A note from the director of ChinaSource Institute . . .
The religious climate in China, especially for Christians, may be messy but it’s not beyond understanding. This course, "The Church in China Today," offers a comprehensive overview of the church in China, ranging from a historical understanding of how far the church has come, to the struggles it endures in present day, to common misconceptions about the state of the church.
As part of the ChinaSource Institute’s ongoing effort to provide resources for those serving in China, we are pleased to announce our latest online course, “The Church in China Today.”
Are you wondering which posts you and your fellow readers enjoyed the most in 2016? Look no further; here is the list!
What are the real challenges facing the church in China today?
Common sense would tell us that what stands at the core of Christianity is its theology, polity, and mission. But when we come to Christianity in China, it is Chinese Christianity’s social impact and its implications for issues such as human rights and China’s international relations, rather than its pastoral and theological developments and challenges, that have received disproportionately large attention in the Western press in the recent decades.
What are the biggest challenges the church in China faces today?
Many people outside of China see the church in China primarily as a persecuted church and as a church with many needs. The reality of the situation for the Chinese church—especially with the emergence of the urban house church—is much more complex.
This month’s ChinaSource Conversations podcast—in just 30 minutes—will give you a head start on better understanding the church in China today as Brent, Joann Pittman, senior vice president of ChinaSource, and Mark Swallow, host of ChinaSource Conversations, discuss the key points in his book.
Brent Fulton, president of ChinaSource, Joann Pittman, senior vice president of ChinaSource, and Mark Swallow, host of ChinaSource Conversations, discuss the urban church in China and Brent’s new book, China’s Urban Christians: A Light that Cannot Be Hidden.
While officials in Zhejiang province are busy demolishing church buildings they deem to have been illegally built and removing crosses from the tops of churches, in Guangdong province a congregation has built itself a new church building in the shape of a violin!
What were the stories that generated the most buzz among Christians in China in 2015? The editors at Christian Times have identified the top Christian news stories in China for the past year. The following translation of the original article has been posted to China Christian Daily. It’s a good reminder of the discrepancy between what many in the West think must be “top of mind” for Christians in China and what actually is.
Quotes from Brent Fulton's new book.
The church in China—more Chinese or more global?
Chinese Christians have a unique place in global Christianity and are entering into deeper conversations with Christians worldwide. What do they offer each other? One of the greatest challenges to global Christianity is navigating fragmentation and diversity. Another significant challenge is interaction with people of other religions. How can Chinese Christians help in these and other challenges? What role do they play on the global scene? The author addresses these questions in his discussion of this topic.
The Chinese church is incredibly diverse.
If a Christian from the West were asked what the biggest Christian news story out of China was in 2014, no doubt the answer would be the campaign to demolish church crosses in Wenzhou, Zhejiang Province. In fact, for many in the West, that might be the only Christian-related news story out of China they are aware of.
Last week we posted part one of a translated article “Top Ten Christian News Stories in China in 2014”, highlighting stories #1-5. This week, we are posting the translation of the second half of the original article (from The Christian Times), with items #6-10: The Almighty God cult murders, the rise of ISIS and persecution of Christians worldwide, the government’s moves towards establishing rule of law for religion, a European Chinese church revival meeting, and a popular Christian singer.
On December 31, 2014, the mainland site Christian Times published a long article titled “Taking Stock at the End of the Year: Christian Times Top Ten Chinese Christian News Stories of 2014.” Topping their list, of course, was the ongoing church and cross demolition campaign in Zhejiang Province. But there were other events that caught the attention of believers in China, including a church scandal in Korea, a Mandarin-language evangelistic conference in Hong Kong, a celebration of the restoration of the church in Shenzhen, and the banning of two house churches in Foshan, Guangdong Province. We have translated the article and, since it is quite long, will publish it in two separate posts.
These are the ChinaSource Blog posts that our readers enjoyed the most in 2014. Did you read them? If not, click on the link to see what you missed!
Earlier this month, The Economist published an interesting look at the popularity of Christmas in China, a country that is officially atheist, and makes no room for any official celebration of the holiday.
That's a question I hear quite a bit whenever I speak on China. People want to know about the availability of Bibles in China. Unfortunately many people still believe that owning a Bible is illegal in China, something that hasn't been true for decades. But as with most things in China, the issue of Bible availability is complicated.
A decade ago David Aikman wrote Jesus in Beijing, provocatively subtitled "How Christianity is Transforming China and Changing the Balance of World Power."
Given the prevailing "persecution" narrative perpetuated in media reports about China, one could easily conclude a hostile, repressive regime poses the biggest threat to China's church. But is government persecution really what keeps believers awake at night? Or is the answer found within the church itself?
