More than a Label

From "Back to Jerusalem" to "Indigenous Mission Movement from China"

Back to Jerusalem (BTJ) has raised the expectation that China can be a significant missionary-sending country. With an exciting slogan, a clear target and a specific number of missionaries, it claims China is to take up the last baton of the Great Commission and bless the nations. This optimistic projection assumes:

  1. The baptism of fire experienced by the Chinese church in earlier decades will be a new driving force for missions.
  2. The house church model developed under very restrictive government policy will become a new paradigm for ministry in CAN countries.
  3. Explosive economic growth in China will finance this missions endeavor.
  4. A big church membership base will make sending a large number of workers possible.

Yet, after many years of much publicity, these words have been like thunder with no rain (“”). In a recent international conference, in response to reports of 29,000 workers sent by the United States, 20,000 from Korea and 300 from Mongolia, the Chinese delegate’s input was “we are still waiting.” This response has drawn emotional outcries of “cheater and international scandal” from some circles.

The most urgent steps to make IMM from China a reality are:

  1. A clear missiology: This is pointed out by several authors in this issue. The Great Commission is not exclusively Chinese. One African delegate in the 2012 Ethne Conference expressed this clearly by saying: “Even if Jerusalem is the goal of missions, it is approaching Jerusalem from all directionsnot just the East. The Great Commission is not an exclusive mandate given only to East Asia.” The high profile BTJ publicity has already caused backlashes from Islamic states in the Middle East, even through diplomatic channels. Such an approach is contrary to the low-profile, non-confrontational Christian witness practiced in most CAN ministries today. In the place of BTJ, IMM from China has fast become a more acceptable label and model.
  2. A cooperative network. Up until now, the few churches involved in cross-cultural missions have been working independently. Most projects were coordinated and funded by overseas organizations with China providing the labor. This is similar to the way China has become the world’s factory for manufacturing. A cooperative network would involve the following:
    • Organizing regional and national mission conferences that will support regional sending agencies.
    • Learning from the rich experience of overseas sending agencies through exchange and participation in international conferences.
    • Adapting mobilization tools that are effective in other parts of the world.
  3. A resource center. A center of world missions, similar to the ones in the West and Korea, should be established as suggested by Kam. The role of the center would be as follows:
    • Collect Chinese missiological writings and encourage development of indigenous authors.
    • Translate and publish overseas writings to broaden local missiological thinking.
    • Organize mobilization and training courses while establishing a standard for missionary training.
    • Train field directors so that in ten years time there can be a group of indigenous leaders. The “double-sending model” suggested in Warm-hearted; Cool-headed is a viable model to implement this.
  4. A financial base. No doubt China will need foreign financial support given the current religious policy. However, any subsidy should only be considered after the Chinese church has contributed to the fullest extent possible. In other words, local support must be the main support; overseas contributions should only be supplemental. Full financial independence should be achieved within fifty years.

* This editorial is a joint effort by two, seasoned, cross-cultural workers who have extensive experience in exploring IMM from China. The most significant contributions in this spring issue come from mainland Chinese authors.

Image Credit: Joann Pittman

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WU Xi (pseudonym) began serving China during the mid-70s, just before China’s Open Door policy was implemented. He served in many different capacities including working with Chinese scholars studying in the West, front-line evangelistic work, and church mobilization for China. He now focuses on developing China’s mission ecosystem.View Full Bio


TT is the founder and director of one of the most mature sending structures in China.View Full Bio