I shall never forget a conversation I had with the late David Adeney, one of the most widely-respected and loved missionaries among the Chinese. He was about 75 at the time, but still full of zeal and energy. (You can read his story in Reaching for the Goal, by Carolyn Armitage.)“What is your burden these days” I asked. “To mobilize the Chinese church,” he replied immediately. “They are the ones who will evangelize China.” Indeed, he had spent much of his life doing that very thing. After leaving China when the Communists took over, he trained Chinese student leaders in Asia; founded Discipleship Training Centre in Singapore to equip Asian Christians; and taught at a Chinese seminary in Hong Kong. His wife Ruth entered fully into this ministry. After “retiring” to the United States, this intrepid Englishman traveled incessantly, speaking at Chinese churches and conferences and counseling young Chinese believers who sensed God’s leading to serve their people. His impact was immense, and lasting.
A Potent Force
There are thousands of Chinese churches outside of Mainland China – in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, South East Asia, Australasia, Europe, North and South America, even Africa and the Middle East. Within China itself, hundreds of thousands of congregations, some tiny, some huge, burn with a desire to see their countrymen come to know God. Often at great personal cost, they are bearing witness to Christ in countless ways, and their labors are effective, as phenomenal church growth testifies.
Do They Need Us?
“Well, then,” some are saying, “Let’s just leave the task of sharing God’s Word among the Chinese to the Chinese church itself. They don’t need us.” Wrong! For a variety of reasons, Chinese believers welcome our participation in their mission to glorify God among their own people and even among the nations. For one thing, though numerous, Chinese believers are relatively rare. Though in some places, like Wenzhou, as much as one-tenth the population may profess faith in Christ, in other areas they are a tiny minority. You can visit countless villages in China without a Gospel witness; walk for blocks in any of China’s mega-cities without encountering a believer; enter dozens of towns in Taiwan of over 40,000 without a single church. (Though the Gospel came to Taiwan more than one hundred years ago, and about 2,000 churches dot the island, active Christians account for no more than 1% of the total population of more than 23 million.) Furthermore, in China itself Christians lack solid Bible teaching, and are thus vulnerable to sects, heresies, and cults. Trained leaders are woefully few. In Chinese churches generally, cultural and historical factors have created a gap between ideal and practice, theory and conduct, the Word and life in the world. Certain characteristic traits among Chinese, such as the desire for “face,” make it hard for them to resolve conflicts or build genuine fellowship based on honest admission of weakness and need. We could go on, but the fact is that the whole church around the world, being the Body of Christ, needs every member. We need them (a major topic in itself!), and they need us.
How Can We Help?
Prayer As we have said before, prayer for these Chinese Christians may be our best contribution to the spread of the Gospel among the Chinese worldwide. To pray effectively, we need to know more about them. In addition to subscribing to prayer letters, like OMF International’s “Global Chinese Ministries” (1-800-422-5330), there are other steps we can take. Friendship When we were new missionaries in Taiwan, one of the experienced workers said, “The most important thing you can do is to make friends with your pastor and his wife.” There is probably a Chinese church in your town, perhaps even your neighborhood. Call the pastor and invite him and his wife out to lunch, or home to dinner. Just say that you would like to know how they and their church are doing, so that you might pray for them. Just listening attentively to these dedicated, hard-working, and probably lonely servants of God will not only bless you, but encourage those who are on the front lines. That will lead to prayer and perhaps action that they suggest. Partnership Ask them, and our Chinese brothers and sisters will themselves tell you what you can do to strengthen their hands. Perhaps they need training (next month’s topic). Or recommendations of good books. Or a place to take a much-needed vacation. Or English teachers for a summer outreach project. Let them tell you, but ask!
We are committed to partnership with Chinese Christians. In fact, we do almost nothing apart from their invitation and direction. My books are published by Chinese Christian publishers; my teaching and preaching come at their request; our travels are responses to needs expressed. May I ask you to pray for a major upcoming event? The Chinese Congress on World evangelism (CCOWE) is held every five years. This time it’s in Macau, July 17-21 (about an hour from Hong Kong). More than two thousand Chinese church leaders from around the world will gather to discuss how to take “The holistic Gospel to the whole world.” We shall have a display there to promote the Biographical Dictionary of Chinese Christianity (BDCC). More than that, I shall be presenting the BDCC for 15 minutes on July 18th during a plenary session, in Mandarin, to try to get our Chinese friends involved in this strategic project. This exciting opportunity daunts me, but I know I can count on your intercessions. Ephesians 6:18-20