Ross and Christine Paterson's Blog

Reflections from Our Journey

Category: China News

Category: China News

5 needs of the Chinese Church Today

Jackson Wu (吴荣) wrote an article entitled “The 5 Most Pressing Needs of the Chinese Church”. These needs are listed below and we need to be praying about them. As the great missionary to China Hudson Taylor said: “The power of prayer has never been tried to its full capacity. If we want to see mighty wonders of divine power and grace wrought in the place of weakness, failure and disappointment, let us answer God’s standing challenge, ‘Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things which thou knowest not!’” These five areas of need are places of “weakness, failure and disappointment”; so we need to pray for them.

Need #1. Theological Training

“First, Chinese believers need theological training. While various local training centers exist around the country, most of them lack academically qualified teachers that can provide them with advanced training needed to interact with difficult passages, issues, and worldviews relevant to their ministry… At most, pastors memorize standard formulations without understanding how to interpret the Bible for themselves. Many materials... are merely translated from Western resources without any regard for an Asian context.”

Need #2. Biblical Studies

Second, “the Chinese church needs more resources in the field of Biblical studies… We cannot expect Chinese church leaders to develop contextualized tools and theological insights if they do not have access to foundational knowledge and resources related to Biblical studies.”

Antioch Missions over many years until today has sought to print in China and distribute a huge amount of materials that will help meet the lack of supply in the first two needs listed above.

Need #3. Cross-cultural Training

Third, “Chinese believers need substantial training to serve as cross-cultural missionaries. The failure rate of Chinese missionaries is high. Most have little experience living among people who are not Han Chinese. Furthermore, many Chinese struggle to work in teams while serving in a second-culture environment.”

Antioch Missions is deeply burdened in this area and for over a decade has run courses to meet this need in the Chinese church.

Need #4. Marriage and Family Ministry

“Chinese Christians across the country are desperate to receive assistance in having healthier marriages and families. A majority of believers will readily admit that they are unsure how exactly to be a ‘Christian’ husband/wife, how to lead a church and a family, and raise children who genuinely love Christ.”

Antioch Missions has published several books specifically to address this issue of Christian marriage.

Need #5. Children’s Education

“Chinese children are required to receive 9-years of public education (grades 1-9). This period enables the government to sufficiently indoctrinate all kids with an atheistic, socialistic worldview that celebrates the current political regime. Christian parents understandably are concerned that their children will reject Christianity, especially given increased restrictions by the government on the participation of children in church worship services.”

A number of years ago Antioch Missions funded a powerful Sunday School course and distributed it in China.

Pray that the Lord will raise up labourers to meet each of these 5 needs in the Chinese church.

Pray specifically for the work that Antioch Missions has done for many years in these 5 areas, that we would make a real impact on the Chinese church.

Pray that the Lord would make clear in the years to come how Antioch Missions should serve the church in China in these 5 areas.

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China’s Population: A hidden crisis

In 2019, China's population stands at 1.418 billion, the largest of any country in the world. China ranks number one in the list of nations by population. China’s population is equivalent to 18.41% of the total world population. Most of us would be well aware of those facts. It gives rise to the humorous comment that God must love the Chinese people more than any other because He made more of them than any other!
What is less well known is that China's population growth rate is only 0.59%, ranking China not 1st but 159th in the world. Perhaps our initial reaction might be that slow growth for China is a good statistic. But it is not. According to the New York Times, “Chinese academics recently delivered a stark warning to the country’s leaders: China is facing its most precipitous decline in population in decades, setting the stage for potential demographic, economic and even political crises in the near future. The forecasters said there would be 27 million fewer children aged nine or younger by 2028, a 17 per cent reduction from today, putting a damper on related consumer markets including toys, clothing, milk-based products, education and childcare.”

Yi Fuxian, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, wrote: “It can be seen that 2018 is a historic turning point in China’s population. China’s population has begun to decline and is rapidly aging. Its economic vitality will keep waning.” That is the first year it has done this since the famines of 1961 and 1962 induced by the Great Leap Forward, Mao’s industrialization campaign. The researchers said inaccurate census estimates had obscured the actual population and fertility rates. The fertility rate required to maintain population levels is 2.1 children per woman, a figure known as “replacement level fertility.” China’s fertility rate has officially fallen to 1.6 children per woman, but even that number is disputed. One source claimed it averaged 1.18 between 2010 and 2018.

