Christians in the West can learn a great deal from China’s Coming Church, by Paul Golf, reviewed at http://www.globalchinacenter.org/analysis/reviews/the-coming-chinese-church-how-rising-faith-in-china-is-spilling-over-its-boundaries.php.
This important book gives a balanced and accurate picture of today’s urban Chinese Christians, who differ significantly from the persecuted rural church, whose narrative still dominates the minds of many outside China.
Here are a few things I think we can ponder in response to their situation:
Christian thriving and the survival of the church do not depend upon a friendly government.
On the contrary, an environment that is too comfortable may induce lassitude, lethargy, and looseness in faith and life, whereas persecution and pressure may produce perseverance and greater purity.
God honors prayer, worship, and bold faith in the promises of the Bible.
He still uses the “simple” faith of ordinary people to change lives, transform relationships, heal bodies, and deliver people from demons.
The church grows best when it is rooted in the soil of small, close-knit, family-like home meetings that are marked by changed lives, mutual love, and a passion for the salvation of lost souls.
Zeal for worldwide evangelism is a mark of a healthy church and healthy Christians; self-absorption is a sign of spiritual disease and even death.
Large congregations with big buildings and budgets, run by big bosses who hope to make a big-bang impact on society, do not necessarily create the conditions for healthy spiritual growth.
We need to pray for Chinese pastors, who face constant temptations to neglect their own souls and their families in order to survive financially, measure up to the expectations of their flock, and perhaps also achieve something “big” for Christ.
While applauding the new and broadened vision of biblical Christianity that naturally impels believers to reach out in love to their neighbors through practical demonstrations of care, we need to pray for Chinese church leaders who think that such witness needs to be public, organized, and highly visible.
Even more, we need to pray that they will not fall into the trap of thinking that public legal pressure and pushing for political change will necessarily foster conditions ripe for the flourishing of the church, especially in today’s climate.
More than that, we should ask God to preserve them from putting too much hope in the prospect of “transforming” China, lest they imagine that it could become a “Christian” nation. Church history is replete with the wreckage of such “Christian” nations. American Christians have been driven by that ambition for 400 years, with mixed results. See my Christianity in America: Triumph and Tragedy. What James Hunter in To Change the World correctly called a “will to power” can corrupt Christians, especially Christian leaders, as much as it can corrupt anyone else.
With some Chinese Christian leaders, we may be concerned far less about the impact of a last paroxysmof persecution under a Chinese “Diocletian” than that a clever Chinese “Constantine” will see that Christians are too numerous and influential to be exterminated, and decide instead to coddle the church, with the result that it will be co-opted, controlled, and eventually corrupted by power, popularity, prestige, and possessions.
-G. Wright Doyle