Almost every one agrees that the most urgent priority in the Chinese church today is leadership development. With many millions of people attending meetings, capable shepherds are in drastically short supply. To give just one example: At the meeting of the Chinese Congress on World Evangelization in Macau last month, I met a member of the pastoral staff of a church in North East China. He is responsible for the youth in their church, who number 6,000 (six thousand) out of a congregation of 20,000 (twenty thousand).
To meet this huge need, thousands of trainers within China are joined by many others from outside, mostly Chinese, to teach new leaders. Usually meeting in secret for intensive classes lasting a few weeks, but sometimes in “underground” seminaries with full three-year programs, unregistered (“house”) churches are working hard to educate teachers and pastors for their vast flocks. Meanwhile, the official church has more than a dozen seminaries, and many more training centers, around the nation, most of which are evangelical in theological orientation, despite the official “liberal” theology of the overall organization. Chinese Christians outside the mainland – in Hong Kong, Taiwan, North America, Singapore, and elsewhere – do their part to equip workers for this vast harvest. Many, perhaps most, of their graduates spend at least some time each year within China.
Last week, I taught an intensive, three-day Doctor of Ministry course in New Testament hermeneutics (interpretation) for fourteen experienced Chinese church leaders, all of whom have worked extensively in China. Beginning on the 14th of this month, I shall teach a two-week class on Ephesians for church leaders and seminarians. Both of these courses are offered by China Evangelical Seminary (CES) in Taipei, where I taught Greek and New Testament for seven years in the 1980s. In addition, I am scheduled to teach a course on 1 Corinthians at the China Reformed Seminary in Taipei in January, 2007, and another on Christianity and American Society for CES sometime later in 2007.
The Next Generation
Nor can we ignore the need to equip a new generation of Western Christians for effective witness and service among the Chinese. Our group now has three – one in the final stages of earning a Ph.D. in Chinese history, and the other two just having completed their first year of Mandarin language study in Taiwan. They are all outstanding, and we expect that they will have a significant impact in coming years. Another member of our organization, who is Chinese, is about to complete a Ph.D. in Biblical studies. On my way home from Asia at the end of August, I shall stop in Los Angeles to take part in a conference on leader development within the Chinese church at which I shall make a presentation on cultural factors affecting Chinese church leaders. I look forward to learning from others who will also give papers.
First and foremost, we seek your prayers – for wisdom, discipline in study, writing, and teaching, and spiritual renewal each day. Jesus exercised his training in the power of the Holy Spirit, and so must we; likewise, no one can really learn the essentials of Christian life and service apart from the internal work of the Spirit. There is no substitute for long years of study in order to reap decades of effective service. That takes hard work, patience, perseverance – and financial support. If you would like information on how to partner with us in any way, please let us know. “The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, these entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2).