A few years ago, we had the idea for a radio show that eventually evolved into a podcast. We did the podcast for a number of years and we’re now looking at the radio show idea again. Our heart is that by clarifying Western perceptions about China, we’re helping people engage most strategically with the work God is already doing. Here’s a quick preview of a ‘China Minute’ concept we’re running with here at the China Resource Center!
Yufeng Zhao is a board member with our organization and has one of the biggest hearts for evangelism of anyone we now. He and his wife lead a Bible Study for Chinese Students at the Colorado School of Mines, and God is blessing them with wonderful fruit. We recently asked Yufeng to share his heart for China Resource Center as a native Chinese Christian. Here is his response:
I got to know Mike Falkenstine about 9 years ago, when he served as an volunteer teacher
at our bible study group in Denver downtown area. A couple years later, I was introduced by a fellow Chinese Christian to help out with Mike in a fundraising activity in an American church in Highland Ranch. That was the first time I saw what the CRC mission means. I was deeply touched by the loving hearts of the American brothers and sisters. In talking with the Christians in that American church, I realized that most of them actually did not know much about China except for her huge population. However, for the sake of the Lord and God’s kingdom, many of them love to give. I was greatly encouraged and started to get involved in CRC ministry since then.
In 2010, I joined CRC as a board member and went back to my home country with the bible distribution team led by Mike. The places where we distributed bibles are so similar to my hometown, even in dialect, that I could touch the feeling of the people who accepted bibles from us, by a mere word or expression. Many of them were smiling, thankful, and even weeping when the brand new books of the Holy Word were put in their hands.
As a Chinese Christian, I found that the CRC mission has a profound influence in Chinese churches, going beyond the poor rural areas where CRC currently reaches. First, the way that CRC works cooperatively with the church administrative officials builds up a trustful relationship between the Chinese government agencies and the CRC, which set up a very good example for the western churches to interact with the Chinese government more positively and more effectively. For most western world, the Chinese government controlled by the Communist Party may not be a good government. However, the fact is, if you have a good relationship with the government officials, you can do all kinds of good things in China. Second, I think CRC’s bible giving project is the ministry of choice for rural China. Imagine how false teaching can spread wildly in the places where few well equipped bible teachers can reach. However, with a bible in hands, it could make a big difference for even a poorly educated believer. In 2010, during my trip back to China with CRC, I heard a fascinating story in my home village, two illiterate middle aged women managed to memorized half of the Old and New Testament books simply by asking their grand daughters to read the books for them day by day! And those two ladies are the most respected Christians in the whole village because their lives was totally changed!
Over the last few years, we here at the China Resource Center have said very little (outside of a series of YouTube videos we did) about the organization of ChinaAid. For those who are not familiar with China Aid, they are a Midland, TX organization founded by Bob Fu, an exiled Chinese Christian. Of organizations reporting on persecution, ChinaAid is the most high profile agency and an analysis of their information gathering techniques are quite incredible. They must have some kind of apparatus within the government to obtain some of the documents that they get. When I talk or write about ChinaAid, I have no issues with their numbers as it relates to persecution.
On the other hand, ChinaAid also has developed a rampant penchant for overstating their case about persecution of Christians in China. Our issue with them is in their interpretation and analysis of those numbers. This is not my opinion alone….. The good folks at China Source are among others who agree. You can see their blog post summary here and my last blog post on the issue here. The question we’re now faced with is this: If ChinaAid is purposefully exaggerating the situation of persecution of Christians in China, are we bound by Scripture to point out the exaggeration and call them ‘on the carpet’ since those who study China and work with Chinese Christians would disagree with ChinaAid’s contention that there is a nationwide campaign to persecute Christians. Many organizations, including China Source, Evergreen China and ourselves, have spoken and written many times that in our opinion, their stance is flawed.
You may be wondering at this point why any of this matters: It begins to ruffle our feathers a bit because of the nature of our projects in China. Just as we are trying hard to communicate that Bibles are available in China (our Bible Distribution events) and that Chinese Christians are seeing more openness (to build Churches), ChinaAid comes along and makes it seem like none of that is possible. And since they have the bigger microphone, their message comes through louder. So for us, either we build a bigger microphone (we’re working on that) or we go to the root of what’s going on here and point out that evangelical Christians should work hard to always tell the truth. As for ChinaAid, it seems to me that there’s something else going on here.
