Many studies have shown that people who have recently moved to a new country are not only struggling with adjustments of all sorts, but also open to new ideas. Thousands of Chinese have expressed faith in Jesus Chris while in the West, and many more have been exposed to the gospel.
Dear Praying Friends:
In light of the new realities outlined in my January letter, I believe that Christians in the West should revise some of their approaches to communicating Christ with Chinese and return to proven methods suitable for almost all times, but especially now.
In no certain order, some of these “tried and true” approaches would include:
- Praying for God to work among Chinese worldwide and to enable those serving among them to be as effective as possible.
- Praying for peace in East Asia, where a number of flash points could erupt into war suddenly.
- Focusing on Chinese in the West, especially students and scholars and their families, but also restaurant workers.
- Praying for God to overcome obstacles and to thrust forth many more workers into the harvest field among Chinese worldwide.
- Continuing to encourage qualified and prepared Christians to go to China to serve as diligent students, teachers, and other professionals, with valid visas and the intention to serve as “salt and light” by doing their job well and obeying the laws.
- Re-deploying both long-and short-term workers to Taiwan. There is full religious freedom in Taiwan. We don’t know how long that will last. More than 98% of Taiwan’s 23 million+ people do not attend any Christian church.
- Using the Internet and social media, which still reach millions of Chinese.
- Cooperating with other China ministries and with Chinese churches.
- Devoting time and energy to long-term relationships with Chinese, both seekers and believers, to help them come to Christ and to grow in Christian maturity.
- Doing all we can, including prayer, publications, and personal relationships, to counter the rising influence of liberal theology and syncretistic teaching among Chinese Christians and academic scholars, and to produce and promote solid biblical, theological, and cultural resources.
- Developing low-cost, high-yield structures and programs that do not rely on continued American power and prosperity or continued freedoms in the West or in Asia.
- In particular: testing, developing, and implementing methods of small-group, home-based, lay-led Bible study and fellowship groups that will replicate themselves and form movements of house churches and house church presbyteries for each “city.” A city would be an urban or rural area that is small enough to allow for easy communication; larger cities would be divided into many of these smaller ecclesiastical regions. The goal is NOT to build a province-, state-, or nation-wide organization.
In God’s providence, all of our colleagues are engaged in just such activities. Please ask God to make us fruitful, for his glory and the good of the more than one billion Chinese who have not yet heard the gospel.
Some of these strategies are uncontroversial: Everyone agrees we should pray, for example.
That doesn’t mean that implementing them will be easy. How much time do YOU spend in prayer for Chinese and those who minister among them?
Others are quite controversial, and will evoke strong objections. In coming months, I hope to address these objections and try to explain why I have identified these methods as essential for effective service to God’s kingdom among the Chinese.
All of them pose immense difficulty, however. Both the “new realities” I named in the last letter and other realties – such as inertia, competing demands on our resources, existing programs and loyalties, human sin, and the unrelenting opposition of Satan – require that we earnestly seek God’s grace to know and do his will.
“Be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His Might.” Ephesians 6:10
Your fellow servant,
Dear Praying Friends:
Fast-changing conditions in China and elsewhere will require fresh strategies for reaching Chinese around the world.
In this letter, we shall briefly glance at some of these new realities. God willing, we shall address some of them in coming months.
1. Restrictions on Religious Activity
The tightening control over all of society by the Chinese government over the past four years has reached new levels.
The new law on the operation of NGOs (non-governmental organizations), both domestic and foreign, has placed many more barriers in front Christian organizations of all types, including mission agencies.
The new religious law has formalized existing regulations and added new restrictions upon churches, especially unregistered congregations.
2. Growing Maturity of the Chinese Church
In some respects, the Chinese Church has “grown up” and does not need foreign help. More leaders have solid biblical and theological training; sophisticated structures have replaced less developed ways of doing things. The higher level of education among urban church pastors and members has brought new challenges.
3. Rising Anti-Foreign Sentiment
Government propaganda has fostered a new level of suspicion and even hostility towards the West, and especially Japan and the United States. Constant warnings against foreign “infiltration,” particularly in universities, are closing once-open doors.
