Resources by Swells in the Middle Kingdom
3 Observations from Teaching Biblical Interpretation
For many international organizations working in China, the transition to local leadership can be a challenging one. In particular, it is not always easy to achieve high levels of spiritual formation when many local leaders are either first generation believers or fairly recent converts.
A Chinese Voice from 120 Years Ago
The following is a suggestion made by a Chinese pastor to the rest of the attendees at the 1890 Shanghai conference of all the Protestant missionaries in China. It must have taken a lot of courage and strong convictions for him to address the room full of foreigners in this manner (there were only a handful of Chinese delegates at the 1890 Conference). Yan's purpose in speaking was to remind the missionaries that in addition to attracting new converts, there was still much work to be done to care for the believers already in the churches.
A Different Kind of Challenge to Effectiveness
I have recently been struck by how susceptible my attitude is to being influenced by my environment. This sounds obviousalmost tautologicalbut let me explain a bit about the kind of influences I am thinking of.
An Anti-Management Management Book
The Choice—A short and straightforward read with one profound insight at its core. . .
Are You "Among the People"
The following is a quotation from James Hudson Taylor, speaking to a gathering of field workers Pingyang, Shanxi in 1886.
Becoming a Sending Church
Many would agree that learning to work cross-culturally is one of the greatest barriers to achieving China’s Christian dream of becoming a mighty missionary nation. Without denying the challenges involved in raising up a cohort of culturally sensitive Chinese Christians, there is a yet another aspect of the Chinese missionary dream which has yet to receive much concerted attention. In addition to calling, equipping and sending the cross-cultural workers themselves, it is also necessary to call, equip, and mobilize the local congregations to play their part in the mission project.
Calvinism on the Ground in China
In recent years Calvinism has become an increasingly common topic of discussion within Chinese Christian circles. This trend has not gone unnoticed, and many scholars of Christianity in China are working to document and understand the growth of Reformed Christianity within the mainland.
Changing Ministry in the New Normal
It had been an engaging but exhausting two days. Pastors and ministry leaders from all across China had gathered with a smaller number of expatriate China workers to reflect together on some of the key trends in the mainland Chinese church. The meeting was conducted almost entirely in Chinese, and the range of topics addressed was dizzying, but also encouraging: indigenous mission and sending agencies, social engagement, theological education, Christian schooling, global partnership—in all these areas interest is high and progress encouraging.
Christmas Crowds in China | Part 1
Crowds of Security Forces
Over the Christmas holiday I saw three very different large gatherings, each of which demonstrates a prominent trend in contemporary China. Taken together, these three crowds say something profound about the direction that China and her church are headed.
Christmas Crowds in China | Part 2
Crowds of Apples
As I walked through the center of town on Christmas Eve, I was forced every few steps to maneuver around yet another vendor trying to sell me something. In years past the pushcarts had been covered with Santa hats and light-up electronic wands. This year, however, it was all about apples—enormous apples branded with fortuitous (or sexy) images and packaged in Christmas-y cardboard boxes.
Christmas Crowds in China | Part 3
Crowds of New Believers
In years past I have marveled at the large numbers of people who flow through China’s churches every year at Christmas. I know of one urban church that hosts over 10,000 visitors during its six Christmas services. Each year I see the church building bursting at its seams, bodies crammed along every aisle and stairway. Each year I watch as the area around the church is closed to traffic and swarmed by young people eager to catch a glimpse or hear a word of Christmas—compelled by a sense that Christmas must in some ways must be connected to the church.
Community and Witness
Cross-cultural workers have long debated the merits of devoting more or less time and energy to relations with other expatriates.
Hold to the Tension
Cross-cultural work is all about living between two poles and keeping them in juxtaposition. The problem is that modernity - our western Enlightenment culture - drives us to resolve that tension.
Keeping a Proper Perspective
From the opening chapter of his work on the proper method of mission practice (Nevius was at least partly inspired by Timothy Richard's work in Shandong), the following quote is a reminder for those of us who have found what we believe to be a better method for working in China to keep a proper perspective:
Learning from a Bad Sermon
The sermon was "not good," or at least that was my impression.
My Problem with Progress
I recently went to my local bank to receive an electronic bank transfer. I have been a customer at this bank for nearly 15 years, and so the idea that I have to show up with ID and fill out reams of paperwork just to "accept" a wire transfer into my account does not upset me. On this occasion, however, I was a bit anxious. Having only just returned to China, I was still waiting for my residence permit to be completed. This meant that my passport was still in the hands of the city Public Security officials—and would likely remain there for the next couple weeks.
New China, Old China
For those of us who live in China’s large cities, the stunning pace of technological and economic development can be overwhelming: ubiquitous smartphones, buses full of people streaming video on their hand-held devices as they commute in air-conditioned comfort, door-to-door food and grocery deliveries, super-chic cafes selling sugared caffeine or fruit libations hot or cold, Uber and DiDi rides on demand, and of course the explosion of online shopping. This is the “new China,” a thoroughly modern place that seems nicely in step with the cultural and economic trends we are familiar with back home in our passport countries.
Post-Conference Reflections on Expatriate Ministry in China
What I learned on my Thai Spring Festival holiday...
The Challenges of Localization
Why Localize Now?
This is the first in a five-part series on localization of China ministry. Each essay centers on a different issue that the author has encountered as his organization goes through the process of handing over key leadership to local believers. The challenges are real, and the process is ongoing, meaning that some essays contain as many questions as answers.