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June 1988


Editorial Comment

China's Intrigue

In Hudson Taylor's Day....

Why is the China Inland Mission/North America's 100th Year Celebration So Significant For Us Today?

Why Suddenly Are Many Reports On the Number of China's Christians So Drastically Subdued?

At the Center

Dividing the Church-- What is TSPM Leadership Up To?

China's Three-Self Church

Wise as Serpents, Harmless as Doves: Christians in China Tell Their Stories

Around the World

Regional Workshops Spark Cooperation!

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Wise as Serpents, Harmless as Doves:

Christians in China Tell Their Story

interviews by Jonathan Chao, edited by Richard Van Houten

Recently, we have started to gather together for prayer and sharing. Two questions have been discussed the most. The first is what form the Chinese Church would have in the future. The second is how the Gospel should be communicated to our children.

Concerning the first question, many older Christians said that they could not predict the future form of Chinese churches. So they turned to the Bible for an answer. They found in the Bible that the house-church form was a legitimate church. 

Paul mentions a house church in I Cor. 16:19: "Aquilla and Priscilla greet you warmly in the Lord, and so does the church in their house" (NIV); also in Col. 4:15: "Give my greetings to the brothers at Laodicea, and to Mymphe and the church at her house." 

Later, we found a book by Wang Mingdao on the institution of the Church. He held that where there were Christians, there was a church. We were very happy about this. We assumed that, although our group consisted of only a few people, we actually were a church, and our head was Jesus.

The second question concerned witnessing in Christian families. For many years some Christians had hesitated to preach to their children because they didn't want their children to suffer for their faith as they had. But after sharing with each other, the faith of these Christians revived and they began telling their children about Jesus and started family worship.

Christian groups in Tianjin have a special characteristic of mutual love. Others can easily identify them as Christians. Once, a group was found by the Public Security Bureau during their meeting for prayer and fellowship. Everyone in the group demanded to be arrested. One said, "I am the owner of the house, I should be arrested;" another said, "I am the leader of the group. Please arrest me."

Of course, we have had problems. Sometimes government agents slipped in by pretending to be new Christians. Sometimes some Christians whose faith was small prevented others from attending by making them afraid of getting into trouble with the government. Some even spread a rumor that I was implicated in an "overseas relationship" and was under government investigation. Despite all these problems, our groups are growing. 

I went to a certain county. There is a village there called Lincun. The meeting place was the house of one of the sisters. They did not have a preacher, no Bibles or hymnals, and the sister herself was not very well educated. So all they could do was pray.

Finally this sister prayed, "God, this kind of situation should not be! You must send a servant to us. And if You don't send a servant, next Sunday I'm going to lock the door and not let anyone in. We will stop! I am not educated, so how do You expect me to manage? And we have no one to sing hymns of praise. What do You expect me to do? You must send Your servant." But God did not answer her prayer.

The next Sunday, at the worship time, the Spirit of God filled her. She stood up and preached to the brothers and sisters in Mandarin. 

When she started to preach, a sister next to her said, "Don't speak in Mandarin; use our dialect.  What are you trying to do, speaking in Mandarin?"

But she said, "Impossible. There is fire inside, and I can't control my tongue; I have to speak this way." And she preached a fine sermon to them and sang a hymn of praise very well. The brothers and sisters were all deeply moved and wondered what could have caused it. 

The next week, the same thing happened. The Holy Spirit filled her; again she preached and sang a beautiful hymn. After this happened several times, some of the brothers and sisters began to feel a bit uneasy. "Is this really the work of the Holy Spirit?"

So they went to consult an old brother. This old brother was blind but still very alert. They told him about the situation and asked him to come and listen and ascertain whether her preaching was right or not, whether it was really the truth of the Bible, and whether her hymn-singing was right. 

This blind brother arranged with another old brother to go to the service together.

The sister preached as usual and led them in a hymn. After the service, the brothers and sisters gathered around the blind brother, "Brother, is her preaching right?"

The old, blind brother said, "Absolutely correct. It was entirely Biblical truth. As she preached, she didn't tell you the chapter and verses to look up, but recited the scripture passages character for character from memory."

They asked, "Was the hymn right?"

The old brother said, "Right." And he told them what number the hymn was. 

They searched for a hymnal and found that she had sung it right, character for character.

So, many brothers and sisters in that area came. Those attending the meetings filled the house, with some standing outside the windows and the door. 

In the South Fujian area, most worship services or prayer meetings are held in private homes, and meeting places change from week to week. The content of worship services does not differ too much from what it used to be, except that they are now less formal and are not held in church buildings. The number in attendance ranges from twenty to thirty, and varies from place to place. 

As a rule, only trusted friends and relatives are allowed to come to prayer meetings or worship services.

The content of sermons usually falls under three categories: affirming the existence and reality of God, proclaiming the basic salvation message, and reassurance of the Christian hope. 

There is a great spiritual hunger among the believers. One brother said, "If I could only sing out loud once again the hymns I love so much and hear the Word of God preached, I would be satisfied to depart from this earth!"

The teaching ministry is continued by retired pastors in their seventies or eighties. There is no systematic training of younger ministers, but children of former pastors or elders and deacons from earlier days carry on preaching and pastoral ministry.

Bibles are still very scarce in Fujian. During the Cultural Revolution most Bibles were confiscated and burned by the Red Guards. The lack of Bibles is a serious problem for Christians in China. Some believers use their meager income to buy paper and copy Bible portions or other Christian literature on mimeograph masters and print them for local use at a great risk to their lives. 

Evangelism is conducted only among very close friends and trusted relatives; otherwise one may be betrayed.

Every few months there are occasions for baptism. Usually a baptismal service is conducted in the countryside by a village or mountain stream. Some twenty to thirty candidates from several surrounding villages, especially youths, gather together for baptism. There is no formal baptismal training class, but the candidates are asked about the major articles of faith. 

You can be sure that a considerable amount of time goes into training the new convert before he is allowed to be baptized. In China, for a person to accept baptism means that he is willing to die for Christ. 

Order your copy of Jonathan Chao's Wise as Serpents, Harmless as Doves through Mission Frontiers Book Service, inside back cover. Only $6.90, plus handling and (in CA) sales tax.

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