So what to do? We’d love to hear from you about this….. Is there anything we and others can do? Are we as Christians called to tell the whole truth? We’re praying about all of this too! God is certainly at work in China and if these stories, in their various shades of truthfulness prohibit people engaging in God’s work, that seems to be a detriment to the West’s involvement. Looking forward to getting a conversation started!
Over the last week or so, there has been a flurry of emails coming in to me about a report that ran on the Christianity Today and Fox News website that the National level Chinese government has developed a plan to ‘eradicate China’s House churches.’ I intentionally waited to comment on this report, since I knew others would immediately comment and I was actually interested in what others had to say and since that conclusion goes completely against what I know to be true about both the National Government in China and the condition of China’s House Churches. Since several other China watchers have made excellent comments, I’d like to simply point you to their analysis and had a little ‘color commentary’ of my own. This serves partially to show that my opinions about China are held by other China Watchers and it helps me join the choir of others who are pushing for a balance approach on China.
In the original article, Christianity Today (and others) used a report from China Aid, a Midland, TX organization that stated that persecution of Christians rose about 42 percent in 2012 over the previous years. In China Aid’s report, they stated that there were 132 incidents of persecution affecting 4,919 Christians in 2012. For those of you who’ve been tracking with China Resource Center for some time, you’ll know where I go with this: The numbers here don’t support a massive effort to persecute Christians. For example, if only 4,919 Christians suffered some type of persecution out of the 80 million Chinese Christians, that’s a very small percentage. In fact, it’s only .0000614% of all Christians in China, far less than 1%. That certainly doesn’t seem to indicate a great spike in persecution. For the China Aid report to assert that the Chinese government wants to eradicate House Churches seems to go too far since they mention that only 2 of Beijing’s 3,000 unregistered Churches suffered some type of interference. As I write in the second edition of my book, The Chinese Puzzle, Beijing’s unregistered Churches have largely found a way to work with their local authorities and are seeing increasing freedom in worship and activities.
Several days later, my good colleague Brent Fulton with China Source, wrote an article that helps us understand at a deeper level the China Aid report. He asserts what I’ve believed for a long time, that China Aid’s statistics don’t support the conclusion of a nationwide government sponsored campaign against Christianity in China. My favorite part of his article, which I would recommend you read, is when he breaks down the further causes of persecution of Christians in China, namely the broken religious policy in China and the trigger points that incite persecution in China. Brent states in his article, “The larger issues here are an authoritarian regime that is obsessed with maintaining stability at all costs, an immature legal system, and a very well-resourced security sector that has become a law unto itself. All Chinese, whether Christian or not, are suffering the consequences.” His trigger points include “directly opposing the Communist Party (especially in a public manner, which embarrasses government officials and is bound to provoke a response); engaging in political activity, openly championing human rights, or being identified with a group that does so; and having foreign involvement.” As I have written in my book, the main unregistered church in Beijing that has suffered persecution over the last several years, Shouwang Church, ran into interference not because they were Christians but because in China they do not have the freedom of assembly. Since they were meeting outside in a Beijing park for Church services, they ran against governmental policy.
The final article I’ll point you to is from Joann Pittman, who recently joined Brent at China Source and is one of my favorite people to sit and talk China with. Joann is a 25 year China veteran, which not only gives her great insight, but also great stories about what it was like living in China in the ‘old days.’ (As a side note, if you’re not subscribed to Joann’s blog, do so immediately! If you love China, you’ll love reading this blog.) In Joann’s article, she helps us see how much of the pressure we in the West put on China to reform their religious situation comes not from within China. Chinese Christians today enjoy a level of freedom that one could not have imagined even 10 years ago. The pressure comes from Westerners impatience about the speed (or lack thereof) that the change is taking place. As Joann writes, “I have come to the conclusion that when people say that “things are getting worse” in regards to China, what they really mean is “things are not improving at the rate and scope that I would like.” That is not the same as “getting worse,” and it’s a distinction that we need to be clear about.”
In conclusion, the situation for Chinese Christians, while less than perfect, is certainly not bad. Chinese Christians have largely told me that they don’t see their government has a deterrent to their ability to practice their faith. In addition, Chinese scholars are doing serious research on the place Christianity should play in Chinese society and as they call on the Chinese government to make changes, we in the West should be the ones cheering them on from the sidelines. For it is only when the Chinese themselves call for changes within the country that those changes will take place. As Martin Jacques with the BBC put it recently, “The great task facing the West over the next century will be to make sense of China – not in our terms but in theirs. We have to understand China as it is and as it has been, not project our own history, culture, institutions and values onto it. It will always fail that test. In truth such a mentality tells us more about our own arrogance and lack of curiosity than anything about China.”
