Pastor Samuel Lamb (Lin Xingao), one of the few China’s house church patriarch who had been jailed for more than 20 years for seeking religious freedom of believers to worship as they will, died on August 3, 2013 in Guanzhou at the age of 88.
Lamb, along with Wang Mindao, Allen Yuan, Moses Xie, Li Tianen, were Chinese Christians who were arrested, charged as counter-revolutionary, and sentenced to harsh labor camps during Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution in the 1950s. Their imprisonment, resolve to continue spreading the gospel upon release, and resistance to joining the Three-Self Patriotic Movement of Protestant Church or the government-controlled umbrella network have encouraged Chinese house church Christians to carry onward the Great Commission despite the threats of persecution. About a century ago the number of Christians in China are only about one million, but today it is estimated that there are roughly 150 million.
“The death of Samuel Lamb leaves a hole in the Chinese Church,” said an Open Doors USA spokesperson. “He symbolized the brave faith of a Church that grew at an unprecedented speed in world history. Long after his passing it will be said in many churches that more persecution only has one outcome: more growth.”
Lamb was born in Macau the son of a Baptist pastor. He went to primary school in Guanzhou and lived with his family in Hong Kong, where he attained a high level of English fluency from studying at Queen’s College. Because of his English fluency, he invited foreign guests, including 140 journalists and countless diplomats, into his Guanzhou home and church. According to Open Door USA, he would then tell them his life story, which he summarized in the one “holy principle” of “more persecution, more growth.”
When Lamb was imprisoned, he was first held in a prison farm, but was caught trying to copy the entire New Testament in his own handwritings. Then, he was abruptly transferred to a coalmine in Shanxi Province, far to the north with more arduous conditions, where he spent the next fifteen years, working on the mine’s underground railroad, according to David Aikman’s Jesus in Beijing.
While in Prison, his father had died and his wife, Li Huiling, whom he had not seen since his second arrest, had died just two years earlier. After release from prison, he had eleven months with his ailing mother before she, too, passed away, according to Aikman, former China bureau chief of TIME Magazine.
“I can understand Job’s victories and Job’s defeats,” he often said, according to Open Doors USA. “It taught me that grumbling does not help. Not against God and not against those who persecuted me. My dear wife died while I was in prison. I was not allowed to attend her funeral. It was like an arrow of the Almighty, until I understood that God allows the pain, the loss, the torture; but we must grow through it.”
(Photo: Open Doors USA)
After his release from prison, Lamb continued to conduct public worship services, distributing literatures, greeting foreigners, and acting as though restriction on house churches didn’t exist, Aikman reported. Moreover, in 1986 an official from Ronald Reagan’s White House showed up to present Lamb with a pen and a Bible, gifts from the president. Yet, he was consistently summoned to interrogation, threats, and confiscation raids up until the 1990s. Today, Lamb’s church in Guanzhou has over 4,000 attendees each week with four services.
Lamb taught that Christians should obey the government unless those leaders directly opposed God with their law enforcement. “The laws of God are more important than the laws of man,” he said, according to Open Doors USA.
He has always warned: “People are still being arrested. You don’t know what will happen tomorrow. Today the authorities are not bothering us. But tomorrow things may be different. I pray that we will receive the strength to stand firm,” the persecution watchdog wrote in the statement.
In the last three decades, Lamb partnered with Open Doors’ ministry, through which over 200,000 pieces of Christian literature were delivered to Chinese believers.
Lamb was known to many Chinese Christians in China and overseas a patriarch who has not only endured through great sufferings, but someone who has come out of it with the undying zeal for gospel.
His funeral service was held on August 16 in Guanzhou, and thousands of house church Chinese believers came to remember their hero and his sacrifice and commitment to the church in China.