The TJC was founded by Paul Wei (Wei Enbo, 1877–1919) in 1917. A former member of the Beijing branch of the London Missionary Society led by British missionary Samuel Evans Meech (1845–1937), Wei became a Pentecostal under the influence of Norwegian missionary to China, Bernt Berntsen. In 1917, he left Berntsen’s group and the Holy Spirit had moved him to establish the True Jesus Church. He died of tuberculosis on September 10, 1919, and the pause of his prophecy did not prevent the further growth of the TJC.
The TJC’s early leaders included Zhang Lingsheng (1863–?), who convinced Wei that the church should maintain a seventh-day Sabbath, and Barnabas Zhang (1882–1961), who eventually left the group in 1929 and established a rival movement in Hong Kong.
In mainland China, Wei’s son, Wei Wenxiang (魏文祥, Isaac Wei, 魏以撒, ca. 1900–?), emerged as the main leader of the TJC. He also presided over TJC’s international expansion to various countries and the establishment of an effective bureaucracy.
By 1949, the membership grew to around 120,000 in seven hundred churches. In 1951, Isaac Wei was arrested and “disappeared.” How and when he died is unknown. Li Zhengcheng (李正誠, ca. 1920–1990) replaced Isaac Wei as the main leader of the TJC and led it into joining the Three-Self Patriotic Movement as the government had requested. Scholar Melissa Inouye reports that, fearing persecution, the leaders mourned the death of Joseph Stalin in 1953 claiming that he was now in heaven. One even stated that “Comrade Stalin has saved many tens of thousands of people, more than Jesus.” Persecution, however, came both before and during the Cultural Revolution, and Li Zhengcheng spent more than twenty years in jail. Because of the developments in China, the TJC abroad proclaimed its autonomy, with headquarters first in Taiwan and from 1985 in the U.S. The Chinese branch was however reconstituted, as part of the Three-Self Church, after the Cultural Revolution and the reforms of Deng Xiaoping and still has a substantial following in China.
Today there are TJC members in more than sixty countries across six continents. According to scholars, the possible total number of members is up to 3 millions.
Outside China, member churches of the TJC look to the central synod of the TJC in California. In 1967, church leaders from outside mainland China met for the first World Delegates Conference in Taiwan, and an international headquarters was established in Taichung, Taiwan, where a seminary was opened. The headquarters was subsequently moved to California in 1985.
Jesus Christ, the Word who became flesh, died on the cross for the redemption of sinners, resurrected on the third day, and ascended to heaven. He is the only Savior of mankind, the Creator of the heavens and earth, and the only true God.
The Holy Bible, consisting of the Old and New Testaments, is inspired by God, the only scriptural truth, and the standard for Christian living.
The True Jesus Church, established by Lord Jesus Christ, through the Holy Spirit during the time of the 'latter rain', is the restored true church of the apostolic time.
Water baptism is the sacrament for the remission of sins for regeneration. The baptism must take place in natural living water, such as the river, sea, or spring. The Baptist, who already has had received baptism of water and the Holy Spirit, conducts the baptism in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. The person being baptised must be completely immersed in water with head bowed and face downward.
Receiving the Holy Spirit, evidenced by speaking in tongues, is the guarantee of inheritance of the kingdom of heaven.
The sacrament of footwashing enables one to have a part with the Lord Jesus. It also serves as a constant reminder that one should have love, holiness, humility, forgiveness, and service. Every person who has received water baptism must have his/her feet washed in the name of Jesus Christ. Mutual footwashing may be practiced whenever is appropriate.
The Holy Communion is the sacrament to commemorate the death of the Lord Jesus Christ. It enables members to partake of the flesh and blood of our Lord and to be in communion with Him so that they can have eternal life and be raised on the last day. This sacrament shall be held as often as possible. Only one unleavened bread and grape juice shall be used.
The Sabbath day, the seventh day of the week (Saturday), is a holy day, blessed and sanctified by God. It is to be observed under the Lord's grace for the commemoration of God's creation and salvation, and with the hope of eternal rest in the life to come.
Salvation is given by the grace of God through faith. Believers must rely on the Holy Spirit to pursue holiness, to honor God, and to love humanity.
The Lord's Second Coming will take place on the last day when He descends from heaven to judge the world: the righteous will receive eternal life, while the wicked will be eternally condemned.
The church believes that the sacraments must fulfill three requirements according to the Scripture. Firstly, they must have been performed by Jesus Christ himself as an example. Secondly, the sacraments must be directly related to one's salvation, eternal life, entering the Heavenly Kingdom, and having a part with Jesus. Lastly, they must be of the sacraments which Jesus Christ instructed the disciples to perform as well. There are ten articles of faith that the True Jesus Church holds in order to worship God correctly. According to them, one must speak in tongues as evidence of receiving the Holy Spirit. The mode of baptism also determines salvation. The correct mode should be with the head facing down (in the manner of Jesus' death) and only in natural ("living") water.
Bays, Daniel H. (1995). "Indigenous Protestant Churches in China, 1900–1937: A Pentecostal Case Study". In Kaplan, Steven (ed.). Indigenous Responses to Western Christianity. New York: New York University Press. pp. 124–143. ISBN978-0-8147-4649-3.
Inouye, Melissa Wei-Tsing (2018). China and the True Jesus: Charisma and Organization in a Chinese Christian Church, New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN978-0-19-092346-4.
Lian Xi (2008). "A Messianic Deliverance for Post-Dynastic China: The Launch of the True Jesus Church in the Early Twentieth Century". Modern China. 34 (4): 407–441. doi:10.1177/0097700408318908. S2CID220736173.