Contrary to what we know about China today as a country hostile to the Gospel, China was actually one of the first nations to receive the Gospel in Asia on 65 A.D with the journey of Thomas the Apostle who has ministered in a small part of the Chinese territory between 65 and 68 A.D. In the course of centuries, China remained open to religion in spite of the multiple political upheavals in its history with the rise and fall of different dynasties. Already on 1870 there were about 400 thousand catholic Christians with over 600 catholic priests and 700 missionaries. At the same epoch, the Protestants settled in the Evangelic Chinese Society, a big protestant organization which was sending many missionaries in China and Hudson Taylor was the most famous of them.
Hudson Taylor was well-known for his respect of the Chinese culture and his zeal for evangelism. He adopted Chinese garments even if it was a rare thing by that time among the missionaries. Taylor was capable of preaching in various Chinese languages like the Mandarin, the Teochew and the Wu, the second and third dialect being spoken in Shanghai and Ningbo. He even made a translation of the New Testament. As he did not find in China any missionary society sharing the spiritual principles that he professed, he founded during a vacation in England the “China Inland Mission” whose missionaries were wearing Chinese clothes.
Under his leadership, the China Inland Mission was non-denominational which means that it admitted all the members of different protestant groups. Single women, people of the working class and from different nationalities were eligible to a membership in the Mission. Taylor worked in China for 51 years. the Society that he had founded brought more than 800 missionaries to work in China and in their turn they opened more than 125 schools resulting from the conversion of 18000 people to Christianity. They also established 300 stations in the 18 Chinese provinces with over 500 local workers serving there.
The historian Ruth Tucker wrote about him:
“No other missionary since Paul the Apostle has had such a great vision and a well-structured plan for spreading the Good News in such a vast geographic region than Hudson Taylor”.
Christianity in China has continued to expand until the Great Cultural Revolution from 1966 to 1976 inaugurated by Mao Zedong which resounded amazingly worldwide. During that period all the churches could not choose but go underground. It is also during that period that the Chinese and writer Ni Tuocheng, also known as Watchman Nee, died in a hard labor camp on May 1972.
Watchman Nee roamed a large part of China during the 30 years that his ministry has lasted, founding almost everywhere local churches independent from foreign missions. These local churches were known in Western countries as churches of the “small herd” because they were house churches. After 1976 when the Christian regained the right of cult in China, house churches preferred to remain underground and refused to belong to organization directed by the State. Throughout the repression, the house churches were known as underground churches. This repression lasted for decades and even until today. On 2008, 21 pastors of house churches in the province of Shandong were sent in hard labor camps. such a sentence was the most severe against the determination of house churches leaders during a quarter of a century
The New Trend
China being an atheistic country for the major part, it appears as an easy prey to religions and ideological mainstreams. This is what helped Mao in establishing the communist system with his red book which seemed to fill the Chinese spiritual void. But the 1.3 billion Chinese people are currently looking for a spiritual support that neither the communism nor the capitalism have managed to provide
The economic growth during the last decade has brought many changes in the communist politics whose inevitable influence had created an ideological void. And for filling that void they are confronted today with, Chinese masses resort to religion. And the main beneficiaries of this mass conversion movement are the evangelists who can adapt their messages to different groups of believers and the autonomy which they advocate is well related to a more and more individualistic society, while offering an ideology globalizing enough for attracting the former devotees to communism
Enthused over that evangelic wave, Chinese pastors of house churches took part in the first “Mission China 2030” Conference which took place in Hong Kong from September 28th to October 1st, 2015. This meeting had for ambition to launch a huge missionary movement from China. According to history, the Mission China 2030 vision was initiated between two great events: the third Lausanne Congress in Capetown on 2010 and the Asian Church Leaders Forum in Seoul, 2013. It is on this latter meeting that Pastor Daniel Jin had stated: “In the course of the 200 last years, some 20.000 missionaries have brought the Gospel in China. We have a debt to pay back”
The purpose of the Mission China 2030 can be compared to the commitment taken by south Korea in the 1990s to train and empower 10.000 Christians in order to send them preach the Good News around the world. That plan was very ambitious but the 900 pastors of church houses and other church leaders who were gathered in the Mission China 2030 Conference proved an unfailing determination to establish thousands churches in China, to reach the hundreds minority Chinese tribes who are not reached yet by the Gospel but also to send 20.000 missionaries around the world until 2030. It was a big challenge inasmuch as 20.000 corresponds to the number of the foreign missionaries sent in China during the two last centuries.
