Zhao Xiao, a Chinese scholar and a committed Christian, recently shared his thoughts concerning China's place in God's plans for our world today, especially in terms of cross-cultural mission. He issued a strong challenge for the churches in nations outside of China to be engaged with China. The temptation is to draw back from an ever more challenging China. Zhao Xiao argues that we should do the very opposite.
“In the season we are in today, God’s heart is for China, and the main battlefield of the gospel is in China. The transformation of China is not only an important mission given to the Chinese church, but it is also given to the universal church. The evangelization and Christianization of China are vitally important for the future of the kingdom of heaven and the world. There must be no delay. The opportunity cannot be missed.”
The task is not easy. “The current environment in China is not friendly towards overseas gospel workers. One could even say that the situation has been getting increasingly worse. After 2017, the situation has deteriorated. China did not continue to reform and open up as many had hoped but rather took a big step backwards.”
However, Zhao points out that China’s recent revivals have occurred in times of difficulty for the church, such as the present one, not in times of freedom. “The first wave of revival experienced by Chinese house churches was in the latter part of the Cultural Revolution and the second wave of revival experienced by Chinese churches was after June 4 in 1989. The situation in China now has once again worsened: the economy is declining, unemployment levels are rising, regulations have become much stricter, the ‘open-door’ has been increasingly closing, and strategically a sensitive geopolitical situation has developed involving the United States and other nations. On the other hand, ‘man’s extremity is God’s opportunity.’ This is the time when China, of all nations, is perhaps most open spiritually, and the hearts of the Chinese are like dry wood ready to be ignited by the fire of the gospel.”
Therefore Zhao urges us not to turn our backs on China. He stresses that engagement with China from overseas is a key to the future of China's churches. “China will certainly become a ‘leading mission country’ in the twenty-first century. However, before China can become a ‘power for missions’ it must first be ‘revived’ and transformed.’”
There are seven actions listed by Zhao that overseas churches must take to be involved in that revival and transformation:
- “First, overseas churches can continue to pray for China;
- Second, overseas churches can continue to send missionaries to China;
- Third, overseas churches can strengthen their links with Chinese churches;
- Fourth, overseas churches can encourage service in China via ‘kingdom companies’— an army of business people with a heart for the kingdom;
- Fifth, overseas churches can train Chinese workers;
- Sixth, overseas churches can help Chinese churches in various aspects such as strategy, leadership, and communication;
- Seventh, overseas churches can help the gospel effort in China through resources sent via the internet, the cloud, and by other means.
Current difficulties and restrictions may make some of the above suggestions seem overly optimistic, but let us trust God to show the way forward. Facts have shown that in today’s internet age, overseas churches can do more and better for China.”
Zhao’s vision is also the vision of the FieldPartner International team.
- Pray one by one for the seven specific steps listed above.
- Pray that the purposes of God might be worked out through these steps in China, and then from China into a world waiting for the gospel.