As the door to China cracks open, a clearer picture of Jesus' Church there and the job we have yet to do is beginning to come into focus.
Three members of the USCWM's Institute of Chinese Studies, John S, Alan Gates, and Jim Ziervogel, have returned from the People's Republic of China with information they believe will help bring the missionary task into sharper focus.
The three, who went with nine other Christians on a regular tour of south and central China, report that the attitude of the Chinese People toward foreigners is positive and that they are quite curious about America, Western culture, and the Gospel.
John reported that the spiritual vacuum left by the suppression of formal religion and the waning of the "cult of Mao" is being filled in several ways.
First, and by far the most pervasive, he reported, is a materialistic lust for consumer goods and Western culture.
Superstition and witchcraft, traditional religion, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ are all attracting increased attention.
There are two parts of the Chinese Church, the house movement, or the underground church, and the government sponsored Three Self Church.
Not unexpectedly, the house church movement is a vibrant, healthy, growing part of the Body of Christ.
The surprise to the three travelers was the spiritual condition of the Three Self Church (self administrating, self supporting, and self propagating)
They wrote wrote that before the trip, the group was 'under the impression that the ThreeSelf pastors were all liberal in theology and merely mouthpieces for the government. This was apparently true of some we met, however, some are genuine, sincere servants of the Lord Jesus Christ and have a joyous, vibrant witness."
To the best of their knowledge, he said, there are or will be shortly, 21 churches open in China. In 1949 there were 19,000 churches and chapels.
Throughout the trip, John reported, there were opportunities to share about Jesus with both believers and nonbelievers.
He described a few.
"We were met at the train station in Guangzhou (Canton) by a young man which my roommate, a Hong Kong missionary, had met on a trip two years ago. He, his friend and a girlfriend visited our hotel room and tried on the western clothes my roomate had brought at their request. The young men were factory workers and not happy with their assigned jobs. They already had received Christ and said that they listened to my roommate's radio broadcast from Hong Kong. They had even gone to the open church a couple of times, but they knew no other Christians and their knowledge of the faith was very limited. They were full of questions about America and Hong Kong.
"Our guides were quite friendly, going to great trouble to take us to churches in every city as we requested. They knew little about Christianity in China and were glad to learn along with us, but they were all quite resistant to personal faith themselves, mostly due to atheistic indoctrination.
"Two co workers met with two very old women believers. Both had been persecuted for their faith and were very frail. They had been in the Lord's service many years and since they were so frail and couldn't go out, other Christians came to them for teaching. They had been praying for believers from the West to come and encourage them. These men were apparently the answer to the ladies' prayers."
Those planning to go to China should know that opportunities for Western involvement are currently limited. However, qualified students, teachers and researchers of appropriate disciplines are being given one and two year contracts.
Living, teaching and studying facilities are also limited. Most of the teachers and students the group talked to were very frustrated with the facilities, loneliness and constraints on relationships with Chinese.
Western Christians who want to work in China must be highly qualified in their work or study, committed to the Chinese people and willing to live in uncomfortable physical and psychological surroundings.
Tourists can take in Bibles to deliver to national Christians or to those who request them, but passing out tracts or street preaching is inappropriate.
Westerners need to pursue relationships with caution. Regular attendance by a foreigner in a house church could jeopardize it, while the Three Self church is, by definition, leery of outside involvement.
Despite the difficulties, John reports, "There is no reason why Christians shouldn't go if they have the right attitudes and orientation. Limited Christian influence is better than no Christian influence."
"From Holland to Cyprus..,"
Through (our) contacts we have been able to sense a growing vision and concern to expand into unreached areas of the world and present Christ to people who have never heard. We have found that besides the work of the Holy Spirit and God's Word, there seems to be another common denominator behind this increasing vision. This is the United States Center for World Mission (USCWM). Everywhere we've been from Holland to Cyprus we meet people who have seemingly had their "eyes opened to the needs in the world as a result of some contact with the USCWM It is only as people are made aware of the needs that they can respond, and the USCWM is making the needs known. We praise God for the people around the world who, upon hearing the needs, are united in spirit and prayer as the Church makes its final thrust in fulfilling the Great Commission.
*Prayer letter excerpt from a Campus Crusade staffer, W. Germany
Missions or Admissions?
I am appalled at the lack of mission awareness in our churches and Christian schools.
Recently I was in a "good" denominational school and asked about missions emphasis. The person (staff) seemed as if I spoke a foreign language and said, "Do you mean admissions?"
"Oh, do you mean funds for missionaries?" Then, "Oh, that is not the purpose of this school."
So, send me (more) materials. I want to see what that could produce.