Category Archives: Mobilizing Chinese Missionaries

Majority World Missions and Chinese Missions

This Wednesday I had a blog post go up on China Source titled ‘Majority World Missions and Chinese Missions’.

Here’s the link or view it below:

I’m praying for the Chinese missionary-sending efforts.

As I study more about “Majority World Missions,”[1] I see that it is not necessarily those majority world countries with the most Christians that send the most missionaries. Some of the top missionary-sending majority world countries over the last 40-50 years have been South Korea, Brazil, India, Nigeria, and COMIBAM[2] (in South America).

Many factors are influential in determining which countries will flourish over time in sending long-term missionaries. The South Korean church has succeeded the most during the last 30 years in sending many missionaries, to all areas of the world, who stay on the field for decades, and learn the ways of the local people. Some of the other majority world missions movements have sent many people out, but they’ve returned home quickly and without fruit. Some factors that boosted the Korean church’s sending were: huge church growth in the 60s and 70s; significant economic growth; South Korea’s good diplomatic relations with most countries around the world.

Where will the Chinese missions effort fall on the spectrum of long-term missions-sending success?

At this point, it is very hard to say. But I’m praying that the Spirit is strengthening their efforts—in the selection of candidates, the structures of sending organizations, finances, the shepherding of the missionaries, which will result in the effectiveness of those on the field reaching locals.

There are challenges to the Chinese missions movement.

One challenge is that there is no centralized Chinese missions movement. The missions-sending efforts within China are incredibly scattered. The missionaries who have been sent out from China are independent of one another. No one in or outside China knows what is actually happening with missions in other parts of China. Missions-training centers within one large Chinese city may not have any connections with other missions-training centers within the same city. So certainly there are few connections between missions efforts more broadly within China, from city to city, unless they are a part of the same house church network or a missions organization.

A main factor for this lack of connections is that house churches in China are illegal, and missions-training centers even more so. These institutions cannot have websites about what they are doing. They cannot hold large missions conferences within China. They do not have that liberty.

Another potential difficulty for Chinese missionaries is the issue of ethnocentrism. Chinese live within a mono-cultural environment. This means that most Chinese have very little cross-cultural experience. All of the people they grew up around and interact with are usually from their same people group, the majority Han. The Chinese have little experience in interacting with others who come from a significantly different background than them. South Korean missionaries have the same issue, because Korean society is also mono-cultural.

It is very likely that Chinese missionaries will face difficulties doing cross-cultural ministry on the mission field. Chinese missionary-training centers need to emphasize effective cross-cultural ministry to better prepare the Chinese missionaries.

And he [Jesus] said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. (Luke 10:2)

Notes

  1. ^ Other terms for “majority world missions” over the years include “Non-Western Missions,” “Third World Missions,” “Emerging Missions,” and “Two-Thirds World Missions.”
  2. ^ COngreso Misionera IBeroAMericana

Non-Western Missions & Chinese Missions

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’

My 6th Article on China Source

My sixth post on ChinaSource.org was put up today. It is titled: ‘Encouraged by a Chinese Missions Group’.

You can view it here: http://www.chinasource.org/resource-library/from-the-west-courtyard/encouraged-by-a-chinese-missions-group

Or view it below:

Recently I have learned more about a missions group in China. Because of security issues and not wanting to bring unwanted attention to the group, I will not include any names or locations in this article. In fact, I will be quite vague. I hope the readers can still get some idea of the efforts of the Chinese house church to effectively send out Chinese missionaries. The Lord is working in big ways to mobilize Chinese Christians to reach the nations.

I’m sure there are many similar groups around China that I don’t know about, but I know of one particular missions group that has sent out no small number of missionaries. Most of their workers are serving in Muslim countries, even in closed countries where missionaries are not allowed to serve openly.

This missions group is sending out their workers in teams of at least two families. By going as a team they can encourage each other in the work and spur one another on to endure and bear fruit among the local people. They can be accountable to one another and help lift up the other’s eyes to focus on Christ when discouraged.

