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Ten Lessons from the Overseas Church


In July, I wrote a post titled "Ten Lessons from the Church in China" in which I highlighted ten responses by foreign Christians in China to the question "what specific lessons can the church in the West learn from the church in China?"

ChinaSource recently posed the counter question to Chinese friends and acquaintances: "What specific lessons can the church in China learn from the church overseas?" What follows are the responses of both house church leaders as well as Three-Self pastors:

  1. Love and study God's Word. As of yet, we have no good Chinese biblical scholar or theologian.
  2. Protect your families. We are sacrificing our families so much for our ministries that we will eventually kill both.
  3. How to cultivate and implement a vision for missions. We have learned much from the Western church about this.
  4. A Kingdom perspective. In Chinese culture, we "only look after our own vineyards." Chinese tradition tells us to mind our own business and to "only sweep the snow in front of your own house." These ideas are engrained in our hearts from childhood.
  5. Think reflectively and read. Chinese leaders usually don't have time to reflect on what is going o or to think theologically about what is happening. As a result, they end up encountering the same problems again and again without going deeper. We also need to read more.
  6. The importance of collaboration and partnership. Even though overseas churches have many different denominations, they still work together as long as there is no major conflict. Chinese churches have fear (even with in the same network) that they will lose benefits if they work with others, and if they feel they are not receiving support from their connections, they will switch to another network.
  7. Know how to solve problems. Chinese churches are weak in this area. Chinese churches tend to want to copy structures, but they don't think about the underlying logic of these structures. (On the other hand, Western churches can be too extreme in demanding results.) Chinese churches don't know what problems they're addressing so they don't know what results to expect.
  8. The importance of a healthy self-identity. This is an issue related to all of Chinese society. The shame-based mindset causes people to find their identity in their particular church or network, which they then try to win face for.
  9. Pay attention to pastoral care. We have little training in this area, and there are too few pastors for so many people.
  10. The importance of church administration. Currently our systems put too much power in the hands of the pastor. We need to learn how to more evenly divide responsibility and authority among the pastors and lay leaders. We want to learn more about elder-led church governance.

May we all remain open to learning from one another. 

Photo Credit: Bible, Reading Glasses, Notes, and Pen, by Paul O'Rear, via Flickr

Joann Pittman

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