While the religious policy in China is becoming more opened, the availability of Christian spiritual resources has greatly increased in some urban cities of China, a China mission expert commented.
Johnny Li, minister-at-large and spokesman for China ministry from the Open Doors U.S.A., shared about the new insight that he has received from his latest trip to China and other Asian countries.
"Many Christian bookstores have been opened in urban cities, such as Shanghai and Beijing. On top of the Bible and theological books, resources for Christian leadership, family and marriage, and other spiritual books, are also available. Currently, there are over 400 types of Christian books in China," Li reported.
These bookstores are not operated by the China Christian Council/Three-Self Patriotic Movement of Protestant Churches (CCC/TSPM), but they are allowed to openly sell Christian books published by different publishers, organizations or universities. There are around 70 such kind of bookstores in China. The translated version of some renowned spiritual publications in Western countries remain popular among Chinese Christians. For instance, the Biography of Hudson Taylor, Mother Theresa, the Story of Jesus, and even some pro-family resources written by the founder and chairman of Focus on the Family James Dodson.
"Family and marriage is a very big issue in China nowadays, especially in pastoral ministries. Books related to this topic can bring great impact to the society," said Li.
Li tried to explain the reason why the demand for Christian spiritual books has increased in relation to the rapid development of "house churches". In Shanghai, Li visited some fellowships that are not registered with CCC/TSPM and witnessed the passion of many young souls in search of Christian faith.
"The student ministry in China has been developing very well. University students are really opened to Gospel. To certain extent, they are even more opened than students in Hong Kong and other countries, "Li commented.
"Students in China are really thirsty for the word of God. Unlike young people in Hong Kong and Taiwan who may have basic idea about Christian, most of these students were once atheists, but they just read the Bible and they believe in it. They also tend to ask very deep questions, which young people in Hong Kong and the United States may not be able to think of. Their purpose is not to challenge the Christian faith, but it’s because they really want to confirm that the Bible is the only truth," he added.
"As they believe in Christ really fast and their faith is really simple, so we need more discipleship, the work of God is really great," Li stated and he was really "amazed". In urban cities, there is no much problem about the supply of the Bible, but discipleship materials are really needed.
Li spoke of the importance of matching the work of Open Doors with the trend in China: "While the door of China is opening more, the demand [for spiritual resources] has become higher. For those who are already Christians, we should continue to do follow-up to strengthen their faith. And for the many of those who have just become Christians for very short time, we must be careful not to lose them. Therefore, we must always check the change in China and see how our work can match with the trend."
A team of people from Open Doors has started to do youth work in China in response to the rising number of young Christians. Among the young Christians, they come from very diverse background- some have moved from rural areas to cities for work, some of them are well-educated and some are less educated. Open Doors has planned to launch the first Chinese Youth Bible within 1-2 years.
Even though Li has reiterated that China has become "more opened", in many rural areas, persecutions still exist.
"For young people who grow up in the city, how they think about persecution is very different from the older generation," said Li. "In Shanghai, young people in fellowships do not have much idea about persecution, but they are informed that persecutions exist in other parts of the country. Recently, a house church in Jinsu is being persecuted severely by the police and the church members were badly beaten up." Li is also concerned that the supply of Bible in rural areas is still very scarce.
"For the last 50 years, China has never been opened up like now. We are very thankful that God is opening the door. We have a great hope in China. There are many opportunities, but still, there are so much work to do," Li concluded.