Christianity in China Today, Update

August 16, 2012 by Open Doors in General

Chinese Church

It is not easy task to follow and serve Christ in China while living in one its many huge, modern cities. Not surprisingly, pastors face just as many challenges as their congregation. This is clearly visible in Pastor Fai’s* life. Fai, a modern, urban pastor, sums up the new challenges facing the urban Chinese church: “The government is not the main enemy anymore. It is money.”

Short and stern-looking, Fai went through a cynical time in his youth before surrendering himself to God. Soon after his conversion, he was asked to be a leader in a small church. He decided to travel to Singapore and study in a seminary first because he didn’t feel capable enough. After a year of study, he returned and started a small-group church. Summarizing the increasingly common struggle of Chinese pastors, he notes, “In some pastors’ minds, the building of a church is just like doing a job; it’s measured by the increase in the number of people and how effective you manage the whole church. When the district supervisor of your church network sees that you bring more people to church on Sundays, and you manage the building well, he likes your work. But he doesn’t look at whether the believers keep good relationship with each other (or with God!) from Monday to Saturday.”

Fai added that pastors only serve by preaching–not in other ways. “The traditional ‘Chinese way’ doesn’t care about the inner growth of people, personal relationships, or the knowledge of God. Even for us, our church adopted the same approach in the beginning. But by studying the Bible, we discovered that Jesus calls us to make disciples.”

When speaking of the challenges he’s facing in his personal life, he admits that he is susceptible to personal and family problems as well. “As a formerly hard-hearted man, I am still in the process of discovering God’s love in my life. Fortunately now, I have two young sons to practice this with! I am better able to understand God’s love for us and thus better able to explain it.”

But as a pastor, he is worried about the how the ongoing economic prosperity of China will effect the church. “With increased income, people just want to earn even more. They judge things by their monetary value. Their materialistic mindset becomes hard to reverse. It is a real issue; a problem deeply rooted in the soul.”

He believes the Cultural Revolution – the ‘ten year disaster,’ as many Chinese refer to it – has destroyed the good moral values that China once had. “It is only through God’s Word that believers can deal with the money issue. Everyone knows what and how they should be. But churches nowadays are too complicated. They introduce so many activities and classes for believers to equip themselves, with a view to make believers mature before they serve. But they fall into a trap. It is a myth that you need to be mature before you serve. In fact; we serve to become mature.”

Fai explains, “When I take a look at a church I look like an outsider. I ask; ‘Are we making events and programs, or are we making disciples?’ Because if we are not making disciples, what’s the point of being a church?”

Fai explains that, although there still is pressure from the government, he does not personally experience direct persecution anymore. He, however, is grateful for the persecution and says, “Persecution helped the Chinese Church to grow a lot. But the success of the Chinese church doesn’t rely solely on persecution. If there’s no more persecution, then what shall we do? In every circumstance we should be doing what Jesus has called us to do – making disciples.”

Father God, we have seen in recent years the incredible growth in prosperity of the nation of China, but we have also witnessed the explosive growth of Your church there… and with that growth comes many challenges. Father, we ask today that You strengthen the pastors and church leaders in Your Word so that they can stand firm against the tide of materialism. May they turn to You for all of their needs, and not trust the ways of the world for wisdom, provision and truth. Father, You have laid a great foundation for Your Church in China, may this growth continue in the days, months and years ahead. In the name of Jesus we pray, our only sure hope. Amen 

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