Dear Praying Friends:
More than 100,000 Chinese students and scholars live in the United States; the number is the United Kingdom is only slightly less. Increasingly, this group includes undergraduates. Among them are thousands from Taiwan and Singapore as well. These people represent China’s “best and brightest,” who could not be in the West unless they were smart, well-connected, and ambitious. Many will return to China to lead their society; the rest will retain links with their homeland while living abroad. For a variety of reasons, which we have explored in other letters (see “RCW” archives), the presence of these students and scholars represents the most important arena for outreach to Chinese worldwide.
Over the past three decades, thousands of Christians, both Chinese and Western, have sought to share the Gospel with scholars from Greater China. Though their efforts have paid off in a large number of genuine conversions, leading to the growth of the Chinese church in Asia and in the West, a few major mistakes have greatly reduced the effectiveness of this ministry. Haste First and foremost is the tendency, amounting almost to a compulsion, to get Chinese intellectuals to make a premature profession of faith. Everywhere I go, I see the disastrous results of this misguided zeal. “Quickie ‘conversions’” – usually expressed by a “prayer to receive Christ,” and then baptism soon thereafter - have filled Chinese churches with nominal “Christians” who know little of the faith, have not experienced new life, and bring confusion and even conflict into the Body of Christ. Such practices ignore studies which show that it takes, on average, three to five years, if not more, from the first contact with the Gospel to a full and lasting dedication of one’s life to Christ by people from a Chinese background. Lack of instruction A twin problem is the lack of biblical teaching – from the pulpit, before baptism, and after baptism. Stories, testimonies, exhortations, and appeals to self-interest take the place of systematic presentations of the whole counsel of God. There is little focus on the Cross of Christ or the cruciform nature of Christian living, not to mention the implications of the Gospel for family, work, money, and career ambitions. Other problems could be cited, but must await future treatment. Now let us look briefly at some
Principles for effective ministry
Long-term relationships must form the basis of all outreach to educated Chinese. Genuine friendships, with no hidden agenda, will remove pressure to make the person a “project” who turns into a “product” – a number to report. Exposure to Christian living will enable Chinese to see how the Gospel “works” in the life of the believer. Actions speak louder than words, and have their own persuasive power. They also teach people with no Christian background how to live out the faith in a variety of contexts, especially family and work. Cooperative efforts will help to overcome the limitations of ministry exclusively by Chinese or Western Christians. Both have their contribution to make, and need to work together for maximum impact. Likewise, both churches and para-church organizations (such as Ambassadors for Christ; China Outreach Ministries; Overseas Campus; International Students, Incorporated (ISI); RUF International; and Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship) can complement each other’s strengths. Use of Chinese-language materials is almost essential if Westerners are to overcome the language barrier. Much of the time, our Chinese friends only seem to understand what we are saying in English. Superb resources can be obtained from the AFC bookstore (800-624-3504; http://www.afcinc.org/bookstore). Be sure to specify whether you want literature for people from Mainland China or Taiwan. *You may also find excellent resources in English, including a booklet by this title by Stacey Bieler, and many articles and further leads on our web site, www.chinainst.org.
Our parts and ours
Our outreach to Chinese in the West takes several forms: In Charlottesville, Dori and I mentor a Christian couple from China; advise the undergraduate Chinese Christian Fellowship; and help with our church’s internationals work. I preach monthly in a local Chinese church, and occasionally elsewhere; compose literature for translation into Chinese; mentor several people by telephone; and take part in academic conferences with scholars from China. In Cambridge, U.K., Randall and Connie Chan employ a variety of methods to reach Chinese scholars and their families. Randall will visit churches in Sofia, Bulgaria, and Istanbul, Turkey, to explore possible ministry to them. Your part is to pray for us. Without your intercessions, all we do is in vain (John 15:5,7). Thank you so much! Yours in His service, Wright
A Reader Response
Dear Wright Doyle, Thanks for your message! But in terms of groups reaching Mainland Chinese, you have ommitted OMF, which I think also does work in the USA and UK. The most important group, also, is the North American Mainland Chinese Christian Fellowship. This is an indigenous movement of North American Mainland Chinese pastors and leaders reaching Mainland Chinese. A prominent Mainland Chinese Christian in the USA, Yuan Zeming also has his own network, and there are several Chinese seminaries in the USA. Also, you should note the significant cultural differences between Mainland Chinese and Overseas Chinese (Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore and Malaysia). The former come from a secular background formed by the Communist ideology; the latter are strongly influenced by traditional Chinese religious beliefs. Tom Shaoxing, China