The missionaries make a five-year commitment to stay in the country where they are sent. They are required to spend the first couple of years in their new country doing full-time language study. The missions group doesn’t want their workers to move to these Muslim nations and serve among the Chinese who live there. That’s what many Chinese Christians have done who have been connected to Chinese churches in China and have moved to Muslim nations to work. Rather, this group wants their workers to reach the local people. The only way to do that is to learn their language and dive into their culture.

After two years of full-time language study, the missionaries get involved in work that can provide them a visa to stay long term.

All the needed financial support for the missionaries comes from house churches in China. They intentionally do not accept any financial help from overseas Christians. They want to be financially independent from foreign Christians—which I think is a great idea. The Chinese house churches are responsible for raising all the funds needed for the missionaries. So far the Lord has provided abundantly for this missions group financially— they’ve been able to raise more than enough funds.

To be considered as a missionary candidate, first the person goes to a missions training center for a couple of years. Once finished at the training center, the person does an internship in a local house church. After a year or two, if the person is still interested in serving overseas, he or she can apply with the sending agency. Previously most of the missionaries who went out had very little education, but now the sending agency is trying to require at least a college degree from applicants. This will help them greatly both in getting a work visa and being able to master the local language.

When I heard of all this, I was so excited to hear the amazing things the Lord is doing through this group. They are not only training the missionaries and providing the finances, they are also putting great effort into helping them thrive on the field and seeing fruit and transformed lives among the local people. I pray that they can set an example for future efforts by the Chinese house churches to effectively send Chinese missionaries to reach the nations.

Our prayer for these missionaries and other leaders in this group is: “… that [they] may bear fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might,” Colossians 1:10, 11.

My 3rd Article on China Source

My third post on ChinaSource.org was put up a few days ago. It is titled: ‘Filling a Gap’

You can view it here: http://www.chinasource.org/resource-library/from-the-west-courtyard/filling-a-gap

 

Here’s the article:

For those of us from the western church, we have the advantage of a rich history of sending workers to share the gospel cross-culturally. That history includes experiences —both positive and negative—that have undergirded efforts to reach people across cultural, religious, and economic boundaries. We take it for granted that the church is to send workers out. It’s a normal part of the church’s responsibility and ministry. Those who are sent out learn from the mistakes of those who went before. But Chinese Christians now being sent to other countries have very few examples to follow from their own country. In many cases they are the first to go. Can we share our cross-cultural experience with them as they blaze new trails for the Chinese church?

Though some may say Chinese cross-cultural workers just need more training, sending fruitful workers is not just a matter of getting good training before they go. Even more important than pre-field training is having experienced and solid coworkers who can assist and guide them once they arrive on the field. Are such on-the-field coworkers available for Chinese cross-cultural workers? Perhaps not if there are no other Chinese workers who have already been in that area long-term and are bearing fruit in their ministry with local people.

Western Workers Filling in the Gap

Are there other options for providing help and direction for Chinese cross-cultural workers once they arrive on the field? Is it reasonable for western workers who have been serving in China long-term to fill this gap? Could they go with Chinese workers to an unreached nation in teams to serve together? The western workers could help them appreciate the importance of learning the local language, investing in local people, and sharing the gospel appropriately while also adjusting to the new culture and getting settled in a legitimate job or other opportunity for being in the country.

The western worker has experience in this if he has already gone through this process successfully in China. He could be a model for the Chinese workers once they are sent to the unreached nations, if they move there together. After a few years of observing and working with the western worker in that nation, then hopefully the Chinese workers would be self-sufficient and ready to have a long and fruitful ministry among the local people.

Helping to “Supply What Is Lacking”

Is it worth the sacrifice for western workers to leave their work in China to spend at least a few years in a Muslim nation to help give Chinese workers guidance there? Yes, it does seem to be worth it. Paul talks about how he desires to “supply what is lacking” [1 Thess. 3:10] in the Thessalonian church’s faith. This is an opportunity for western Christians to help supply what is lacking in the Chinese church. Coming from a western church, we are used to the great benefits of sending workers from our churches. Not only is it a blessing for those who go as cross-cultural workers to see God working across the world, but sending out such workers is also a great blessing for the sending church. The people in the sending church are encouraged by those they send, because they hear how God is working around the globe and they play a part in the work through their prayers. Churches that send out many cross-cultural workers often take this for granted and fail to see the great value to the sending church as well as to the nations.

