The Network

I went to the Christian bookstore a couple days ago. Yeah, I know – it’s Communist China – we shouldn’t have one of those. But we do. Pretty small operation – but the selection ain’t too bad. Me and St. went and blew about 50 bucks and left with two bags full of books for the library at our Bible study house. They’ve got everything from C.S. Lewis to James Dobson, from John Bunyan to John Maxwell. Picked up some good biographies – Hudson Taylor, Jim Elliot, and like-minded hyper-Gospel-ists. Got some good Bible study materials – Bible dictionaries, handbooks, histories. Some stuff about relationships, leadership, and some fiction to lighten the bags.  

The people that run this bookstore have a chain all over China, as I understand. The place isn’t that big, maybe 40 square meters, with some coffee and snacks, a couple couches, and a central book display. Complete with the usual flower-power Jesus-paraphernelia that manages to find its way into every Christian bookstore, even in China. Not really sure yet how they manage to operate this kind of deal. They can’t sell Bibles – that’s reserved for the government via the Three Self Churches. Unfortunately, there wasn’t really anyone manning the store that could answer the kind of questions I have about it.  

A couple months ago, I heard that this store sponsored some city-wide church leader meeting. Which brings the house church pastors out of the woodwork, I’m told. Americans weren’t too welcome, unfortunately, for fear of police attention. So I couldn’t tell you what they talked about. But, anyway, it’s nice to have a Christian bookstore in town. Lets us stock up on some good junk.  

I think I mentioned in my blog, but maybe not – there was a concert in public in the middle of town a couple weeks ago, sponsored by a house church in town. I couldn’t go due to our leaders meeting, but I’m told that there were about 900 people there, mostly college students. About a week before that was going to go down, I received notification of it from three different sources, trying to get us to have our group participate. When I came here, I thought it would be really hard to get involved with the house churches. Like a really-hard-to-join club with secret doors, knocks, and handshakes. Quite the opposite. It’s staying out that’s hard.  

The truth is, there’s not as many churches and church leaders as you may imagine. Even if there are as many as we’re told, which I don’t believe, it’s much less impressive as a percentage. The network isn’t quite as complex, organized,  and multi-faceted as we’d hope. It’s by and large more one-dimensional, random, and wandering.

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