Saturday, July 4: Our Final Post from China
by Rob Weingartner
The confident faith in God that we have seen in Chinese believers was echoed in this morning’s devotion from Romans 5 lead by Matt Scott. He shared how important the doctrine of the atonement has been to him, and we all gave thanks for hope in Christ that does not disappoint us.
Shanghai is huge. With over 24 million people living in the municipality, it is counted by many as the largest city in the world. We met this morning with staff from the China Christian Council and the National Committee of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement. The “Three-self” movement developed in China in the 1950s reflects the church’s commitment to being self-propogating, self-governing and self-supporting. The use of the word “patriotic” reflects the church’s affirmation that Christianity is not an import from the West and that Chinese can be authentic Christians who are committed to the well-being of their country. In the 1980s, after the Cultural Revolution, the Protestant churches from different denominational backgrounds organized themselves as the China Christian Council, which they consider to be a post-denominational church. There is also a Catholic Bishop’s Conference in China.
We heard more from these church leaders about the growth of the church, the challenges of training leaders to keep up with that growth and new opportunities for the church to serve the society. In word and deed the Gospel is being shared humbly and respectfully. Last year, the church distributed 1.4 million Bibles. The church anticipates that they will baptize 500,000 new believers this year.
When we asked how Christians in the U.S. could pray for them, they lifted up the need to expand and strengthen leadership training ministries, their desire to focus not just on the quantity of believers but quality (“We don’t want to be mile wide and inch deep.”) and the challenge of dealing with heretical and extreme teachings, including the prosperity gospel. So we invite you to pray with us for our partners in China.
After lunch, as some prepared to depart, a group of us went to the Shanghai Museum, a beautiful building in the design of a three-handled Chinese pot – filled with history and art. Again, we were reminded of this country’s rich past.
As we now go our separate ways, we are aware that there is so much we do not know. We still have lots of questions about China and the church here, but we leave grateful for the clearly evident work of God’s Spirit, the growth and vitality of the church and its commitment to showing and sharing Jesus’ love. We have been blessed by the hospitality of brothers and sisters along each step of our journey, brothers and sisters whom we had never met before but now know as family. We are grateful for the gift of this time together and for the care and wisdom of our leader, Dr. Peter Lim. And we leave committed to pray for the church here, for dear new friends, and for God’s mission in this fascinating place that is both ancient and new.
Blessings to you,
Rob Weingartner for the Team