4. The Exploding Chinese Student Population in the United States
Undergraduates, graduate students, and visiting scholars in the United States now number around 400,000. They represent an unprecedented opportunity for reaching Chinese with the gospel outside of China. At the same time, they face new pressures from their own government even while overseas and are less open to Christianity than previous generations of students and scholars were.
5. The Emergence of China as a Sending Country
After years of prayer and tentative starts, Chinese Christians are making solid preparations for a massive and sustained cross-cultural missionary movement in the near future. They are especially directing their attention towards Muslin nations.
6. Declining Interest in China Ministry among American Christians
For a variety of reasons, American Christians have greatly reduced their concern for, and commitment to, reaching Chinese with the gospel. China-related ministries are seeing fewer who are willing to serve as witnesses of Christ in Taiwan or China, less prayer involvement, and less financial support.
7. Theological and Moral Erosion in the Church
As in the West, confidence in the Scriptures as God’s inerrant and unique authority is being challenged by some Chinese theologians, the “Prosperity Gospel” is spreading, and Christians are increasingly succumbing to the pervasive moral decay in society. Preaching often does not convey the whole counsel of God and Christians are failing in their marriages, families, and conduct.
8. Confusion and Chaos in the Academy
Again as in the West, China’s intellectuals are adrift in a sea of relativism and nihilism. Those who study Christianity are not aware of the rich resources of evangelical and orthodox biblical and theological scholarship.
9. Shift in the Balance of Power & Worldwide Instability
China’s rising military power, along with financial, economic, political, and social crises in the West and Japan, have altered the balance of power in East Asia. At the same time, China is a very “fragile superpower,” with internal weaknesses that portend not only domestic but international instability.
These developments will greatly impact individual Christians, local churches, and Christian ministries to Chinese. At the very least, people could be distracted, and resources diverted from witness among Chinese.
On the one hand, we need to deepen our faith in God, who promises to provide for his people, and on the other, we must not lose focus on the abiding imperative to take the gospel to all creatures, including Chinese (Matthew 6:33; 28:18-20; Mark 16:15; Luke 24:47-48; Acts 1:8).
Christians in China, and foreigners who wish to promote the spread of the gospel among Chinese, must adapt quickly to these new realities, for many of them are already upon us, and others are looming on the horizon.
I suggest two resources as we pray and ponder how to serve God effectively among the Chinese in this new situation.
The first are all the publications of ChinaSource, including their Quarterly, Chinese Church Voices, and ZGBriefs. See http://www.chinasource.org/.
The second is my book, Reaching Chinese Worldwide, which, by God’s grace, anticipated many of these changes and proposed a comprehensive strategy for fruitful ministry among Chinese wherever they are found. https://www.amazon.com/Reaching-Chinese-Worldwide-Wright-Doyle/dp/1611530679.
Your fellow servant of Christ,
In coming months, I hope to write several more papers on Carl Henry and a review of a popular volume on the history of theology which greatly distorts the teaching of Augustine and of Henry and which has been published in Chinese. Please pray for me and others as we “do theology” for the growth of the Chinese Church.
Over the past thirty years, and for the first time in Chinese history, God has placed a desire within thousands of Chinese scholars to know more about Christianity. Though they come from a variety of academic disciplines, they have increasing opportunities to study Christianity as an academic field in itself, often in departments of philosophy, history, or even religion.
We would like to bring you up to date on Global China Center, the academic and scholarly avenue of our outreach to educated Chinese around the world.
Thankful for all God did in 2015, and trusting him to be faithful in this coming year, we invite you to join with us in prayer as we place our (always tentative) plans before him.
As 2015 draws to a close, we cannot help thanking God for the marvelous ways in which he has manifested his kindness and mercy to us, despite our manifest unworthiness.
Like the rest of us, but perhaps even more, the Chinese love stories about people. They learn about character and conduct from stories more, perhaps, than from ethical instruction or exhortation.
More than 240,000 students and scholars from China attend universities in the United States alone. Thousands more can be found in Canada, Europe, and Australia. Many others have enrolled in private schools in the West for high school education.