For those of us from the western church, we have the advantage of a rich history of sending workers to share the gospel cross-culturally. That history includes experiences —both positive and negative—that have undergirded efforts to reach people across cultural, religious, and economic boundaries. We take it for granted that the church is to send workers out. It’s a normal part of the church’s responsibility and ministry. Those who are sent out learn from the mistakes of those who went before. But Chinese Christians now being sent to other countries have very few examples to follow from their own country. In many cases they are the first to go. Can we share our cross-cultural experience with them as they blaze new trails for the Chinese church?
Though some may say Chinese cross-cultural workers just need more training, sending fruitful workers is not just a matter of getting good training before they go. Even more important than pre-field training is having experienced and solid coworkers who can assist and guide them once they arrive on the field. Are such on-the-field coworkers available for Chinese cross-cultural workers? Perhaps not if there are no other Chinese workers who have already been in that area long-term and are bearing fruit in their ministry with local people.
Western Workers Filling in the Gap
Are there other options for providing help and direction for Chinese cross-cultural workers once they arrive on the field? Is it reasonable for western workers who have been serving in China long-term to fill this gap? Could they go with Chinese workers to an unreached nation in teams to serve together? The western workers could help them appreciate the importance of learning the local language, investing in local people, and sharing the gospel appropriately while also adjusting to the new culture and getting settled in a legitimate job or other opportunity for being in the country.
The western worker has experience in this if he has already gone through this process successfully in China. He could be a model for the Chinese workers once they are sent to the unreached nations, if they move there together. After a few years of observing and working with the western worker in that nation, then hopefully the Chinese workers would be self-sufficient and ready to have a long and fruitful ministry among the local people.
Helping to “Supply What Is Lacking”
Is it worth the sacrifice for western workers to leave their work in China to spend at least a few years in a Muslim nation to help give Chinese workers guidance there? Yes, it does seem to be worth it. Paul talks about how he desires to “supply what is lacking” [1 Thess. 3:10] in the Thessalonian church’s faith. This is an opportunity for western Christians to help supply what is lacking in the Chinese church. Coming from a western church, we are used to the great benefits of sending workers from our churches. Not only is it a blessing for those who go as cross-cultural workers to see God working across the world, but sending out such workers is also a great blessing for the sending church. The people in the sending church are encouraged by those they send, because they hear how God is working around the globe and they play a part in the work through their prayers. Churches that send out many cross-cultural workers often take this for granted and fail to see the great value to the sending church as well as to the nations.
Because most Chinese churches are not currently sending out cross-cultural workers, they are not able to share in this awesome blessing. And often if a church has sent out such workers, a good number of them are floundering and not seeing any fruit. This is an area in which their faith is lacking. Any way that we can help the Chinese church be more fruitful in sending out cross-cultural workers is a way that we can help to “supply what is lacking” in the Chinese churches’ faith. So yes, it is very worthwhile to play a part in the sanctification of the Chinese church, that they may be presented as pure and radiant before the Lord. This is fulfilled when the Chinese church is sending out fruitful laborers to the nations.
Image credit: Gaylan Yeung.
Tabor Laughlin (pseudonym) is a PhD student in Intercultural Studies at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He received his MDiv from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Missions and his bachelor’s degree in Aerospace Engineering from Oklahoma State University. He has been serving in China for ten years, and is president of a... View Full Bio