Chinese and the Local Church
The 'Chinese world" (about a quarter of the earth's population) represents one of the major spheres of Hidden Peoples Other spheres include Hindu, Muslim and tribal peoples. Although there are many Christians among the Chinese today, and a church established in certain parts of the Chinese megasphere, for the most part, the Chinese world is still largely untouched by a viable Chinese witness.
In this article, Dr. Gates outlines practical suggestions for reaching out to the Chinese world that has come to our country.
I listened with great interest recently as a mother stood to her feet in a missions workshop and told of her experience with a Chinese family which had recently moved next door. What began with a request for help in learning to drive, resulted in a new friendship and the chance to share the Christian faith a real cross cultural missionary situation right at her back door in California!
This points up the growing awareness of churches to the fact that areas like Southern California are becoming extensions of the Third World. Ethnic groups are multiplying, especially Hispanic and Asian. The question in this case is "How can we involve ourselves in outreach to Chinese?"
The purpose of this article is to suggest answers to this questionconcrete steps that you and your church can take towards Chinese ministry which might result even in the planting of Chinese daughter churches.
Let us first distinguish some of the Chinese groups in order to sharpen our focus and concern. Chinese entering America are mainly university students, immigrants or refugees. Those coming as students are primarily from Taiwan, Mainland China,
Hong Kong and other Southeast Asians countries. Almost all of them speak English besides Mandarin, Cantonese, Taiwanese or some other dialect. Chinese students are found on nearly every major campus in America.
Today's Chinese immigrants are mainly from Taiwan, China and Hong Kong but are not all conversant in English. They tend to settle in areas where large numbers of their own people are already living. The younger ones will quickly become fluent in English if they are not already. The older Chinese will often make do with minimal English and many speak none at all.
Chinese refugees are an unusual group which have come to America under special, and in most cases, trying circumstances. Most of these have been arriving from Vietnam, and speak mainly Cantonese and Vietnamese. Those who are well educated will often speak some English. For most of them, however, English is a strange language.
Barriers to Action
Not every church has had experience in "ethnic ministries." Most of us are "anglos" by descent and have not given much thought to working among peoples who are non anglos. There may be some who are even opposed to bringing "non white" groups into their church, fearful of losing control or just apprehensive about how to deal with people who are "different from us."
Whatever the problem may be, it is good to remind ourselves that only a few generations ago, our forefathers were strangers and aliens in America. Indeed, they were all "boat people" in one sense or another. By God's grace and the open stance of this country, they were welcomed and given a share in America's wealth and opportunities. Now we also have fallen heirs to God's goodness. The words of the prophet are fitting at this point: "You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you also were strangers in the land of Egypt" (Ex. 22:21).
Even as the Lord reminded Israel to be open to the alien and the stranger we do well to heed the same injunctions.
Steps to Action
Here are a few ideas for your ministry among Chinese:
- Organize for action. This may be an outgrowth of your missions committee, or it may simply involve a number of concerned lay people. Whatever the case, there needs to be more than one person involved. The more shoulders to bear burdens the better. If you have a Chinese or two in your church, by all means, involve them.
- Inquire through whatever sources available as to the location of Chinese students, immigrants or refugees in your area. The nearest Chinese Church may be the best source of information. Plot your findings on a simple map.
- Having located Chinese individuals or families, inquire as to their most pressing needs. These will will suggest useful ways of approach. It may be there are some who need help in learning to drive, or it may be a problem of learning or improving English. Needs will often point to doors for building friendship and mutual trust.
- Plan for a "China Night" in your church. Show films on current China or have a missionary speaker or someone currently in touch with China, Taiwan, etc. perhaps just returned from a tour of that land. Chinese food and decor could top off the program.
- Plan for your missions committee to visit and worship in a Chinese church. Discuss possible avenues of Chinese outreach with the pastor and leaders of that church. Exchange pulpits for one Sunday service.
- Look into the possibility of sponsoring a Chinese "boat people" family. Get your whole church involved providing living quarters, assistance in English coaching, helping the family in "learning the ropes" of living in America shopping, transportation, getting children into school, medical advice, and so on.
- If a growing number of Chinese show an interest in having their own Chinese church service, then consider developing a Chinese congregation using the "off hours" of your own facilities until they are able to purchase their own property.
As you launch into your own "Nextdoor Mission," God will reveal many ways of effective ministry not even mentioned here. Hopefully, you will share your discoveries with others who may do the same. May the God who loves China and the Chinese, even as He loves America, bless and guide you as you venture out in faith into this unique opportunity in"' next door missions."