A Mile Wide, An Inch Deep
“China used to be a society grounded in strong traditional values,” says a prominent urban area pastor. “The Cultural Revolution destroyed those old belief systems. Nowadays, the biggest enemy of the Chinese Church is worldly values infiltrating the lives of believers.” Many church leaders feel the same way. Joining forces with them, Open Doors helped create a plan to counter these developments and inject Christian values in China’s society.
Since the 1980s, China has experienced a massive transformation through steady economic and social reforms. For millions of Chinese, the Chinese dream-a good job in the city, a nice apartment, and eventually a partner and a child-became a reality among members of the emerging middle class.
Unfortunately, that dream became a powerful idol governing the lives of most Chinese, even drawing Christians away from the sacrificial lifestyle that has so long characterized the Chinese Church. As the wave of persecution slowly subsided, the church underwent a transformation. Programs, activities and budgets replaced the focus on Christ. During this time, the Church experienced massive growth; in fact, a pastor’s success began to be measured by the number of church members. This is why so many people ministering in China have begun to describe the Chinese Church as a mile wide and an inch deep.
“Of course there are still many dedicated pastors and church members,” says Open Doors’ coordinator, Xiao Yun. “But it is a fact that the Chinese society is weakened because more and more people only live for themselves, for the here and now, and for the future house and family. This is especially true in urban areas. It is also a fact that the Church itself is not immune to the waves of materialism.”
Open Doors and its partners believe that the Chinese Church should be a positive force within the community. Xiao Yun says, “That is why we asked ourselves how the church can have the most impact.
There are around 80 million believers. We cannot possibly support and train each and every one of them. So who should we invest in?”
Yun adds, “We know Chinese spend large portions of the day online. They read articles, listen to podcasts and watch videos. Those media form their opinions, values and lifestyles. If that’s where the battle for the hearts and minds takes place, that’s where we need to send our soldiers. One of our innovative projects is to strengthen Christians who are active in the world of media.”
In 2013 Open Doors began a media project. Cheng, a field worker who is responsible for setting up these regional platforms shares, “It connects Christians in their regions and helps them to form partnerships with each other.” Cheng adds, “We challenge them to produce websites, audio files and video clips which are rooted in Christian values, such as loving your neighbor, being honest, living for the greater good, not drinking excessively, abstaining from drugs and respecting the other sex.”
“We try to empower the Christian media workers also,” says Cheng. “Sometimes they are opposed by the government, which knows the power of the media and wants to control it even more than it wants to control the church. As soon as something negative happens in China, they shut down the internet so people cannot look for information from outside sources. Media workers can also be resisted by their own pastors who may feel the media is not ‘spiritual’ enough.”
Cheng hopes that Christian values will spread across the country. “However, we need to realize this is a project for the long term,” he explains. “We have started with a small number of regular meetings in big cities and we are looking to expand that network to other regions. We reach a few hundred media workers at the moment. Next year we want to further equip the leaders of the meetings by teaching them pastoral care and how to coach others. Fortunately, the first results of the meetings are promising. The people we work with are creators and many have started to ‘create.’ Some write hymns, others make short videos and upload them to YouTube and Chinese social media sites.”
Supporting Christian media workers is just one of the projects of Open Doors China. In addition, Open Doors has also launched a similar project for Christians working in educational institutions. Another important campaign is raising awareness among Chinese Christians about persecution in other parts of China and the rest of the world. Some of the most important work of Open Doors China is to support the most persecuted Christians in China. They are those who come from a Muslim background, most of whom who belong to ethnic minorities. Open Doors supports these believers by providing Bibles, training and practical help.
Father, thank You for the astounding work You have accomplished in China, a nation that now has around 80 million believers, and where for decades Christianity was illegal. We pray for them now, in times of greater freedom, that they will grow in faith, a faith that will sustain them to stand strong in the midst of social pressure, a faith that will compel them to preach Your gospel boldly, not only in the midst of persecution, but also in the midst of freedom and plenty. We pray that You will grant them a heart to serve Your church in parts of China, and the rest of the world where persecution is strong, and where there is need for the light of the gospel to dispel the darkness of idolatry and false religion. We pray for Christian media workers that as they are trained in pastoral care and discipling the gospel of Christ; may their spoken words go forth through the airwaves in much power and that You will open the hearts of multitudes to turn to You in faith. In the name of Jesus our all in all, Amen.