Pre-Great-Commission Efforts

Monday I made a day-long trip with some of the guys to the next major city to the south. Apart from a bunch of trips to Beijing, I’ve never really traveled much within the country, so it was a great learning opportunity. We broke into a couple teams early in the afternoon and ran all over the city until nine at night.

This city is almost the same size as the city we live in, though it doesn’t seem to be quite as developed. In a lot of ways, the two are very similar. Which was probably what impressed me most about the trip. The city we live in is big enough that it hurts trying to wrap your head around it. And endeavoring to move beyond mental comprehension to Christ-like compassion is a daily spiritual challenge of equal magnitude. And then to hop on a train, ride for a couple hours, and get off in another city much the mirror of your own – your understanding staggers, your spirit reels. You realize that you’re still far from seeing the world the way that God sees it, and even further from feeling as he feels.

If the need of the city is strikingly similar, what is being done about the need is tiresomely familiar. By all means, cast your nets – build your coffee shops and your bookstores and your English classes – but give strong arms and strong vessels to pull in the nets! The nets without boats and fishermen are just so many entanglements. The city was further confirmation of an amazingly disproportionate amount of resources in this country being invested into pre-Great-Commission efforts.

The need for these efforts, while a reality, is often ambiguous. Why the greater need for these works in China than in other countries? If it be said that it’s because of the greater legal restrictions in China to evangelism, it may be asked in what unique way these efforts actually curb any danger? It is claimed that there are those who are antagonistic to the Gospel who will cause problems if they are allowed to attend services. Lest I be accused of unfairly depicting these organizations, I talked this week to a full-time representative of an organization with hundreds of workers in China who explained to me that their policy is not to allow anyone to attend any meeting until they’ve come to six classes about the Bible as literature and expressed interest. All biblical considerations of boldness aside, unless it can be shown that the danger in house churches actually arises from people who attend services (which it almost never does), then these kinds of safety measures are really just a facade – they don’t shield from any real danger. This is further confirmed by my experience that even the organizations that ‘play it safest’ have just as many problems with the law as anyone else (this may be due to the tendency of pre-Great-Commission efforts to be more high-profile).

If, on the other hand, it be said that these efforts are needed because of some special spiritual or relational difficulties in evangelizing Chinese people, it may be answered (by the experience of all who have tried) that there is rarely a situation where a church with a policy of openness will not be met by a steady stream of visitors, and not just of ‘seekers.’ These kinds of barriers exist everywhere in the world and do not warrant such unbalanced attention. In short, the same effect of bringing people into contact with the Gospel can be achieved in far fewer steps. And it’s my belief that openness will always prove to be far more fruitful than any elaborate pre-Great-Commission system.

We also met with a brave young representative of the ‘house church networks’ of China yesterday. Single, mid-twenties, fresh out of college, no training except for what she’s read, no support except that which her little network sends her, no co-laborers except for the Jesus-screaming-chest-beating-Korean-house-church-cult down the street, no fruit except for a handful of young girls. Told us she’d been crying the night before, overwhelmed with her responsibility. You don’t approve of her situation? I don’t either, and that’s precisely the point – this is the end of the untrained laborer’s path. This is the fulcrum of the work in China – the pressure must be applied here.

One of the most encouraging parts of the trip was an opportunity to meet with a new friend who may be China-bound in the future. He had recently completed a survey of a ministry in another Chinese city, and it was immensely encouraging to hear him share a little about what God is doing through the work of the families there. From all I can tell, it is a group committed to applying intense pressure right here where it’s needed most – in training men to do the work of the ministry. Teams like this one are an excuse-breaking example of what needs to be done in cities all over this country. They are letting neither the need for reasonable caution nor the need for pre-Great-Commission efforts deter them from their work at the lever. I praise the Lord for them, and pray that he will allow us to follow such a lead.

So pray with us for cities like this all over China, and consider how you might apply some pressure of your own…

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3 Comments on “Pre-Great-Commission Efforts”

  1. Beth Ann December 2, 2009 at 10:32 am #

    Your posts inspire and encourage me for China. I spent a year and a half there with some incredible people, and it is wonderful to hear of others willing to take God at His Word!

  2. Nathan December 13, 2009 at 3:57 pm #

    Just got back to my blog reading from our China trip. I like your “Pre-Great-Commission” category. Thank you for sharing these observations. While Kristin and I continue to evaluate and discuss our trip we’re feeling more and more China bound. Your willingness to do and write about stuff like this from there has had a great impact in our thinking regarding the role we can play. Thanks!

  3. Brother Hu December 21, 2009 at 5:26 pm #

    I’ve been doing what you are doing for a long time. Now I teach, live and use the model of building leaders at

    It is making an impact on urban and rural leaders all over Asia. Sounds like you are using a number of the principles. This just gives you a language and a comprehensive or holistic approach.

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