During 2002, Gideon Christian Fellowship sent its first ten workers to China. For CaroLynn Tucker, going to China with an international outreach team was the fulfillment of a vision she and other church members had nurtured for several years. Although they had the vision, they had no idea how to accomplish it or where to go for advice. But in 2001, CaroLynn and her husband Eric, an elder at their church, were invited to a “China Today!” Event held in New Orleans. There, CaroLynn and Eric saw the opportunity for their vision to become real.
“We had the desire to get involved, but we did not know how,” says CaroLynn. “We had tried to establish contacts in the past, but they did not seem to work out. At the ‘China Today!’ Event, we gained the know-how to achieve doable, practical goals for our mission. ‘China Today!’ showed clearly what the needs in China are, and how we could help meet them. And what made it all so exciting was the enthusiasm of the speakers. Their love for China and her people was infectious. It just made us want to get involved. And all the speakers were so approachable. They just helped us in any way that they could.”
Since 2002, Gideon, a non-denominational New Orleans church with a predominately African American congregation, has made three trips to China. In 2002, their team traveled to Xining, in 2003, to Urumqi, and in June of 2004, to Tibet. The church plans to continue its outreach focus to China indefinitely. Their China activities have created a snowballing effect on their international outreach as a whole. The church now has an expanded outreach ministry—growing at such a rate that the church renamed it “Impact Missions.” In 2003, a China contact resulted in including Africa as another outreach focus with church teams traveling there in 2003 and 2004.
CaroLynn Tucker’s experience at the “China Today!” Event is typical. Ever since the first “China Today!” Event was held in Wichita, Kansas in 1998, people attending them have had the same kind of response.
The purpose of a “China Today!” Event is to impact the hearts, minds and actions of a community of believers by presenting international experts and their insights on the history, persecution and subsequent growth of the Chinese and North Korean churches. “China Today!” events don’t focus on the work of just one agency. The event covers a full day featuring top Christian leaders who currently work with the Chinese and North Korean churches. The strength of the event is that it presents information from leaders of a variety of organizations doing work in China—each with its own unique perspective and area of influence. These men and women share personal knowledge of the trials and joys experienced by the Chinese church, communicate the needs it is facing, and provide practical ways to participate and connect believers with relevant organizations. A greater vision for China is birthed. Relationships are forged between leaders and communities of believers as they participate in pastors’ luncheons and mock house church services, and share their stories in area church services. Greater levels of involvement with China are produced long term as people respond to the call of God to intercede, give, mobilize and go to the field.
What a Basic “China Today!” Seminar Looks Like
A basic “China Today!” Event setting presents a powerful daylong experience for attendees that respond to the call of Proverbs 31:8: “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of those who are destitute.” In New Orleans in 2001, the day-long event featured five speakers relating firsthand knowledge of the churches in China and North Korea. Typical “China Today!” events feature three or more speakers. These speakers clearly articulate what the history, condition and needs of the Chinese and North Korean churches are. They inspire believers to action and then provide information on practical ways to serve. Speakers then introduce the names of organizations that participants may partner with in order to achieve their specific mission focus. Lunch is often offered as part of the event allowing for more informal discussion to occur between the speakers and those attending. In New Orleans, a continental breakfast was served allowing those who wanted to come early to meet speakers, view exhibits about international out reach opportunities and obtain literature in their special areas of interest.
The days before and after the seminar are opportunities for the speakers to maximize their community impact by speaking at local area churches and pastors’ meetings. This allows relationships and awareness to be built on multiple levels with a more diverse group of believers. It also allows those who were not able to attend the actual event the opportunity to hear testimonies and firsthand accounts of outreach activities. Some “China Today!” events may include a house church service presented the evening before the “China Today!” Event to promote the seminar and demonstrate what it is like to worship in a place of persecution. This type of meeting will often draw many who might not attend the event but could participate for an evening. The New Orleans event included a communion service where several participants stood and proclaimed “I have not been served” as a way of representing the needs of underserved minorities in China. Such experiences have underscored the need for special attention to those minorities. Several churches then adopted specific minorities as their special area of attention.
Potential Outcomes of “China Today!” Events
In the past, the outcomes that have flowed from a “China Today!” Event have resulted in members of a local Christian community developing an informed, renewed or even initial energy to learn more about China and to serve the Chinese church. Typical reactions are that attendees go back to their home churches and organize short- or long-term international outreach trips. In several cases, attendees at “China Today!” events have entered long-term service in China. Attendees return to their home churches ready to share the information they have learned with their pastors, Sunday School classes, or outreach directors. In some cases, attendees who were not able to travel to China themselves have become supporters of ministries which serve China.
The church in China continues to grow at an unprecedented rate, with an estimated 40 to 90 million believers currently serving the Lord, mostly through unregistered house churches. However, millions more wait to hear the name of Jesus. While an indigenous church thrives, many challenges exist due to persecution, lack of training and insufficient Bibles and materials. In North Korea, serving Jesus is forbidden and believers are put to death regularly. The Chinese church is persecuted and tolerated, hidden and open, flourishing and struggling. The political climate makes open proclamation of the gospel difficult. The voices of Chinese believers are rarely heard in the international press. Their struggles are not widely known in the United States. The “China Today!” Event seeks to put into context the seemingly confusing paradoxes about serving effectively in China and clarify outreach opportunities. “China Today!” Event attendees leave energized and motivated to join the Lord in His work in China and North Korea.
Presenting a “China Today!” Event
China Harvest staff member, Mary Gilliam, is available to assist churches or individual organizers to develop and present “China Today!” events. Mary, along with her team, works directly with the event organizers in each city to help facilitate and provide information and ongoing support for their event. In addition, China Harvest has developed a “China Today!” planning manual which is available to anyone wishing to produce a “China Today!” event. The manual contains helpful guidelines for planning, a timeline to keep planning on track and in perspective, materials for marketing and public relations, and information on how to organize and get started. Instructions, letters of introduction, sponsorship, and tracking and follow up materials for a seminar are included in this manual. Mary is also available to work with local organizers in establishing topics and speakers for the event, assisting with public relations activities and materials and in the actual implementation of the event.
For more information: contact China Harvest at 1-800-715-3292 or Mary Gilliam at maryATgilliam.com.
Sample topics and activities of a “China Today!” Event
- What you and your church can do
- Short term trips to China
- Unreached people groups of China
- Testimonies of Chinese believers
- Church planting in China
- The church in North Korea
- Platforms for service in China
- Campus ministry to reach Chinese students in the United States
- Praying for China and North Korea
- Serving as a professional in China
- Training for long-term service
- Is there religious freedom in China?
- and more
Topics and activities change as the dynamics of service and outreach opportunities in China and North Korea change.