing his most scathing critique of the Three-Self Movement, “We—For the Sake of Faith,” Wang, his wife, and other church associates were arrested for being counter-revolutionary. Though he originally received a lengthy prison sentence, Wang was released after little more than a year on September 29, 1956, after confessing to multiple crimes he didn’t commit. Out of fear of a long imprisonment or death and concern for his wife’s well-being, Wang succumbed to state interrogators who wished to use him to help unify Chinese Christians under the state church. One of the conditions of his release was to join the Three-Self Church and preach as part of the movement. He was torn between his ongoing conviction against joining the movement and the fear of returning to prison.

Wang’s story clearly shows that, even if leaders in the church betray their callings, God is able to write a different ending to their stories.

On April 29, 1957, Wang and his wife were rearrested and placed in a detention center. Whereas he was once afraid of being executed, staying in prison, and his wife dying in prison, Wang now accepted his lot and retracted the confession he had made under duress. He sought to speak and act on the truth, no matter the consequences.

From 1957 to 1979 Wang served his sentence. Throughout these 22 long years, he suffered from deteriorating health, and he was tortured by fellow inmates. Wang was released from prison in 1979, rejoining his wife—released by the government in 1974—in Shanghai. The faithfulness he portrayed through the rest of his life and ministry stood in stark contrast to his failure under communist oppression.

Wang’s story clearly shows that, even if leaders in the church betray their callings, God is able to write a different ending to their stories.

Editors’ note: 

This is an adapted chapter from 12 Faithful Men: Portraits of Courageous Endurance in Pastoral Ministry (Baker Books, 2018). In this compilation of 12 stirring biographies, pastors and ministry leaders will discover the power of grace-driven endurance in the face of suffering. Order a copy today!

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