A few years ago, I began writing monthly letters based on the theme of reaching Chinese around the world with the gospel of Christ. These have been expanded into a book, Reaching Chinese Worldwide.
The book begins with the story of how God prepared me for missionary work and then led Dori and me to serve among Chinese people in Asia, first in Singapore and then in Taiwan. We received excellent training from Overseas Missionary Fellowship during orientation in Singapore but especially through the intensive language course which we were required to take.
Two years of daily Mandarin study laid the foundation, which was built upon by two more years of part-time language study while I began to teach Greek in the China Evangelical Seminary. We lived in Taiwan for almost ten years during the period 1976-1988, then came home by way of China.
Since then, we have had the great privilege of getting to know scholars and students from China who are connected with the University of Virginia here. Sharing God’s Word with them, along with preaching in Chinese churches, teaching in Chinese language seminaries, attending conferences, and some reading, have all combined to give me some awareness of the possibilities and problems of advancing the kingdom of God among these highly-educated and cultured people. We have also returned to Asia many times.
A chapter on preliminaries lays out a brief theology of missions, especially among the Chinese, with a discussion of why we should focus attention on China, obstacles to ministry to people in mainland China, and a quick overview of the principal ways to overcome these obstacles. The body of the book follows:
Preparation for effective ministry includes prayer, a commitment to lifelong learning, and an awareness of Chinese history, Chinese Christian history, Chinese culture and society today, and Chinese Christianity now.
Aside from prayer, presence is most important. First, the Chinese are present to us right here in the West as scholars and students. Perhaps the most strategic way to reach China with the gospel is to befriend those on our doorstep.
In China itself, we can be present as students, teachers, and professionals in the arts, the academy, business, either as long-term residents or on well-designed short-term trips. Friendship must form the basis of all lasting ministry.
Proclamation of the Good News of Christ must take place if people are to come to a saving knowledge of God in Christ. In two chapters, we look at various ways to bring the message: Internet, radio, and literature; stories of Chinese Christians; small group Bible studies; evangelistic preaching; “cold-turkey” evangelism.
Then we examine some problematic practices which, though widely used, do not always result in lasting fruit. Such methods as asking people to “make a decision for Christ”; the use of foreign money; bringing Chinese to the West for theological study; and certain popular forms of “spiritual warfare” may not be as biblically-grounded or effective as commonly supposed. I expect controversy here, but please read for yourself before making a decision.
In particular, history has proven that those who want to see God work among the Chinese must exercise patience. This all takes time.
Points of contact afford us with many openings for the healing, liberating truth of Christ. Two chapters glance at some of these, such as pressure points in society; science and the Bible; filial piety; shame; and the role of Christianity in American society.
Then we examine correspondences and contrasts between Chinese belief systems and Christianity as entrances to fruitful dialogue. Names for God, ying and yang, Daoism, Confucianism, Buddhism, and popular Chinese religions receive brief but hopefully suggestive treatment in two chapters.
“Perfecting” believers involves taking converts past the basics into Christian maturity. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper; house churches; equipping people to serve; reaching men; training leaders; mentoring and coaching; and counseling all contribute to the process of building solid Christians and churches.
Participation in the worldwide Body of Christ is necessary for such a huge task. That involves, at least, partnering with Chinese churches, taking advantage of Taiwan’s strategic position and resources, and English-speaking churches.
Performance of good works must accompany proclamation, or we shall fail to gain or maintain the right to be heard. Some of these include listening, teaching English, “business by the Book,” meeting practical needs, obeying the law, and, supremely, prayer.
Partnering with God must stand at the heart of all our efforts. After all, it is he who saves, not we. He calls us into a life of hard work and suffering, one which is willing to endure for a long time without seeing results, and which is radiant with the beauty of Christ.
The book ends with a list of some of the many resources available for ministry among Chinese, and a brief introduction to our ministry.
Please ask God greatly to use this tool for his greater glory and the growth of the church among Chinese.