The Chinese church is vibrant and has growing passion to participate in missionary sending through undertakings like the Back to Jerusalem (BTJ) movement and the Indigenous Mission Movement from China (IMM China). Chinese Christians feel God calling them to long-term mission service. The principal factor encouraging them to long-term sustainable service is calling. I recently conducted interviews with Chinese missionaries exploring the basis of the Chinese call to missions. This calling stems first from a close personal relationship with God through Jesus. In the words of one interviewee:
A living relationship with the Lord is most important, not theological education—not being a pastor. Can you truly experience walking with him? Do you experience protection, providence, guidance from the Lord? (MI#2)
Indeed, for all the Chinese missionaries interviewed, calling was inseparable from a living, experiential relationship with the Lord.
For these interviewed missionaries, all of whom had served for at least six months cross-culturally, calling was invariably tested. In the context of extreme financial lack immediately after returning from missionary service in Indonesia, one Chinese missionary said,
But God encouraged me there. God’s servants . . . the service we give today is because of loyalty to the call and also a commitment to respond to the love of God. It’s not as if we serve only when life is good but leave when we have nothing. So my thinking changed right then and there. I wouldn’t be first asking what I have and what I don’t have. That’s not important. After this I became very, very joyful . . . Do you know? It’s as if neither winds nor rains can shake me. I started to love my Lord again. That’s how things got going. Two more months, it would have been all over for me. (MI#5)
Another missionary, looking in the mirror, told herself, “Your life is a failure. This year of 2013 was your most unsuccessful year” (MI#4). But in later reflection, this and other missionaries (MI#1,5,11) saw how God had allowed them to experience suffering in order to mature. With pride broken, missionaries recognized futility in their own efforts and that it is only God who can bring fruit that will last.
And later I told God: “God, this is all your business. A healthy church is your affair. Churches closing their doors is also your business.” Believers all leaving is also God’s business. What I can do is extremely limited, Shi Si, I am just a sinner capable of sin. I am just a person prone to weakness— really! I am just a person who likes this world and even adores this world. I don’t know what to do with myself, or with others. So I can only live by depending on his word. (MI#5)
For the interviewed long-term Chinese missionaries, serving God entailed hardships that nevertheless could be joyfully faced.
Finally, calling brought fruitfulness. According to one missionary couple planting churches in a remote mountain area in China,
Actually, if I were a doctor in a hospital for a number of years, maybe I would achieve some personal accomplishments, and be able to help some people. Yet, in fact, that work would still be only temporal. But as it is now I see families, couples, and individuals whose lives are undergoing real change because of our service work. These are eternal fruits that bring a lot of comfort. Right, so sometimes I feel it’s really worthwhile spending my life here. I have a little bit of a successful feeling. (MI#1)
Because of calling, Chinese missionaries are willing to undergo much hardship. Without calling, no amount of organizational development for mission sending will be of any value. For more on the Chinese missionary call, please see my extended article, "Chinese Missionary Call: Exploring the Foundations of the Chinese Missionary Undertaking."