Editor’s Note: This is the first of a two-part series in which a pastor involved with CP explains why he became involved and why he believes the Chinese church matters for the global church today. This pastor serves a large church in New England and assists the work of both Redeemer City to City and The Gospel Coalition.
You can see part one at this link.
How did you choose to get involved with China Partnership?
For me, there has to be certain, non-negotiable, core values in place when I decide whether I’m going to be a part of something. The first is the gospel — is it gospel-centric? The second is cities, and the third would probably be leadership development. If I’m going to get involved with any ministries outside of my local church, I usually look for those three things. With China you’ve got all three. I see it as a great privilege to be a part of this movement with CP.
Why do you think it is important to be involved with China specifically?
Some of the attention that we should be placing on China and the Chinese church is providential and sociologically strategic.
God grew the early church through an emphasis on certain key cities and of course Paul ultimately wanted to end up in Rome. Rome was the center of the ancient world as we know it; but as Rodney Stark has shown, every city where Paul planted a church had a population of over 30,000 people, which in the ancient context was a pretty large population. God’s plan in establishing his early church was essentially urban-centric. God knows that as the city goes, so goes the wider culture and he uses the sociological phenomenon of urbanization and globalization. Right now, the world is about 55% urban and in another twenty-five or thirty years it will be about 70% urban. People might not realize it, but China’s urban population will grow to about 350 million in around ten to fifteen years. That is more than the population of the United States! And that is why China is going to emerge as a very, very strategic place. China is an emerging global leader in so many different markets.
Strategically, sociologically, China is important. China is going to be a very urban country. They are going to be a major economic force for many decades to come. When you look at the culture of globalization, China no longer sees itself as inferior to the United States. That shift happened a while back. They see themselves as at least being an equal world power. You can even tell when the dignitaries of the two countries meet. In the past, a lot of Asian countries would defer to the United States. Not anymore! Clearly China views itself as an equal power.
The way I look at it — and this is just my humble opinion since I’m not a professional sociologist — God is going to use the secular forces of the West to grow his church. What I mean is that when you look at China as the number one international student sending country in the world, you see that they are sending their brightest. It’s almost like self-imposed captivity. In the ancient world, the brightest and the smartest and the most competent people were initially escorted and brought into captivity to live in Babylon when they were displaced out of Israel. Daniel and his friends were part of it – they were the smartest and they received the best Babylonian education. In some ways, China is doing this to itself. They are sending their best to live under “Western captivity,” because no country can compete with the United States when it comes to higher education. So they are going to keep sending. And they are going to be educated and then they are going to go back and their thinking is going to change. So while this is happening, while the free market is taking place, God is going to open up all sorts of opportunities for the church. He is going to seize that moment.
This is why I think training Chinese pastors is one of the most important things we can do as a church. The experts tell us the number of Christians in China is anywhere from 70 million to 90 million, which is the largest number of Christians in any country in the world. But one scholar from Princeton has written that in about twenty years that number will grow to about 300 million. It’s very, very important for the church, if we are thinking strategically, to be in China – for us to be able to develop, to recruit, to train, to coach, and to care for Chinese pastors.
Why should we be involved if there are already so many Christians in China?
There is going to be an explosion of Christianity in China. My concern is that if we do not train pastors then all sorts of opportunities for heterodoxy to enter Chinese Christianity will arise. The Chinese church has passion – they have heard the gospel (or at least part of it), and they are going out to teach other people. But if they have not been catechized or trained, if they do not have a strong theological vision, if they do not have a robust hermeneutic for understanding the scriptures (and therefore understanding God, themselves, and their mission rightly), then you are going to have all sorts of heterodoxy all over the place. We must curb this danger by teaching correct doctrine, and that is what we are trying to do.
That is why China Partnership exists.