The Challenges of Mission
There are several challenges we must think about, which are all areas that Chinese churches should be concerned. Today, God is gracious to our churches and we receive such great blessings, but how do we return the debt of the gospel?
First, mission is the work of sending people
Offering is important. Offering money is important, but offering of people is more important than offering money. A mission ministry is not a foundation. I thought about what Peter said when he went to the Holy temple, he said, "Silver and Gold, I do not have, but what I have I give you..." Maybe we do not have money, but we can give the more precious gospel to those without hope. When a ministry began, you can only sent money. After many years, you would slowly find out that you would need many people. Looking at this balance is very important.
Many people respect Hudson Taylor a lot, because he did not accept offerings when he was working to develop China ministry in England. He said, "If God touches the person's heart, then let him contact us." At mission conferences, Hudson Taylor would never accept donations. There might be many reasons but one of main reason is that many people would be touched after hearing the sermon, so they would offer donations but they are not willing to offer up their lives on the altar. They felt that they have already fulfilled their obligations by offering money. It seems as if the climax or peak of a mission conference is when money is offered. However, something more important than money is the offering of a people and lives of people. "Lord, where do you want me to go? China, Burma, Muslim countries, wherever you tell me to go, I am willing. I will place myself in your hands."
Second, the importance of understanding the work field
Long time ago, China Inland Mission noticed one thing: most western mission centers headquarters were established in England, and the directors did not have any understanding about China. If there was a brother or sister, who is passionate in preaching the gospel, then they would tell them to quickly leave England to go to China. They probably wouldn't have the chance to finish their medical degree, and they would come. Maybe as they first began learning the language basics, the directors in England can still tell him things such as like what he should spent his money on, or where he should go; but after a year, the missionaries would have know more about the work field than the director at the mission headquarter. Because they didn't really understand the native society, it was really difficult to develop the gospel ministry.
Chinese mission centers needs to provide special assistance to the leading co-workers in having the proper field experience. I remember that there was a Lord-loving brother in Taiwan who wanted to start a mission ministry for the Chinese churches, but there were no staff workers, who were willing to devote to a long-term service in this field. That was really unfortunate, because it is really difficult to help young brothers and sisters to begin this work. Some mission centers have a very long history, but there are only two or three who have served in the field for a period of time. Another aspect that we should understand is the importance of people, but practical understanding of the work field for people are really important also. Only these kind of people have enough preparation, including preparation in language.
If you want to be accepted by the natives, then you must be able to speak the local languages. Speaking about this, my conscience is blaming me. Up to this point, I'm still not able to speak Cantonese...(Crowd laughs) There were times when I would take a taxi and talk to the cab driver about the gospel. Even though I couldn't speak Cantonese, I did not stop to testify to him. This requires the motive of being touched. I thought about Jesuits in the 17th century, Matteo Ricci came to China. He diligently studied language and was able to even read "Four Books and Five Classics", a collection of writings by Confucius and his disciples. Today, when we consider the preparation for missionaries, have we thought about arming them completely, including understanding of the society structure and culture, for they are all very important.
Third, missionaries should have a clear self-identity
When the Lord gave us Great Commission and spoke about evangelism and being a witness, he spoke especially about teaching others. Looking at Paul as an example, he would always preach the gospel wherever he goes, lead people to the Lord, and establish churches. In Acts 14, Paul and Barnabas went out to mission for the first time, and they went to many places to preach the gospel, lead people to Christ, and establish church, and gave the responsibility to the local person in charge; lastly, he entrusted them to the Lord and left. This is the example that Paul gave us. He believed in the work of Holy Spirit; but it is not to say: Only when I am present, then the church will survive.
When China changes color, many westerners said, "China churches will have any more hope, because the missionaries are no longer here." Today, we know that they are totally wrong. Paul believed in Holy Spirit. He entrusted the work to the Lord, allowing God to lead. Then the church grew on native soil. If missionaries cannot understand their roles clearly, then they will want to manage everything on their own, leading the church, then the development in this church will not be like the church of Paul.
That year numerous English-American mission centers brought models of their churches into China and they began established churches. Today, when we leave our homeland and go to a foreign land, it is very likely that we will also make the same kind of mistake. If we are not clear about our self-identity, don't believe in Holy Spirit, maybe we may end up walking in their footsteps. Today, there are so many small Korean churches. How they worship God in Korea, when they arrive in china, it is still a small Korean church. If we understand Paul's method of serving and his mission strategy, we can avoid the same mistake and church can grow on native land.