Because most Chinese churches are not currently sending out cross-cultural workers, they are not able to share in this awesome blessing. And often if a church has sent out such workers, a good number of them are floundering and not seeing any fruit. This is an area in which their faith is lacking. Any way that we can help the Chinese church be more fruitful in sending out cross-cultural workers is a way that we can help to “supply what is lacking” in the Chinese churches’ faith. So yes, it is very worthwhile to play a part in the sanctification of the Chinese church, that they may be presented as pure and radiant before the Lord. This is fulfilled when the Chinese church is sending out fruitful laborers to the nations.

My 2nd Article on China Source

My second post on ChinaSource.org was put up a few days ago. It is titled: ‘Are Chinese Christians Particularly Suited to Reaching Muslims?’

You can view it here: http://www.chinasource.org/resource-library/from-the-west-courtyard/are-chinese-christians-particularly-suited-to-reaching-muslims

 

See the article below:

Open Doors?

As the Chinese economy develops and the government is opening many doors in much-needed cooperation with Muslim governments, is it time for the Chinese church to send workers to Muslim nations? There are several reasons why the answer to this question is a resounding yes.

First, the Chinese do not have white faces, which is a negative trait for most westerners who seek to serve among the Muslims. Many Muslims find it harder to trust anyone with a white face. It will be easier for Chinese to blend in with the local people—as Christians from South Korea have found out—than for westerners.

Second, most Muslims assume that Christianity is a religion for westerners. So when Chinese Christians are working in Muslim contexts and daily sharing their faith in Christ, Muslims will see that Christianity is not only a religion for westerners, but is actually a religion for all nations. This will add much legitimacy and weight to the gospel itself. The Muslim will think, “All westerners are supposedly Christians, but this non-westerner is claiming to be a Christian. There must be something more to this Christianity thing.”

Third, most Muslim nations have good relationships with China. For example, because of the oil market, the Saudi Arabian government has a great relationship with the Chinese government.

For the last two years the Chinese chairman Xi Jinping has promoted the “One Belt, One Road” (一带一路) policy, which essentially is a way for the Chinese government to promote trade with the [mostly Muslim] countries along the ancient Silk Road, covering Central Asia, the Middle East, and into Eastern Europe. Generally the Muslim governments are not suspicious of the Chinese. They do not suspect that the Chinese government is seeking to usurp authority of Muslim governments, like many Muslim governments suspect western governments of doing. This trust would make it much easier for Chinese Christians to gain the trust of the locals and effectively share the gospel with them.

Potential Opportunities for Chinese Christians in Muslim Countries

There are a few different options for business opportunities that may be effective for Chinese in the Muslim world.

One option is to open up a Chinese teashop. Many Muslims love to drink Chinese green tea. Muslims in general enjoy drinking tea and coffee. A place like a Chinese teashop could offer Chinese teas and also local teas and coffees. This would be relatively easy to run with the proper personnel, because teahouses are so common in China.

A second option is to open up a Chinese language-learning school. This option is reasonable, but not as good as the first option. This would work best in a large metropolitan city (i.e. Casablanca, Cairo, Alexandria), where there may be enough people who are interested in learning Chinese. Most likely Chinese language skills are not in high enough demand for a Chinese language-learning school to be profitable in smaller cities. Another language-related option could be for a Chinese teacher to teach in a larger language school that teaches multiple languages.

A third option is to open up a small Chinese restaurant. It would be easy to start up and would not necessarily need any specific expertise to open it up, other than being able to cook Chinese food. Another thing that makes this easier is because such restaurants are found all around China, so it is not a totally new idea for the Chinese workers to do this.

The Lord is opening many doors around the world for the Chinese Christians to be used to reach the least-reached areas of the world, the Muslim lands. May this continue to happen and may many well-qualified and godly Chinese believers be sent to these lands while the window of opportunity is still open.

To continue the conversation, contact Tabor Laughlin at  taborlaughlin@hushmail.com.