All this challenges the vision of China’s leadership that “China will become rich before it gets old.” The experts say it will become “old before it gets rich”, because of the falling birth rate coupled with the fact that the economic growth is already starting to slow down.

"The looming demographic crisis could be the Achilles heel of China’s stunning economic transformation over the last 40 years. A decline in the birth rate and an increase in life expectancy means there will soon be too few workers able to support an enormous and aging population. And so the declining population could create an even greater burden on China’s economy and its labor force. With fewer workers in the future, the government could struggle to pay for a population that is growing older and living longer.” Thus consumer spending might slow and have an impact on the economy in China. Some even say China’s state pension fund might even run dry by 2035.

Pray for wisdom for China’s leaders to know how to face this looming population decrease with its wide economic and social implications.
Pray for the institution of the family in China that has been so much under threat, as it is in many nations around the world today.
Pray for the churches in China that they might understand from the Lord how to serve their nation in the face of this hidden crisis, giving hope and the Gospel to those already impacted by these events in China.

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The Power of The Word of God

“I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season.” Paul, writing in 2 Timothy 4:1-2, makes a very interesting emphasis to his young team member, Timothy - especially since “this is the final chapter of Paul’s final letter.” Paul’s emphasis is on the Bible, the Word of God.

SOME READERS will be aware of the challenge in China today to the Bible. Over the last YEAR it has become more difficult to purchase copies of the Bible (now banned from selling online). Also THERE IS A very serious threat from the Chinese authorities to ‘sinicize’ the Bible, to rewrite the Bible to “adapt to socialist society." The plan proposes “implementing socialist core values by ‘retranslating’ the Old Testament with some Buddhist scripture and Confucian teachings and adding new commentary to the New Testament to make socialist ideals and Chinese culture seem more divine” (The Christian Post). In this context Paul’s challenge concerning the Scriptures to the young Timothy is even more urgent for China.

Therefore it will be good to focus on prayer for China and its church, that they should have the freedom to read and teach the Bible, the word of God. Perhaps we need to be reminded of the power of this word, even in societies that might reject it. As an encouragement to our faith in the power of God’s word, it is worth sharing the following true and powerful story.

The crew of the British naval ship HMS Bounty seized control of the ship. Goaded by the cruelty of their captain, they gave him and his friends a boat and watched them float out to sea. In the spring of 1789 the mutinous sailors settled on Pitcairn Island, a tiny dot in the South Pacific. They burned the ship, took Tahitian wives and recruited Tahitian workers. It had all the makings of a tropical paradise. But they turned it into a living hell, a cesspool of adultery, violence and drunkenness. Within a decade the natives attacked the settlers. Only one survived: Alexander Smith.

Left on a five square kilometre island, surrounded by natives, he did something remarkable. He began to read a Bible crew members had salvaged from the their ship, the Bounty. “When I came to the life of Jesus,” Smith later explained to his British Navy superiors, “my heart began to open like doors swinging apart. Once I was sure that God was a loving and merciful Father to them that repent, it seemed to me I could feel His very presence and I grew more and more sure every day of His guiding Hand.” The Scripture transformed not just Alexander Smith, but the entire island. When the British Navy discovered Pitcairn Island in 1808, its order and decency astonished them. The name Pitcairn became a byword for piety. From immorality to piety. What made the miraculous difference? The Bible!” (Quoted from Word For Today).

Pray for that amazing power of the Bible to be freshly released in the church in China.
Pray for that same power to be released across the nation of China, from North to South and East to West.
Pray for those working on sinicizing the Bible, that they would be changed themselves and overshadowed by both the love and the fear of the living God.

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Crackdown on church

Ian Johnson, writing in Foreign Affairs, defined the direction of Chinese government policy to the church in China in a way that should be helpful to all those who pray for China’s church. He essentially made three points.

