The Church Is the Mission
Editor’s note: Wang Jianguo is the collective pseudonym for a group of Chinese house church pastors thinking about writing about issues related to the spread of Christianity in their nation. They are committed to preaching a grace-centered gospel, developing resources for the church, and loving China’s urban centers.
The following was written in preparation for China Partnership’s break out session last week at The Gospel Coalition’s 2019 National Conference. Unfortunately, the recording of the session cannot be made public due to security concerns. But we are excited to share the following essay with you. The author is a Chinese house church pastor who has been ministering in northeast China for more than twenty years.
The church is not the result of missions, but it is the mission. Jesus said he would build his church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it. This power is not found in fellowship alone, nor in small groups, but rather in his body – the church.
Why church planting is the most immediate need in China?
First, urbanization. China's urbanization has been very fast, and people continue to immigrate to the city every day. Before the 80s, 20% of Chinese were in cities; that number reached 50% in 2016 and nearly 60% in 2018. Everybody knows that China is the most populous country in the world. Every year, thousands and thousands of people move to Chinese cities. They are strangers in the city; they need the gospel. The church is the household of God. It is very important to plant churches to serve these misplaced strangers looking for a home.
Second, culture. Right now, we are experiencing a most important turning point in Chinese culture. Marxism came from the West. It has destroyed most of Chinese tradition. Most Chinese people have not believed in communism. At present, this is a key part of China’s spiritual emptiness. This era’s current need is for the gospel to renew the hearts of the people through the church, transforming the community, and impacting the entire country. It is not about individual salvation, but life as the family of God – a gospel community.
Third, the future. China's influence in the world will become bigger and bigger. It will be a good influence or a bad influence, depending on the influence of the church. If more healthy churches are planted, it will not only transform Chinese society, but also the world. The Christian population continues to grow in China, but it cannot continue to grow until it commits to healthy churches. Planting churches will transform the city and the country, and then the world.
More and more believers in the Chinese house church feel that God has called the Chinese church to bless the world, not only China. Yet when you look at the Chinese church today, you find that the quantity of believers is large, but the quality is very week. Many churches still live according to a legalistic culture and it is difficult for them to participate in cross-cultural missions. Mission is just a slogan that draws the attention of Western churches.
Currently, three to five people in my church were former missionaries. They used to go to Tibet and various Muslim countries, but they were hurt by the mission. This is because the church that sent them is not mature and operates out of a ministry-driven, human need-centered mission. Therefore, I believe that only when the church is renewed by the gospel and lives in the gospel, can it begin to send missionaries.
The Chinese can go to places where many Americans cannot go, and our experience with persecution will bless unreached people groups. For me personally, my second language is Russian. So, I often led mission teams to work in the countries of the former Soviet Union. As a result, I understand that China is not the most seriously persecuted country. We are responsible to spread the gospel to more places to influence the world.
There are three ways the American church can bless the Chinese churches.
1) Pray, pray, and continue to pray for China. China Partnership provides daily prayer requests via text message. Participate in receiving these prayer requests! Invite a Chinese pastor or missionary to share in your church’s prayer meetings. Persecution cannot stop the prayers of God’s people. Wherever you are in China or America – in church or at home or in jail – you can pray.
2) Provide the true seed of the biblical gospel to the Chinese around you. Chinese students are the largest number of international students in the United States. 34% international students are from China. And they are the future leaders of China. You can do missions to China at home.
The former Russian communist leader, Vladimir Lenin, once said that in order to convert China into a communist country they needed to begin not only in China but also in France. This was because at that time many Chinese went to France to study and do business there. So, the Russian communists began to impact the Chinese both inside of China and in France. Many influential Chinese communist leaders converted to communism in China such as Chen Duxiu, Li Dazhao, and Mao Zedong. But many were educated and converted to communism in France, such as Zhou Enlai (former Prime Minister), Deng Xiaoping (the economic reformer), Chen Yi (a Foreign Minister), and Nie Rongzhen (one of the Ten Marshals).
As Hudson Taylor, the China Inland Mission founder, said, “If I had a thousand pounds China should have it. If I had a thousand lives, China should have them. No! Not China, but Christ.”
3) You can partner with China Partnership. They can tell you about the gospel movement in China. Likewise, support the families of church planters, come alongside of them and coach them. And give encouragement to the persecuted churches in China.