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Loving China from Overseas

Promoting Revival and Transformation

In 2010, I was deeply involved in the Lausanne Movement’s activities in China, promoting the participation by Chinese churches in the Lausanne Congress held that year in Cape Town, South Africa. I had only one reason for my involvement: the Chinese church is an inseparable part of the universal church and as such should be linked with the rest of the global church. The Chinese church needs the global church, and the global church needs the Chinese church. Christ is one, the Holy Spirit is one, the Bible is one, all churches in the world are the body of Christ, and all Christians are citizens of the kingdom of heaven.

In 2012, the Lausanne Movement held a consultation on China in South Korea. At the meeting, I told the new Lausanne international president and all the delegates that God has raised up different “leading mission countries” at different times, to become the pioneers of mission in an era or even a century—for example, Britain in the nineteenth century, the United States in the twentieth century, and South Korea after the 1980s. China will certainly become such a “leading mission country” in the twenty-first century. However, before China can become a “power for missions,” China must first be “revived” and “transformed.” As when someone attempts to scale a mountain peak, they first have to climb up the mountain. From the history of missions, we can see that no nation that became a powerful influence in missions was not first revived and transformed.

What this implies is that before China can make a big impact for missions in other nations, the church in other nations must first stand together with the Chinese church to promote China’s revival and transformation.

When looking further into the geographic progression of global missions, we notice that the gospel spread from Jerusalem to Samaria, then from there to Antioch and throughout the Roman Empire, and beyond. The gospel spread west to Europe but also east through Central Asia, to India and China, as well as south to Ethiopia in Africa. After the Reformation in the sixteenth century the gospel spread from Europe and the British Isles to North America. With the “modern missionary movement” of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries the gospel spread to Asia, Africa, and South America. In more recent decades we have seen the church in South Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, and other East Asian regions, as well as in the Global South, becoming involved in missions. In the 1970s, and especially after the 1990s, the wave of gospel revival came to China. 

One could say that in the season we are in today, God’s heart is for China, and the main battlefield of the gospel is in China. The transformation of China is not only an important mission given to the Chinese church, but it is also given to the universal church. The evangelization and Christianization of China are vitally important for the future of the kingdom of heaven and the world. There must be no delay. The opportunity cannot be missed.

However, the current environment in China is not friendly towards overseas gospel workers. One could even say that the situation has been getting increasingly worse. In fact, as early as 2007, the year before China hosted the 2008 Olympics, China expelled hundreds of overseas “missionaries.” forcing them to leave the country as soon as possible. After 2017, the situation deteriorated even further. China did not continue to reform and open up as many had hoped but rather took a big step backwards. 

Given this situation, is there anything that those overseas can do to promote China’s revival and transformation?

The answer is yes. As mentioned earlier, the Chinese church cannot do without the church overseas, and China’s revival and transformation also needs the church overseas. If it is said that local Chinese gospel workers are the “Army” and the overseas Chinese gospel workers are the “Navy,” then the mission force of overseas countries and nations is like the “Air Force.” Only as “land, sea, and air” forces are united together can China be won for Christ. 

On the surface, the situation in China may appear to be getting worse, however, it has often been when times are bad that the Chinese church has experienced revival. For example, the first wave of revival experienced by Chinese house churches was in the latter part of the Cultural Revolution and the second wave of revival experienced by Chinese churches was after June 4 in 1989. The situation in China now has once again worsened: the economy is declining, unemployment levels are rising, regulations have become much stricter, the “open-door” has been increasingly closing, and strategically a sensitive geopolitical situation has developed involving the United States and other nations. On the other hand, “man’s extremity is God’s opportunity.” This is the time when China, of all nations, is perhaps most open spiritually, and the hearts of the Chinese are like dry wood ready to be ignited by the fire of the gospel.

