While some feel that the Western church should do little to support the Chinese missionary sending movement outside of prayer, a number of Chinese missionaries welcome foreign involvement, feeling hampered, for example, by an inability to raise the large amounts of capital needed to fund missions (MI#6). The issue is not simple. Mission sending needs to be indigenous. Yet the body of Christ and its role in the world should not be ineffectually divided along ethnic or linguistic lines (Ephesians 3:15). In the early days of the Korean missionary sending movement, Western missionaries mentored Korean missionaries and helped them to enter into new mission fields. There are some who would like to see such a pattern repeated with Chinese missionary sending. In part one of this article, I will discuss several particular ways the foreign church might assist the Chinese missionary-sending effort. In part two, I will then examine more specifically the issue of financial partnership between Chinese and international mission senders.
General Partnership Possibilities
Older sending countries (OSC) can help the mission-sending efforts of newer sending countries (NSC) in many areas. The OSC church can certainly support through prayer. Established mission agencies might provide training materials. Western mission-sending organizations, working through organizations like the World Evangelical Fellowship, could support national mission movements sharing wisdom gained from experience. Experienced missiology teachers might be shared.  Some Western mission agencies have already opened their membership to non-Westerners who serve alongside their Western peers with equal status. In this way these agencies hope to develop cross-cultural missionaries from among NSC workers, though results with this approach have not always been positive.  Western mission agencies might help with field placement of NSC missionaries. Established missionaries from OSC could mentor newly sent Chinese missionaries in their first year of missionary service. If placement on an existing Western medical missionary team is being considered, intermediaries such as a foreign cross-cultural worker in China can facilitate relational connection between Chinese mission workers and mission-location leadership. One Western medical mission leader serving in Thailand made this need for connection to a relationship system more explicit. “If they have a supervisor or sponsor joining them, I am interested. If they are by themselves, I am not interested in hosting them.” Coordination of effort across mission-sending organizations could help each organization find its strategic place in the task of world evangelization. These kinds of cooperation have the potential to maximize effective usage of limited resources and to demonstrate Christian unity.
Mission-Sending Organization Partnership Possibilities
Mission-sending organization development in China may draw the attention of Chinese governing authorities unsupportive of the goals of missionary senders. Consequently, some missionary sending organization development has occurred “below the radar.” But organizations that develop in secret are difficult for potential missionary candidates to find. Under clandestine conditions, missionaries and the churches willing to support them will find it difficult to obtain materials explaining doctrinal and policy positions of a missionary-sending organization, thus further hindering relationship development between mission-sending organizations and the candidates who seek them.
To resolve this problem, Chinese mission-sending organizations might form partnerships with the overseas church, especially sending organizations with centers in culturally and linguistically similar “bridge” locations like Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macao. Bridge organizations (e.g., Luke Society in Taiwan, In His Image in Macao) might be willing to provide official appointment of missionary candidates at the completion of their training while quietly leaving the management and responsibility for the missionary in the hands of any mainland Chinese missionary-sending organization. This could safeguard mainland Chinese missionary-sending agencies. For example, if the Chinese government were to become aware that medical tentmaking missionaries were successfully spreading the gospel in an expatriate clinic in Egypt, an investigation may follow. Given its economic goals and sensitivity to no-proselytizing requests from the Egyptian government, the Chinese government could well move to shut down the source of these tentmaking missionaries, leaving a solely mainland China-based mission-sending organization highly vulnerable. Such a shutdown would be far less likely, however, if the sending organization could be identified as a registered company outside mainland China. If there are agencies outside China willing to serve in such a role that already have a measure of credibility among Chinese churches in China, so much the better. These formal partnering structures outside mainland China would not only officially appoint missionaries and sustain formal relationships with them for appearance purposes, but also could provide various kinds of support for the real sending entity on the mainland as well as the Chinese missionary in the field.
Business Partnership Possibilities
Through business partnerships, the foreign church has the potential to support the Chinese missionary-sending effort. As an example, Chinese medical missionaries willing to serve as tentmakers might prove a worthy business investment. Chinese doctors have expressed willingness to serve as tentmaking missionaries.
A survey was distributed to 32 Chinese physicians and medical students who were interested in missionary service asking them about willingness to serve on the mission field as “tentmakers,” earning part or all of their living and ministry expenses. A score of one meant the physician respondent was more desirous of being supported by a local Chinese sending church(s) in missions work. Increasing scores demonstrate increased willingness to earn income as a tentmaker in the mission location to support livelihood.
For tentmaking Chinese medical missionaries, local medical licensure must be obtained in the country of service. This is not a problem in some locations, i.e. Cambodia. Other countries in the 10/40 window may refuse to license Chinese doctors to see patients from their general population. However, qualified Chinese doctors have been able to secure medical licenses to attend Chinese patients. Secular Chinese international clinics serve as potential models, and these clinics have been able to provide Chinese doctors competitive compensation. According to Jason Li, CEO of a company hiring Chinese physicians to serve abroad, openings were available in Guinea and Sudan for highly trained Chinese physicians, paying between around US$2,500 and US$3,200 per month. At the time of my interview with Mr. Li, this was about two to three times the average wage for similarly trained Chinese physicians working within China. Expat Chinese serving as doctors for expat Chinese businessmen makes sense to local governments. Chinese businessmen are, after all, more likely to settle in and stimulate the economy of places where available health care providers understand their language, culture, and expectations. Funds are necessary for the capitalization of clinic start-ups in proposed field locations. The overseas church might help with this.
Tentmaking professionals in other business areas can function analogously. After learning the local language, missionaries can develop relationships with locals, and then be useful in kingdom-expansion work through doors that God would open once a missionary is firmly planted linguistically and culturally. Strategic partnerships with local churches and other missionaries can form to facilitate missionary objectives.
Chinese Oversight of the Overall Effort
The Chinese church, full of passion and brimming with enthusiasm, is yet inexperienced and can still benefit from the insight and guidance of a humble, more experienced extra-national church willing to commit itself to servant leadership in facilitating this Chinese dream of missionary sending. Nevertheless, foreign support for the Chinese missionary task does not negate Chinese oversight of the overall effort. Leadership of missionary-sending organization development must remain in Chinese hands. The Chinese church must oversee Chinese missionary sending in order to truly strengthen the undertaking and be strengthened by it. Missionaries who sustainably deploy and who find ways of being salt and light, can carry the stories of their sacrificial service back to the Chinese church that sent them, encouraging the church. In time, the Chinese churches thus encouraged may grow in their faith and ability to support not just tentmaking missionaries, but also missionaries needing full financial support.
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