In the beginning, Hudson Taylor trained a Lord-loving native co-worker in Ningpo. Pastor Wong Lai Jun, who was lead to Christ by Rev. Taylor and co-workers, became the head representative of the entire north Zhejiang province even though he wasn't a missionary but a local coworker. In the beginning, when the gospel was spread to inland, these kinds of things are rarely seen.
In Shanxi that year, there was a church leader, who wasn't able to get along with China Inland Mission missionaries, because of his strong character and the discomfort he receives from confronting their ethnic pride. If western co-workers understand the roles that they play, then they should encourage the local co-workers and know that the co-workers God has chosen are very precious. Our Chinese churches today should diligently learn in this aspect.
Fourth, the importance of partnership between church and ministry
In some aspects, western mission ministries did not set a good example for us. That year, there were many western mission organizations that did not cooperate and they sometimes having overlapping jobs. There is a joke: United States Southern Baptists mainly did missions in northern China and United States Northern Baptists mainly did missions in southern part of China, which caused the natives to not know what to think of it. Today, there are some mission organizations that are in similar situation. Our Chinese churches can also learn the steps to cooperate one-heartedly in order to prevent any unnecessary arguments and repetitions.
Fifth, you must understand the challenges in a big city
In today's work of world missions, you not only need to have visions, but you need to also have strategies. Many farmland people would move to cities, so we need to understand the challenges to do missions in cities and equip the brothers and sisters. Facing these challenges, Hong Kong has a solid foundation. Many people are concerned about the vision of bring the gospel back to Jerusalem. Sometimes I worry because many young people from churches in China would leave their villages and go to the city. Churches need to assist these Lord-loving young people in adjusting to city life, but if they are not careful, then it would be difficult to maintain the proper relationship with the Lord and there would be great loss. If the village people want to go preach the gospel in Jerusalem before we can train them on how to live in a city and proclaim the gospel to the Muslims in China -- the future defeat will become the shame of our church. Many young people, who went abroad for overseas missions, felt disappointed, because they did not understand the local condition. After going back, they would not consider missions, which is very unfortunate. Thus, timely preparation is very important.
Sixth, knowing the role of Christian professionals ¡V Pioneering region
There are many countries today that do not welcome missionaries. When we are faced with this kind of situation, there are several different methods: the first one is that if there are many local Christians, money support is appropriate or short-term participation in their training courses or allow leaders to come forth and provide necessary trainings to them; besides this, in order to accomplish the Great Commission, we must understand the importance of professional talents and businessman. A Christian, who is a businessman, doctor, nurse, teacher, engineer, already has a key in their hands, which missionaries do not have. Even though missionaries may not enter a country, professionals can. Businessmen are welcomed by every country, so they are able to give living testimony and share with others about the grace that God has given them.
Seventh, the importance of prayer
Facing the present challenges, we need to pray. We need to ask the Lord of harvest to reap his harvest. Prayer is really important. WCCM has setup many small prayer groups in Hong Kong and United States to support all areas of work and at the same time share visions, so prayers are very important. For so many years, CIM relied upon the support of the small group prayers, which provides them with the strength to go on missions.
Having the heart of Christ
In the very beginning, I've already mentioned that this year is the 100th anniversary since Hudson Taylor has passed away. Several weeks ago in Province of Jiansu and Zhenjiang, I visited the church located near where Hudson Taylor was buried. His tombstone was knocked down during the Cultural Revolution, but it has been resurrected once again. I had the opportunity to witness to the churches there. There is a Bible verse that was written on the tombstone saying, "A Man in Christ." What is a man in Christ? Simply speaking, this is a new human creation, one who lives being filled by Holy Spirit, one who carrys the commission of the Christ, and one who has the heart of Christ.
I often tell the brothers and sisters this quote by Hudson Taylor that most churches really admire, "If I had a thousand pounds, I would give it all to China. If I had a thousand lives, I would not keep one back from China." Hudson Taylor wrote this verse when he was 28 years old as he tried to convince his sister to come proclaim the gospel in England. It wasn't written on his death bed. But the verse following this is even more important, "No, not for China; for Christ."
Paul is clearly knows that the love the Christ encourages us; it is like that even today, allowing the love of Christ to encourage us, see the needs of work field, and allows us have the heart of Christ.