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An Examination of the Eastern Lightning Cult

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When China’s Christians Wish They Were in Prison
By Paul Hattaway
Director of Asia Harvest


A few years ago I had the privilege of speaking to house church leaders in a meeting on the outskirts of the huge city of Xian in China. As the morning passed into afternoon I noticed one young lady in her early 20s who was attending the meeting. During the meal times and breaks she hobbled around the room, painfully dragging her crippled right leg behind her. Her face was gaunt, void of the expressions of deep joy that permeated the faces of the other Christians in the meeting. At the end of the day’s training the brother who organized the meeting asked my coworker and I if we would pray for some of the leaders.

Of course we agreed, and the very first believer to come up to us was the partially-crippled young woman. Thinking she would ask for prayer for her injuries, I asked, “What happened to your leg?” She immediately looked down at the floor as tears welled up in her eyes.

“Pastor,” she quietly explained, “Several months ago I was deceived into joining the Eastern Lightning cult. When I realized they didn’t believe the Bible and weren’t believers in Jesus, I tried to leave, but they wouldn’t let me go. To prevent my escape they severely beat my legs with an iron bar. With the help of another Christian sister I was finally able to flee, but the Eastern Lightning have sent agents to find and murder me. My left leg is almost back to normal now, but my right leg is badly damaged and it gives me great pain.”

After taking a deep breath she continued, “Please pray for me, not only that God would restore my leg but also my mind. The cult brainwashed and tortured me for weeks. I am still struggling to regain God’s peace in my life that I had previously. Please also pray the Lord would hide me from those who wish to take my life.”

For years I’d been receiving reports about the terrible influence of the Eastern Lightning Cult upon Christians in China, but now
suddenly it seemed much more real to me.

The second Christian requesting prayer had a similar experience of being trapped by the Eastern Lightning, as had two or three others in our meeting that day.

Later, over a bowl of watery rice noodles, I asked the main regional house church leader how their work was going. Usually China’s house churches experience phenomenal growth and have hours of God-glorifying testimonies to tell. This time, the brother in charge of the group’s work in northwest China said, “We are not doing well. Last year we had more than 520 churches. Now we have about 450. In the past year many of our leaders were targeted by the Eastern Lightning cult. Some were attracted by their financial inducements and joined them. Later, when they discovered what they’d joined was not Biblical, they were not permitted to leave. Dozens of our believers are missing, dozens more crippled. Some who have managed to escape the cult’s clutches are in hiding, fearing for their lives. At least two of our people have been murdered. Others have simply vanished.”

“Brother Paul,” he continued, “please tell Christians around the world to pray for us, and to pray against the powerful demonic forces behind the Eastern Lightning that threaten to decimate us. In the past many of us suffered torture and great hardship in prison at the hands of the authorities, but we survived with our faith intact. Some leaders have even told me it would be a relief if they were in prison again compared to the trial they are undergoing now at the hands of this wicked cult. The threat of the Eastern Lightning is much worse than anything the Communists can do to us.”

With this brother’s request still ringing in my ears, news has come from China (April 19, 2002) of the kidnapping of 33 top leaders of the China Gospel Fellowship house church network by the Eastern Lightning.

With thousands of Christians around the world deeply concerned about the plight of our Chinese brothers and sisters, yet with few people knowing anything about the Eastern Lightning, I have decided to write this paper examining the background, theology and practices of the Eastern Lightning., It is my hope that Christians around the world will fervently pray for the severe trial the Chinese house churches are going through.

“Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.”
(Ephesians 5:11)

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This post was last updated: Dec. 17, 2012