Firstly, “the events of the past two years show that for the first time in a century and a half, religion is firmly ensconced in the center of China’s social and political life.” In other words, Christianity (and other religions) are now main stream in China, too large and significant to be totally removed.

Secondly, there are significant crack-downs by the Chinese government. “The day that many of us had feared was upon us: China’s best-known pastor, Wang Yi, and 100 of his followers had been detained. Their church of 500 members was closed – very likely forever…. Such stories have become common. Churches closed, crosses removed, mosques demolished, Muslims sent to internment camps – the list of state-organized measures against religion in China has been growing.”

Thirdly, and most significantly, Johnson argues that the policy is one of co-opting, of seeking to conform the church to the State and its values. “It’s easy to think that religion in China is being crushed by a strong state, diminishing in importance as a new powerful leader takes firm control of the country. This view is tempting but wrong. China is not retreating to the era of high Communism under Mao Zedong.

Today’s China seeks not to marginalize competing groups and belief systems, the way Beijing did during the Mao era, but to co-opt them…

Today’s Chinese state, much like the imperial state, can be a generous benefactor, helping to rebuild temples, train new Buddhist and Taoist clergy, and set up international exchanges with the faithful in other countries. But toward those out of favour – today largely Christians and Muslims – the state can be harsh, setting up re-education camps, demolishing mosques and churches, and persecuting leaders.”

The principle behind this is simple. There is no separation of church and state. “The government guides all aspects of societal life. In principle, it would not allow any social community or religious body – especially not a religious body demanding a high degree of commitment – to be independent from government control.”

And so some form of confrontation between the church that is faithful to Jesus Christ and the Communist State is unavoidable. “(China is) a society focused on ideology, and on principle (it) would not allow a religious faith that could influence the lives of many people... the ‘Sinicization of Christianity’ of recent years is an attempt to ideologize religious faith, and so soften the government’s current worries concerning the Christian faith. But the Christian faith pursues purity of doctrine and purity of the church. And therefore the house church that holds fast to the truth will not be politicized, will not allow doctrine to be remade by ideologies... From the perspective of political administration, this is the root of long-term tension between church and state.”

“The church is nakedly displayed in the public sphere. Therefore, when we face the government, there is really only one posture we can take: the posture of carrying a cross… In the East, we need an ecclesiology defined by theology of the cross, so as to face the tensions between church and state over the next 10, or even 50 years.”


Pray that the Lord would anoint the church in China to know how to face this policy of co-opting. Pray for leaders to be able to define that “ecclesiology defined by theology of the cross”

Pray for the leadership in China, for more moderate voices to prevail.
Continue to pray for leaders and members of faithful churches where there have been closures and arrests.

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Trade Wars

Trade negotiations between the world’s two largest economies, the USA and China, recently took a seriously negative turn. The U.S. raised tariffs on $200 billion worth of imported goods from China to 25% from 10%. Beijing responded with tariffs of up to 25% on $60 billion worth of U.S. goods.

The reactions on both sides were strong. CNBC reported that the People’s Daily, China’s official newspaper for the Communist Party, published a post titled “This is China’s attitude!” on its official WeChat account. The post contains a graphic with three slogans touting the country’s defiant attitude in face of trade tensions with the U.S. There was just one image, with three slogans in gold lettering printed over the red Chinese flag and a picture of shipping containers. CNBC’s translation of the Chinese phrases reads: “Negotiate, sure!”; “Fight, anytime!” “Bully us, wishful thinking!”

The People’s Daily, according to China Media Project, spoke harshly of the US government, saying “American consumers, farmers and enterprises,” have “become the victims of the trade tensions stirred up by the U.S., not victims of ‘unfair Chinese trade practices.’”