My recent article on China Source

Check out my first article published on ChinaSource.org titled ‘How Important is Education for Chinese Serving Cross-culturally?’

http://www.chinasource.org/resource-library/from-the-west-courtyard/how-important-is-education-for-chinese-serving-cross-culturally

 

See the article below:

In recent years Chinese cross-cultural workers have started to be sent out to other countries but there has not been a great amount of effectiveness in their work. One reason for their lack of effectiveness is that many who want to serve cross-culturally do not have formal education, often having not gone to high school, much less to college.

Most of the Chinese believers who have had a strong vision for the Back to Jerusalem Movement (B2J) are from very poor areas and have no education. Thus, not only do they not have the financial means to serve in a foreign country, but their lack of a college degree makes it impossible to find an appropriate job once they arrive in that country. Without a high school diploma, much less a college degree, they cannot find a job except for working in a factory often for sixty hours a week. Not only that, but because they are trying to support their family by working long hours in a factory, they have no time to learn the local language or reach out to the local people. Even if they had the time, they have no background in language learning nor do they have the study skills necessary to learn the language.

Comparing this situation to the western missionary movement from the past three hundred years, most western workers historically and currently have been better-educated people.[1]A formal education is even more important for cross-cultural work now than it was in the past. Back then, it was possible to go to many countries openly as a “missionary.” But now for most of the unreached parts of the world, this is no longer possible. One must have a work visa (or be a student) in most countries today to be able to stay there. This situation increases the importance of cross-cultural workers having a college degree to help them get a suitable job overseas.

On a similar note, the Lord gifts some people according to their training and background to be used in one way, while he uses other people with different trainings and backgrounds to be used in another way. We can see this in the New Testament. In Galatians 2:7-10, Paul talks about how God gave Peter, James and John the grace to preach the gospel to the Jews. On the other hand, God gave Paul and Barnabas the grace to preach the gospel to the Gentiles. Paul has an excellent education and is culturally savvy both in Greek and Jewish culture. This background makes him better equipped to preach the gospel to those of other backgrounds in a culturally relevant manner [see Acts 17:16-34].

Peter, James and John do not have as much formal education as Paul, or Paul’s culturally diverse background, so their calling is to reach the Jews. There is nothing in the text, however, that indicates that one task is more or less important than the other. Rather, each is to serve with joy according to the grace that God gives, according to how he has prepared each one. I can relate to this because once I became a believer in college I immediately had some interest in cross-cultural work, partly because I had pretty extensive world travelling experience as a nonbeliever. This was a grace that God gave me to prepare me to work overseas. Similarly, Chinese workers do not necessarily need to have high degrees and much world travelling experience, but they should have a college degree and some exposure to other cultures, perhaps simply that they have learned English competently and had friends from other countries. Those who lack the education but still have a great zeal for sharing the gospel may be more effective by staying in China to reach their neighbors and play a part in sending out better qualified folks to reach the nations.

To continue the conversation, contact Tabor Laughlin at  taborlaughlin@hushmail.com.

Christ’s Chinese Ambassadors to the Nations

Introduction

My greatest desire is to play a part to mobilize the Chinese believers for fruitful service across the globe. Is this happening right now? As far as the state of the church in China, though some statistics say the percentage of Christians in China is around 5-10% of the population, I really have a hard time believing that. Realistically speaking, covering all parts of China, I’d conservatively estimate the Christian population to be about 0.5% of the population, which is about seven million Christians total in China. These are estimated genuine “born again” believers, not just those who are cultural Christians but have no real belief or fruit.

If another conservative number of 0.1% of those genuine Christians were sent out as missionaries, it would total up to be about 7,000 Chinese missionaries throughout the unreached parts of the world. The numbers I gave are very conservative, but it is clear that there is unbelievable potential within the Chinese church for reaching the nations, because of China’s huge population and the rapid growth of the church. As a comparison, one of the largest missions agencies in the world, the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, has about 4,800 missionaries around the world. The Chinese missionaries could potentially be more than that. As the Chinese economy is developing and the government is opening many doors in much cooperation with Muslim governments, now is the time for the Chinese church to see a great increase in missionaries sent out.

