Dear Praying Friends:
In a week or two, schools and colleges will open again, and the classrooms will be heavily populated with Chinese.
More and more, Chinese undergraduates are coming to the West for their college education, while graduate students and scholars continue to take advantage of our high-ranking universities, and their young children become top students in our schools.
This steady trend may persist, since Chinese parents and young adults have more money to spend on prestigious education abroad.
Of course, as we say every year at this time, the presence of these people from China presents Christians in the West with a marvelous opportunity to reach the future leaders of that great nation, “influencers” who will set the pace for a changing society and culture.
While they are here, many of them are open to new ideas; some even come with an intention to learn more about Christianity. They are generally not watched or restricted in their interests. Their alert, curious minds are eager to wrestle with fresh ways of looking at life.
More and more of them are returning to China when they graduate. Meanwhile, they go home on vacations, and their parents visit them while they’re here. Many a relative has heard the Gospel from students who have found Christ.
Especially now with so many undergraduates and younger graduate students, we have more time to expose them to our faith and our Lord. For that and many other reasons, reaching these people with the whole counsel of God is perhaps the most strategic thing we can do (aside from prayer) in spreading the Gospel.
How Should We Serve Them?
As a reminder of what you probably already know, let’s review some general principles for effective witness to these bright folks:
Friendship Coming to a strange country, they long to have a “native” friend. Sadly, most will return without ever having entered a local home. Instead, they will just spend most of their time with other Chinese.
So, become a “friendship partner.” Plan to invest at least a few hours each month (preferably more) in just getting to know each other. Invite your friends to your home for a meal, or out with you when you go to a park, or concert, or any other event. Let them see your life as it is. They will be watching, and your Christian manner of going through the day will impress them deeply.
Chinese-language Christian Materials Though many of them speak good English, it’s not their heart language. Furthermore, they may be hesitant to talk about religious topics with you at first. You can overcome these barriers by ordering materials produced just for them from Ambassadors for Christ and Overseas Campus. Present these, one or two at a time, as gifts, and ask them to tell you what they think.
Partnership Rather than trying to do the work by yourself, cooperate with your local church and perhaps with a nearby Chinese church. There are also organizations that do this sort of thing well, such as: Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship; OMF International; the Navigators; International Students Inc.; Ambassadors for Christ; China Outreach Ministries; and others.
Patience Please, please, do not be in a rush to get your Chinese friend to “make a decision for Christ.” Our experience over the past 22 years has convinced us that most of these “decisions” do not produce lasting Christian discipleship. It usually takes several years before someone from a Chinese background is ready to repent, trust in Christ, and commit to lifelong discipleship.
Give the Holy Spirit time to work! Assume that cultural differences, prejudices, and simple ignorance will require much exposure to Christian truth and life before your friend will know what it means to follow Christ.
Besides, where in the Bible does it say that a person “becomes a Christian” by saying a “prayer to receive Christ”? The biblical expression for faith is baptism. Wait until your friend is ready for this decisive action.
Prayer Remember that most Chinese have little or no concept of Christianity (except for a few with a Christian background), so misunderstanding is all too likely. Pray hard for wisdom and grace as you express love and truth, and for God to work in their hearts.
Pray for Us We are heavily involved in ministry to Chinese studying and living overseas. In Charlottesville, Dori and I help with a Chinese Sunday school class in our church. I preach in a Chinese church about once a month; we advise the Chinese Christian Fellowship at U.Va.; we spend time with a few individuals.
This fall, I am also speaking to Chinese groups in Boston, Maryland, Oregon, and North Carolina.
In Cambridge, England, China Institute Partners Randall and Connie Chan continue their outreach to Chinese scholars and their families. Dr. Yading Li teaches in a Chinese seminary in Honolulu. And all of our Global China Center associates either serve in Chinese churches or befriend individuals.
“And just who is my neighbor?”
“The Chinese at your doorstep.”
Your Fellow Pilgrim,