Over the past few months we’ve been looking back at the 20 years since ChinaSource was founded. This trip down memory lane has reminded us how transformational these two decades have been for China. Urbanization, steady economic growth, the emergence of a middle class, and major advances in education, health, and infrastructure have accomplished in 20 years what has taken other nations 100 years or more.
This period has been transformational for China’s church as well. When ChinaSource was launched, it was to serve primarily Western organizations as they sought ways to advance the gospel in China. For many this involved providing basic theological training for rural church leaders or serving in newly opened seminaries under the China Christian Council. Others taught English or other subjects on university campuses or sent development workers to ethnic minority areas where there were no known Christians.
In the decades since, a new generation of believers has emerged. Children of the rural church leaders who were some of the first recipients of training from outside have grown up and made their way to China’s cities. There they are serving as a bridge, planting new kinds of churches while still keeping one foot in the countryside. Curious students who came to Christ while in college have gone on to launch their careers, start families, and participate in starting fellowships that have developed into independent urban churches. New Christians from minority areas are now being mobilized to reach other ethnic groups with the gospel. Meanwhile, believers from both urban and rural backgrounds are joining hands to prepare and send missionaries from China to the nations.
Those who have been privileged to serve during these transformational decades can only marvel at God’s miraculous work in China. In many ways China is a different place, and the church we now serve is different as well.
The challenge going forward—for ChinaSource and for hundreds of other organizations engaged in China—is to rethink what it means to serve in this new era. China’s church is better resourced, has more opportunities, and is well positioned for influence in ways that couldn’t even have been imagined 20 years ago. Chinese believers are going global as they engage more routinely with organizations and institutions overseas. It is not uncommon to find Christians from China appearing in leadership positions in these international entities.
Serving remains a core value of ChinaSource, and we continue to strive to help others find ways to serve effectively in China. But, whatever role one plays, serving today must mean serving with the church in China. China’s Christians are the ones who are at the forefront of new approaches and new opportunities. Serving today means coming alongside this generation in a mutually supportive way. The challenge for the future is learning together how God will use his global church to further his transformational mission in and through China.
This is the final piece in the Looking Back series that we began in September to commemorate the 20th anniversary of ChinaSource. You can read the entire series here.
Image credit: Shenzhen morning by Jack Seeds via Flickr.
Brent Fulton is the founder of ChinaSource. Prior to assuming his current position, he served from 1995 to 2000 as the managing director of the Institute for Chinese Studies at Wheaton College. From 1987 to 1995 he served as founding US director of China Ministries International, and from 1985 to... View Full Bio