I saw this video online, liked it and thought I’d share it with you all.
For foreigners in China, life can either be really tough or can be a great time. It all really depends on your ability to adapt to the differences between cultures and the changes that you’ll experience there. If you can embrace them and roll with the punches, life in China can be a great time.
P.S. Laowai 老外is a term that Chinese used for a foreigner. Depending on who you ask, it’s either a sign of honor or a degrading term. A lot of foreigners, myself including, wear it as a badge of honor that we love China and we know a bit about Chinese culture and history. Enjoy!
Happy New Year to you all! For those of you who have been following my blog, my apologies for the infrequent nature that I’ve been posting. The responsibilities I’ve had here as the only full-time staff member have been such that I’ve had to decide what I have time for and what I don’t have time for. Up until now, the blog has suffered. Well, with the New Year upon us, I’ve found a way that I can blog more about China, God’s work in China and the resources that the China Resource Center has to help Westerners most constructively engage in China. I’m really looking forward to it, because I love to write!
For those of you who are not already subscribed to this blog, you can do here on this page. I love this feature because for the blogs I’m subscribed to, they appear automatically in my inbox every time the blogger posts something new. So I don’t have to keep checking the blog for new content. I hope you take advantage of this feature on my blog, if you haven’t already.
Thanks again for your interest in our work and I look forward to staying in touch through the blog!
As we close out 2012 and look toward 2013, there are some exciting things that are brewing here at the China Resource Center! These exciting things are actually things that have been on my heart for a long time; in fact, we’re really going back all the way to when my wife Sherie and I founded the ministry in 2005. As some of you will remember, when we felt led to start the ministry, we had a deep heart to be an actual Resource Center on China; a place where those who wanted to travel to China, live in China, engage constructively in China, and pray for China could come and receive the tools and training to do so. The original vision was also to create a place where those you love China could find people to connect with whom also love China. Hence, we named the organization the China Resource Center, knowing that God wanted us to be that place and provide that training. As the years went by, we found that God opened doors for us in China with our projects, which has been fun and exhilarating and incredible to work where He’s already at work. This has fulfilled the ‘on the ground’ portion of what God also called us to do. In addition, in 2008 we were able to publish the first edition of my book, The Chinese Puzzle and have since published the second edition this year. Hearing from countless people about how much it’s helped them understand what God is doing in China and having 5 missionary sending agencies use the book as a part of their new staff training has been so fulfilling. God has clearly used us in these ways. I believe that God is calling us to add to these wonderful ministry projects by continuing to add completion pieces to the vision for China Resource Center. There are two exciting additions we’ll be looking toward in 2013.
- Heart to Heart Sister Church Partnership Program
As many of you know, we have had the privilege of helping to fund the construction of 8 churches in the last two years. We currently have 130 congregations in rural China that are praying daily for a church building of their own, so we’ve been praying about how to increase the number of congregations we’re able to build. As we prayed, God has given us the idea to facilitate Sister Church relationships with Churches in rural China who need in a church building. These Sister Church relationships are wonderful, mutually beneficial relationships. We’re asking the U.S. church to contribute $40,000 for the construction of the church building and the Chinese church to administer the funds well and commit to planting sister congregations in their local area. For the U.S. church, it provides a direct practical and emotional connection for the congregation to think and pray about the needs of the Church in Rural China, and the role they may play in expanding the Kingdom. In addition, the U.S. church will be able to extend this relationship for years and years to come and it’s always a blessing to see how God will use this Heart to Heart Sister Church in their own congregation and see how God blessed the Chinese church as they grow.
- Chinese Language and Culture Classes
As mentioned above, I’ve always had it in mind that we’d be a true resource for those who want to engage in or pray for China. If you’ve ever travelled to a foreign country, I’m sure that there are a couple of things you’ve discovered: a.) how less engaged you feel when you don’t know any of the language and conversely b.) how much more engaged you feel if you’ve taken any language study beforehand. I’d really like to help people have a better experience in China with the heart to deepen their love and heart for China through language study. We ‘re batting around the idea of having both semester classes for more serious language learners and shorter 6 or 7 week classes for people planning to be in China short-term, like businessmen or mission team participants. To be able to say short phrases like Hello, Goodbye, Thank You, Where’s the restroom and I love Jesus would help folks have a great China experience. After we get the classes started here in Denver, we plan to offer a streaming version of the 7 week trip language class online. In addition, some comparative Chinese-Western Culture classes using my book as the ‘textbook’ may be helpful for some.
