Our Vision for China: Churches as Kingdom of Heaven on Earth
With the rise of China as a new economic and military superpower that is significantly redefining the world order, interest in China and Chinese culture has increased over the years. Social, economic, political, and military events in China frequently occupy Western headlines and many of these headlines focus on certain questions. How do we comprehend China as a new economic-military power? Will the myth of economic growth soon run its course? How long can continuously deteriorating morality sustain Chinese society? Summing up all of these headlines is the desire to understand how China’s seemingly conflicting characteristics can coexist. It is vital to understand China's rising influence in the world against the backdrop of its struggling society. No one doubts that beneath the surface of economic prosperity, China faces great challenges ranging from various forms of large-scale social unrest to problems in everyday human life such as child-rearing, education, business ethics, employment, housing, the environment, aging, etc. And to compound these problems further, a wealthier China is now exporting its problems to the world.
A good example of China’s social struggles and how they are impacting the world is the lack of trust concerning food safety in China. This matter is a primary concern in people’s daily lives and continues to grow as the media has exposed more and more severe cases in the past ten years ranging from using industrial waste to make medicine capsules to extracting cooking oil from sewer dumps. One of the most attention getting stories was identifying life-threatening doses of harmful ingredients in a number of popular brands’ baby formulas. Because this faulty formula was proven to cause the deaths of several infants, many parents have become obsessed with purchasing their formula from overseas regardless of the cost. In order to guarantee sufficient supply for their own infants, Hong Kong, Europe, and North American countries have started to implement new policies limiting the amount of formula visitors can take out of the country.
Moral corruption in human life, public and private, is a major cause of the aforementioned problems and this corruption points to a deeper crisis of humanity. After sixty years of consistent atheistic education and radical efforts to erase traditional cultural values, the experiment to entirely westernize China and Chinese culture with Marxism is bearing bitter fruit. Confucianism’s view of humanity and its social norms have been irreversibly lost. No one knows what humanity and culture are headed towards. The post-atheism age has left people brainwashed with little fear of any super-natural power or being. Chinese society has been thrown back to BC500 when different thoughts, philosophies, and religions were all competing for the people’s heart, mind, and allegiance.
This is a time of cultural reconstruction after cultural revolution. Though the situation is worse now than the last time China went through such upheaval, nevertheless, the circumstances are better because we have the gospel that saves through Christ's death and resurrection. There is a better hope.
Though personal salvation is the core of Christ's work, the gospel according to the Bible is of cosmic proportions that are bigger than the individual. The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and its eternal implications for humankind and all creation is the central message of the gospel and the ultimate reality of life. It is this message that will redeem God's people and generate genuine Christ-followers. It has the power to transform neighborhoods and cities, and to renew the culture. It will establish strong counter-cultural, yet culturally literate, life-giving, and grace-centered churches. We need to preach this big, cosmic, eschatological gospel to the Chinese people as they go through this time of cultural reconstruction.
For the first time in two thousand years of world history, Christianity has the opportunity to influence an enormous non-western and heterogeneous culture, having direct access to its fundamental core values and shaping its understanding of humanity. Until now the gospel has spread with the advancement of the West’s culture and has not yet thoroughly encountered and transformed another culture as it did the Greco-Roman world. The life of the church in other cultures has more or less simply been assimilated into the western form.
Only if the eschatological gospel gains deep roots in the culture can the Chinese church become meaningfully missional for a long period of time. Otherwise, Christianity will eventually be pushed to the margins and become irrelevant in twenty to thirty years, just as it has in Taiwan and Hong Kong. This huge task has to start small and it may take at least a hundred years.
The first step is the personal salvation of individuals, along with the rise of God's people corporately. Time and again, God's salvation plan has repeatedly started from a man, a family, a tribe, a nation, and onto the entire world. It is in this redemptive-historical metanarrative that the story of a nation can be retold and reconstructed and therefore, the gospel has a unique opportunity to enter and reconstruct Chinese culture as a whole. Change and transformation must start from God's people and flow out from this Kingdom of heaven on earth.
China has the potential to become a nation greatly shaped by the redemptive grace of Christ and the next great cultural center to be influenced by the gospel. Now is the time to work and devote our lives to the gospel capturing the Chinese mind and heart for the glory of our resurrected Lord. It is a time of opportunity and it is also a time of life and death. We are convinced that genuine heart, mind, and lifestyle change are the true marks of God's reign among his people and we hope the church will be a lasting renewing force as it takes the posture of a servant. We pray that just as the gospel of Jesus Christ crucified and resurrected transformed and reconstructed the ancient Roman world, it will also capture the hearts of the Chinese and eventually win the culture for Christ.