Churches located in the urban cities of China are now becoming a major source of strength to China’s Christianity. What are its shapes, present challenges, and the opportunities?
Recently, Christian Communication Inc. published a series of articles on “The Development Situation of City Churches” in China Horizon, where ministers and Christians in China wrote articles sharing the actual situation of China’s city churches, their relationship with the house churches, and their calling, etc. In one of the article, the author “Ka-en” introduced the city churches’ situation, challenges, and opportunities in detail.
Presently, in the major cities across China, there exist various types and modes of churches, such as the traditional house churches, TSPM churches, intellectual churches, etc, and they all have a new outlook and can be said to be thriving with varieties.
These specifics are that the age level are becoming younger – the believers in the city churches no longer consists of only female seniors but the middle age, youth, male believers are becoming the majority; the make-up of believers are becoming more intellectual – intellectuals and professionals are increasing more and more, so the believers have higher expectations in the ministering of the church, care, counseling, etc., they like to experiment with connecting their faith with daily-life concerns and problems, such as using the Bible to interpret the social phenomenon, moral ethics, environmental protection, etc; the target group ministered to have been diversified – traditional house churches and TSPM churches have begun to devote their efforts in campus ministries and intellectual ministries, intellectual churches and third type of churches have also begun ministering to the farmers and handicapped, and all types of churches have become aware of the importance of family ministries; the modes of gathering have become diversified - according to the age make-up, there are youth, young adult, and senior gatherings; according to gender, there are gatherings for brothers and for sisters, and for handicapped, for engineers, and for artists, etc.
The churches in the cities throughout China also unavoidably face temptations and challenges, which is related to the China’s process of modernization in the economy, politics, and society, and various aspects. Whether it is the government-sanctioned churches or the underground churches, they all face similar challenges:
Financial problems – mainly it is because of lack of transparency in not letting the believers see the account, which causes many flaws such as lack of financial accountability, accounting mess, church directors making decision without prior consultation; determination of who are like us – discriminating against those unlike us, many small circles, small groups exist inside the churches; seeking after the size – ignorant of China’s actual situation and blindly promoting the establishment of super-mega churches that would have tens of thousands of believers but only one or two pastors in order to satisfy the individual sense of honor but neglecting the need to effectively minister to this large flock of lambs; spiritual arrogance – believing that only their experience and theological stance is evangelical, their biblical interpretation and method of preaching is orthodox, their method of prayer and aims in life is only correct spiritual way, and even in terms of church models, vision of development show shadows of oversea churches, and they especially worship famed speakers, influential pastors, specialists in particular scholastic fields, those with a doctorate degrees, etc; overly focusing on fellowship – emphasize that believer should participate in fellowships, and that they can miss the Sunday Services as a result, but they must not miss the fellowship, which causes the fellowship to be revived while the services become cold, problems of devoting in fellowship but not in church, competition between the fellowships, and territorial confrontations, etc.; negligence of ethics – some brothers and sisters lack actual church life, and their understanding and knowledge of the church is seen as only an ideal, lacking in Christian ethics and moral understanding, so they cannot easily co-work with local staffs and lack a sense of trust.
While China’s society ages, the problems of ministering and caring for those marginalized in the process of social transformation all provides the churches in the cities opportunities while the most important is “accepting pioneering” – no matter what type or modes of city churches, they should be especially cautious about the territorial mindset and have a broader kingdom perspective so they can respect each other mutually, accepting each other and revealing their own gifts, serving the believers and the crowd. The author hopes that the churches in the cities can escape the influence of secularization, make actual adjustments towards the mission strategies, capture the opportunities that are presented during China’s social transformation, and effectively minister to this generation of believers in the cities. Meanwhile, the author exhorts to not forget the Great Commission to diligently proclaim the Lord’s name and guide China back to the Lord.