The stewardship of China’s resources in this century has profound implications not only for China as a nation but for the world.
As John Nagle points out in “How China’s Christians can Heal China’s Environment,” any list of the world’s most polluted cities or rivers will undoubtedly contain a preponderance of entries from China. Should China continue to go the way of Western nations in its reliance on fossil fuels, land use and consumption of food and water resources, the effect upon the environment globally would be disastrous.
The global economic crisis has put China squarely in the spotlight, as the way in which China’s leaders choose to steward the nation’s vast foreign exchange reserves now directly affects the ability of businesses and even other governments to get on the path to recovery.
In business, a significant soft spot in China’s meteoric economic growth has been a dearth of qualified managers. Stewardship of talent—both self-awareness and development of individual abilities as well as the way in which business leaders steward the development of those under them—has been severely overlooked, to the detriment of China’s long-term economic prospects.
Just as the West has been less than a shining example to China or to other nations in its consumption of resources and treatment of the environment, so the Western church has offered precious little to Chinese Christians in the broader area of stewardship.
Mark Foreman, in his book Wholly Jesus, critiques in particular the dualistic thinking of the American church, which happily embraces and protects the trappings of the world’s most profligate society yet glibly preaches that the material world ultimately does not matter.
Unfortunately this mindset has often been carried unwittingly into China, with Christians from outside encouraging Chinese brothers and sisters to do “spiritual” ministry but offering little to equip them for the very real stewardship opportunities facing them every day in their homes, workplaces and communities. While lip service has been given to “reaching influencers,” one might ask how much thought has been given to equipping them to exercise this influence in today’s China.
Unlike their peasant brothers and sisters of previous decades, today’s urban believers find themselves daily confronting issues such as those mentioned at the beginning of this column. As business leaders, educators, officials and professionals in a variety of fields, they are increasingly in a position to steward human and material resources. The decisions they make do have environmental, financial, cultural and ethical implications, not to mention implications for their own families and communities.
Thus, it is refreshing to watch many of them, unhindered by the dualistic thinking of the “Christian” West, as they seek to apply their faith to all areas of life in a way that is seamless and natural. How the church in China continues to practice stewardship into the future bears watching by a global church that is itself in need of rediscovering true stewardship.
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