Reports have been coming out of China for some time now about a new government crackdown on Christianity. Whether or not this is something new or just a cyclical pattern of behavior for the Chinese government is unclear. You can read any number of reports simply by Googling Christians in China.
What is clear is that Christians, especially Evangelical Christians, are facing greater persecution in China today than they have for some time. Yet in spite of the persecution the Church in China is growing. By some estimates there are over 160 million Christians in China, making it the most Christianized nation in the world by total numbers.
One of the amazing aspects of this story is that the primary growth of the Church in China is among young professionals. These are people who stand to lose much in this spiritual confrontation between the Church and the government. What is the attraction for these young professionals that would cause them to risk their jobs and their future? It is what they find in the Church that is missing from their lives. Some have referred to the love that they find in the Church. Others use words like acceptance and relationships. What they are finding in the Church of Jesus Christ is exactly what they aren’t finding anywhere else.
And isn’t that what the Church – in China, in America, in Africa or any other place, is supposed to be? Aren’t we supposed to be the place where people find what is missing from their lives? The place where disenfranchised people find the love of Jesus Christ? Where unacceptable people find acceptance? Where people too caught up in the frantic pace of life find meaningful relationships? Aren’t we suppose to be the place where people find what they can’t find anyplace else?
I want to suggest that the people in China aren’t really so different from the people where you and I live. They all want the same things. They all need the same things. The address may change but people are basically the same the world over.
So why is the Church in China growing in spite of renewed persecution and many of our churches in the West aren’t? It might be because the things we are offering people aren’t really what people need. We offer glitz, they need substance. We offer shows, they need relationships. We offer out-of-this-world programs, they need to be loved.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not decrying the American Evangelical Church. It’s certainly not your father’s Oldsmobile – it has changed greatly and not all of the changes have necessarily made it better. But I’m not ready to throw it all out and go back to the church of the 60’s. What I am suggesting is that the Chinese people who come to the Church are looking for the right things. Ultimately contemporary music, on-stage bands, light shows, slick videos, and dyn o mite (for those of you who remember Jimmie Walker) children’s programs, by themselves, won’t meet the heart needs of people. Jesus based love will. Unconditional acceptance will. Genuine relationships will.
Maybe we can learn from the Church in China. Maybe they have something to teach us.
Stay in the Word