But in reality, the Chinese church only in the last twenty or thirty years has begun more consistently sending out missionaries. The Chinese missions effort has been described recently as “fledgling birds learning to fly… still in the process of learning, and sometimes stumbling.”[i] The goal is not just to send out missionaries, but to see them be fruitful among the locals and flourish in that place. The problem is that many of the missionaries, though filled with great passion when they leave their country, often will return home after a couple years of unfruitful service. So what is the problem? Why are the Chinese missionaries not being fruitful in the work? Are there any adjustments that could be made for the sake of Christ’s name being spread among the nations through the Chinese missionaries? This is what this article will be focusing on.

History of Chinese Missions

For centuries, China has been a receiving country, receiving thousands of missionaries from the west, who have come bringing the Chinese the gospel of Jesus Christ. But things are starting to change. The last half-century the Chinese church has grown at an incredible rate. Also, the church in China is slowly increasing its wealth as the economy grows. Previously most of the believers in China were from very poor parts of the country, and had almost no education. But now Christianity is growing in large cities and among the educated. Previously the Chinese churches did not have the financial means to support missionaries. But now, with the development of the Chinese economy, many Chinese churches are starting to think about sending out missionaries, and being able to support them financially. Especially in the last ten years or so, more and more Chinese churches or organizations are starting to send out missionaries, mostly to Southeast Asia or Central Asia.

So now China is slowly becoming a sending nation, rather than just a receiving nation, which means China is starting to send its own missionaries. According to Ken Eldred, it is similar to the situation of the church in South Korea about sixty years ago. At that time the Korean church was small and the country was poor, and there were no Korean missionaries around the globe. But now, sixty years later, Christianity has exploded in South Korea, the economy is one of the most developed in the world, and there are now more Korean missionaries around the globe than from any other country, except the U.S.[ii]

It seems that the Chinese church is also moving slowly in the same direction as the Korean church. I pray with tears that in thirty years there will be Chinese missionaries all over the globe, even in the most remote corners of the world. This has even greater potential than what has happened with the Korean church, on the basis that China has nearly thirty times the population of South Korea. But the goal is not simply to send Chinese missionaries around the globe. Rather the hope is that the Chinese missionaries would not only go to unreached places but would be effective in the work.

Past Chinese Missionaries in 10/40 Window Mostly Ineffective

A critical question is how to effectively send Chinese missionaries into the Muslim countries. The idea of ‘effectiveness’ is to see them not only live and work in that country but most importantly, to learn the language, engage in the local culture, share the gospel of Christ, and see fruit of eternal value among the locals. The gospel first arrived in China through the ancient Silk Road route via the Nestorians. Many Chinese believers are now uniting to take the gospel back the same way that it came to China, through the ancient Silk Road path through Central Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa. This is often referred to as the ‘Back to Jerusalem’ movement. However, as Chinese missionaries have been starting to be sent out to other countries over the past few decades, there still has not been a great amount of effectiveness in their work.

There are a few main reasons why this has been the case. Most of the Chinese believers who have had a strong vision for the Back to Jerusalem [B2J] Movement are usually from very poor areas and have no education. Thus, not only do they not have the financial means to go serve in a foreign country, but their lack of education makes it impossible to find a decent job once they arrive in that country. They have no high school degree, much less a college degree, so they cannot find a job except for working in a factory sixty hours a week. Not only that, but because they are trying to support their family by working in a factory sixty hours a week, they have no time to learn the local language or reach out to the locals. Even if they had the time, they have no background in language learning nor do they have the study skills necessary to learn the language. Certainly it would be incredibly difficult to learn the local language if the missionary has not even finished high school.

Education Important in Western Missionary Movement

Comparing this to the western missionary movement from the past three hundred years, most western missionaries historically and currently have been better-educated people.[iii] The Lord gifts some people according to their training and background to be used in one way, while he uses other people with different trainings and backgrounds to be used in another way. We can see this in the New Testament. In Galatians 2:7-10, Paul talks about how God gave Peter, James and John the grace to preach the gospel to the Jews. On the other hand, God gave Paul and Barnabas the grace to preach the gospel to the Gentiles. Paul has an excellent education and is culturally savvy both in a Greek culture and Jewish culture. This background makes him more equipped to preach the gospel to those of other backgrounds in a culturally relevant manner [see Acts 17:16-34].