However, nothing is easy. On 2010 already, 200 Chinese Christians were determined to leave the country in order to spread the Gospel to the rest of the world but they were arrested before taking the plane which would fly them beyond their borders because the Chinese government considered as illegal the fact of sending such a number of people for bringing the Gospel outside China.
Soon the world’s largest Christian country?
According to a British newspaper The Telegraph, by fifteen years China could become the country with the largest number of Christians. The newspaper refers to the study of Fenggang Yang, Professor of sociology in the University of Purdue, State of Indiana, USA. He has written many books on the development of Christianity in China. For the Professor, the Christian population in this country will exceed 247 million in 2030, more numerous than Mexico, the Brazil or the United States of America, three countries which have currently the largest number of Disciples of Christ. David Aikman, former correspondent of the weekly American newspaper Time in Beijing, brings to mind this sudden attraction of China for Christianity. The figures given out by Aikman who is openly convinced that this “great revival” would grandly improve the fate of China, are very impressive. According to his estimates, the country could number almost 100 million practicing Christians and the conversion rate would go over 7 percent per year.
It is currently difficult to give exact figures on Christianity in China because there are still many underground churches across the country. This situation cause that figures differ from an organization to another. For example, the statistics of the Chinese Spiritual Life Survey for 2010 have found 33 million Christians out of 1.3 billion inhabitants (2.4 per cent), 30 million Protestants and 3 million Catholics. An analysis of religions in provinces with a Han Chinese majority carried out by the Chinese Family Panel Studies has found 1.8% protestant and 0.4% catholic in this population.
The most important thing in the Church body of Christ is not the exactness of the figures given by all those studies for the moment. A spiritual revival movement which has begun in that part of the world is to be figured out. A movement which must conduce to the worldwide harvest before the return of the Lord. These figures even incoherent sometimes reveal the desire of the Lord for raising up a great army of workers even in zones where it could not be spoken of the faith in Christ.
More and more reports mainly coming from the Middle East show that many Muslims are becoming Christians after seeing Jesus in dreams and visions. According to Joel Rosenberg interrogated by CBN and who has edited 19 pages on the extraordinary action of God in the Middle East, it is through dreams and visions that Jesus appears to all those people in the shape of “a man dressed in white”. At the origin of these massive conversions to Christianity, the fact that more and more Muslims in the Middle East lose their illusions with the endless conflicts and bloodsheds in this part of the world. Deeply uncomfortable with the doings of Daesh which was supposed to represent Islam, Muslims thirst for the truth.
All those situations reveal us the way the Master of times and circumstances creates changes and upheavals on the planet driving people to search for an energy which could fill their profound despair. And there is nothing else which can do it if not the Good News of the Kingdom of God. The reaction of Church is very determining for the rest of events. God has declared through Moses what follows:
“I will make you jealous by those who are not a nation; I will make you angry by a nation that does not understand” Deuteronomy 32:21
And in Isaiah boldly God says: “I was found by those who were not looking for me; I was revealed to those who were not asking for me” Isaiah 65:1
Evangelic revival in China, conversions in the Islamic world are a call for revival to the Church of the Lord in democratic countries also called Christian countries. Now is more than ever the moment to rise up and march beyond the Master because it makes totally no sense not to find disciples where the Master is. “Follow me” is and will always be the call of the Lord, to follow Him wherever He goes. We cannot claim to be a church of Christ, His disciples, if we don’t focus on Asia in general, especially China because of the action of the Lord in the present time. It is time to catch up, pray, prepare and go to work by the side of the Lord for the Scriptures to accomplish.
“And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world for a testimony unto all the nations; and then shall the end come.” (Matthew 24:14).