We’re trusting God for Big Things in 2013 and I’d ask you to pray for us. Starting new initiatives is always a test of our faith and we are asking God to lead and provide for us in new ways. Stay tuned for more details on the new initiatives! I appreciate you all and look forward to seeing what God has in store for us as we partner together to see Christ transform China for God’s Glory!
On November 15th, China went through its one-in-a-decade leadership change, with Xi Jinping becoming the new President of China (among other titles he’ll hold.) In addition to Xi’s rise, there are now 7 members of the Politburo Standing Committee, as opposed to the traditional 9 members. These 7 members, including Xi, constitute the top leadership in China. As a non-profit organization with a heart for China, we are interested to know what impact the leadership change might have on China’s Christians and on religious activity in China.
In many ways, this is a hard question to answer. It’s hard particularly because China’s leaders are infamous for not tipping their hand about potential policy changes when they take power and there are not a lot of clues as to what might happen. When these 7 men were chosen, for example, the process that chose them was very secretive and all behind closed doors. We don’t even know when exactly the Standing Committee meets, how decisions are made or what is said in meetings. In addition, there is no public record I can find on what Xi Jinping thinks about people of faith or Christianity in China, so we’re left with ‘reading the tea leaves’ a bit about what the future of Christian activities may be in China, but I think we can however make some general observations that may give us some clues as to what the next several years might have in store for people of faith in China.
Status Quo For Now
There are several reasons why it would be safe to say that current regulations on religious affairs in China and the attitude of Government officials about people of faith will most likely stay the same for the near future. This is in part due to the fact that Xi and the other members of the Standing Committee were just elected through a complex process of Communist Party insiders who tried to select a balance of individuals who best represented them and the Party most accurately. And while we know that religious freedom for China’s Christians has gotten better over the last 10 years, it’s still a delicate balance between the Party wanting control of all aspects of society while continually recognizing the benefits of religion in society.
1. Xi Jinping, His Father and His Upbringing
Xi is in a generation of political leaders often called the princelings, leaders who are the children of former high-ranking officials. Xi’s father, Xi Zhongxun, was a confidant of Mao Zedong and fought side by side with Mao in the revolution that brought the party to power in 1949 and went on to serve as vice-premier until he fell out of favor with Mao’s administration. He was rehabilitated after Mao’s death in 1976 under reformist leader Deng Xiaoping. His father’s rise and fall during Mao’s rule defined Xi’s childhood — during which he enjoyed an elitist life in Beijing — and youth — during which he lived in a dug-out cave in the remote northern community of Liangjiahe, Shaanxi working with peasants.
Xi was able to use his background and high powered upbringing to his advantage, studying in the best university in China at Tsinghua University in Beijing. Xi later gained a degree in Marxist theory from Tsinghua and a doctorate in law. Princelings generally have a good understanding of how to use the Communist Party to their own advantage. Xi himself as a younger man decided “to survive by becoming redder than red.” Given his close ties with conservative, powerful members of the Communist Party, it’s quite likely that this leads to a continuation of the status quo.
2. Makeup of the Standing Committee
Without going into too much detail, the 7 members of the Politburo Standing Committee form the top decision making body in China and it’s largely believed that these 7 men come to decisions by consensus, meaning that all 7 men have to consent for a major policy change to take place. For those who were watching closely who would be selected to serve on the Standing Committee and were hoping for some reform minded men to be selected, they had to have been disappointed. Any candidates that would have been seen as more likely to infuse reform were not selected. “This is a standing committee based on control, a stable, intra-elite deal, and I don’t see any social message or the voice of the non-state sector,” said Kerry Brown, a Chinese politics expert at the University of Sydney. Brown added that he expects no major policy changes for at least two years.
Glimmers of Hope
After a two or three year period of the status quo, there are glimmers of hope that Xi could lead China to a more-open approach to religious affairs and religious freedom, both of which are often tied to political reform, which is on the minds of a lot of Chinese today.
