Dear Praying Friends:
For a number of reasons, many Chinese attend English-language churches.
These may be English congregations connected to a Chinese church, or churches of native English speakers led by Westerners.
For some ethnic Chinese who are brought up in English-speaking countries, English is their native tongue. Others, however, prefer to worship with non-Chinese even though they may not be fully at home in English.
Many students and scholars who have come to the West to study want to take advantage of every opportunity to hear and practice English. Others, having left home for a new culture, want to identify as much as possible with that culture.
Still others simply do not want to associate with fellow Chinese very much while they are overseas.
Chinese churches are generally very friendly and welcoming, but newcomers often feel pressure either to believe in Jesus quickly or, if baptized, to spend a lot of time in ministry within the church. The message usually focuses on what we must do for God, rather than what He has done for us, whereas it seems that in Western churches, the emphasis more often falls upon God’s grace, and newcomers do not sense much pressure to accept the Gospel or to serve the church.
Finally, the perception that Christianity is a “western” religion still persists, leading to the idea that one should learn about this faith in English, not Chinese.
Making the Most of this Situation
Though we may not fully approve of the various motives that bring ethnic Chinese to Western-led churches, we can thank God for this opportunity to reach people who might not otherwise hear the Gospel.
Last month, three Chinese undergraduates were baptized in our American church. They are all members of the Chinese Christian Fellowship at the University of Virginia and had attended the church over the past couple of years.
They appreciate the rich music and liturgy and solid biblical teaching. Several of our elders and pastors speak frequently at their Friday meetings and annual retreats. Dori and I have regular contact with them as their advisors. Many have taken courses at the university taught by members of our congregation.
They invite their non-Christian friends to church also, and gather together in the foyer after the service – it’s like an extra meeting for them. Most CCFers are returning to Asia for the summer; they will take their faith with them and share it with family and friends.
Another group of Chinese, mostly graduate students and married people, gathers in the pastor’s office for a Sunday school class in Mandarin between services. We go over the sermon which has been preached at the first service, reading the passage and discussing the message in Chinese. Questions are answered, objections dealt with, and personal experiences shared by the group.
We often approach the text and its implications from the standpoint of Chinese society and culture, so that the application of the Bible to their particular situation receives careful attention. Four people in the class have been baptized over the past couple of years.
Ethnic Chinese Ministry Focus
Our church has decided to make ethnic Chinese a priority for outreach. At Chinese New Year, the Scriptures were read and a song was sung in Chinese. Not long ago, one of the students who was baptized was asked to give his testimony during both worship services.
We have a team that focuses on international students. They have mobilized more than fifty church people to become Friendship Partners with students from overseas, most of whom are Chinese. Monthly events and occasional parties at holidays provide other opportunities for sharing the Gospel. Chinese - English Bibles and Christian books in Chinese are given to the students, and weekly Bible studies provide instruction and friendship.
Another team directs its efforts towards ministry to Chinese using Mandarin, both here and in Asia. A member of the Mandarin Sunday school class belongs to this team, as do we. When church folk go to Asia to study, work, or visit, we help them link up with former attenders who now live there and provide them with resources that will make their encounters more fruitful.
The church is also very supportive of China Institute, including Jason and Kristie Truell, who serve in Taiwan.
Your church’s ministry to ethnic Chinese will look different from ours, but I have no about that each congregation can make a huge impact, as long as we rely on the Holy Spirit to reveal God the Father to them through Jesus Christ.
Yours in His mercy,