December 9, 2007

Evangelizing the world...

Charlene and I just read a great book, Jesus in Beijing: How Christianity is Transforming China and Changing the Global Balance of Power, by David Aikman. There are amazing things going on in China, with Christianity growing and spreading ceaselessly, despite cruel persecution and harassment. But what really made my hair stand on end was that these people are not just content to survive, they are seriously dreaming of missionary work in other lands. Their central driving idea is that, over history, the main movement of Christianity has been westward, from the Near East across Europe, and to the New World, and across the Pacific to Asia.

And so, what's the next step for Christianity and its missionaries? To go from China westwards, along the Silk Road, through the Moslem world.....to Jerusalem! Here are a few snippets, to give you a bit of the flavor ...

...A few of the Americans present were familiar with this notion: 100,000 Chinese missionaries on a global evangelization expedition. [Dr Luis] Bush was dumbfounded. For a comparison, the total estimate for American Protestant and Catholic missionaries working overseas in any given year is 40,000 to 50,000. The U.S. annually sends more missionaries overseas than any other single country by far; the current effort is built on two centuries of experience, and the considerable wealth of ordinary Americans. Could 100,000 Chinese be prepared for missionary work and sent out by the year 2007? Almost certainly not. But the process could begin. In fact, even before the Beijing Forum of February 2002, it had already begun...

..."Back to Jerusalem." It was impossible not to hear this term from Chinese house church Christians of all ages in all parts of the country. The origins of the movement are as complex as they are dramatic.

The first time the notion that China's Christians had a role to play in evangelizing the world, and in connection to Jerusalem, seems to have been in the 1920's in Shandong Province. 1n 1921, Jing Dianying founded a small independent Christian group. It was called the Jesus Family, and was not dissimilar in format to the Little Flock, founded by China's most famous twentieth-century Christian, Watchman Nee... The five word slogan of the Jesus Family was "sacrifice, abandonment, poverty, suffering, death." This turned out to be the fate of the group's members who set off on foot spreading the Gospel in nearby towns and villages...

...It isn't clear what rekindled the Back to Jerusalem fervor among China's house church Christians from the mid-1990's onward. It could have been the influence of Zhao's story or simply the spontaneous reemergence of the same vision that animated the Northwest Bible Institute students and others back in the 1940's.Certainly the enormous confidence that the house church networks had acquired during the phenomenal expansion of the 1980's was part of the explanation...

Posted by John Weidner at December 9, 2007 5:13 AM
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