Since the Chinese economic reform that was implemented 30 years ago, China has already developed into a country of economic prowess and undergoing enormous transformations in the economy, society, culture, philosophy, and numerous aspects. In the midst of this growth, large migrations of villagers into the cities have caused not only unprecedented societal changes, but also great challenges to the work of missions for China’s churches.
In the last issue of Great Commission monthly periodical, Rev. Luke Zhang, director of Sowers International China ministry, wrote an article exploring the new challenges of doing missions in China’s cities, and he pointed out his observations of the changes in China’s churches in many aspects.
Comparing with commonly known classification of churches in China, Three-Self Patriotic Movement Protestant Churches and the House Churches, today’s churches in China have become more complicated in its network and form. The House Churches are experiencing rapid growth in the cities, where members are younger, more educated, and modes of gathering are more spirit-filled.
Furthermore, the Gospel is beginning to gain the acceptance of increasing numbers of university students, scholars, intellectuals, and white collars, which reveals the trend of what used to be found mostly in rural areas to the business and cultural sectors of the society.
While the traditional China’s churches have always held a monolithic and conservative (non-denominational and fundamentalist) theological stance, they are now becoming pluralistic and is influenced by theological perspectives from various overseas denominations.
Aside from its theological changes, churches in China are no longer confined to working alone, but they are communicating and networking more than ever before.
Addressing the churches in the cities that are undergoing changes, Zhang pointed out that leadership training is a major area of need for missions in cities. Areas in need of immediate attention are raising the interests of those with high educational background for the gospel, the wave of peasant workers migrating from the villages into the cities, and the training of lay leaders and peasant workers and base-level group mission’s leaders.
Zhang further elaborated that lay-leaders must have a firm biblical foundation, kingdom perspective, willingness to devote for Christ, for missions, and a humble attitude for serving in missions; regarding the group leaders for peasant workers, he or she must truly love the Lord, show a true responsibility towards the peasant workers, possess good testimonies in their lives and work, and be willing to conduct base-level management.
The key point of missions in China today is leadership training. For it directly correlates to whether or not China’s churches can again experience a revival and whether it can truly become the supplier of workers for world missions, Zhang wrote.