As the church in China has become increasingly global in its outlook and better connected relationally (if not organizationally) to the larger global church, its leaders are seriously weighing their role in the task of world evangelization. This cross-cultural vision is not new, either for the Chinese church globally or for the church in China; however, it is the resources, connections and capabilities of the urban church that are now making possible the emergence of a new missions movement from within China.
Formerly a resource-starved, largely marginalized peasant movement, the church now possesses considerable financial resources thanks to the relatively well-off status of its urban members. In terms of human resources, the church has gone from having a fairly limited repertoire of ministry tools and approaches to possessing a variety of skills and resources within its ranks.
Those skilled in media, for example, can use their talents to raise awareness and mobilize Christians for cross-cultural service. Publishers can likewise help raise awareness and produce training materials. Entrepreneurs can create business platforms for those going abroad or into remote regions of China. Christians with organizational skills are able to contribute to the development of new entities created to mobilize, train, and send workers. Believers trained in counseling can be involved in the screening and emotional preparation and care of workers. The ongoing shift away from a hierarchical, top-down church structure means that these skills and resources are available to be used by diverse Christian groups whose various efforts compliment one another.
Finally, both the increased mobility and connectedness of the church as well as these internal transformations have changed the way in which it relates to the larger Christian body outside China. The church has moved from being largely dependent upon outside resources to being, in many respects, self-sustaining. International organizations have played and are playing a significant role in informal ways such as offering counsel, interacting with Chinese Christians in international conferences, and allowing existing training resources to be translated into Chinese. Outside involvement is less about financial support and more about sharing expertise. Rather than attempting to replicate themselves in China, international agencies have the opportunity to collaborate with church leaders in China to create something new that is a unique extension of the Chinese church.
Image credit: Shanghai Rollercoaster, by Jakob Montrasio, via Flickr