At this time, overseas churches should work closely with Chinese churches to jointly promote the third wave of China’s revival, spreading the gospel widely until the Chinese nation is transformed. There are at least seven things overseas churches (both Chinese and other churches) can do:

  • First, overseas churches can continue to pray for China;
  • Second, overseas churches can continue to send missionaries to China;
  • Third, overseas churches can strengthen their links with Chinese churches;
  • Fourth, overseas churches can encourage service in China via “kingdom companies”—an army of businesspeople with a heart for the kingdom;
  • Fifth, overseas churches can train Chinese workers;
  • Sixth, overseas churches can help Chinese churches in various aspects such as strategy, leadership, and communication;
  • Seventh, overseas churches can help the gospel effort in China through resources sent via the internet, the cloud, and by other means. 

Current difficulties and restrictions may make some of the above suggestions seem overly optimistic but let us trust God to show the way forward.

Facts have shown that in today’s internet age, overseas churches can do more and better for China. Let me briefly illustrate with the example of New Zealand. 

Since the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in 2017, China’s domestic situation has undergone tremendous change. In 2018, the Sino-US trade war started, and China’s international environment also changed dramatically. Chinese pastors in New Zealand realized that a new season was coming and for this reason, they all shared the vision of New Zealand standing up and praying for New Zealand, for other countries, and especially for China.

New Zealand is one of the most eastern countries in the world and therefore one of the first to welcome the rising sun each day. According to the theoretical 180-degree longitude as the international date line, the Chatham Islands, a territory of New Zealand, and Pitt Island (part of the Chatham Islands) is the first populated location on earth to welcome the New Year, while Gisborne, on the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island, is first city in the world to ring in the New Year. When the first light of dawn breaks upon New Zealand, most of China is still shrouded in the darkness of the early morning hours, and people in America are still at teatime the day before.

Psalm 57:8 (NIV) says: “Awake, my soul! Awake, harp and lyre! I will awaken the dawn.” Who should rise first to “awaken the dawn”? Of course, it is New Zealand, the land of the sunrise, that should bear the weight of that responsibility!

“Land of the Sunrise, Awakening the Dawn; The First Ray of Light, a Watch for the World” has become a vision for Chinese churches in New Zealand. The “First Ray of Light Global Prayer Meeting” was first held in New Zealand in 2018. Each New Year, as the world’s “first ray of light” is emitted, prayer for China is a major focus of this prayer gathering. This prayer meeting has now been held four times (2018–2021). As 2001 ended and 2022 began, more than 100,000 Chinese people participated online, and no doubt the influence of all those prayers reached all over China and her various churches. The 2022 prayer meeting will reach a new height as it is to be co-hosted with the church in China, with the theme of “Rise and Shine.”  

In addition, New Zealand Chinese churches also took advantage of the internet, especially the cloud, to launch a series of evangelistic and culture-related outreach programs designed for Chinese, entitled “Canaan on the Cloud.” These included:

  • for the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival, “Heavenly Songs Concert”;
  • for Thanksgiving, “Thanksgiving Twelve Disciples Concert”;
  • the “December 12 National Forum on the Kingdom”;
  • on Christmas Eve, the “I Have Peace Like a River” music testimony event;
  • over Spring Festival the “Spring Festival Gala on the Clouds”;
  • and for Chinese New Year, the “New Year Forum on Chinese Civilization”, and so on.

Pastoral leaders of Chinese churches said that these activities brought a breath of revival to China, inspiring confidence, courage, and power.

Yes, relying on Jesus, overseas churches definitely will be able to enter the stream of God, doing more and doing better, together promoting the transformation of China!

For more on the history and outreach of the Chinese Christian community in New Zealand, read the summer issue of ChinaSource Quarterly, “The Chinese Diaspora in New Zealand.”

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Image credit: Alessandro Erbetta on Unsplash.


ZHAO Xiao, PhD, is the founder and chairman of Cypress Leadership Institute, a former Macro Strategy Department Chief of SASAC Economic Research Center, a professor at the University of Science and Technology in Beijing and has done research for various entities including Harvard University and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.View Full Bio

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