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Understanding the Times to Facilitate Chinese Missionary Sending

From the series Missions from China—A Maturing Movement

Chinese missionary sending happens in a broader social context. Understanding that social context could provide keys that would help undergird and facilitate the movement. The men of Issachar knew the times. They knew what Israel should do (I Chronicles 12:32).

I don’t read the newspaper much. But it has been said that Christians of today need to find a way to hold the Bible in one hand and the daily newspaper in the other.[1] Understanding both, with attention to the thrust of meaning of each, Christians can be a bridge facilitating God’s purposes in today’s world.

Some might argue that the only thing necessary is to listen to what God is saying and to obey. But repeatedly in Scripture we see men and women responding with reasoned action in the context of their present circumstances. Often God confirmed the choice of his people through special revelation (Genesis 45:25- 46:4, Matthew 2:21-23, 1 Samuel 23:7-13). But the point is that God gave his people minds to think through the course of their actions in the light of their context. There are very present realities that the Chinese mission sending movement might consider in the current greater environment.

History provides precedent for reflection. The Catholics reached into China in the late 16th century. As Jesuits developed key relationships with government leadership, the cause of the Catholic advance looked promising.[2] However, bitter disagreement among various factions of the Catholic faith arose over the Chinese practice of revering ancestors, causing the so-called “rites controversy.” The Jesuits felt that the Chinese were merely offering respect, while the Franciscans and the Dominicans claimed that ancestors were being worshipped.[3] A Papal Bull in 1742 AD supported the latter position (though Rome was later to reverse this position in the 20th century) and the Chinese emperor K’ang Hsi was affronted. In his understanding, a pope thousands of miles away had no jurisdiction in the matter, and had no business telling Chinese people what they could and could not do. Why he was the emperor after all! Missionaries from the Catholic church opposed to a Jesuit interpretation were expelled from the country, significantly slowing the growth of Catholicism in China.[4] The point of what I am saying is, if you can help it, don’t cross the emperor.

The modern-day Chinese government has a goal of building a just and stable society. To the extent that Christian missionary sending can align with greater governmental goals, resistance to missionary sending can be minimized. To read more about these kinds of perspectives, please look over the article, “Resistance to Chinese Missionary Sending Efforts and Strategies to Defuse Resistance: Facilitating Sustainable Chinese Missionary Sending in the Present Context.”


  1. ^ John R. W. Stott, Between Two Worlds: The Challenge of Preaching Today. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdman's Publishing Company, 1994, p. 149.
  2. ^ Justo L. Gonzales, The Story of Christianity. Vol. I. Peabody, MA: Prince Press, 2010, p. 408; Kenneth Scott Latourette, A History of Christianity. Rev. ed. 2 vols. New York: Harper & Row, 1975, p. 940.
  3. ^ Gonzales, pp. 408-409. 
  4. ^ Latourette, p. 941.
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Si Shi (四石)

Si Shi (pseudonym) has lived in China for more than five years and has many friends who work in the medical profession.View Full Bio

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