Surveying the growth of the Body of Christ in China today, one is impressed by the diversity within the church. Clearly God is using different facets of the church to accomplish his purposes in China. Within this diversity, however, emerge some common challenges that affect the church at large. Addressing these challenges will be critical to the continued growth and vitality of the church in China. While many areas of need and opportunity could be listed, the articles in this issue of the ChinaSource journal suggest four in particular that deserve special attention and prayer:
Developing Theological Resources.
For the past 20 or more years, organizations and churches outside China have done much to provide training resources for emerging leaders inside. With the huge leadership gap facing China’s church, this ministry has been invaluable. Yet, one may ask, where are the indigenous theological writers and thinkers who will guide the church in this new century? Discovering and partnering with these individuals is an urgent task for those concerned about the future of the church in China.
Maintaining a Relevant Witness in Society.
For many in China the church has provided a support system, a community to belong to, a sense of personal significance, and a refuge from the rather chaotic society at large. This is particularly true of Christians in China’s rural areas, where the church has grown exponentially. Today materialism and the lure of China’s cities provide seemingly attractive alternatives to those seeking meaning and personal opportunity. How will the church maintain a relevant witness and shift from being simply a refuge from society to playing an active role as salt and light within that society?
Integrating with the Larger Body of Christ.
Nearly 25 years of interaction with Christians abroad has resulted in mutually beneficial relationships between believers inside and outside China, both Chinese and non-Chinese. The sharing of resources, prayer, and lessons learned—and the witness of those who live and work in China—have encouraged the development of the church and deepened the spiritual lives of those called to serve. In addition, many from China who came to Christ while abroad are already partnering with Christians inside or preparing themselves for such ministry. While these diverse relationships within the Body hold great potential for shared mission in days to come, successful cooperation will require careful attention to building healthy relationships and avoiding dependency, particularly in the areas of finance, leadership, and ministry resources.
“Back to Jerusalem” has emerged as a common theme among Christians in China. Some believe the church in China could eventually field the largest missions force in history, taking the Gospel not only to peoples within China’s borders but even to China’s neighbors and beyond. Yet, as Ben Matthews points out in his article, Chinese engaging in cross-cultural mission face the same challenges as do those outside China. Realizing the church’s missions vision will require the development of cross-cultural training efforts and support structures to sustain those who are sent out.
Brent Fulton is the founder of ChinaSource. Prior to assuming his current position, he served from 1995 to 2000 as the managing director of the Institute for Chinese Studies at Wheaton College. From 1987 to 1995 he served as founding US director of China Ministries International, and from 1985 to... View Full Bio