I’m praying for the Chinese missionary sending efforts. As I study more about ‘Majority World Missions’, I see that it is not necessarily those majority world countries who have the most Christians who send the most missionaries. Some top-sending majority world countries the last 40-50 years have been 1. Korea 2. Brazil 3. India 4. Nigeria 5. COMIBAM (in S. America).
There are many factors involved about which countries will flourish long-term in sending missionaries. The Korean church has succeeded the most the last 30 years in sending many missionaries, to all areas of the world, and who will stay on the field for decades, and learn the ways of the locals. Some of the other majority world missions movements have simply sent many people out, but they’ve returned home quickly without any fruit. A couple factors that boosted the Korean church sending were: 1. huge church growth in the 60s & 70s; 2. large economic growth; 3. Korea having good diplomatic relations with most countries around the world.
Where will the Chinese missions effort fall on the spectrum? At this point, very hard to say. But praying that the Spirit may be strengthening the efforts, in the candidate selection, the structures of the organizations, the finances, the shepherding of the missionaries, the effectiveness on the field reaching locals.
*** NOTE *** other terms for ‘majority world missions’ include ‘Non-Western Missions’, ‘Third World Missions’, ‘Emerging Missions’, and ‘Two-Thirds World Missions’
In the “Teaching across Cultures” class I took last month with Dr. Craig Ott, he had us read The Geography of Thought: How Asians and Westerners Think Differently . . . and Why by Richard Nisbett. The crux of the book’s argument is that Westerners and Asians think differently because of their different ancient roots. Westerners are highly influenced by the ancient Greek mindset, which is to make laws and formations for everything around them. Whereas, Asians are most influenced by the ideas of Confucius, which do not put so much emphasis on making laws or explaining everything with rules.
Within the realm of theology, Western theologians always need to have air-tight explanations and arguments to explain everything from the Bible. Whereas, most non-Westerners (Asians, Africans, Middle Easterners, Hispanics) are not as concerned about making air-tight theological laws, but are able to accept the mysterious and paradoxical parts of the Bible (i.e. Calvinism vs. free will).
Pondering these factors interests me greatly. I think of my best Chinese-pastor friend who leads a small house church in northwest China. He knows all parts of the Bible incredibly well, as well as any Chinese person I know. However, he has never been interested in discussing the more debated theological topics that Westerners normally discuss. Those debates just are not important to him.
In my Bible-related conversations with him, we talk about things he has recently preached on. We talk about things I have been learning from the Bible. We talk about stories from the Bible. But for him, a book of “Systematic Theology,” where the information is organized in a list of common themes in the Bible, would be of little or no concern. This style of studying the Bible is targeted more towards a Western mindset, than a Chinese mindset. My Chinese friend would be much more interested in studying things that relate to his ministry. He has been encouraged much by the Chinese translation of the missions book Perspectives. It seems to me that overall his understanding of the Bible comes from reading the Bible itself, rather than reading books about the Bible.
Our two families were in prayer together. We looked at the big China map on the wall. We put paper (yellow, blue, & red) on the cities [our organization] wants to focus on: 1) Yellow [Shaanxi (Xi’an, Weinan, Hanzhong, Ankang, Baoji)],; 2) Blue [Gansu (LinXia, Lanzhou, Tianshui, Zhangye, Dunhuang, PingLiang, Wuwei, JiuQuan, JaiYuGuan)]; 3) Red [Other NW China Cities (Xining, Yinchuan, Turpan, Urumqi, Aksu, Hotan, Korla, Kashgar)].
We prayed for these specific regions & cities & for the Lord to prepare the way for us to send Workers there.
Originally in my July 30th, 2007 Journal [summer after 2nd year in China]
I was with God: listening to Piper sermon, singing praises, prayer, memorizing verses, writing, listening to Andrew Murray’s Ministry of Intercession. I’ve been really getting lots of satisfaction in God’s presence. The Spirit is teaching me some good stuff.
