June 8, 2010 - Franklin Graham preached to an overflow crowd at Harbin’s Hallelujah Church June 6. Hallelujah Church, with some 10,000 members, is the largest church in Harbin, a city of nearly 10 million.
Harbin has about 420 registered Protestant churches, along with 1,200 other “meeting points” where smaller groups gather for worship and teaching.
Graham’s Sunday message was especially appropriate in a culture that, since the early days of Deng Xiaoping’s economic reforms in 1980s, has seen almost unbelievable increases in prosperity. He noted that today we see many people with the same problem as that of Zacchaeus the tax collector, whose story is told in Luke 19.
“He loved the things of this world,” Graham said. “He loved his money. He loved his job. Is this what is holding you back? The Bible says, ‘What should it profit a man if he should gain the whole world and lose his own soul?’ Zacchaeus had a good job, but something was missing in his life. He had this spiritual emptiness in his life. This morning, are you spiritually empty?”
More than 200 stood when he invited people to put their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Those who responded will be given follow-up literature and counseled by mature church members.
And even among those who didn’t respond were people who are seeking spiritual truth.
Chow Xie Lei, an immunologist, was visiting the church and said he is searching for truth and meaning. “I’m confused sometimes, but I see that we cannot save ourselves,” he said. “Material things will not give a person real satisfaction; it’s not about money.”
Also attending the service was Liu Ying, a young believer who said that Sunday was her father’s third visit to church. “He is just like Zacchaeus,” she said. “He is just as curious about God.” Although her father did not receive Christ, Liu Ying believes that the message is what he needed to hear.
Among some Christians in the West, the belief persists that the Gospel is not presented in China's registered churches and that churches cannot extend an invitation to trust in Jesus Christ. But Chinese regulations state that believers are free to preach and to conduct services as they wish, as long as the services are held on church property.
The official policy is freedom of religion but also, for those who choose not to practice religion, freedom from being pressured by believers.
While in Harbin, Graham also met with leaders from the provincial and municipal Religious Affairs Bureaus as well as leaders of the Harbin Christian Council, which oversees the registered churches in the city.
Accompanying Graham on his trip are his sister Gigi Graham and his daughter, Cissie Graham Lynch.