Coming Alongside

When I was a teenager in a large city in the United States, we would go out on Friday nights to do “street witnessing.” Leadership would pair us up—we would always go in twos. An experienced “street witnesser” would go out with a rookie. In some cases, the experienced “street witnesser” was an older Christian who brought wisdom and knowledge to the table. The matched partner may have been relatively new in the faith—but often brought excitement, enthusiasm, and freshness. Both “witnessers” carried something into the interaction with those in the inner city, who in many cases lived in spiritual, moral, and physical desperation.

Elements of the Chinese church are passionate about participating in the great commission. There is a freshness, an enthusiasm, an excitement about taking the gospel of Christ to unreached parts of the world. To what extent should the international church, an older, more experienced church, undergird these efforts? Come alongside in a supportive role?

Some feel the foreign church should do nothing more than pray.

Strongly held but differing opinions exist on this issue. When discussing the role of the international church in Chinese mission sending, one house church pastor, a close friend of mine, looked me in the eye and said, “We don’t need you. China’s missionary-sending organizational efforts are the responsibility of the Chinese. We can do it alone.”

When hearing this opinion, another house church pastor contradicted, “No! This is the job of the body of Christ.; and that body is not divided along ethnic or linguistic lines. Missionary sending is all of our responsibility”.

The missions pastor of a sizeable non-registered church in a large city in China, when describing problems his church faced in developing appropriate sending policy for Chinese missionaries, invited foreigners with experience to come alongside and provide direction and advice. There isn’t a consensus of opinion on this issue.

If framed in the context of long-term, committed, mutually trusting relationships, there are a number of options available to the foreign church in supporting Chinese mission-sending-capacity development. Training materials can be shared. Established missionaries on the field can function as a strategic beachhead for incoming Chinese missionaries, orienting them, and facilitating their cultural and logistical adjustment. Foreign sending organizations could even go so far as to accept Chinese missionaries into the ranks of their organization, or to coach developing mission-sending organization. Capital business investment opportunities are available for international Christians interested in supporting tentmaking Chinese missionaries.

Servant-leadership by a humble, more experienced extra-national church, while recognizing Chinese leadership of the overall effort, stands to forward the development of Chinese mission-sending capability. To read more about how the international church can partner with Chinese missionary senders, please refer to my article, “The International Church Role in Chinese Missionary Sending Part I: Strategies for General Partnership between Chinese and International Mission Senders.”