Cover Story

Wildfire

"Wildfire" Continued...

Issue: "Wildfire," June 24, 2006

Mr. Han also sees benefits among his employees: "Christians work well whether they are supervised or not. They tend to be optimistic, more tolerant of co-workers. They have more integrity, more responsibility, and serve customers better"-and that is also impressing government officials.

A second CEO-call him Mr. Wang-recalled his experience as he walked around his factory: In 2003, prodded by a wife who had become a Christian and the problems of a company with poor morale and cash flow, he "begged God, what shall I do? For the first time I prayed from the bottom of my heart. I felt His love and devoted 2004 to spreading the gospel." Now he provides Bible-based character training to his employees every morning from 7:30 to 8:30, and he says that most have become Christians.

Mr. Wang also has occasional hymn sings and testimony offerings during the day; at one, 125 employees in navy blue T-shirts stood and sweetly sang, with 10 more standing silently. He said that government officials have "had some conversations with me. I tell officials we use Bible verses to train workers. It is up to each employee whether to believe or not, but each will be exposed to the gospel. The officials say I can teach anything within the company."

One manager who once was a Communist Party member attests to the ways Mr. Wang's company is different from state-owned ones and others where "bribery is common." He says CEOs who become Christians have only one set of books and pay their taxes honestly; they no longer have mistresses or win contracts by proffering prostitutes to customers.

These Chinese executives see Christianity bringing immediate as well as long-term benefits, but they do not preach a prosperity gospel. Mr. Wang's company lost a large order it needed for profitability because he refused to pay a bribe totaling 3 percent of the contract. Some of Mr. Wang's financial backers think his ethical behavior is foolish. Some local officials are holding up the sale of his current property, a sale he needs to fund new construction at a site where a foundation stone-proclaiming "Glory to the Lord, and the people will benefit"-is already laid.

The semi-liberty these CEOs have-within certain defined rules that could be changed arbitrarily-parallels the semi-liberty that house churches now have in some major cities. (All churches are supposed to register with the government and place themselves under its authority, so "house church" means a non-registered church and not necessarily one that meets in a home. Most do, but some in the countryside meet in caves and some in cities meet in auditoriums.)

It's against government rules for Westerners to attend house churches, but several Christians gave WORLD entry into that sphere, as long as locations of meeting places remained unspecified and individual participants unnamed. One house church visited makes use of a generic conference room-chairs behind long white tables-in one of the thousands of buildings where foreign companies have offices, so that the entrance of two Westerners does not alarm the government policeman at the door.

One service, conducted entirely in Mandarin Chinese, began promptly at 9:00, with 44 women and 16 men in attendance. First came a recitation of the Apostles' Creed and then a responsive reading of Psalm 53. The first half-hour included prayer, two hymns sung antiphonally (with some stanzas sung by men only and others by women only), and a congregational reading of Genesis 39. Everyone read from church-provided Bibles and sang from a booklet of hymns downloaded from internet sites in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and California.

The pastor arrived just before the service began after taking an overnight train from another Chinese province. He put on a fresh, short-sleeved white shirt in the car that rushed him to the meeting place and began preaching promptly at 9:30: He took off his watch, placed it on the lectern in front of him, and finished preaching exactly at 10:00. His sermon was the third of a five-part series on how Joseph progressed from multi-colored robe to servant's robe to prisoner's robe to prime minister's robe and finally to a robe as God's servant.

The pastor, with evident practical applications for his young church, told of how God transformed Joseph from a naïve and proud child to a mature, faithful adult who learned, as church members should learn, to focus his mind on God's message rather than on political pressures, gossip, or revenge. The pastor explained that Chinese Christians should forgive their enemies, as Joseph did, and should realize that even when we are in prison our minds are free: From Joseph's life we know that even a godly man has many difficulties and suffering, but he also has peace of mind and the ability to overcome Satan's attacks.

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