Same City, Different Universe

I had very interesting appointments on Tuesday and Wednesday night. They couldn’t have been more different! I’ll share the stories with you, because I think it will give you a better perspective on the true situation in China. We’ve all met somebody who told us that it’s just “like this” in China, and I know from personal experience that it’s very easy in our thirst for information to take those statements at face value. But every person has their own opinion, interprets what they see in a different way, and responds to it with an appropriate ministry. One of our goals while we’re here in China is to dig to the root of all the accounts and find out what’s really going on. To do so, I have to follow up on every contact… and Tuesday and Wednesday night are the result!

My wife and I have a couple of language tutors that meet with us a couple times a week to reinforce what we’re learning at language school. Turns out, one of them claims to be a Christian, and when she found out I was a Bible teacher, she told her cousin, a police officer… who is a member of an underground church (…that was a close one!). Well, the cousin got together with the leadership of the church with the idea that I preach on Sunday. And they wanted me to meet with the leadership of the church for dinner last night.

So… quite the cultural experience. Real Chinese food, real Chinese people, real Chinese house church leaders. Lots of questions back and forth. They wanted to know where I went to seminary, what I would preach to their people, and what I thought about “Reformed” theology. I asked them some questions, too… they told me that’s there’s about 400,000 professing Christians in this city of multiple millions, but that 80% of them go to the Three-Self Church. Not typical of China, they told me. The Three-Self Church preaches a predominantly social gospel and is completely controlled by the government. They told me that the pastors in the Three-Self movement are required to submit their sermons to a government official before preaching it for approval. That’s leaves 20%, or 80,000, in the house churches. And most of the house churches, at least in this area, have an extreme Charismatic slant. There are very few churches like theirs preaching the authority of Scriptures and the doctrine of grace through faith.

I asked the leaders finally, “Are you allowed to do what you do or not?” One of them smiled and said, “Jesus commands us to do it, so we’re allowed.” Though they didn’t elaborate, they say they have had some problems with the police before. Hopefully I’ll find out more about that Sunday, when I speak at the church. But here’s a church of 200 people, VERY large for a house church, meeting every Sunday, a good number of students and young people, preaching the Gospel, singing, playing the piano, and trying to make an impact in this city. And it’s all extremely illegal. And it’s just as dangerous, if not more, here as it is anywhere in China.

That was Wednesday night. Tuesday night was just a little bit different. Met some guy (foreigner) at a restaurant who saw us with our Bibles and invited us to a mysterious “English culture and language meeting.” So we show up at the meeting place and he tells me that he invited some other foreigners “because they’ve shown an interest in Christianity.” So we show up at this business office in an apartment. The plaque outside says “China Group, Inc.” (Not really. But I have to say it said something!) So we go in and there’s a big ol’ American guy behind a podium and about 25 Chinese people listening to him talk. He then has us all go up, one by one, and say something about the State we’re from. Then we break up into little groups where, I assume, we’re supposed to hope that someone asks us about having a relationship with Jesus Christ. (???) They were short on workers, so they put me in charge of a group. (???) We left after two hours of this tomfoolery. I’m not really sure how someone was supposed to show up there with an interest in Christianity and find out ANYTHING.

But when the meeting was over, the workers excitedly invited everyone to come back. Why? I’m all for them. I’m all for bringing as many Christians into China as possible. But we need honest, bold Christians. The 007 stuff is cute, but it’s the reason why missions in China isn’t working.

So, we always have to follow up on our contacts. Sometimes we have a Tuesday night. And sometimes we have a Wednesday.

One Comment on “Same City, Different Universe”

  1. Ben July 18, 2007 at 9:21 pm #

    Wow that is so awesome about everything…except the english culture thing. that’s not so cool. and the social gospel thing but at least its not the prosperity gospel. Well you’re in my prayers keep it up.

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