I’m praying for the Chinese missionary-sending efforts.
As I study more about “Majority World Missions,” I see that it is not necessarily those majority world countries with the most Christians that send the most missionaries. Some of the top missionary-sending majority world countries over the last 40-50 years have been South Korea, Brazil, India, Nigeria, and COMIBAM (in South America).
Many factors are influential in determining which countries will flourish over time in sending long-term missionaries. The South Korean church has succeeded the most during the last 30 years in sending many missionaries, to all areas of the world, who stay on the field for decades, and learn the ways of the local people. Some of the other majority world missions movements have sent many people out, but they’ve returned home quickly and without fruit. Some factors that boosted the Korean church’s sending were: huge church growth in the 60s and 70s; significant economic growth; South Korea’s good diplomatic relations with most countries around the world.
Where will the Chinese missions effort fall on the spectrum of long-term missions-sending success?
At this point, it is very hard to say. But I’m praying that the Spirit is strengthening their efforts—in the selection of candidates, the structures of sending organizations, finances, the shepherding of the missionaries, which will result in the effectiveness of those on the field reaching locals.
There are challenges to the Chinese missions movement.
One challenge is that there is no centralized Chinese missions movement. The missions-sending efforts within China are incredibly scattered. The missionaries who have been sent out from China are independent of one another. No one in or outside China knows what is actually happening with missions in other parts of China. Missions-training centers within one large Chinese city may not have any connections with other missions-training centers within the same city. So certainly there are few connections between missions efforts more broadly within China, from city to city, unless they are a part of the same house church network or a missions organization.
A main factor for this lack of connections is that house churches in China are illegal, and missions-training centers even more so. These institutions cannot have websites about what they are doing. They cannot hold large missions conferences within China. They do not have that liberty.
Another potential difficulty for Chinese missionaries is the issue of ethnocentrism. Chinese live within a mono-cultural environment. This means that most Chinese have very little cross-cultural experience. All of the people they grew up around and interact with are usually from their same people group, the majority Han. The Chinese have little experience in interacting with others who come from a significantly different background than them. South Korean missionaries have the same issue, because Korean society is also mono-cultural.
It is very likely that Chinese missionaries will face difficulties doing cross-cultural ministry on the mission field. Chinese missionary-training centers need to emphasize effective cross-cultural ministry to better prepare the Chinese missionaries.
And he [Jesus] said to them, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. (Luke 10:2)
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