ChinaSource Blog PostsChurch History

Shandong: The Revival Province

A Book Review


Shandong, The Revival Province by Paul Hattaway. SPCK, 2018. 256 pages. ISBN-10: 0281078882, ISBN-13: 978-0281078882. Available in paperback and Kindle format. 

Beware of reading Paul Hattaway’s Shandong: The Revival Province.

This book of

  • decade-by-decade accounts of Western missionaries who sacrificed their lives, some who lived 20 years, some 30, 40, or even 50 years and then died in China,
  • stories of supernatural healings and power encounters,
  • testimonies of tearful repentance and the transforming grace of salvation during times of intense revival,

will rock your rational, modern, stoic, predictable, boring Christian faith and turn it upside down.

Popular mission history tends to highlight heroes such as Hudson Taylor and Robert Morrison. But they are not the only ones who sacrificed their lives as missionaries in China. After reading this book, you will discover that hundreds of little known missionaries from many different countries in Europe and America, from many different denominations, across many decades (1860s to 1950s) contributed to establishing a beachhead for the gospel to take root in the church in China. The mushrooming church growth of today is the outcome of their combined contributions.

One marvelous testimony of missionary sacrifice is Lottie Moon; a single woman missionary, who loved the Chinese people so much that she pleaded for churches in the US to help with relief work during a time of great suffering when many Chinese died if cholera and small pox. Not only did she deplete her own bank account to help with the relief work, she became so discouraged from the lack of support from wealthy, uninterested Christians in the US, she became depressed and eventually starved to death!

The book also mentions some notable historical facts about Shandong province. For one, it is the birthplace of Confucius and Mencius. Also, the martyrdom of two German Catholic missionaries in 1897 spurred Germany to force China into a 99-year lease over Qingdao. This event, along with the Opium War, prompted Great Britain to obtain a 99-year lease over the New Territories and Hong Kong which lasted until 1997.

Foreign colonial powers forced China to open up free trade along with providing protection and freedom for Western missionary activity. While God worked mightily through the sacrificial lives of missionaries, this took place in the historical context of Western colonial powers defeating China and forcing her to open up, a humiliation to the Chinese government.

The resulting suspicion of missionaries and Christianity because of that connection still lingers today within China and the Communist Chinese government. Thus, the lives and stories of missionaries in China are a mixture of the inspirational sacrificial lives of missionaries, the powerful work of God in the revival of the church, and the dark side of mixing gospel mission with worldly powers and economy.

Hattaway alludes to other historical background in conjunction with missionary activity in China, such as, the Boxer Rebellion in the 1890s, the effects of the Great Depression during the 1930s on missionary activity, and the Japanese occupation of Shandong in the 1940s, along with the famous testimony of Eric Liddell.

However, more about the interaction of Chinese cultural dynamics and historical events on missionary lives could have been included. What complex contextualization issues did they face, beyond the well-known issue of ancestor worship? Reporting primarily on the spiritual dynamics—while inspiring—make missionaries and Chinese Christians out to be unrealistic super Christians.

In addition, in the introduction overview, Hattaway mentioned that many elderly Chinese evangelists were interviewed for this book, but they were not identified by their real names, citing security concerns. However, it might have been worth the risk to mention the names of church leaders in their 70s and 80s who have little to lose since they are almost at the end of their lives, not like in the book, Jesus in Beijing, where current church leaders serving were mentioned by name and some people criticized the author for putting them at risk even though nothing really happened to them. Knowing who these leaders are may have been of historical value for future generations of Chinese Christians.

Also, most of the footnotes referenced first-hand Western mission history rather than local Chinese church leaders. If more interaction with older Chinese church leaders (with references) could have been included, it would have been a good balance of Western missionary perspectives and the perspectives of the local Chinese church.

Hattaway is to be commended for writing a book that is well researched with good mission history from first-hand missionary documentation along with detailed reporting of actual numbers of Christians in each area in Shandong. This well-written, scholarly, historical book offsets his other books, that some have criticized as flamboyant with predictions of 100,000 missionaries sent from China (Back to Jerusalem) and overly highlighting Brother Yun’s story as a key church leader representing the Back to Jerusalem  (BTJ) movement (Heavenly Man and Living Water). Recent books and articles have critically evaluated BTJ as a movement with weak theological and missiological grounds, as well as being a movement that was excessively hyped overseas with few long-term mission results.

My hope is that Hattaway will write more books like Shandong, The Revival Province.[1] This is a book of credible scholarship and historical mission value and should be translated into Chinese. Both the Western church and the Chinese church will benefit greatly from it. Hattaway’s contribution to China’s church mission history will have long-term impact that will bless the whole church by learning about China’s mission history.

Notes

  1. ^ Editor’s note: Shandong, The Revival Province is the first in a series on the church in China called The China Chronicles. According to the "The China Chronicles overview" in the book, the series proposes to “document the advance of Christianity in each province in China from the time the gospel was first introduced to the present day.”  Guizhou: The Precious Province, the second book in the series, has also been published.   

Jon Lu

The Reverend Jon Lu (pseudonym), PhD, Professor of Missions, researches contemporary issues and the church in China. View Full Bio


Are you enjoying a cup of good coffee or fragrant tea while reading the latest ChinaSource post? Consider donating the cost of that “cuppa” to support our content so we can continue to serve you with the latest on Christianity in China.

Donate