Resources by Swells in the Middle Kingdom

Dec 4, 2015

3 Observations from Teaching Biblical Interpretation

by Swells in the Middle Kingdom

For many international organizations working in China, the transition to local leadership can be a challenging one. In particular, it is not always easy to achieve high levels of spiritual formation when many local leaders are either first generation believers or fairly recent converts. 

Nov 5, 2012

A Chinese Voice from 120 Years Ago

by Swells in the Middle Kingdom

The following is a suggestion made by a Chinese pastor to the rest of the attendees at the 1890 Shanghai conference of all the Protestant missionaries in China. It must have taken a lot of courage and strong convictions for him to address the room full of foreigners in this manner (there were only a handful of Chinese delegates at the 1890 Conference). Yan's purpose in speaking was to remind the missionaries that in addition to attracting new converts, there was still much work to be done to care for the believers already in the churches.

Jul 11, 2011

A Different Kind of Challenge to Effectiveness

by Swells in the Middle Kingdom

I have recently been struck by how susceptible my attitude is to being influenced by my environment. This sounds obviousalmost tautologicalbut let me explain a bit about the kind of influences I am thinking of.

Dec 19, 2011

Are You "Among the People"

by Swells in the Middle Kingdom

The following is a quotation from James Hudson Taylor, speaking to a gathering of field workers Pingyang, Shanxi in 1886.

Jun 26, 2015

Becoming a Sending Church

by Swells in the Middle Kingdom

Many would agree that learning to work cross-culturally is one of the greatest barriers to achieving China’s Christian dream of becoming a mighty missionary nation. Without denying the challenges involved in raising up a cohort of culturally sensitive Chinese Christians, there is a yet another aspect of the Chinese missionary dream which has yet to receive much concerted attention. In addition to calling, equipping and sending the cross-cultural workers themselves, it is also necessary to call, equip, and mobilize the local congregations to play their part in the mission project. 

Oct 28, 2014

Calvinism on the Ground in China

by Swells in the Middle Kingdom

In recent years Calvinism has become an increasingly common topic of discussion within Chinese Christian circles. This trend has not gone unnoticed, and many scholars of Christianity in China are working to document and understand the growth of Reformed Christianity within the mainland. 

Dec 2, 2016

Changing Ministry in the New Normal

by Swells in the Middle Kingdom

It had been an engaging but exhausting two days. Pastors and ministry leaders from all across China had gathered with a smaller number of expatriate China workers to reflect together on some of the key trends in the mainland Chinese church. The meeting was conducted almost entirely in Chinese, and the range of topics addressed was dizzying, but also encouraging: indigenous mission and sending agencies, social engagement, theological education, Christian schooling, global partnership—in all these areas interest is high and progress encouraging. 

Feb 10, 2014

Chinese Santa

by Swells in the Middle Kingdom

"That is messed up!"

"Why? WHY?!"

"That is just plain WRONG."

Jan 15, 2016

Christmas Crowds in China | Part 1

Crowds of Security Forces

by Swells in the Middle Kingdom

From the series Christmas Crowds in China

Over the Christmas holiday I saw three very different large gatherings, each of which demonstrates a prominent trend in contemporary China.  Taken together, these three crowds say something profound about the direction that China and her church are headed.  

Jan 18, 2016

Christmas Crowds in China | Part 2

Crowds of Apples

by Swells in the Middle Kingdom

From the series Christmas Crowds in China

As I walked through the center of town on Christmas Eve, I was forced every few steps to maneuver around yet another vendor trying to sell me something. In years past the pushcarts had been covered with Santa hats and light-up electronic wands. This year, however, it was all about apples—enormous apples branded with fortuitous (or sexy) images and packaged in Christmas-y cardboard boxes.

Jan 20, 2016

Christmas Crowds in China | Part 3

Crowds of New Believers

by Swells in the Middle Kingdom

From the series Christmas Crowds in China

In years past I have marveled at the large numbers of people who flow through China’s churches every year at Christmas. I know of one urban church that hosts over 10,000 visitors during its six Christmas services. Each year I see the church building bursting at its seams, bodies crammed along every aisle and stairway. Each year I watch as the area around the church is closed to traffic and swarmed by young people eager to catch a glimpse or hear a word of Christmas—compelled by a sense that Christmas must in some ways must be connected to the church.