Peter, James and John do not have as much formal education as Paul, or culturally diverse background, so their calling is to reach the Jews. There is nothing in the text, however, that indicates that one task is more or less important than the other. Rather, we are to serve with joy according to the grace that God gives us, according to how he has prepared us. I can relate to this because once I became a believer in college I immediately had some interest in missions, partly because I had pretty extensive world travelling experience as a nonbeliever. This was a grace that God gave me to prepare me for the mission field. This is related to the Chinese missionaries, but not necessarily that they need to have high degrees and much world travelling experience. But they should have a college degree and some interest in cross-cultural communication, maybe simply that they have learned English competently and had friends from other countries.

Chinese Missionaries’ Initial Zeal Very Temporary

Many Chinese missionaries, regardless of their initial passion to reach lost peoples, after a few years, either dejectedly return to China or stay in that country but reach other Chinese there, instead of the local Muslims. Such missionaries as these are not positively representing the Chinese church. Many such people see statistics for the lost and have a great passion to take all means necessary to go to that place to proclaim the gospel. But once they arrive there and realize how hard the work is and all the opposition involved in doing the work, the initial passion wears off pretty quickly. They are left wondering how they got there and thinking about how inadequately prepared they are for the task. This is not the best way for the Chinese church to be mobilized to reach the nations.

Need for Reform in Chinese Missions

It seems that the better educated Chinese Christians in wealthier cities generally put less emphasis on taking part in sending the gospel to the nations. The wealthier Chinese churches are generally more concerned about what is going on in their own neighborhood, rather than across the globe. Generally speaking, it is the poorer Christians in poorer areas who have no education who have a burning fire for missions. They learn these things in their house churches through studying the Chinese edition of Perspectives and other missions-related materials. They have great zeal for missions. The problem, though, is that though their zeal will help get them on to the missions’ field, it usually is not related to seeing any fruit once they get there.

Chinese churches need to be more stringent in who they send overseas. If a Chinese believer has no education and has no cross-cultural experience, it is usually not a good idea to send that person into the 10/40 Window as missionaries, regardless of how passionate they are about missions. This area of the world is the spiritually darkest area of the world. Satan lurks in these areas, waiting to go to all means to devour anyone who poses a threat to him. Not only should they have a college degree, but the Chinese missionaries who go should also have proven themselves faithful and fruitful in ministry in their local church in China. Also if they have learned English well, probably they can learn well the language where they are going.

The person ideally would also have some kind of previous working experience in some field that they could use as a platform in the 10/40 Window. Especially in closed Muslim countries, it is necessary to have a legitimate job to provide a Visa in that place. Hudson Taylor, founder of the China Inland Mission, before and after he went to China, was a doctor. William Carey, missionary to India in the late 18th century and founder of the modern missions movement, was a cobbler and factory manager. The Chinese churches also need to think about these things. The above must be considered as requirements for potential Chinese missionaries who have a passion for taking the gospel to the ends of the earth.

Western Missionaries Helping Chinese Missionaries

Also, we missionaries who are from western countries have the advantages of having a few hundred years of missions’ history from our countries. We take it for granted to be sending out missionaries from our churches. It seems very normal to us. The missionaries from our countries can learn from the mistakes of those who went before us. But for the Chinese missionaries now being sent to other countries, they have very few examples to follow from their own country. They are a kind of trailblazers.

Though some may say the Chinese missionaries just need more training, I believe that sending fruitful missionaries is not just a matter of getting some good training before they go. I think even more important than training before they go on the field is experienced and solid people who will lead and guide them once they arrive on the field. So, is this possible for the Chinese missionaries? Maybe this is not possible if there are no other Chinese missionaries who have already been in that area long-term and bearing fruit with the locals.

Western Missionaries Filling in the Gap

Are there any other options to help set an example for the Chinese missionaries once they arrive on the field? Is it reasonable for western missionaries who have been serving in China long-term to help lead the Chinese missionaries to move to a Muslim nation in teams to serve together? The western missionary could move with the Chinese missionaries to the Muslim nation to help them learn about the importance of learning the local language, investing in locals, and sharing the gospel with locals while also getting adjusted to their culture and getting settled in a legitimate job or platform. The western missionary has experience in this if he has already gone through all of this process successfully in China. He could be a model for the Chinese missionaries once they are sent to the Muslim nations, if they move there together. After at least a few years of seeing the model of the western missionary in that Muslim nation, then hopefully the Chinese missionaries would be self-sufficient in that nation and ready to have a long and fruitful ministry among the locals.

