Editor's note: this article represents the speech given by Pastor Hung Yu-jian during the "Overseas Chinese Church - reflection of a century and future prospects" forum in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Chinese church based in Seoul. This represents the original notes written by Pastor Hong, modified as the presentation at the 100th anniversary forum sees fit.
Title: "The spiritual fight in the China mission field"
Author: Pastor Hong Yu-jian
Time: August 12, 2012
Scripture: 1 Thessalonians 2:2; 1 Corinthians 3:10-13
I. Thank you Lord, I am very honored to be invited to share my testimony surrounding the works in the mission field of China during the 100th anniversary celebration of the Overseas Chinese Church in Seoul.
First of all, I would like to express, as a Chinese missionary, my heartfelt gratitude and love for the many traveling Korean missionaries who work for the Chinese Church. In the 200 some years that Christianity arrived in China, the gospel debts born by the Chinese Church have amassed, which we first owe to the European-American missionaries from the west, and now to the eastern Asia neighbors. Many Korean missionaries have sacrificed their tears, sweat, and blood to the Chinese Church, and continue to silently sow the seeds of God. This does not only show the care of God for the Chinese Church, but also the precious and enormous blessings bestowed onto the Korean Church.
II. The history of battles in the China mission field
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Some 2000 years ago, before Christ was risen and resurrected, Christ asked his disciples to encourage the population to become his disciples, as if to blare the horn to the generations of Christians to set sail the Conqueror ship of "war against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places". (Ephesians 6:12) Paul's preaching took place in times of war. He spoke to the Thessalonian church: "I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified". (1 Corinthians 2:2). Because we are spreading the Gospel of God, we cannot avoid trials and tribulations of the world. As Christ says: "A servant is not greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also". (John 15:20) Only if we focus on walking with God and rely on God for courage do we then stand a chance of winning the battle.
From the time when Christianity reached the Chinese community in 1809, missionaries from the west risked their lives to preach in Chinese grounds, where they were persecuted. Following the Opium war, although they gained legality to stay, they still received illegal coercion from government and civilian members, which led to the world renowned "Boxer rebellion". The 20 years prior to the 20th century was the golden period for Christianity, however, the western missionaries who preach in China were separated into two schools. The first school consisted of modernists led by Timothy Richard, who infiltrated into the upper class of China, and aimed to change the culture and society through Gospel. The second school consisted of fundamentalists led by James Hudson Taylor, who saved the souls of the basic class in society, stressing on leading the life of a disciple in the building of a spiritual path.
The modernists, in aims to let Christianity grow with the times and to cater to what the public needed, somewhat sacrificed the basic doctrines of Christianity, thus reaping the result of sacrificing the war against the world. They were thus defeated in the battle against Christianity doctrines in the last century, lost their influence in the civilized world, and eventually was deceived and used by the Communists for promotional purposes. Following the national establishment of the Communist Party in 1949, churches and believers belonging to this school joined (and thus were lost to) the Patriotic Congress. Gratefully, God provided Wang Ming Tao as leader, who was steadfast in endorsing the basic doctrines of Christianity, and refused to give into the modernists. In this battle of protecting the basic doctrines of Christianity, the modernists were considered non-believers. Those who persisted in believing the doctrines of Christianity did not join the Three-Self Patriotic Movement Protestant Churches not out of fear of the government, but out of knowing that believers and non-believers could not be one and the same. They also avoided being directly confrontational with the Communist government. But even so, these leaders and believers still suffered from harsh persecution by the government, where many were jailed. The majority had to wait until after the Cultural Revolution to be freed, and became both witnesses to God's blessings and cornerstones of the Chinese Church family.
III. The current war in the China mission field
There had been enormous changes to China's societal and economical environment since the Revolution in 1979. For one, the economical development had produced visible successes, and created more freedom in personal economics. On the other hand, the corruption of the government and the loss of mutual trust had reached a maximum. People no longer believed in education promoted by the government, and had not found their religion. The government had in turn diverted from persecuting Christianity to governing and using Christianity for various purposes, which opened doors to vast opportunities in spreading the Gospel.
Although China was situated in a new revolutionary period, the degree of control of the government over the people remained the same. The house churches which held the highest standards of Christianity still received a certain degree of persecution by the government. The government used patriotism as basis (which in reality was a public endorsement for Christians to kneel before the idolatry of nationalism), and stole away many Christians who either did not fully comprehend the truth of Christianity, or were not willing to accept the consequences of fighting for God. Thus, an illusion of freedom of religion in China and prosperity of churches was created.
