Witnesses and overseas activists say paramilitary People's Armed Police forces used excavators and dynamite to destroy the Golden Lampstand Church in the city of Linfen in Shanxi province.
ChinaAid, a US-based Christian advocacy group, said local authorities planted explosives in an underground worship hall to demolish the building, which was built with nearly US$3 million (HK$23.4 million) in contributions from local worshippers in one of China's poorest regions.
The church, with a congregation of more than 50,000, has long clashed with the government. Hundreds of police and hired thugs smashed the church and seized Bibles in an earlier crackdown in 2009 that ended with church leaders receiving long prison sentences.
At the time, church leaders were charged with illegally occupying farmland and disturbing traffic order by getting together, according to state media.
The state-run Global Times newspaper, citing an unidentified local official, reported the official reason for the demolition was that it did not hold the necessary permits.
The Golden Lampstand Church was built by husband and wife evangelists Wang Xiaoguang and Yang Rongli as a permanent home for their followers.