Cover Story

Wildfire

"Wildfire" Continued...

Issue: "Wildfire," June 24, 2006

Mr. Gao's familial and personal history reflects the history of Chinese Christianity and Communism. His grandfather when young was a disciple of famed missionary Hudson Taylor, who died in China in 1905. Mr. Gao became a Communist Party member and a pastor in the government's official church, sometimes preaching while drunk, but he listened to radio broadcasts from other countries and began to read the Bible seriously. He prayed to "the God of my grandfather" and now disciples students who aspire to be missionaries to Pakistan or other Muslim countries. The past has become the future.

Some Chinese Christian urban professionals, asked for their sense of China's future, believe the economy will continue to soar and corruption will diminish. Others expect an Enron-like crash, perhaps following the 2008 Olympics, since they say China's foundation is weak; some also forecast God's judgment against China for its emphasis on abortion and other evils. Many say they can't do much on a national scale so they concentrate their energies on local evangelism.

China's evangelism explosion means that in many churches the leaders have only two or three years of Christian experience-and that's rarely enough time to develop a consistent Christian worldview. Many interviewees spoke of discipleship as their churches' greatest need. The church gender gap, with more women than men attending, also receives scrutiny, with the common explanation an indictment of males for a self-centered pridefulness that sees admitting problems as signs of weakness.

American Christians can help China's house churches by providing discipling resources such as internet seminary lectures and also publications that apply a Christian worldview to cultural and professional issues. (Materials need to stay away from anything that looks like foreign involvement in Chinese politics.) Bibles no longer need to be smuggled in, since state-approved religious organizations now print Bibles and happily raise money by selling them to house churches. (Real loosening here, of course, would be for the state to allow legal importation of all translations, so Christians would not necessarily have to put up with just the stodgy one that is printed.)

American Christians considering living in China should realize that their opportunity to worship alongside Chinese Christians is strictly limited, but the prospects of making contact by working in businesses or teaching English are nearly limitless. One small group leader within a house church said, "We are such young Christians. We look up to the U.S. for living examples of how to lead Christian lives."

That's a scary thought. But, for American Christians, it's also a challenge and an opportunity.

Marvin Olasky
Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD News Group and the author of more than 20 books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion. Follow Marvin on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.

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