Top Chinese Christian leaders agree that South Korean churches must cooperate with local Chinese churches to ensure success for missions in China.
"The Korean Church is quite capable of uniting with the Chinese Church," said Rev. Thomas Wang, a prominent Chinese evangelical.
"If the two churches – which only have minor cultural differences – are able to unite for world mission, there will be great results."
The call for unity came after prominent Chinese and Korean Christians met in South Korea for a landmark conference this past week, celebrating the arrival of Western missionaries to China and Korea.
At the conference, Rev. Wang warned that overseas missionaries should never look down on the traditions of the people they serve.
"Both [Korean and Chinese] churches received the gospel from…Western-missionaries who sometimes unconsciously acted in a way that was offending to others." he said.
“When a missionary fails to respect the culture or tradition of the countries they serve, the natives may react with resistance, especially in Asian countries."
The veteran evangelist said that though he hoped South Korea Christians would inspire churches in China, he wished Korean missionaries would continue to show respect for the local Christians.
“If the Korean Church stands together with the Chinese Church, and plans together, there will not be any unnecessary conflicts for missions in China,” said Rev. Wang.
Unity in Missions
Linz Ping, a respected authority on Chinese mission history, pointed out that Chinese and Korean Christians share a common bond.
The first missionary to Korea, Ping said, came upon the request of Robert Morrison, the Scottish missionary who is credited with printing the first Chinese-language Bible in addition to being the first Protestant Christian missionary to China.
As of recently, the actual number of South Korean missionaries sent to China remains unknown – though human rights groups occasionally report the arrest and deportation of Korean missionaries.
Ping explained that the South Korean churches can learn much about family churches in China, which formed the “rear guard” of Christians who remained after the Communist-takeover in 1949.
Many “underground” house churches, he said, can trace their origins to Western missionaries including those dispatched by famed-missions pioneer James Hudson Taylor.
After the Communists deported the last of the foreign missionaries by 1952, most Chinese churches became independent. In the early days, many churches were forced into hiding as the Communists fervently repressed all religious activity, which was regarded as superstition.
Nonetheless, the church persevered and flourished when the government adopted the free-market system in the 1980s, opening China to the international community.
The government acknowledges that there are 14 million Protestant Christians in China, though other sources tag the figures at 40 to 100 million.
Chinese missionaries from “underground” house churches have often been spotted in countries within the Middle East, Africa, former-Soviet Union, Southeast Asia, South America and Europe – often posing as legitimate businessmen.
It is also not known how many missionaries have been dispatched from the Chinese mainland, due to the often secretive nature of China’s “underground” protestant house churches.
Though house churches are tolerated in some regions of China, religious rights organizations often report violent arrests and long-term incarceration of Chinese Christians especially in rural-sectors.
Gospel Herald reporter Claudia Cheng in San Francisco contributed to this article