First, let me confess that I am not an expert on China, nor have I lived in China. My exposure consists of supporting New Song’s in-country program director while working remotely from the US. Twice a year for 6-8 weeks at a time I travel to China for direct interface with those Chinese nationals who are trained and equipped to implement self-worth development curriculum. Through these committed community leaders New Song has impacted children and youth across China with what I believe is a culturally relevant and biblically based message of the intrinsic value of every individual. As a Westerner, my knowledge of China is shaped by this sliver of a window into Chinese culture and the church in China. It is more exposure than the average Westerner but not as much as some of you who read this blog.
Having given that proviso, I want to speak to the value of the local church both in China and in the West.
New Song’s curriculum materials are designed to impact the children and youth of China, but I, too, have been deeply enriched by working with our messaging, especially within the challenging political, economic, and spiritual atmosphere of China. As a result of our contact with the local church there, New Song recently added two additional core values to our Mission/Vision/Value statement. They are “Identity” and “Interdependence.” The former is blatantly obvious since it is impossible to speak of biblical self-worth without addressing identity, and ultimately we get to the point of addressing identity in Christ. The latter value, interdependence, grew out of our work with both the registered and unregistered church and is a value that God is currently working deeper into my heart soil.
Interdependence means many things to many people. Certainly within the context of our work, partnering with local churches has added the extended spiritual impact we desire, taking our seed message to its ultimate and desired fruition, namely a salvation message and follow-up discipleship. Together and interdepentent, we are more than our parts, and that is the beauty of acknowledging the necessity of each other.
But I think the greatest insight for me came when we first encountered criticism for being a para-church ministry, called by some a “parasite” ministry. Ouch! In one fell swoop our hard work, our hearts, and what we felt was a God-given ministry was invalidated by a local church pastor. Simply by being a para-church ministry, without even knowing our mission, we were accused of draining resources, i.e., talent and money, from the local church. Again, I say Ouch!
But to the credit of our team, we stepped back and took a deeper look, even entering into deeper discussions with our own respective pastors here and in China. Out of that self-examination came a greater commitment to the local church and a need to embed that commitment within our core values. Going forward, we felt it was imperative to be more intentional about encouraging our volunteer trainees to engage with their local church body, to submit program ideas to their leadership, and to build up and support their pastors and congregations rather than siphon off resources. And it meant that we, the staff, must do the same thing.
New Song has worked hard to bring our Chinese brothers and sisters only what we think is God’s Word, not Western culture. And committing to the local church is not a Western idea, it’s God’s idea: to give your time, talent and resources to what God is doing for you and for the good of your surrounding community. We continue to encourage our whole staff and volunteer team to “work locally while thinking globally” believing that God is just as urgent, just as relevant, just as committed to our local body as he is to the church all over the world. After all, we couldn’t have reached the 45,000+ beneficiaries without interdependence on the local church. Who else will bring in the harvest?
I’ve learned from working in China that the grass is not greener on the other side of the world. That may seem obvious to readers, but it is a newer revelation to me. The harvest is all around us, and only together, engaged in God’s interdependent plan, can we bring it all in.
Christine Novak is the Executive Director of New Song, a non-profit that partners with registered and unregistered Chinese churches and NGOs to equip local mentors/coaches/teachers to implement a unique biblically based, culturally relevant self-worth curriculum to children all across China. For more information about New Song, visit the website www.newsongchina.org.View Full Bio
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