Our first priority is to preach the gospel. If I truly believe that people around me are going to hell if they don’t believe in Christ as Savior, how am I loving them by not telling them how to be saved? I know it’s disruptive at this school & it disrupts the peace here. But just because millions of people in China are content with their lives, does not mean that they’re NOT going to hell. They’re still going to hell whether they know it or not.
Originally in my March 12th, 2007 Journal [my 2nd year teaching at a univ. in eastern China]
This afternoon, a few students came over. We prayed together & gave them Bibles & then they headed out to the Education College [another university across the city]. They returned two hours later & again we met & prayed. They shared stories about the people they had talked to & given Bibles to. Good stuff.
Originally in my January 14th, 2010 Journal [on scout trip to Xinjiang Province]
In Urumqi, there are missionaries learning Chinese & focusing on the Han. And there’s others who learn Uyghur & focus on the Uyghur. I question this approach, to totally separate the ministry into two groups. Those focusing on the Han can’t speak Uyghur & those focusing on Uyghur can’t speak Chinese. It seems that, if what some missionaries say is right in saying the Han will be used to best reach the Uyghur & the Chinese pastor’s testimony in Kashgar can attest to that fact, missions organizations would be better to combine the ministries in Urumqi, training workers to speak both Chinese & Uyghur & to be able to actively work with the Han in order to reach the Uyghur. It would be critical that these people speak both languages fluently. Separating the ministry into two distinct parts has way too many limitations.
Originally in my January 6th, 2008 Journal [ministering in university in E. China]
There has been a confession of faith! Apparently, two days ago Edward (also from class 3) told Jairy that he became a believer. Yesterday he told Eric. This all followed his 6 hour conversation about the Lord with their lexicology teacher Andrew (a Chinese professor). What a huge blessing Andrew has been! So a guy student has given a confession of faith at the school. We’ll see what happens next. Needs lots of prayer. Also I met with Jordan. He said he feels God pulling him towards Him. He said he just needs more time. I said there are many examples in the Bible where people immediately believe & are transformed (like Paul). I said I know many people who say they’ll wait until they have a family to do the “Christian thing”. Obviously this attitude is wrong. I said “What if they die tomorrow?” They’d go to Hell because they’d have no faith. That got him thinking a lot. He needs immediate prayer. May he be hugely convicted of his lostness. I feel like he’s close, but we can’t relax until he’s turned to the Lord! I also met with Newmoon & she took Pilgrim’s Progress from me to read for the break. May the Lord convict her in a huge way through Bunyan or the Word or some other source. Great things happening with that class of students!
I’m copying more of a conversation I had with a U.S. college student interested in missions.
His question # 1: Are your experiences with evangelizing in China more from personal relationships that have developed over time or spontaneous meetings with people?
My response: My evangelizing in China has pretty much been primarily through personal relationships developed over a long time. I’ve had periods of time in China where I did lots of sharing to random folks around me, like taxi drivers, or students, or just random people I’ve met. But where I’ve at least seen the fruit has been through personal relationships. Usually it starts with just getting to know them casually in groups. Then eventually beginning to meet one-on-one with them. And then slowly through that being able to share more and more about my faith. And then some will make a profession of faith. Though this profession of faith should be celebrated, just like with folks in the U.S., it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re saved because they’ve made a profession of faith or ‘prayed a prayer’. Usually it takes much longer to see if those people will persevere in the faith. And those that I’ve initially evangelized & have now persevered in the faith 5 or 10 years later are quite few, just a handful.
His question # 2: Because of the sensitivity of evangelizing in China, how does that affect your methods and the work you do?
My response: Certainly security is a factor for missionaries in China. You don’t want to preach to a big group in public. But doing small Bible studies or sharing one-on-one are usually okay. This doesn’t mean that the Chinese government approves of this, but usually you can do this without getting in trouble. I usually wouldn’t hand out Bibles or tracts to groups or anything like that. Certainly security makes it much different to try to share with people in China compared to in the U.S. But there are still many opportunities. For example, when teaching in a university in China, the college students are very curious & have lots of questions. They wanna hang out with you. And so there are many opportunities to share your life and your faith with them, and most of them can speak English.
