China's burgeoning elderly population is capturing the hearts and imaginations of Christians inside and outside China. Together they are exploring new avenues to reach out to this significant segment of China's population. Here we look at some the challenges facing China's seniors and ways we can pray for them and for those seeking to minister to them in the name of Christ.
China is aging, and doing so rapidly. The potential effects on Chinese society and such a demographic shift are staggering. Here’s how Howard French wrote about it in an article last year in The Atlantic:
In the years ahead, as China’s Baby Boomers reach retirement age, the country will transition from having a relatively youthful population, and an abundant workforce, to a population with far fewer people in their productive prime.
The frightening scope of this decline is best expressed in numbers. China today boasts roughly five workers for every retiree. By 2040, this highly desirable ratio will have collapsed to about 1.6 to 1. From the start of this century to its midway point, the median age in China will go from under 30 to about 46, making China one of the older societies in the world. At the same time, the number of Chinese older than 65 is expected to rise from roughly 100 million in 2005 to more than 329 million in 2050—more than the combined populations of Germany, Japan, France, and Britain.
In August of last year, PBS published a short documentary on the aging crisis, titled The Unprecedented Aging Crisis That’s About to Hit China, based on the work of Howard French, which digs deeper into the implications.
While this, and most other articles written about this demographic shift tend to focus on the economic impact, there is less written about the spiritual implications—who will minister to the spiritual needs of China’s elderly. But it is an issue that we are increasingly looking at. Last summer’s ChinaSource Quarterly (CSQ) covered how this and other social issues are affecting Chinese families. Our own Brent Fulton also highlights in his book, China’s Urban Christians how the aging population is a challenge and an opportunity for the contemporary church in China. An excerpt appears in the 2017 spring issue of CSQ.
This past month, in Chinese Church Voices, we featured an article, posted in 3 parts (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3) written by a Chinese Christian, which looked at the issue of how to minister to seniors. Originally published in the Chinese journal ChurchChina, the author looks at how Chinese Christians are and can minister to China’s senior population. Summing up her heart for ministering to seniors, the author says this:
According to 2017 government statistics, China’s 2015 population of people 65 and older was 140 million. It is estimated that by 2020, the population of this group will reach 200 million. In the face of this massive aging population, bringing Jesus’ love to them is already extremely urgent. May the Lord open the eyes of our hearts to see the needs of the elderly people everywhere, to love their souls, to not be so hard hearted as to watch them slip away and be lost. If a person does not believe in Jesus, then to live is to store up wrath before God. May more and more elderly people turn and return to God as soon as possible, and in their later years enter from a desolate and hopeless place into the peace and joy of God’s presence. On earth, they are slowly losing their “home”—may they obtain the “heavenly home” that God has prepared for us. When they leave this world, may we not be grieving another soul who has entered destruction, but rather may we look forward to that coming day of joyful reunion in our heavenly home.
Please use these articles as prompts for you to pray for the elderly of China.
ChinaSource Quarterly 2017 Autumn Issue
The Chinese Church and Its Historical Past
The autumn issue of ChinaSource Quarterly, “The Chinese Church and Its Historical Past” was published earlier this week. Focusing on Chinese church history, guest editor Andrew T. Kaiser has put together a fascinating look at the importance of church history. As he concludes in his editorial:
Historical awareness ought to be second nature for Christians. Each time God tells Israel to “remember” he is training them to make a habit of recalling how God has cared for his people in the past in order that their faith in his provision for the present would be strengthened. May all those who serve the Lord in China embrace this habit of historical memory for the sake of God’s present and coming kingdom.
To gain more insight into the importance of history to the church in China, read the autumn issue of ChinaSource Quarterly.
News and Notes
- On August 19 Brent Fulton spoke at the annual retreat for Southern California staff and volunteers of International Students, Inc.
- Glenn and Narci Herr spoke about ChinaSource and their ministry with international students at Calvary Monument Bible Church’s missions lunch on August 20.
- On August 29, Joann Pittman conducted an online seminar for staff of China Outreach Ministries.
- Joann Pittman was interviewed on Faith Radio on the topic of “Serving the Church in China” on August 30.
ChinaSource Connect in Dallas, Texas, US
Date: Saturday, September 23, 2017
Venue: Highland Park Presbyterian Church, Room H-018 (Private Dining Room)
Address: 3821 University Blvd., Dallas, TX 75205
*Parking along west end of complex—meeting room directly thru Elliott Hall on the right.
ChinaSource Connect in Los Angeles, California, US
Date: Tuesday, September 26, 2017
Venue: San Gabriel Valley area
Address: More information to come
ChinaSource Connect in Hong Kong
Date: Saturday, October 14, 2017
Venue: Evangelical Community Church (ECC) Ministry Center
Address: 4/F, Hankow Center, 5-15 Hankow Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong
RSVP here by October 2.
Ways to Pray
- Long-awaited new regulations on religion were passed over the summer and are set to go into effect next February. Pray for church leaders in China as they anticipate the possible changes ahead.
- Pray for God’s leading as the ChinaSource Board and team spend concerted time together in September and October seeking the Lord’s direction for the years ahead.
- Two ChinaSource Connect events are being held this month. Pray for good connections in both Dallas and the Los Angeles area.
- As noted above, many challenges face the government and people of China as their population ages. Pray that the needs are recognized and provisions are made to care for the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of China’s elderly.
In response to the autumn issue of ChinaSource Quarterly pray
- That China’s churches will come to value their history, learn about it, and discover how it can enhance and deepen their current ministry.
- That as historical research becomes available, pastors and leaders will reflect upon it, teach it to their congregations, and apply its lessons to current situations.
- That foreigners serving in China will not only learn Chinese history but recognize its underpinnings, the way it is taught, and how to understand it.
- For the many women serving Christ in China’s church and missions. Pray that their achievements both historically and in the present will be acknowledged and used for discerning future service.
- That China’s Christians will use the resources available to them to learn of their past, draw lessons from their history, and move forward in the light of what they have learned.
In Case You Missed It
A selection of recently published items:
- The International Church Role in Chinese Missionary Sending, Part 1:Strategies for General Partnership between Chinese and International Mission Senders, article, August 17.
- Coming Alongside, From the West Courtyard, August 18.
- 9 Language-Learning Resources Online, From the West Courtyard, August 21.
- How to Minister to Seniors, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Chinese Church Voices, August 22, 29, September 5.
- Chinese Theology: Text and Context, From the West Courtyard, August 23.
- My Private Space, From the West Courtyard, August 25.
- Putonghua: Uniting a Linguistically Fractured China, From the West Courtyard, August 28.
- Flying against the Wind, From the West Courtyard, August 30.
- More Help in Understanding Contextualization, From the West Courtyard, September 1.
- Pastoral Advice during Chinese Valentine’s Day, Chinese Church Voices, September 1.
- The Catholic Experience in China, From the West Courtyard, September 4.
- I Was Wrong: A Retraction of My Criticism of Chloë Starr’s Chinese Theology, From the West Courtyard, September 6.
- The Rushing on of the Purposes of God: A Book Review, From the West Courtyard, September 8.
- Looking for 21st Century China, From the West Courtyard, September 11.
- Conversations from Reformation 500 and Part 2, Chinese Church Voices, September 12, 19.
- New Religion Regulations to Take Effect in February, From the West Courtyard, September 13.
- The International Church Role in Chinese Missionary Sending, Part 2: Strategies for Financial Partnership between Chinese and International Mission Senders, article, September 14.
- Wise Financial Partnerships: The Need for a Framework, From the West Courtyard, September 15.
- A Call for Photos: China through the Years, From the West Courtyard, September 18.
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