The Lantern

New but Not Normal

“New, but not normal” is an apt description of the environment our brother and sisters in China face today. President Xi Jinping’s “new normal” has brought much change and uncertainty, yet, surprisingly, believers in China continue to break new ground in advancing the gospel. Amidst this shifting context ChinaSource plays a vital role in helping the global church to connect with God’s purposes in and through China.

Brent Fulton

Chinese cities are ablaze with color as fruit trees, shrubs, and flowers come alive again marking the newness of spring. China is abounding with new things at this point in its history. The current political slogans all revolve around China entering a new era.

When President Xi Jinping came into office just over five years ago we started hearing a lot of use of the term the “New Normal.” This started as a term to describe the economic changes of a slowing economy but rapidly expanded to cover many areas of society. There have been multiple manifestations of this including the ongoing anti-corruption campaign and China’s new approach to international relations.

For China’s churches and Christians the New Normal has been a lot more new and has not yet reached a normal state. Looking back at the last five years, or even the past one year, we can make a long list of new things we have not seen before or have not seen for a long time. For example, earlier this month Bibles disappeared from online internet bookstores after being readily available for years.

The new religious regulations went into effect on February 1 of this year but we have not yet seen a normal or consistent approach to their implementation. As ChinaSource seeks to be the trusted platform providing balanced information about the church in China, we have been challenged by the wide variety and diversity of responses we have seen thus far.

Last month we helped organize and host a meeting of researchers from China and around the world to look at the factors impacting church growth in China, with a view to making this research available to those who serve China. We heard about the complexity of the Chinese church—TSPM vs house church, rural vs urban, large vs small, etc. We heard about the inherent challenges for churches with massive internal migration and movements of people. Yet despite increasingly tight restrictions we heard pastors planning for outreach, expansion, and growth.

Our challenge as ChinaSource is to help our constituencies understand this diversity, understand the many new things that are occurring, and to make plans to continue to serve with churches in China. Every week we are talking to individuals and organizations both inside and outside of China to help provide a balanced and accurate perspective.

And we are reminded that walking by faith does not require a stable or normal setting. We met a young Chinese believer who, as a high school student, felt God called her to work among unreached minorities in western China. She purposely left her home in a prosperous part of eastern China to attend university in western China. After graduating she has stayed there to serve and reach out despite all the new changes working against her.

While all is not normal and there are many new challenges we are just beginning to understand, we encourage you and ourselves to focus on the many exciting things happening. Thank you for your prayers, support, fellowship, and partnership around what God is doing in China.

News and Notes

A Reminder

We are offering a new ebook, 7 Trends Impacting Foreign Christians in China.

As a current ChinaSource subscriber you can download a copy for free using the coupon code: SUBSCRIBERGIFT. 

For a limited time, the ebook is also available to new subscribers. Invite your friends to check out the ChinaSource website and consider subscribing to ChinaSource publications. 

Team News

  • Brent Fulton was interviewed for an article on the removal of Bibles from internet sales in China, 中國網店下架《聖經》突然執法折射了什麼 by BBC Chinese published on April 4, 2018.
  • On April 7, Narci Herr spoke at a women’s event, Tea and Testimony, at The Bridge in Pacific, MO.
  • Joann  Pitmann was in central Indiana last week meeting with Professor Yang Fenggang at the Center for Religion and Chinese Society at Purdue University and with faculty and staff at Taylor University in Upland. 

Ways to Pray

  • Pray for Chinese pastors and leaders as they navigate a new set of religious regulations. Pray that the government will allow believers to live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness (I Timothy 2:1-2).
  • We are grateful for those who met last month to consider how to understand church growth in China in all its complexity and diversity. Pray for the ongoing plans to do more detailed research and make that information available to the broader community.
  • Our board meeting in March was a time of significant discussion, brainstorming and planning for the future. Pray for the ChinaSource staff as they continue to deepen contacts with the church in China.

In Case You Missed It

A selection of recently published items:

Subscribe to receive new content by email.

ChinaSource Team

ChinaSource Team

Written or edited by members of the ChinaSource staff.          View Full Bio

Are you enjoying a cup of good coffee or fragrant tea while reading the latest ChinaSource post? Consider donating the cost of that “cuppa” to support our content so we can continue to serve you with the latest on Christianity in China.