But there is “Promise fatigue” on the US side. "No longer do U.S. policymakers believe Beijing’s protestations of good faith, of asserting that it will stop taking advantage of the U.S. in trade, that it will honour intellectual property rights, and that it will uphold freedom of navigation in critical waterways. Years of broken promises and a doubling down on exploitative behaviour has worn thin Beijing’s welcome in Washington." (Real Clear Politics)

At the same time, on both sides there are internal battles being played out. Those who have worked on the inside of the Trump administration spoke of a similar division at the highest level in the minds of US policy makers, between ‘nationalists’ and ‘globalists’. Nationalists want aggressive measures like tariffs because they believe there are two systems that are against each other and only one will win – “winner takes all”. Globalists want to work for a world in which these two systems can complement each other and thus both sides can benefit. It seems the nationalists, using “national security” on matters like steel and aluminum, have won the battle.

On the Chinese side there was a movement towards significant change of the sort that the US is wanting, but the Xi leadership has reversed that trend, in a battle between hardliners and reformers. Michael Pillsbury, an advisor to President Trump, speaks of “a very famous document in the U.S.-China economic relations field called China 2030, published jointly with the Chinese and the World Bank. Liu He, the chief negotiator, is a co-signer of it. He worked on it. The plan in China 2030 is for a much freer market, more foreign investment, cutting back on these massive state-owned enterprises and the subsidies they have. But that has been put on hold for ten years now.” So Pillsbury remains optimistic that the reformers in China want their system to change; the hard-liners don’t.

Pillsbury comments: “I think the relationship between President Trump and President Xi is what's at work here. They know this is part of a larger set of issues between the U.S. and China, and they want to solve it. So ultimately, I'm optimistic the two presidents can make a deal.”

Pray for the Lord to overrule in the increasing tensions between the two countries.

Pray specifically for President Xi and President Trump, that they would be given good advice by those around them and they would “make a deal.”

Continue to pray for a move of the Spirit in both countries that would cause at least some leaders on both sides to seek the face of the Lord for His wisdom.

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Important Anniversaries In China

“One unique feature of the Chinese political calendar is the prominence of sensitive anniversaries. The approach of these anniversaries often means increased security measures, tightening of regulations, and even the slowing down of the internet. In other words, sensitive anniversaries make the party-state very nervous.” The year 2019 is especially sensitive.

March 10 (1959) was the 60th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China taking full control of what is now the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR). “For the Tibetan government in exile it is regarded as the day that Tibet was invaded; for the Chinese government, it was the day that Tibet was liberated.”

May 4 (1919) is the one hundredth anniversary of “the beginning of what would be known as the May Fourth Movement, as students in Beijing demonstrated against the government’s weak response to “the foreigners (with) their concessions and treaty ports”, but at the same time it challenged internally for “the modernization of Chinese society and politics.” Obviously today the Chinese government will be sensitive to the fact that it was a movement generated by student protest, something which the Chinese leadership would not like to see repeated in any form.

June 4 (1989) “This is arguably the most sensitive date on the Chinese political calendar… It was on this date that the army was called in to crush the demonstrations that had been taking place in Tiananmen Square in Beijing since April, 1989.” This year, the 30th anniversary, is likely to be unusually tense, with possible demonstrations in Hong Kong and elsewhere.

July 5 (2009) is the tenth anniversary of the ethnic riots in Xinjiang, which “broke out in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang, following a violent incident between Uighurs and Han Chinese at a factory in Guangdong province that was triggered by a false report of a rape… The official death toll of the riots was 126, but Uighur rights groups claim it was much higher.” With the massive clampdown in Xinjiang in 2018-19, the anniversary is obviously a highly sensitive one.

October 1 (1949) is “the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China.” Chairman Mao Zedong declared from the Gate of Heavenly Peace that the Peoples Republic of China had at last stood up. “Much of the news out of China in the coming months will need to be understood in its light. .. it’s reasonable to expect that the lockdowns will become much tighter.”

President Xi recently gathered officials from all around China, saying that “whether dealing with foreign policy, trade, unemployment, or property prices, officials would be held responsible if they slipped up and let dangers spiral into real threats… ‘Globally, sources of turmoil and points of risk are multiplying,’ Xi said. ‘At home the party is at risk from indolence, incompetence and of becoming divorced from the public.’” Nervous words to prepare for a sensitive year.

