For nearly 40 years Christians from overseas have been serving in various capacities in China. With the changing needs in China, and with the development of the indigenous church, the role of the foreign worker is now in transition.
How do China’s Christians today view their relationship with Christians from overseas, particularly in light of their own church situation? How do foreign workers and the organizations that send and support them see their role? Do we share a common vision? Or, to borrow a common Chinese idiom, is it a case of “same bed, different dreams,” working together yet having different expectations?
These questions led to the formation in 2015 of the China Gospel Research Alliance (CGRA), a consortium of four organizations in Hong Kong, all with a long history of China involvement. The CGRA members put together a team of researchers from Hong Kong, the PRC, and elsewhere and launched a study of Christian leaders in China and the organizations that serve with them.
In this issue of ChinaSource Quarterly we feature key findings of the CGRA study. My lead article examines the characteristics of those surveyed, highlighting their perceptions of how well the church today is doing in several important areas. Peony Tang and Zoe Zhou look at important dynamics in the cross-cultural relationship between the church in China and believers outside with which they seek to partner.
In response to the perennial question, “What about persecution?” we offer the perspectives of two church leaders, whose backgrounds and experience are as different as the opinions they express about China’s current policy environment.
One of the largest looming challenges facing Chinese society and the church in China is the country’s rapidly growing elderly population. I revisit some of the central issues in this looming demographic crisis and offer ideas on how the church can respond. Finally, to round out this issue with some historical perspective on where the church has come from in the past four decades, we feature a review of a new book honoring Tony Lambert, Christ in China: An Anthology, that contains a selection of articles he has written over the years.
So what do believers in China expect of their foreign or overseas Chinese partners?
In his article on how the expectations of Christian leaders in China have changed over the decades, Steve Z. remarks simply, “They are eager to have ‘company.’”
Decades of service to the church in China have brought great blessing both to China’s church and to believers outside China. Today with the maturing of the church has come a desire to truly serve with the global church. The future success of churches and organizations that serve China will depend in large part on their ability to make this shift in their relationships with China’s church.
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