The Lantern

Feeling the Pulse of China

“Feeling the pulse of China” describes the role that ChinaSource endeavors to play as we inform Christians globally about developments in China and its church. This requires gathering information from multiple sources, listening to Chinese believers and those serving in China, and watching how trends develop over time. Here we look behind the scenes at how this process unfolds.

Brent Fulton

When you see a western doctor and a nurse takes your pulse, you get a single number—your heart rate. If you have ever seen a traditional Chinese medicine doctor, one of the things they did was to feel your pulse. The Chinese doctor quietly but firmly grasps your wrist and seeks to discern your health and medical conditions through your pulse. His diagnosis will be based on what he feels. The result is not a single number but a more holistic indication of your health and well-being.

ChinaSource is similar. We capture a lot of what is on the surface through watching more than 50 different media sources and what they are reporting about China. If you have subscribed to ZGBriefs you also share in that weekly overview of China happenings.

However, we also try to go below the surface and feel the pulse of what is happening with the church and Christians in China.

Last month we shared our renewed vision:

China's Christians engaging the society inside and outside of China as they contribute to and influence the global church conversation for the advancement of God’s Kingdom.

We try to go deeper and understand what China’s Christians are facing and how they are responding. Over the past few months we have often mentioned the new religious regulations that came into effect in February. In our travels and meetings, we are constantly asking how these regulations are being implemented at the local level across China’s many provinces and cities.

In a recent conversation with a sister in one of China’s first-tier cities, she said that they had not seen any changes yet and they continue to meet each Sunday. Despite her perspective of no change, she mentioned changes to leadership and preaching/teaching that they have already made to avoid problems. She also said they anticipate there will be changes.

The responses we are getting are not a single numeric indicator but rather a nuanced, localized reality. We then try to integrate across multiple individuals, churches, and cities to get a more wholistic view.

Besides asking questions and reflecting, we are also carefully listening. The most recent ChinaSource Quarterly available earlier this month is one example of our engagement with China. This issue on denominationalism in China is guest edited by mainland Chinese scholars with contributions from other Chinese commentators. If you read the Quarterly you will hear and feel a Chinese perspective on this set of issues facing the church in China. ChinaSource is taking another step in the direction of our vision and facilitating these important conversations.

While taking a lot in we also work hard to make sure essential information and analysis gets out to our 30,714 (end of May) readers. In addition to the online and email publications, we also organize ChinaSource Connect events whenever possible. These are events bring together a local group of our readers and supporters to share with them more in depth about what we see happening and to have an interactive discussion. Our latest Connect event is in the Minneapolis area on June 21. We have had more than 80 people sign up to attend and we are excited about the chance to interact in person with those interested in and serving China.

We appreciate your interest, prayer, and support as we seek to take the pulse of the church in China. We hope our efforts result in greater impact for all those involved with the church in China.

He is faithful,

Your friends at ChinaSource

News and Notes

ChinaSource Quarterly—2018 Summer Issue

Denominationalism in China, guest edited by Mary Li Ma and Jin Li

The 2018 summer issue of ChinaSource Quarterly was published earlier this month. Brent Fulton wrote in his ChinaSource Perspective for that issue:

Swirling beneath the surface discussion of denominations—how they are defined, their relationship to the indigenous Chinese church, and whether or not they are needed—are some core questions regarding the fundamental nature of Christian community. Depending on where the discussion goes, various ones of these questions tend to bubble to the surface. In this sense the topic of denominations functions somewhat as a divining rod, drawing out the core issues facing the church.

The issues he notes include: leadership, church culture, differences over theological perspectives, and labeling. Brent concludes:

As the contributors to this issue suggest, denominational structures can either bring clarity to the concerns facing China’s church or can serve to mask deeper questions lurking beneath the surface.

Go to “Denominationalism in China” to read the full issue or download the pdf version here.

ChinaSource Connect in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, USA

The ChinaSource team will be in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area on June 21 to talk about what’s been going on in China, give an update on recent ChinaSource activities, as well as share ways that you can partner with us in serving with China. We look forward to catching up with as many of you as we can that evening.

Staff News

  • Brent Fulton participated in the inauguration of the Institute of China Studies at William Carey International University (WCIU) in Pasadena, CA on May 18.
  • On May 27 Glenn and Narci Herr spoke at Wheaton Chinese Alliance Church.
  • Joann Pittman lectured to a class at Bethlehem College and Seminary on June 5 in Minneapolis. 
  • Missio Nexus President Ted Esler interviewed Joann Pittman for a podcast dealing with current developments in China. The podcast was posted on June 11 and you can listen to it here

Brent Fulton with Dr. Yalin Xin, Dean of WCIU.

Ways to Pray

  • In March the Chinese government regulation of religious affairs was moved under more direct Communist Party control. Pray for local church leaders who need wisdom in responding to changes that are happening.
  • Pray for cross-cultural workers serving in China as many are renewing contracts and visas.
  • The ChinaSource staff team is having a two-day, face-to-face meeting in Minneapolis this month. Pray for wisdom for the team as new initiatives are considered and much follow-up work to be done through the summer months.

From the 2018 summer issue of ChinaSource Quarterly

  • Pray for church leaders as they consider the issues involved with being, or not being, part of a denomination.
  • Ask that church leaders will be open as they consider the question of denominationalism and educate their congregations concerning the issues involved with this question.
  • Pray that congregations would be willing to take the time to learn, consider, and evaluate the choices their churches should make regarding governance, theology, and denominations.
  • Pray that churches will be open to working across denominational lines when holding the same basic beliefs and not consider others their “enemies” when lesser differences exist.
  • Pray that loyalty to a denomination would never usurp the church’s or individual’s primary commitment to Christ.

In Case You Missed It

A selection of recently published items:

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Header image credit: Lauza Loistl on Unsplash.