Source: “The Year of Living Sensitively” Joann Pittman in China


Pray for China in the year 2019, that there would be no new controversial events or anniversaries this year.

Pray for the government of China, that they would handle these anniversaries wisely.

Pray for those impacted by these anniversaries, whether students, Tibetans or Uighurs or others, that they would see that the only ultimate answer to such pain and these memories lies in the Prince of Peace, the Lord Jesus.

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China’s Social Credit System

China has introduced a “social credit system”. The target of this system is “to give each of China’s 1.4 billion citizens a personal credit score. The social credit system assigns both positive and negative scores for individual or corporate behaviour in an attempt to pressure citizens into behaving. The Chinese government has built up a data-driven system which automatically generates ratings for each Chinese citizen, business and authority based on whether the government and their fellow citizens consider them trustworthy.” The system is expected to be fully in place by 2020, but is already partially working.

The general reaction inside China at this initial stage seems to be favourable, with Chinese citizens feeling it brings security and ‘trustworthiness’ to them because bad citizens and companies should be revealed and restricted.

Recently Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post gave an analysis. “Millions of Chinese individuals and businesses have been labelled as untrustworthy on an official blacklist banning them from any number of activities, including accessing financial markets or travelling by air or train … Over 3.59 million Chinese enterprises were added to the official creditworthiness blacklist last year, banning them from bidding on projects, accessing security markets, taking part in land auctions and issuing corporate bonds.”

“This ‘untrustworthy conduct’ of individuals and businesses also includes charges of swindling customers, failing to repay loans, illegal fund collection, false and misleading advertising, as well as uncivilised behaviour such as taking reserved seats on trains or causing trouble in hospitals”… Also included were “provocations on flights, attempting to take a lighter through airport security, smoking on a high-speed train, tax evasion and failing to pay fines, employers who failed to pay social insurance, those who spread false information about terrorism.
The results are punishing. “About 17.46 million ‘discredited’ people were restricted from buying plane tickets and 5.47 million were restricted from purchasing high-speed train tickets… Besides restrictions on buying tickets, local authorities also used novel methods to put pressure on untrustworthy subjects, including preventing people from buying premium insurance, wealth management products or real estate, as well as shaming them by exposing their information in public.”

Certainly there are positive results of the system as “a total of 3.51 million untrustworthy individuals and entities repaid their debts or paid off taxes and fines last year due to pressure from the social credit system.”
But there are serious negatives: “Lawyers worry that the accelerated use of the creditworthiness system will violate an individual’s right to privacy… Many people cannot pay their debt because they are too poor but will be subject to this kind of surveillance and this kind of public shaming. It violates the rights of human beings.’”

But the biggest issue is how far the system will be taken. Could attendance at church or a house group, monitored by China’s 400 million surveillance cameras, result in Christians being given drastically low credit ratings with all the ‘punishments’ that will bring to them?

Source: South China Morning Post

Pray that the social credit system will not be used to harm Christian believers or restrict their attendance at Christian meetings.

Pray that the system would be used only to bring security and law-abiding attitudes to China’s citizens.

Pray that those who continue to develop and run the system would have a sense of justice and genuine protection for all of China’s citizens.

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The mission movement coming out of the Far East...

This week, as I was travelling on Taipei’s recent but excellent Metro system, I suddenly heard my name in Chinese being called by another passenger. I looked round and saw a young lady was calling out my name. As we chatted, I discovered that she was a graduate of the Barnabas School Of Missions, a school that I started here in Taipei about 10 years ago, to train local Chinese speaking believers in cross-cultural mission.

But what really encouraged me was her ongoing comment “I am going for six months to a middle Eastern country to work as a missionary next year.” That kind of unexpected encouragement makes the work we do in the schools of mission in Taiwan and China all worthwhile.

I should have retired by now...

We work to encourage Christian believers here to learn how to do cross-cultural work, and then to go out into the field. I should have retired by now (!), but I have a strong conviction that we are about to see a great wave of missionaries from China, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia and other countries go out from their Chinese churches. So training and encouraging those who go and those who send, keeps Christine and myself busy in the Far East.

