The articles in this issue are taken largely from a gathering last year of Christian leaders from Mainland China along with representatives of several dozen international organizations involved in the region. These leaders shared their vision for the future of Chinas church, and together the participants discussed how Christians from inside and outside China might serve together in the days to come.
From at least three perspectives, Chinas church is poised to play a major role in global Christianity in the coming decades.
Looking at sheer numbers, China before long will likely have both the worlds largest concentration of Christians as well as the largest concentration of unreached peoples. Assuming increased interaction becomes possible in the future between the church internationally and the church in China, both official and unofficial, Chinas Christians may be expected to have a significant voice within the global Body of Christ. At the same time believers worldwide who are committed to see all peoples reached for Christ will continue to focus on China as a major mission field.
Chinas growing international clouteconomically, politically, diplomatically, and culturally will reflect the priorities of Chinese leaders in all of these areas of influence. The global community will increasingly have to come to terms with the Chinese way of doing things. However, should the Gospel continue to become more mainstream in China, Christians in these spheres will have opportunity to bring a new set of values to this global dialogue. Together with their counterparts in other nations, they could lead the way in forging Christ-centered approaches to the pressing issues facing the world in this century.
Finally, as travel to other countries becomes more commonplace, and as Christians in China mature in their vision for the spread of the Gospel beyond Chinas borders, a new wave of Christs ambassadors will likely emerge from within China. Fledgling efforts at cross-cultural ministry training and sending, some of which have proved disappointing both to those who were sent and to those doing the sending, indicate that this movement will not develop overnight. Cultural, spiritual, and logistical hurdles need to be overcome before China will see a full-fledged contemporary indigenous missions movement. Nonetheless, the seeds have already been planted for a Spirit-led thrust outward to regions where Christs name has yet to be proclaimed.
In this issue we examine the factors that have brought the Chinese church to this point of significant global involvement. With cautious optimism we explore, through the eyes of some who are themselves involved in writing this new chapter, the contours of what this new era could look like, mindful that these initial thoughts are but opening phrases in a conversation that will continue to evolve in the coming decades.
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