New Wineskins for Cross-Cultural Workers from China

In the latest issue of ChinaSource Quarterly, two Christians in China offer their thoughts on the future of Chinese mission sending structures.

Both have extensive experience in working with international organizations, and this experience has helped shape their notions of what is needed for the church in China to successfully send and support its own workers.

Ryn Chang, a Han Chinese who has spent years among tribal groups in China, looks first at the difficulties of working with an international agency. These difficulties have as much to do with structural issues and trust as they do with security concerns. Differences in Chinese and Western educational systems, as well as the Chinese emphasis on relationship building as opposed to the task-orientation of Western workers, make it difficult to work in the same organization even if all agree upon the end goal.

Chang concludes: “The revival of Chinese churches, the growing number of mature, mission-minded local Chinese Christians, the large population of unreached people groups (UPGs), and the difficulties that international agencies in China face all call for the birth of Chinese indigenous mission organizations and sending agencies.”

Another believer who has built a team of cross-cultural workers in China looks at the practicalities facing fledgling agencies. These include:

  • What arrangements will be made for their children’s education?
  • How will their need for rest and recuperation be addressed?
  • How will pastoral care be provided?
  • How will their work be supervised?
  • In what capacity will they enter the mission field?
  • What ways will they use to connect with local people?

Along with these practical concerns, Christians in China need to address the relationship between the church and the sending agency:

The problem now is that many organizations do not recognize the church as the missions sending body; they do not work to help the church implement missionary endeavors nor do they work to teach churches how to spread the gospel. Instead, they see the church as their own personal resource warehouse. When they share with churches, their goal is to get workers, money, and resources to make their own institutions larger, stronger, and more effective.

This tension is certainly not unknown among believers outside China. Overseas agencies have been on the receiving end of such criticisms for as long as they have been sending workers. Beyond these practical matters, work needs to be done to build a proper mindset toward missions, keeping in view the church’s larger purpose. In this way both churches and agencies will be able to grasp their respective roles and serve in a way that is complimentary.

Image credit: Street Market Scene by Marshall Segal via Flickr.