The events of 2020, so unexpected and so severe, have raised questions concerning the nature of ministry into China in 2021 for those living outside of China. Obviously there are differences of approach for ethnic Chinese and non-Chinese, but the issues in different ways are real for both. Daniel Dakota, who remained in China during the pandemic with his family, has given three helpful guidelines that are useful in formulating our approaches. We start from an understanding that there are “loss of ministry opportunities. Loss of fellowship. Loss of a sense of stability.” Yet at the same time Dakota feels there are three reasons for optimism and prayer.
1. Resiliency of ministry by the indigenous Chinese church. “COVID-19 has reinforced what most of us involved in China ministry have long known: Chinese Christians are resilient.” They have faced the pandemic as well as the usual restrictions and battles that Christians in China face. ”Ministry has not stopped during the pandemic. Chinese Christians have found ways to gather and continue ministry, whether through online forums or face-to-face in small groups.”
2. New opportunities for ministry for the church in China. ”The pandemic .. has opened up the door to new opportunities. Some Chinese Christians are taking advantage of new methods to reach brothers and sisters. Some are taking the opportunity to plant new churches…. For some, because large groups have been unable to gather during the pandemic, smaller groups have broken out to form church plants.”
3. Most importantly, Dakota feels that we need to see, as we enter into 2021, that this is a new era of ministry for those who want to serve China and its church. “China isn’t what it used to be. We are no longer in the “Golden Era” of ministry when almost anything seemed possible in China. The simple fact is that it’s much harder to do ministry in China today than it was twenty or so years ago.” The Chinese church is “no longer in an era where it is heavily dependent on resources from the Western church…. Of course, that doesn’t mean no resources at all are needed in China. It does mean that foreign workers need to be more discerning when it comes to what resources are needed versus what could be achieved by Chinese Christians.”
“The Chinese church is quite capable of standing on its own in many ways. This in no way means that foreign workers are not needed. Rather, it means that foreign workers ought to rethink ministry strategy. No longer are foreign workers ‘experts' across the board. Instead, their ministry strategy will go farther if they grasp that they are not the saviours of the Chinese church, but partners with Chinese Christians in this new era.”
1. Pray that the Lord would show the indigenous Chinese church His path for this new season in 2021.
2. Pray that the Lord would equally show those who serve the church from outside of China what adjustments need to be made in their service.
3. Pray that the Lord would continue to anoint and bless His church in China to be a voice of hope and truth following the difficult days of 2020.