Anticipating a recent interview for the afternoon drive program on KTIS, a popular Minneapolis AM station, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.
I’d not met the host previously, but the bio I received the night before described him as “a magician, comedian, and emcee.”
A bit puzzled, I queried a local colleague and quickly discovered that Bill Arnold is somewhat of a Twin Cities legend. Along with a couple of friends, Bill co-wrote the script for Triple Espresso, a two-hour comedy romp that has played in 46 cities in six countries since it launched in 1996. Bill himself has appeared in the show more than 3,200 times, but now leaves the regular performances to others as he pursues, among other things, his daily afternoon show on the Faith Radio Network.
Talking about China, it is easy to get lost in the facts and figures. By virtue of its sheer size, China always wins the numbers game, whether the topic is urban migration, economic growth, or printing Bibles.
Bill asked about all of these, but he didn’t stop there.
As with any of the myriad topics he addresses in the course of an afternoon, Bill’s real interest was the people story. For Bill, a career as a successful comedian has meant becoming an avid student of human behavior, a passion that serves him equally well in his role as radio host.
He wanted to know whether the issues faced by China’s Christians are similar to those confronting the members of his listening audience. How do cultural differences affect the way Chinese believers deal with life’s challenges? What are the social trends impacting young people in China? How did I become involved in China? What do American Christians need to know about the Chinese church?
We did talk about President Xi’s “new normal.” We talked about how things are getting more restrictive for China’s Christians. That’s certainly part of the story. Christians globally need to stand with their brothers and sisters in China as they enter this uncertain time.
But Bill’s approach served as a good reminder that it’s not the whole story. Although shifting political winds do affect the ways Christians in China live out their faith, the real story is not the winds themselves, but the remarkable resilience of China’s church in the face of opposition. It is in the everyday lives of China’s believers that we can begin to understand the perseverance of a church that remains steadfast amidst change and uncertainty.
You can hear the whole interview at faithradio.com.
Brent Fulton is the president of ChinaSource and the editor of the ChinaSource Quarterly. Prior to assuming his current position, he served from 1995 to 2000 as the managing director of the Institute for Chinese Studies at Wheaton College. From 1987 to 1995 he served as founding US director of... View Full Bio
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