In my previous blog we looked at the religious backgrounds of Chinese who become Christians and the most important reasons for their coming to faith. In this blog, we look further at three additional factors that influence Chinese people to become Christians.
First, the survey looked at the reasons that lead Chinese to actually convert to Jesus (commit to Christ and become a Christian). This is the difference between motivation and action. The results are shown in the figure below:
The diagram shows that the primary reason that actually leads modern Chinese to trust in Christ is personal evangelism or, by various channels, to hear and agree with what was heard about the gospel. The second is to solve practical needs that cannot be solved, such as illness. The third is to enter into a fellowship of Christian love, to study the Bible, and worship God.
Although we saw in the previous blog that the elements of Chinese Christian idealism are of greater influence than utilitarian motives, this does not mean that Chinese Christian ideals are divorced from reality. This figure also shows that Chinese Christians do not view “miracles” or “dreams” in the same way as they do the “gospel.” This result is in line with the Confucian cultural background of the Chinese, which is to “respect ghosts and spirits but keep them at a distance”.
At the same time, it also shows that the Christian church in reality, whether visible or intangible, is an important way for the Chinese to achieve an ideal, beautiful life. This kind of life includes the study of truth, fellowship of love, and satisfaction of practical needs. This is clearly another important reason for the growth of Christianity in China.
Second, the survey looked at the main people who influence Chinese people to become Christians. Although the current belief background of most church members is Christianity (as seen in the previous blog), it does not indicate that the growth of Christianity in China has been achieved through “spread within the family.” See the figure below:
Objectively, although “family spread” can cause “inheritance” to occur, it is difficult for it to lead to “growth.” This illustration shows that what really led to the “growth” of Christianity was the influence of church ministers and co-workers, followed by that of mothers. It should also be noted that “friends” have almost the same influence as “mothers.” This indicates that the existence of the church and Christians’ recognition and implementation of the “gospel mission” are the reasons for the “growth” of the church.
Because of the social environment of China, the church functions in “underground” and “informal” forms. The combination of this “gospel mission” and the “underground” situation has enabled the church to grow faster and more broadly.
Therefore, the third impetus1 for the growth of Christianity in China is the result of the implementation of “evangelicalism” under “informal conditions”. 2
A third area covered in the survey is the type of media involved in learning about and becoming a Christian. These results are shown in the following figure:
The internet has not become the main tool for the conversion of Chinese people’s beliefs. One factor is the ruling party’s vigorous control of internet information. Radio and video products3 also have limited impact. This is not a result of internet policies, but other factors.
The illustration shows that the most important material media that influence Chinese people to become Christians are the Bible and other Christian writings. This result shows, on the one hand, that the choice of media by the Chinese is closely related to the educational structure of Christians in contemporary China, and is in line with the results reflected in the previous “education level.” But at the same time, it also shows that the traditional culture of “writing is for conveying truth” still regulates the Chinese thinking mode. Therefore, I believe that the cultural background expressed by “writing is for conveying truth” is an important cultural factor in the growth of Chinese Christianity.
We should note that when Chinese believers say that they love reading and holding the Bible, they are not thinking of their favorite Bible translation. For Chinese Christians, there is generally just one Bible translation, the Chinese Union Mandarin Bible (CUV), which was published in 1919. The CUV soon replaced the previous versions written in local dialects and became the de facto “Bible” for the Chinese today. In recent years, several other versions have been published: Today’s Chinese Version, the Chinese Bible New Version, and the Chinese Contemporary Bible, etc. But for almost a hundred years, the Union Version’s position among the Chinese (including diaspora Chinese) was unquestioned. For Chinese believers, “The Bible” is synonymous with “The Union Version.”4
The results of the survey highlight the importance of Bible printing and distribution in the growth of the Chinese church for the reasons cited above.
The survey results covered in this and the previous blogs indicate that no matter how the authorities suppress the church, as long as they cannot provide the “products” being provided by the church (which align with the people’s ideals for a better life) the church will not be destroyed, but rather will continue to grow.
In the next blog we will look at why Chinese Christians get baptized and some overall conclusions from the survey data.
- The first two impetuses found in the survey are “to go to heaven” and “to know the truth.” See chart, “The Most Important Reason for People to Come to Faith” in “Demographics beyond Numbers (2).”
- The so-called “informal conditions” refer to a social situation with a lack of religious freedom, where Christian expression cannot obtain a legal status, and where there are no ways to employ public media to freely to broadcast information.
- There are no Christian television stations in China, so the response to “television” should be regarded more broadly as “video products.”
- See “10 Quotes about the Chinese Bible,” by Joann Pittman, ChinaSource Blog, April 22, 2019 and “The Chinese Bible,” edited by Joann Pittman, ChinaSource Quarterly, Vol. 20, No. 3, September 10, 2018.
Image credit: A friend of ChinaSource.
Steve Z. (pseudonym) is a pastor, writer, researcher, and specialist on church development.View Full Bio
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