To the outsider so much of what Christians are now facing in China seems ill timed and unbearable. However, I found myself reading the winter issue of the ChinaSource Quarterly with fullness-of-time lenses (See Galatians 4:4–5). Contributors to this issue see Immanuel’s presence, guidance, and timing, even when interminable suffering is involved. As Xingwu Lin concludes: “I deeply believe that the more the church is in difficult circumstances, the more it experiences the grace and power of God.”
In his lead article, guest editor Peter Bryant orients us to the themes of the coming articles. “The purpose of the current issue is to help readers understand where China is headed so that we can better pray, support, and engage with brothers and sisters in China.” Brent Fulton calls on us to intentionally focus on the stories of Chinese Christians both in the mainland and abroad as they bring us an “eternal perspective to the drama playing out on the world scene as China continues moving toward center stage.” This is because the closer we look, the more we see the Spirit of Jesus Christ calling and leading his people into fresh redemptive and transformational encounters, in both days of favor and tribulation.
There is so much here to engage with and prayerfully consider. The following is just a small sample:
- “China’s expanding international reach has grown at the same time as an indigenous missions movement. Chinese churches see themselves as playing a key role in the global missions efforts” (Peter Bryant).
- “Some of the same IT technology used for security and surveillance has also allowed the creation of many on-line communities that have helped overcome barriers between individuals and churches” (Peter Bryant).
- “The desire of people in many parts of the world to learn Chinese, and the openness of countries to foreign investment from China, provide potential paths for Chinese Christians serving cross-culturally” (Brent Fulton).
- The church in China is demonstrating that “persecution often brings pressure that can only be resolved as the church faces challenges ‘with one heart and one mind.'” (See Acts 4:23-31.) Unity is not an end in itself. “When the church has a clear sense of mission—a clear purpose—it is united” (Luke Wesley).
- In an age when patriotism and nationalism blur the identities of Christians worldwide, God’s people in China are hearing the call to “let the kingdom identity of the Triune God be the foremost identity of every child and the people of God” (Xingwu Lin).
- Christians in China are looking at their faith more holistically, seeking out ways of being salt and light in their community, not only through proclamation but through demonstration of the love of God. “Transformed theology certainly helped many Chinese Christians open their minds and realize that serving the community is also a mission to fulfill” (Caleb Ai).
- On the one hand, “for the foreseeable future the expatriate ministry within China will be smaller in numbers and scope.” On the other hand, “the immigration process has never been more streamlined for qualified candidates.” Ultimately, “the real danger at present is that God’s people will decide to give up on China because we think it is too difficult or too unpopular” (Swells in the Middle Kingdom).
This issue of ChinaSource Quarterly began with the aim of giving us a better understanding of our Chinese brothers and sisters, and it has succeeded admirably. We frequently affirm the vital importance of hearing and learning from fellow believers in China so that we can grow and serve together. All too often, what is missing is an understanding of what China’s Christians face each day. In this issue, we are offered thoughtful articles that do just that, providing us with rich draughts of wisdom and experience. We will be drawing from this deep well for some time to come.
Image: Chinese calligraphy for “New Era.”
Rev. Kerry Schottelkorb is the president of ChinaSource. For twenty years Kerry was involved in local church planting and youth ministry, both in the US and Hong Kong. He was the founding pastor of the Cle Elum Alliance Church in Cle Elum, Washington and one of two founding pastors of Evangelical …View Full Bio