In this issue of ChinaSource, we profile China’s “influencers,” the up-and-coming generation whose choices and decisions will significantly affect the course of China’s future.
In terms of education, opportunity, status, and material wealth, the influencers have considerably more than the vast majority of people in China. Yet conspicuously absent from the worldview of most is a consideration of the spiritual side of life. China has seen decades of dramatic revival among peasants in the countryside. But among the influencers, most of whom are members of China’s growing urban population, the life-transforming story of Christ has yet to be told.
Christians from outside China can have a unique role in introducing the “influencers” to Christ. To be effective in doing so, a paradigm shift must occur in four areas.
First, while much has been done to serve the rapidly growing church in rural China, we have much to learn regarding the needs and opportunities of China’s cities. Assisting the rural church as we are able is important. However, for many from outside China the more culturally appropriate avenues for involvement are to be found among China’s growing urban population.
Secondly, by focusing our attention solely within China’s borders, we may miss some of the most obvious opportunities for service and witness among the future influencers, thousands of whom are currently studying or working in other countries. The question for many churches and organizations outside China is not how they can be effective in China, but, rather, how effective are they being right where they are. We need a global perspective as we consider how God is changing the hearts of those who will one day change China.
Related to this second point, we ought not to view our task among those living outside China as simply evangelistic. Many have already come to faith in Christ and are contemplating future ministry when they one day return to China. Some will go back as Christian professionals. Others will find a role in full-time Christian service. Now is the time to disciple and mentor these future leaders, who will play a significant role in the Chinese church of the future.
Finally, we should re-examine the current organizational sending model for those going to China. Many business and professional people have skills that are in demand in China today and, given the opportunity, would be willing to go. Their professional qualifications provide an entrée into the world of China’s influencers. For these professionals, the lengthy training and support raising required by traditional sending agencies constitute more of a barrier than a help in getting to China. Yet, very few alternatives exist to connect these individuals with the opportunities in China, orient them before they go, and provide a support structure once they are there.
How Christians outside China, particularly in the West, make this paradigm shift will determine in large part how effective they will be in influencing China’s influencers with the gospel. The opportunities are here. The story is waiting to be told.
Image credit: Journal Entry (Joel Montes de Oca) by Chris Lott, on Flickr.
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