Now we’ve been living in Deerfield, IL for about three months. I’m here studying my PhD in intercultural studies at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School [TEDS].
These first few months we’ve been going to a Chinese church nearby. We are the only foreigners at the church who go to the Mandarin church service and Sunday school, and a Mandarin small group. We thought going to a Chinese church being in the Chinese service we’d be able to learn more about Chinese believers. Our Chinese would continue to improve during our planned couple years in the U.S., before Lord willing returning to NW China. We’d continue to be around Chinese people and be continued to their culture. All these benefits would also be for our daughter, who was born in NW China & went to a Chinese kindergarten last year in our city in NW China.
But now this week my wife & I have decided to find an English-speaking church around here. Though we’ve enjoyed going to the Chinese church, it seems as though it’s been more challenging than we expected to go to a church that is all in our second language. Our Chinese is good enough to converse with minimal difficulties, read the Chinese Bible, or watch Chinese movies with Chinese subtitles. But doing everything at church in only Chinese has been incredibly hard. We can understand most or some of the sermons’ content. But as far as understanding it in a deeper way that is necessary for impacting us spiritually, it’s very hard. When we’re at Sunday school or small group, we can understand most of what people are talking about. But in that setting, it’s hard for us to actively play a part in the study, to articulate in Chinese what we want to say it when we want to say it.
Now I can relate to all the people out there who go to English churches when English isn’t their first language. I can understand such challenges. Previously I would’ve thought that the ideal church would be one where it’s a mixture of Asians, Africans, Latinos, and Europeans all going to the same church together. But now I can understand why there are ‘Chinese churches’ or ‘Korean churches’ or ‘Polish churches’. Even for those who’ve been in the U.S. for a long time, for those people it’s not just a matter of being nationalistic and only wanting to be with people from their country. Even for those who’ve lived here a long time, there’s nothing that can compare to doing church in that person’s heart language, rather than a second language.
So now we’re gonna look for an English-speaking church.
Please pray for us in this, that very soon we’d be settled in at a church here that we can really invest heart and soul into.
I’m copying more of a conversation I had with a U.S. college student interested in missions.
His question # 1: Is there an opportunity/need for missionaries to be working in industry and business in China or would teaching be a better way to reach people?
My response: Yes there are many opportunities for Americans to work in various industries as a platform to do ministry. We have a teammate who studied Architecture in college, so he’s done a decent amount of architecture work full-time in NW China, mixed in with some time teaching full-time, and now he’s doing both. We’ve had a guy who did some accounting in his city in NW China, because he had an accounting experience. Though my college degree was Engineering, I’ve never worked in the Engineering field in China. I’ve always been an English teacher, which I came into with absolutely no experience. I think there are some questions to consider in the decision.
Lots of missionaries in China run [sometimes very successful] businesses, like coffee shops, restaurants, export companies, computer programming, tourist companies. So certainly something you could get a better idea about if you were interested.
His question # 2: Why are you teaching instead of practicing engineering?
My response: If you genuinely love working for a particular industry, then you can certainly use that passion to minister in those spheres in China that others can’t reach. You can work as an Engineer in China and do outreach with your co-workers there & those in that profession. It’s a crowd of folks that we as English teachers can’t really reach. But there are other factors, too. If you are an Engineer, you’ll be working at least 40 hours per week in that. So you’d better really like that work, and it’ll take away from time you could spend elsewhere. Whereas if you’re an English teacher in China, you only work 15 hours per week & have lots of free time for language study & outreach. So if you want to have an Engineering job in China, it should be something you really have a passion to do.
This is why I’ve always taught English in China, rather than doing Engineering. I did well in my classes in college, but Engineering was never my passion. I was more interested to serve overseas in other capacities. The first few years of teaching English in China, I really didn’t like it. It was quite painful. But eventually I got the hang of it. I can’t believe now I’ve been doing it for ten years! And the last few years in our city I’ve been teaching at the top high school in our province, which is more demanding. Ten years ago I never would’ve thought I’d be doing that : )