The article translated below is from a Chinese website called Urban Mission (jidutu123.com). In it the author ponders what role Protestantism can play in the future development of China. He begins by talking about the transitional nature of Chinas current social and political systems and where Chinas current reforms may or may not be headed. He then draws on the writings of German sociologist Max Weber to understand the current situation in China today, to the point of comparing contemporary Chinese society with the German Weimar Republic. Finally, he argues that the main contribution Protestantism can make to the development of China is constitutional government.
According to Rob Gifford, China Editor for The Economist, much has been written about the growth of the church in China, but to understand the church's impact we need to look beyond the numbers.
"How many Christians in China?"
"Are believers still persecuted?"
Anyone who has worked in China for even a short period of time has likely been warned about bringing up sensitive topics, especially political issues and certain historical events. There is great wisdom in avoiding these topics. After all, many of our initial perceptions of difficult history and current events are sure to be biased by our own media and education. It is better to observe, listen, and critically evaluate what we think we know with intentionality and in relationship. Our perceptions must be reworked in light of the real experiences of China's people.
To better understand the recent Sanjiang church demolition and what now appears to be a coordinated effort on the part of the government to curb visibility of Christianity in the public sphere, it is also helpful to briefly consider the relationship that Christianity has with China historically.
Yesterday I highlighted some of the key points of the first of two panel discussions hosted by the Brookings Institute last week. The specific topic of that panel was the political and social status of Christianity in China.
Is Christianity transforming Chinese society? The Brookings Institute China Center recently hosted two panel discussions exploring that question.
It's been awhile since a new book has found it's way onto my "must read" list, but I suspect that a new one Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China by Evan Osnos is going to end up there.
On Saturday night, April 26, 2014, Brent Fulton and I gave a talk at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, titled "The Chinese Church and the Global Body of Christ."
As of this morning (Monday, April 28) there are wild rumors floating around regarding the situation at the Sanjiang Church in Wenzhou, but what is not in dispute is that the church is, in fact, being demolished.
Late last week The Telegraph published a story about the rise of Christianity in China under the attention-grabbing headline "China on course to become 'world's most Christian nation' within 15 years."
As the news of the battle for Sanjiang Church in Wenzhou began to break over the last week and I read the accounts, I was reminded again why fully understanding Christianity in China from the West is so hard.
An interview with Dr. Fenggang Yang about a new exchange program at Purdue University.
The orthodox doctrine of the Trinity (三位一体) is that there is one God (一神) in three persons (三个位个).
At the Desiring God Conference for Pastors in Minneapolis last week, conference host John Piper spoke on the life of Hudson Taylor in a message titled, "The Ministry of Hudson Taylor as Life in Christ."
I recently came across a piece on PRI's "Here and Now" program about how the Tiananmen Square incident became a "watershed" for conversions to Christianity.
China's "official" churches (those operating under the auspices of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement) are fairly often associated with terms such as "restrictive," "government-sanctioned," or even "Communist-controlled." Granted, one does not have to look too far within China's religious bureaucracy and its associated policies and practices to find evidence that would justify such notions. Unfortunately, however, the perception of the official church which these labels create tends to mask much of what is actually happening on the ground in TSPM-affiliated churches.
I'm already two weeks into my current episode of jet lag, so I know there is no excuse. However, I still find myself waking up in the morning and wondering, "What day is this anyway?"
An article that appeared last month in China's official press raises interesting questions about how the church in China is viewed by both the Chinese state and society.
The church in China is often viewed through two prevailing and related paradigms. The "persecuted church" paradigm positions the church and the Chinese government in perpetual opposition to one another, while the "Christian China" paradigm sees Christianity as bringing a new moral order to China and foresees the day when the church will usher in political change.
This article looks at a few key events in the life of Victor Plymire, a pioneer missionary to Tibet in the early 20th century. My prayer is that this brief glimpse into his life will enlarge your view of God so that your faith would be strengthened and you might pursue God with renewed determination. Additionally, I hope that you would see the tremendous value of history and biography for the Christian life and the Church universal.
A ChinaSource interview conducted by Kay Danielson
In a recent interview, a pastor of a church, located in a rural district of a northern city in China, speaks about the congregation, its steady growth, its relationship with government officials, the challenges it faces and his responsibilities.
A Beijing house church pastor shares his reflections on the Asian Church Leaders Forum in Seoul, South Korea.
Gangwashi Church, Beijing's oldest Protestant congregation, celebrates the 150th anniversary of its founding
The Atlantic magazine just published an article about a move within the Vatican to canonize Matteo Ricci, the first Jesuit missionary to China, titled "Can Matteo Ricci's beatification mend China's rift with the Catholic Church?"
A Chinese Christina writes about the history of the Chinese Church, examines the issues and challenges facing the church today, and looks ahead.