"Are we ready?" Jonathan Li asks in this issue of ChinaSource.
A visit to Beijing 100 days out from the Games left me with the impression that preparations for the various sporting events are right on target or, in some cases, ahead of schedule. Crawling along on one of Beijing's increasingly congested ring roads, the "Bird's Nest" stadium looms through the haze, while, not far away, the famed Water Cube can be seen through a forest of cranes punctuating the surrounding skyline.
Meanwhile China's efforts to prepare culturally for the Games are evident in the "10 Dos (e.g. Do wait in line.) and Don'ts" (e.g. Don't spit on the floor.) hung prominently in public places.
Ready for the Games?
The spectacle that awaits international visitors and the millions who participate via TV and the internet will not likely disappoint.
The obvious dilemma is not the preparations for the Games themselves, but rather the challenge of building a world class city where visitors feel welcomewhether they are sitting in the stands at an event or chatting with their driver while traversing the city in a taxi or ordering lunch at a restaurant down the street from their hotel. This is a challenge that will remain long after the final medal is awarded and hotel prices return to some sense of normalcy. China's frenzy of activity to ready itself for the Games is but a brief sprint compared to the marathon race, launched 30 years ago, to develop into a modern nation.
Similarly, China's church, having rapidly outpaced any other nation in terms of church growth, now faces a long uphill climb.
Talking with many believers during this visit, I found they, too, were asking "Are we ready?"
These Christians were not referring to the Olympics. Rather their question was prompted by a sense that, in an atmosphere of growing openness and opportunity, they are being called to play an increasingly visible role in society. The church today struggles to strengthen its internal capacity while responding to the demands and expectations of a society that is morally adrift, searching for a solution that the church is uniquely positioned to provide.
Whether among leaders in China's official church, evangelists trained up in rural movements, or professionals serving in the emerging urban fellowships, China's Christians are finding new avenues to provide this answer as they express their faith in all areas of life. Their challenge is to do so with integrity and in a manner that shines under the glare of increased scrutiny from their society and their government.
This countdown to glory is not measured in days but in decades. Yet, as China hurries onto the world stage, there is a profound sense of urgency for the church in China as well.
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