But partnerships are two-way, so it is also good to take some time to consider what the church in the West has learned and can learn from the church in China.
To that end, I posed the question to ChinaSource President Brent Fulton, China Resource Center President Mike Falkenstine, and two foreign workers in China: What specific lessons can the church in the West learn from the church in China?
Their responses are compiled below into this list of ten lessons. Some of these responses have been edited for style and clarity.
- God's ways are not our ways. Before 1949, optimistic China missionaries imagined that, under the most favorable conditions, there would be 15 million Christians in China. God had a different plan. Today, it is several times that number. (Brent Fulton)
- The true nature of the church. Much of the spectacular growth took place after believers had been stripped of everything we normally associate with church Bibles, church buildings, denominations, pastors, and trained leaders. What remained was a core group of committed disciples, filled with the Holy Spirit, worshiping, fellowshipping, learning, and serving together the true marks of the church. (Brent Fulton)
- The role of suffering in the life of the believers. During the darkest days of persecution Christians learned to walk the pathway of the cross. We do not actively seek suffering, but when it comes we know that God will use it to purify us for His glory. (Brent Fulton)
- Faith in God's power and provision. When our "clay jar" is broken, the power of God is revealed through our weakness (2 Cor 4:7-10). Lives of Christians in China are marked by a deep prayer life and total dependence on God. (Brent Fulton)
- The true mission of the Church. God has preserved and prospered his church in China for one purposeto spread the Gospel to the unreached peoples of China and beyond. (Brent Fulton)
- Where there is proper exposition, study, and application of the Word, the Church (and individual Christians) can grow and thrive regardless of culture or challenging cultural environment. Explosive growth has taken place despite restrictions and attempts to control the spread of religious faith. (a foreign worker in central China)
- God still moves and works in supernatural ways that we read about in the Bible, but don't often see in our daily lives. Many Christians in rural areas have told me of the role that healing has played in the spread of the Gospel. When faced with an illness some, in desperation, ask Christians in their villages to ask their God to heal them. The Christian invites them to church; the congregation prays; and they are healed and believed. The countryside is full of such testimonies. (Mike Falkenstine)
- Jesus is all we need for a happy and joyful life. Many Christians in the rural areas have nothing materially, but they are the happiest and most joyful people I know. They love Jesus and He truly is the center of their lives. They may not have the latest car (or any car) or smart phone, but they have Jesus. (Mike Falkenstine)
- The zeal for evangelism. Sharing the Gospel has remained a top priority for the church in China, despite the growing pains of the last 20-30 years. The church takes advantage of every opportunity to share the good news with a lost world. As an example, Western culture has influenced the church to believe that holidays like Easter and Christmas are family-focused, causing us to turn inward. The Chinese church looks at every holiday in the church calendar as a chance to share the gospel, holding large evangelistic programs where lost friends are invited to come to church. Most events like this are packed with students, many of whom later say it was a first step toward their coming to faith. (a foreign worker in northeast China)
- Spiritual growth comes through the testing of our faith. It is not easy being a Christian in China. Temptations and obstacles are faced in every arena of life. It is one thing to become a Christian in China, but to then actually live out your faith is incredibly hard. To live with integrity in a culture abounding in corruption, bribes, and back doors is a hard road to walk. The growth, both of individual Christians, and the body as a whole has resulted in a resolve that leads Chinese Christians to stand firm and always push forward. (a foreign worker in northeast China)
May all who are engaged in service and partnerships be open to learning from one another!
Image credit: Joann Pittman
Joann Pittman is senior vice president of ChinaSource and editor of ZGBriefs. Prior to joining ChinaSource, Joann spent 28 years working in China, as an English teacher, language student, program director, and cross-cultural trainer for organizations and businesses engaged in China. She has also taught Chinese at the University... View Full Bio