Sep 30, 2014

Community and Witness

by Swells in the Middle Kingdom

Cross-cultural workers have long debated the merits of devoting more or less time and energy to relations with other expatriates.

Nov 15, 2011

Hold to the Tension

by Swells in the Middle Kingdom

Cross-cultural work is all about living between two poles and keeping them in juxtaposition. The problem is that modernity - our western Enlightenment culture - drives us to resolve that tension.

Aug 7, 2012

Keeping a Proper Perspective

by Swells in the Middle Kingdom

From the opening chapter of his work on the proper method of mission practice (Nevius was at least partly inspired by Timothy Richard's work in Shandong), the following quote is a reminder for those of us who have found what we believe to be a better method for working in China to keep a proper perspective:

Aug 24, 2015

Learning from a Bad Sermon

by Swells in the Middle Kingdom

The sermon was "not good," or at least that was my impression. 

Sep 23, 2014

My Problem with Progress

by Swells in the Middle Kingdom

I recently went to my local bank to receive an electronic bank transfer. I have been a customer at this bank for nearly 15 years, and so the idea that I have to show up with ID and fill out reams of paperwork just to "accept" a wire transfer into my account does not upset me. On this occasion, however, I was a bit anxious. Having only just returned to China, I was still waiting for my residence permit to be completed. This meant that my passport was still in the hands of the city Public Security officials—and would likely remain there for the next couple weeks.

Nov 18, 2015

New China, Old China

by Swells in the Middle Kingdom

For those of us who live in China’s large cities, the stunning pace of technological and economic development can be overwhelming: ubiquitous smartphones, buses full of people streaming video on their hand-held devices as they commute in air-conditioned comfort, door-to-door food and grocery deliveries, super-chic cafes selling sugared caffeine or fruit libations hot or cold, Uber and DiDi rides on demand, and of course the explosion of online shopping. This is the “new China,” a thoroughly modern place that seems nicely in step with the cultural and economic trends we are familiar with back home in our passport countries.

Dec 9, 2016

The Challenges of Localization

Why Localize Now?

by Swells in the Middle Kingdom

From the series The Challenges of Localization

This is the first in a five-part series on localization of China ministry. Each essay centers on a different issue that the author has encountered as his organization goes through the process of handing over key leadership to local believers. The challenges are real, and the process is ongoing, meaning that some essays contain as many questions as answers.

Dec 14, 2016

The Challenges of Localization (2)

Culture

by Swells in the Middle Kingdom

From the series The Challenges of Localization

This is the second in a five-part series on localization of China ministry. Each essay centers on a different issue that the author has encountered as his organization goes through the process of handing over key leadership to local believers. The challenges are real, and the process is ongoing, meaning that some essays contain as many questions as answers.

Dec 19, 2016

The Challenges of Localization (3)

Authority

by Swells in the Middle Kingdom

From the series The Challenges of Localization

This is the third in a five-part series on localization of China ministry. Each essay centers on a different issue that the author has encountered as his organization goes through the process of handing over key leadership to local believers. The challenges are real, and the process is ongoing, meaning that some essays contain as many questions as answers.

Dec 28, 2016

The Challenges of Localization (4)

Money

by Swells in the Middle Kingdom

From the series The Challenges of Localization

This is the fourth in a five-part series on localization of China ministry. Each essay centers on a different issue that the author has encountered as his organization goes through the process of handing over key leadership to local believers. The challenges are real, and the process is ongoing, meaning that some essays contain as many questions as answers.

Jan 6

The Challenges of Localization (5)

Pride

by Swells in the Middle Kingdom

From the series The Challenges of Localization

This is the fifth in a five-part series on localization of China ministry. Each essay centers on a different issue that the author has encountered as his organization goes through the process of handing over key leadership to local believers. The challenges are real, and the process is ongoing, meaning that some essays contain as many questions as answers.

