China’s Harvest Fields, edited by Tabor Laughlin. Published by Resource Publications, an imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2020, 164 pages. ISBN-10 : 1725260913, ISBN-13 : 978-1725260917. Hardcover, paperback, and electronic versions available from Wipf and Stock or Amazon.
China’s Harvest Fields (edited by Tabor Laughlin) is a must read for anyone interested in the state of the church in China. Full disclosure, I was asked to review this book; and I’m thankful for it. Having served in southeast Asia for 23 years, the first 11 in China, I have long had China deep in my heart. For the past ten years, I have been the director of the Intercultural Studies program at Lancaster Bible College, where I seek to empower those preparing to serve the Lord around the world.
The book does a wonderful job of giving historical perspective to understand the current situation and future possibilities in China. The introduction to the book alone rates the price of the book. There is a balance of appreciation for all that cross-cultural workers have done in China with the understanding that the church in China needs to be the force behind reaching China. Additionally, the writers of these twelve chapters capture the potential for China’s burgeoning missionary movement. “The book aims to look at the current ways that missionaries and local Chinese believers can minister in China, while also highlighting ways for the Chinese church to be stronger and able to sustain and flourish long-term apart from help from missionaries.” (xiii)
One strength of the book is how current it is. Each contributor clearly has a pulse on what is currently happening within the church in China. A handful of the writers factor in China’s One Belt One Road (OBOR) policy and how the Chinese church should or should not take advantage of OBOR’s opportunities.
One small disappointment is a lack of background on each contributor. It would have been nice to know the qualification/context of each of them. Even with security concerns, something could have been given.
The book is presented in four parts with three chapters in each. The first part focuses on “Impacting Urban and Influential Chinese.” Fulton writes, “Most believers are Han Chinese who have had little if any prolonged exposure to cultures other than their own.” To that I give a resounding “Amen!” Many (all?) cultures are guilty of being ethnocentric. I believe the Han Chinese may need to wake up to this reality if they are to launch cross-cultural missionaries of their own. And Kim and Laughlin make the case that the many BAM and ESL opportunities are not going away anytime soon, even as the government tightens.
The second part, “Social Impact on Chinese Society,” brings the reader face to face with some of the harshest realities in China. Ensor’s desire for an emphasis on “applied bioethics” (especially related to abortion) logically leads to a call for pregnancy help organizations. Even as many anticipate the “coming winter” (of government tightening on the church), “the signs are clear: the future of social service ministry in China lies in the hands of the Chinese believers.” (62) Bennett adds that the church needs to demonstrate the love of Christ in addition to their evangelistic efforts.
In “Impacting Chinese House Churches,” Yeh, Farmer, and Doyle all present the need for theological education. The challenges and the opportunities are many. Personally, I was very much encouraged by this part of the book. I found myself beginning to wonder if the Lord might have a role for me personally in this way.
The final part, “Other Key Components in China’s Harvest Fields,” takes on a few more specialized opportunities for the church in China. Chen, Roland and Laughlin bring the book to a close with a call to humble and sacrificial mission combined with strategic planning related to people groups and minority peoples.
Another focus that a number of the writers make is the need to move away from a western paternalistic posture to sincere partnership. Related to this, the need for mentoring (head and heart level) over simply training (head level) is emphasized. This is not to imply that theological training is not needed. To the contrary, in spite of the seminaries that are open in China, there is a strong need to get solid theological education beyond the urban centers.
I traveled through China this past December, including the city of Shanghai where we served for our first seven years. That visit and this book have been used by God to rekindle my heart for the Chinese people. If you know anyone that is even remotely interested in the “inside scoop” of how the church in China is doing, get this book in his or her hands. And let this book serve as a prayer guide. China and its church will only increasingly impact the world in the coming years.
Our thanks to Wipf and Stock for supplying a copy of China’s Harvest Fields, edited by Tabor Laughlin for this review.
Dr. Ed Scheuerman and his wife Carol served with Pioneers in Southeast Asia for 23 years. They returned to Pennsylvania in the summer of 2010 for Ed to take up the role of Director of Intercultural Studies at Lancaster Bible College. They are excited about their ministry and continuing to …View Full Bio
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