This is an excerpt from the first draft of my upcoming book on radical charismatic church history.
In the beginning of the 20th century, China was suffering from the Boxer uprising, where Mandarin nationalists revolted against European colonial influences, demanding that everything foreign, especially Christianity, should be thrown out. The Boxers were crushed by colonial forces but that didn’t put an end to the social unrest, and China continued to suffer from looting, violence and xenophobia. And yet, Pentecostalism spread rapidly throughout China, much thanks to the Holy Spirit and a guy called Mok Lai Chi (1868-1926) in Hong Kong.
Mok went to the slums of Wan Chai, preaching the Gospel and healing the sick. In 1908 he started a paper called Wuxunjie Zhenlibao, Pentecostal Truths, which was spread not just in Hong kong but across the mainland. Mok explained in the paper: “Hong Kong Pentecostal Mission is a Jesus church founded by the Chinese themselves, not a branch of any foreign churches planted in my nation.”
The Mission supported Bible classes and girl schools, as well as church planting. Mok Lai Chi both cared for people’s salvation and the social problems they experience here and now; protesting against the British colonial government in 1921 for allowing the rents in the city to be too high.
Jing Dianying (1890-1957) from the Shandong province was saved during the early days of the Pentecostal revival and was baptized in the Holy Spirit in his 20’s. In 1921 he and some Pentecostal friends started a Shengtu She, a Saint Cooperative Society, where they practiced community of goods just like in the book of Acts. More communities like this started to pop up and in 1927 they changed name to Ye Su Jia Ting, the Jesus Family.
Members of the Jesus Family preached the Gospel in the rural areas of Shandong, and especially the homeless, disabled and dispised people were attracted to the message, receiving Christ and joining the communities. The Jesus Family emphasized equality and simplicity, their “family heads” could easily be spotted carrying dung on a community farm, and they made sure that the no one was richer than anyone else. Being Pentecostal, they spoke in tongues and received heavenly visions and prophetic messages from the Lord. The expected and longed for the immanent return of Christ.
By 1949, the Jesus Family consisted of over 100 communities with over 10 000 members. They were often ridiculed or even persecuted by non-Christians, but they blessed their local villages by building bridges, roads and even hospitals. However, when Mao Zedong’s communist party started to persecute Christians all the Jesus Family’s communities were dismantled. Dianying was put into prison and died there. Seems like commies don’t always like community of goods after all.