Oct 28, 2016

The New Normal

by Swells in the Middle Kingdom

In order to be good stewards of the resources and opportunities given us to serve in this country, China workers are always on the lookout for insights into China’s current condition and how it might affect our prospects for ministry. In 2016 fall edition of The Washington Quarterly five eminent China hands contributed their perspectives on China’s future path. 

Feb 3

The Rising Tide of Propaganda

by Swells in the Middle Kingdom

My neighborhood—most of my city, actually—is currently undergoing a dramatic change, the likes of which I have not seen in my two decades of residency. I first began to notice that something different was occurring in the autumn of last year, but in recent weeks the transformation has become undeniable and unavoidable. Its duration and its effects on the local population remain to be seen.

Apr 3, 2015

The Spiritual Discipline of Perseverance

by Swells in the Middle Kingdom

It is a very tricky thing to assess when it is time to leave a particular field of service or line of ministry.

Oct 15, 2013

The Tyranny of History and the China Dream

by Swells in the Middle Kingdom

It was an honor to be part of the sixth China Theology Symposium held this August at the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies. Centered on the theme "Christian Faith and Ideological Trends in China," the four days of meetings gathered intellectuals from China's major ideological groups, and encouraged them to engage one another with an eye towards elucidating what Christianity may or may not have to contribute to China's future.

Jun 18, 2013

To Aquire the Chinese Language

by Swells in the Middle Kingdom

For those of you hard at work learning the Chinese language, an encouraging word:

Nov 11, 2016

What Every Expatriate Christian Serving in China Should Read

by Swells in the Middle Kingdom

Yes, those are bold words, but if you are newly arrived in China, have been here for decades, or are just beginning preparations to head someday to China, you need to read Mabel Williamson’s Have We No Rights?

Mar 21, 2013

What Would it Take to Change?

by Swells in the Middle Kingdom

In a lengthy article calling upon his colleagues to adjust their practices in China, Welshman Timothy Richard described the way in which he imagined the foreign community was viewed by Chinese people.

Jan 8, 2015

Worshiping in Chinese

Why Cross-Cultural Workers Don't Go to Chinese Church

by Swells in the Middle Kingdom

From the series Worshiping in Chinese

This series of blog entries refers primarily to the question of expatriate Christians attending Chinese services at registered—or at least publicly "open"—local churches. It is assumed that in most cases, the risks to local believers (and to the expat workers as well) are such that it would be irresponsible to participate regularly in unregistered church services. Part one deals with some of the common objections to attending Chinese church services. In part two some of the main reasons why I have chosen to attend Chinese church services will be given. Part three will list some of the ways I have been blessed by my attendance at Chinese church services.

Jan 16, 2015

Worshiping in Chinese (2)

Why I Go to Chinese Church

by Swells in the Middle Kingdom

From the series Worshiping in Chinese

This series of blog entries refers primarily to the question of expatriate Christians attending services at registered—or at least publicly “open”—Chinese churches. It is assumed that in most cases, the risks to local believers (and to the expat workers as well) are such that it would be irresponsible to participate regularly in unregistered church services. Part one dealt with some of the common objections to attending Chinese church services. In part two some of the main reasons why I have chosen to attend Chinese church services are given. Part three lists some of the ways I have been blessed by my attendance at Chinese church services.

Jan 23, 2015

Worshiping in Chinese (3)

How Chinese Church Feeds Me

by Swells in the Middle Kingdom

From the series Worshiping in Chinese

This series of blog entries refers primarily to the question of expatriate Christians attending services at registered—or at least publicly “open”—Chinese churches. It is assumed that in most cases, the risks to local believers (and to the expat workers as well) are such that it would be irresponsible to participate regularly in unregistered church services. Part one dealt with some of the common objections to attending Chinese church services. In part two some of the main reasons why I have chosen to attend Chinese church services were given. Part three lists some of the ways I have been blessed by my attendance at Chinese church services.