Is it worth the sacrifice for the western missionaries to leave their ministry in China to spend at least a few years in a Muslim nation to help give the Chinese missionaries guidance there? Yes it does seem to be worth it. Paul talks about how he desires to “supply what is lacking” [1 Thess. 3:10] in the Thessalonian church’s faith. This is an opportunity for the Western missionaries to help supply what is lacking in the Chinese church. Coming from a western church, we are used to the great benefits of sending missionaries from our church. Not only is it a huge blessing for those who go as missionaries just to see God working across the world, but sending out missionaries is also a great blessing for the local western church.

The people in the local western church are encouraged by missionaries, because they can hear how God is working around the globe and play a part through their prayers and also how the Lord answers those prayers from miles away. Sending out fruitful missionaries is such a sweet encouragement, not just for the missionaries themselves, but also for the local church that sent them. This is something we really take for granted in many western churches, which send out many missionaries. It is not something we really even value.

But this awesome blessing is something that most Chinese churches are not able to share in, because they are not currently sending out missionaries. And if they happen to have sent out missionaries, a good number of those missionaries are floundering and not seeing any fruit. This of course is not properly representing Christ in that foreign land. So this is a way that their faith is lacking. Any way that we can help the Chinese church be more fruitful in sending out missionaries is a way that we are “supplying what is lacking” in the Chinese churches’ faith.

Chinese Missionaries Potentially Very Effective in Muslim Countries

There are several reasons why Muslim nations would be a terrific place for Chinese missionaries to serve. First, the Chinese do not have white faces, which is a negative trait for most westerners who seek to serve among the Muslims. Many Muslims find it harder to trust anyone with a white face. It would be much easier for Chinese to blend in with the locals—as missionaries from South Korea have found out—than for westerners to blend in with the locals. Second, most Muslims assume that Christianity is a religion for westerners. So when Chinese missionaries are working in Muslim contexts and daily sharing their faith in Christ to locals, the Muslims will see that Christianity is not only a religion for westerners, but is actually a religion for all nations.

This will add much legitimacy and weight to the gospel itself. The Muslim will think, “All westerners are supposedly Christians, but this non-westerner is claiming to be a Christian. There must be something more to this Christianity thing.” Third, most Muslim nations have good relationships with China. For example, because of the oil market, the Saudi Arabian government has a great relationship with the Chinese government.[iv]

The Chinese chairman Xi Jinping the last two years has promoted the “One Belt, One Road” policy, which essentially is a way for the Chinese government to promote trade with the [mostly Muslim] countries along the ancient Silk Road, covering Central Asia, the Middle East, and into Eastern Europe. Generally the Muslim governments are not suspicious of the Chinese. They do not suspect that the Chinese government is seeking to usurp authority of Muslim governments, like many Muslim governments suspect western governments of doing. This trust would make it much easier for Chinese missionaries to gain the trust of the locals to be able to share the gospel with them.

Final Thoughts

At this point in time, the growing Chinese church remains a mostly untapped resource of potential for world missions. This potential, based on China’s recent economic growth and the growth of the church, is not being used effectively now for the global Kingdom. Any ideas out there for how to better guide this unbelievably precious work? I pray for the Chinese church to play a significant part in reaching the 10/40 Window, particularly the Muslim nations. I pray also for the sanctification and purity of the Chinese church, that they may be presented as an “offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 15:16). This is fulfilled through the Chinese church sending fruitful laborers to the ends of the earth.

 

To contact me to talk more about this or about serving in NW China: taborlaughlin@gmail.com

Endnotes

[i] “BAM Global Think Tank China Regional Group Report”. April 2014. Michael Lam & others, Editors.

[ii] Eldred, Kenneth. God Is at Work: Transforming People and Nations Through Business. Manna Ventures Publishers. 2009.

[iii] Wrobbel, Karen A. “Are National Schools a Viable Option?” EMQ Archives. January 2008.

[iv] Smith, Jessica. “Offers They Can’t Refuse: China’s Relations with the Muslim World”. Uyghur Human Rights Project, 2009