We are told that almost one person in five in the world today is Chinese, an amazing 20% of the worlds population. There are Chinese people in every part of the world, in some places in sizeable numbers. The sleeping giant is awake and the world is feeling the effect. To the Christian, the Chinese present a huge challenge; how can these people be reached with the gospel of the grace of God?
The short answer to this question is clearly that God is in control and He will see that His sovereign will is carried out in relation to the nations of the world. However, as is the case with most Bible truth, there is a human side as well as a Divine side. God uses His people to do His work. We pray and trust as if the evangelisation of the world is Gods work, and it is; at the same time we work and toil as if evangelisation depends on us, and it does. God is pleased to use His people in this great work announcing to a guilty world that there is hope and forgiveness through Christ.
It is impossible to know how far and how deeply the gospel is spreading among the Chinese, but it is spreading. In every corner of China there are believers. There are those who have a very clear cut testimony about how they were saved, and there are others whose testimony is a bit fuzzy. One evidence of the spread of the gospel is the large number of house churches which are meeting in rooms, warehouses, farm houses, apartments, and, possibly at times, under the blue sky. These house churches are not part of the official state-controlled Protestant church. The government of China would like all of the house churches to register so that they can have official status in the country, but the members are largely ignoring the registration process. The people of China are wary, because 5,000 years of history have taught them that are many twists and turns on the road of life. One of the great joys of Gods work in China is hearing testimony as to how folk were saved. Sadly some of the prosperity gospel and the miraculous, sensational, tongues ideas have come along with the simple preaching of mans ruin through sin and Gods remedy in Christ.
The internet is being heavily used by Christian groups in their evangelistic outreach to the Chinese. Many Chinese expatriates living all over the world are toiling to put good material on the net. There is actually a mass of Bibles, sermons, videos, study books, and hymns available in Chinese. Besides this there is a large amount of print material being circulated. Some of this material is a bit iffy but much of it is solidly Biblical. One of the greatest issues facing a Chinese who has grown up under the Party is the existence of God and His creatorial glory. The starting point in speaking with many Chinese is the very existence of God - they have been taught that there is no God. Communism is a religion that does not tolerate competitors.
The Bible is printed in China but it is not sold in bookshops. One has to go to the local state-sponsored church to obtain a Bible but this, in itself, is not a huge impediment to owning a Bible or a Testament. It would be great if there was complete freedom to print, publish, and distribute the Word of God without any government involvement. The main Bible publishing house in Nanjing is totally unable to produce enough Bibles to provide one for each household. They have probably produced about 50 million copies of the Bible so far, but they would need to do ten times that to come close to meeting the need. Once again, the Bible is available on the internet to those who want to print it out.
For many years assembly believers have been praying that there would be freedom to preach the gospel in the communist countries, and the time has quietly but surely come. The question now is whether we are ready to take advantage of this huge opportunity. In China, over a hundred years ago, missionaries including men, women, and children were killed. Their clothes were taken off them, they were deprived of food and drink, and they were publicly humiliated for preaching the gospel of Christ. What about us today? We have the comforts of home and hearth while the tramping of millions goes by our door night and day without ceasing - millions marching into oblivion without the knowledge of God. We can start by praying that God will have mercy on the billions of earth. We can encourage those who have an exercise in the spread of the gospel. We can put our best into the work of the Lord as God opens doors. There are a lot of brilliant young men and women whose talents are being wasted on trying get another promotion or more letters behind their names when there is work to do.
In a city in China there is a little assembly of about 20 believers. They meet in the apartment of a Chinese believer. They are working together to undertake the publishing of tracts, study books, and calendars. These books have been distributed free of charge, but now the Chinese are sending unsolicited donations to help cover the costs of this work.
Why calendars? Calendars are allowed by the authorities so it is possible to have Scripture for each month on the full colour calendars. These Scripture texts will be the first Bible verses that many of these people will ever have seen so we need to pray that they will make people begin to think about their spiritual condition. On the back of the calendar there is a generous space for a gospel message. This years pictures were all mountains so the message was about two Bible mountains: Mount Sinai and Mount Calvary. The 2010 calendar is being distributed now - 70,000 copies. The 2009 calendar was 50,000. In 2008 it was 100,000. The issue is orderly distribution. The printer wouldnt mind doing 1,000,000 calendars, but how to get them into the hands of people is the challenge. This publishing effort is very small in the big picture but we feel that we are fellow workers with a small army of believers who are trying to get the gospel out to the Chinese people. As long as no-one professing the name of Christ gets involved in anti- government activity, things will go relatively smoothly. If Christians become politically active, the government will undoubtedly clamp down. There is stability now and we should pray that it will continue.
As assembly believers, we can contact local Chinese neighbours, we can befriend these people along with all other nationalities. Tremendous good has come from immigrants being reached in their new home countries and then becoming missionaries in their homelands. We can lift up our eyes and look on the harvest as the Lord Jesus exhorted long ago.
With thanks to "Harvest Partner" (IBHPublications@primesignal.com). International Bible House (IBH) is a group of assembly believers in Vancouver who are supplying Bibles, tracts etc. to distributors to support special gospel meetings, district distributions, and other forms of outreach.