Dear Praying Friends:
As I wrote in Reaching Chinese Worldwide (RCW), brief trips to Greater China may be quite useful, if they are made with the right purposes and planning.
Since we left Taiwan in 1988, I have traveled back there or to mainland China almost annually, and have always come home encouraged.
Learning and loving
As I see it, we should go with two goals: To learn, and to love.
We learn by observing carefully and by listening attentively. We show love primarily by listening with our hearts, praying with people who share with us, and speaking words of encouragement when appropriate.
Love may also be expressed by making some particular contribution for which we are qualified, at the request of the Chinese themselves. Professionals may speak about their specialty or administer health care. Others can teach English.
On a number of occasions, I have been asked to teach a short course or to give lectures.
You will find a chapter on “Questionable Practices” in RCW. In my mind, these include trying to “lead people to Christ” by having them “say a prayer to receive Christ.” For one thing, I find no biblical warrant for these tactics. In addition, quick “conversions” seldom last, and only benefit the foreigners who go home with stories to tell their supporters.
Another dubious activity would be openly to violate the laws in China against foreigners trying to proselytize or preach in unregistered churches. Some very experienced people do respond to invitations from local believers to minister in their midst, but they do so cautiously and with great care not to offend the government or cause trouble for Christians.
Before you go
To make the most of your trip, you should read as much about Chinese history, culture, and contemporary society as you can, and become familiar with the current situation of Chinese Christians.
For just this purpose, I co-authored China: Ancient Culture, Modern Society, which provides a brief but comprehensive introduction to traditional Chinese civilization and to its rapidly-changing society. Reaching Chinese Worldwide gives an overview of things you need to know in order to communicate Christ effectively.
For the latest news, read ZGBriefs, a weekly online digest of current events in all domains of Chinese society (http://www.zgbriefs.com/).
Crackdown on the church?
For the most part, Chinese Christians practice their faith without hindrance, but in the past few weeks, various reports have suggested that the implementation of religious policy might be changing in China. Dozens of churches in one province have had buildings demolished, prominent crosses destroyed, or notice of imminent demolition. At least one group of American Christian students have had to cancel their plan to spend the summer on a university campus. Some prominent Christians have been publicly criticized. Christian and non-Christian human rights lawyers are facing more harassment. Two missionaries were expelled for serving as pastors of unregistered churches.
We don’t yet know what this means. China has denied any anti-Christian policy, and most of these actions could be seen simply as the enforcement of existing rules. Still, foreigners going to mainland China should take care not to be foolhardy in a highly uncertain climate.
Pray for me
I am scheduled to be in China May 28 – June 30. During that time, I hope to increase my understanding of today’s China and challenges faced by Christians as I travel to several cities to visit friends.
I have been asked to teach a course at a university June 16-20, and to give three lectures the next week. Another university has also invited me to lecture.
You can imagine how to pray for me and for others visiting China this summer. Thank you.