Some things never change. Currently, many Christian churches and organizations in China still continue exhibiting these two schools of thought even after 49 years of government reconstruction. The pivotal foundation of this phenomenon is: do you choose to fight for God, or to please the world (being a flower protected by the greenhouse, so to speak)? Do we then spread the Gospel by relying on God during times of war, although results are not immediate, or do we rely on man’s wits to diffuse the tenets of our faith in order to cater to the government’s wishes, avoid sensitive topics or war in order to protect the safety of our ministries? Paul says: “for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God's word is not chained”. (2 Timothy 2:9)
However, there are currently many China mission organizations that do not believe in the power of God, but will rather subject God’s path into bondage and rely on worldly powers, so as to ensure that their work can be carried out smoothly. But can this type of work stand the trial of fire? If we are unwilling to run on the roads that we are supposed to run on, and to protect that which we must protect, how can we fight the good fight for God?
IV. Pray that God grants us the courage and wisdom to fight
During this period of spreading the Gospel, we not only must pray to God for courage to fight, but also for wisdom to fight. We should learn from Paul, and become wise workers. Under the light of the truth, we can not only see the precious heritage that God has passed on to the Chinese Church, but also see the defects clearly, and where the war is at present, in order for us to become the chosen soldiers of Christ, the loyal keepers of God, to fight for the Gospel, for the nationalization and culturalization of Christianity, and for God.
1. If we believe that God has established for the China house churches through the historical and modern spiritual wars the basic doctrines of Christianity, thus believing that the Bible contains the truth without fault and confirms the necessity of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, the present war should be to lead the church to not undermine theology and knowledge, and to inherit the pure religious tenets and theological reverence passed on during these past 2000 years.
2. If we believe that God has provided for the China house churches through the historical and modern spiritual wars a group of soldiers who are not fearful of prosecution, who have been through trials and tribulations, and who will not bow down to patriotism, we should pray for God to provide a group of modern Christian brothers and sisters who can remain steadfast in the midst of political-economical turmoil, struggles between power and wealth, and lust and desires, “as you hold out the word of life--in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing”. (Philippians 2:16)
3. If we believe that God has provided for the China house churches through the historical and modern spiritual wars a group of soldiers who do not succumb to monarchy, but hold fast to personal religious beliefs and the bottom lines of their consciences, we should pray to God for strength and courage in the modern missionaries, to not hide, to not fear persecution, to lead the church into public places, to fight for the right of freedom to worship and praise God. This act is not trivial, for it can potentially open the doors for the Chinese population to gain right of freedom in speech, publication, gathering, formation of societies, etc etc.
4. If we believe that God has established for the China house churches through the historical and modern spiritual wars that spreading the Gospel can save souls is a significant purpose of God’s works, we should pray to God for strength and courage in the modern missionaries, to not preach freely so as to fit personal style or to gather sparsely and irregularly, but instead to focus on the training of the disciples to create unity in their leadership teams, so that confessions of faith can be carried out purely and systematically, according a complete set of laws and regulations, in order to teach the crowds to “approach everything in a step-wise manner”.
5. God has protected the position of the unfallen church for the China house churches through the historical and modern spiritual wars, especially during the thirty years prior to the Cultural Revolution where contacts with the outside world was cut off in China, and prospered the church following the Cultural Revolution. From here on, the house churches gained respect among the citizens, even to the point of ridding its “western religion” stereotype. We pray that God will provide the modern church leaders with insight and self reflection and prayers, so that they may not fall back into bondage by the knots of patriotism/nationalism. They should incorporate Chinese flavors to Christianity, but not to use the pride of spreading the Christian truth to renew and rid of the evils established in the 3000-year history of a culture of oppression. In fact, the Chinese Church is no longer stereotyped as the “western church” not because of the uniqueness of Chinese culture, but as testimony to the all-encompassing nature of Christianity.
The Korean Church is blessed by God to have prospered, with some 12,000 missionaries being called to various areas of the world, where 1/3 ends up going to China. God, through the Korean Church, has bestowed enormous blessings onto the Chinese Church. Members of the Chinese Church still have much to learn from the Korean church. May the Chinese Church, by relying on God, win the Gospel war and become able to contribute missionary leaders in proportion to the Korean Church. This is the road and responsibility that the Chinese Church should take and fulfill.
[Editor's note: Carol Lee translated the article.]