As far as Taiwan is concerned, there is a rather unique problem. The church to which I am connected here has planted over 400 churches worldwide. That’s exciting, of course. But the problem is that almost all of these churches speak Chinese, even though they might be in Paris or London or Delhi or wherever! That is pretty logical when you think of it, because wherever you go you’ll bump into Chinese, and indeed probably many of them. So it’s a great idea to serve them.

The challenge of language.

But my challenge is that it doesn’t help the local population of most countries to have a Chinese speaking church in their capital or elsewhere, because locals would then have to learn Chinese before they can hear about Jesus! And that, simply put, is not going to happen.

So the challenge for Chinese believers, here in Taiwan and elsewhere, is to learn other languages and understand other cultures, to then reach their new neighbours!

That mission movement has started. It’s exciting. But it’s only a beginning, it’s a trickle on the beach, not a tsunami wave. But I believe that will come. That’s why FieldPartner is currently building a Chinese school of missions online, using first language Chinese speakers with experience of cross-cultural mission.

We are putting the physical schools that we have run successfully in Taiwan and China on to the internet. That way any Chinese speaking person anywhere can be trained and prepared for mission. Then one day it won’t be just one voice on the Metro, it’ll be a chorus of folk saying they’ve been trained and they are about to go!


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Chinese Christians murdered in Pakistan

At the time of writing there is some confusion regarding the deaths of two young Chinese in Pakistan. But this much is clear. Meng Li Si and Li Xinheng were abducted on May 24th in Quetta, the capital city of Baluchistan province in Pakistan. Pakistan authorities confirmed their deaths saying they had been abducted by the Islamic State. The Pakistan source also claimed that they were “preachers” who were aged 24 and 26. They were teachers in a local private school.

It was also reported that the two victims and another 11 Chinese arrived in Pakistan holding business visas. The owner of the organization for which they worked is a Korean Christian who was reported to be carrying out local missionary work. He was said to be still in Pakistan.

A friend of theirs who was interviewed stated that "They came to Pakistan for work. They were close friends." She said that the two and the other 13 Chinese taught Chinese in the Korean-run language institute. Each was paid 30,000 rupees (about US$286) a month. She explained that they studied Urdu recently because they had to do so as part of their teaching requirements. Their language institute didn't have a name and was set up in a house beside a white mosque without any mark or advertisement. "I have never seen people kinder than them," the friend said.

Chinese state media took a very unsympathetic view, especially Global Times. They claim government sources laid heavy blame on the Korean missionary who allegedly organized the mission work, as well as on the two young Chinese missionaries themselves, insinuating they were naïvely duped into going to Pakistan. A Global Times report noted that this incident should “serve as a lesson” to other Chinese.

However, Steve Schirmer writing in “West Courtyard” makes two powerful points:

Firstly, Schirmer writes, “I want to address (the matter of) their business visa. The Pakistani government seems to be focusing one of their criticisms on the reality that these two people were living there on a questionable business visa. Whether their visa was legitimate or not is not the cause of their death. They did not die because they lived on a questionable business visa. Mr. Li and Ms Lu were targeted, kidnapped, and murdered because they were declaring the message of Jesus Christ to Muslims. That is why they were killed. ISIL does not care if they did business or studied the Urdu language. They only cared that these two and others were in Pakistan to advance the message of the Christ.”

Secondly, Schirmer comments: “For many years, the Christian community, especially in the West, has been saying something to the effect that Chinese believers are better equipped to serve in places like Pakistan than Western Christians. That has never been proven and is unfortunately proven false by this event…. The presence of a Chinese Christian is not necessarily more effective than their Western counterpart because they are Chinese. The Chinese face the same risks that any one of us may face.” (Sources ChinaSource; West Courtyard; Reuters; China Christian Daily.)

Prayer topics (from Steve Schirmer)

We need to pray for China and its church.

We need to pray for the loved ones of Mr. Li and Ms. Lu.

We need to pray and ask God to give them strength to persevere and not give up.

We need to challenge the Chinese church to pray for ISIL and ask God to raise up modern day Apostle Pauls from within the ISIL ranks.

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