1. 5 of the 7 on the Standing Committee may serve one-term
Last week when the 7 members of the Standing Committee were introduced, one surprise was of the 5 new members (Xi Jinping and Vice Premier Li Keqiang were already on the Committee), all 5 of them will most likely only serve one 5 year term, rather than staying on the committee for the full ten years. This is due to age restrictions and a mandatory retirement from Government work at age 68. This may bode well for those hoping that more reform minded individuals may be elected to the Committee for Xi Jinping’s second 5 years, ones in which he may feel more freedom to recommend and push through bolder reforms.
2. Princelings generally are more bold decision makers
While Princelings are generally well connected within the Party, their ‘double lives’ as children: their family background as children of the country’s founders and their experience of being sent to the rural areas, helps them understand China’s full situation better and makes this generation have a strong tradition of idealism and the courage to do something big. If there was a leader who could make a big change in the area of religious affairs and political reform, Xi and his contemporaries would be prime candidates to do it. One hint of this came when during Xi’s acceptance speech last week. Many observers noticed that his speech was absent of the standard ‘party-speak’ that normally clogs up these types of speeches. He talked about what the Chinese people want out of life: education, stable job, good income, reliable social security, better health-care services, which was a stark departure from his predecessor, Hu Jintao. Xi’s boldness and departure from the status quo may be good signs for the future.
3. Xi has a number of close ties to the United States
Xi has ties to and an admitted affection for the U.S., which may make him more likely to see our history of freedom of religion and want to mimic it for China. In addition to spending time in Iowa 27 years ago studying farm techniques when he was an official in Hebei provinces, he is also said to love basketball, American War movies and he has his daughter studying at Harvard University and a sister living in Canada. Earlier this year, he returned to Iowa on the invitation of those who originally hosted him. “Coming here is really like coming back to home,” Xi told a packed living room of familiar faces he met on his 1985 visit. “You can’t even imagine what a deep impression I had from my visit 27 years ago … because you were the first group of Americans that I came into contact with.” No high-ranking official has had such direct and personal ties to the United States.
It is common to see leaders who come from countries who do not have the same policy of rule of law and the development of religious freedom to slowly change their policy after having contact with and talking to leaders in countries where rule of law and religious freedom is fully developed. Xi Jinping’s many connections with the West and his affection for the United States may bode well for future policy change.
Wow! This fall has been way too busy! After two Banquet Dinners in October, plus the rest of the load, we’re just now updating our website on our September 2012 Bible Distribution event! This event was spectacular as we were able to place 10,000 Bibles in rural Henan province. The vibe was electric as we had the opportunity to do Bible Distribution deep into rural China, where the need is greatest. Case in point: One of the men who came to one of the Bible Distribution points had an acute need for a Bible of his own. Mr. Zhang told me that he had been a Christian for 24 years, but the only Bible he ever read was a Bible that was loaned out to members of his church. This meant that one Bible was available for 200 Church members, meaning that he was able to read the Bible for one week every six months. He told me that he made up for the lack of availability to the Bible through prayer and good Bible teaching from his pastor. When I handed him his very own Bible, he wept and told me how touched he was by how far away we had come to give him such a precious gift! He also told me that he planned to read the Bible every day and already had a plan to read through the Bible three times a year. His grand kids were also excited to hear granddad read to them. “This Bible,” he told me, “will change our lives forever.”
Thank you all so much for your heart for our work in China!
….Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.(1 Timothy 4:7-8 ESV)
The person of leadership caliber will work while others waste time, study while others snooze, pray while others daydream. Slothful habits are overcome, whether in thought, deed, or dress. The emerging leader eats right, stands tall, and prepares himself to wage a good warfare by spending consistent time in God’s word. He will without reluctance undertake the unpleasant task that others avoid or the hidden duty that others evade because it wins no public applause. As the Holy Spirit fills his life, he learns not to shrink from difficult situations or retreat from hard-edged people. He will kindly and courageously administer rebuke when that is called for, or he will exercise the necessary discipline when the interests of the Lord’s work demand it. He will not procrastinate, but will prefer to dispatch with the hardest tasks first. His Prayer will be:
God, harden me against myself,
The coward with pathetic voice
who craves for ease and rest and joy.
Myself, arch-traitor to myself,
My hollowest friend,
My deadliest foe,
My clog, whatever road I go.