by William W. Kerr
Some significant happenings in Asia during the last ten years.
Among the most significant happenings in Asia during the last ten years are these:
1. Doors have opened. Indonesia had in 1965 all but closed its doors to missions due to the gradual takeover within the country due to Communism; yet the Communist plot was foiled, resulting in the dismantling of the Communist party, and the continuing opportunity to preach Christ. Right after that, literally thousands of people were saved as a result of Christian witness. In certain areas of the country to this day there are large numbers of people still turning to Christ. Indeed it is harvest time in Indonesia!
Suddenly in 1965 Cambodia closed its doors to missionaries from North America. Four French missionaries remained on in the country. Then, just as quickly, with a change in government the doors were opened again. Several North American couples were invited by the church to return. To everyone’s amazement it was discovered that there were multitudes of Cambodians spiritually prepared to hear and receive the message of Christ’s redeeming love. Previously this land had been most resistant to the gospel of Christ. With over forty years of ministry by missionaries there were only 674 baptisms in the church at the time when the North American missionaries withdrew. Five times that number of people have been saved in the last two years. Added to this, the church has risen and is accepting its responsibility to witness for Christ. It is most effectively winning people to the Lord, primarily in the Phnom Penh area.
2. Some doors have remained closed. China, with the largest population in all the world-800,000,000 people-has been closed to Christian witness since 1949. Communism has revolutionized (a) the land, in agriculture and in industry; (b) the society with communal living, by cleaning up prostitution, gambling, bribery; and (c) the people with a sense of selflessness, serving others and the state. But today there are clear evidences that a Christian witness may be given within China in the near future. The church remains and, though small in number and subdued, it bears witness to Christ. Some people have been saved. In all probability the first witness that will reach China from outside its shores will be that of overseas laymen from various countries of the world traveling to China on business or in a professional capacity. At first it will be a witness by Christian "Presence." We call upon all Christians to pray daily for this witness.
North Viet Nam, North Korea, and Burma are countries that are also closed and remain a challenge to the church. But the greater tragedy than "closed doors" would be that, when the opportunity does come for a Christian witness there, the church of Jesus Christ abroad may be unprepared with trained personnel to move in as laymen. We must prepare today for Christian witness tomorrow.
3. Several places in Asia have shown dramatic church growth. South Viet Nam has seen unusual church growth during the past ten years-this in spite of the terrible war. Displaced peoples became objects for evangelism, as well as for social and financial help. Many new churches resulted.
Church growth in Irian Jaya showed its most dramatic progress during the past decade. Twenty-five thousand of these primitive people turned to Christ. Most of these people became effective lay witnesses, traveling throughout various tribes in small witness bands, winning people to Christ. The result was, and is, that the church is strong and growing.
4. Other significant developments started in Asia in the last ten years have included:
(a) The concept of Evangelism-in-Depth, such as Evangelism Deep and Wide in Viet Nam. (b) The Theological Education by Extension program, such as in West and East Kalimantan. (c) The higher academic training programs for ministers, such as the China Graduate School of Theology in Hong Kong. (d) The production of some Christian TV programs in Saigon. (e) The establishing of Christian youth centers, hostels and camps, as in Zamboanga City, Philippines and Hong Kong. (f) Group consultations with church leaders of several countries in Asia for the purpose of exchanging ideas, learning from one another, and broadening the bounds of fellowship, like the 6th Asian Conference of Christian and Missionary Alliance churches meeting in Bangkok in February, 1973. (g) Laymen and ministers involved in evangelism and church planting in Irian Jaya. (h) Churches in different countries taking on more leadership responsibilities in urban areas like Hong Kong, as well as the rural places like Irian Jaya. (i) Asian missionary outreach in India, Viet Nam, Philippines, Hong Kong, Korea and Japan.
The challenge of the future is specific. Japan, with less than one percent of its population Christian, along with its people so resistant to the gospel, remains high in priority of needy areas. China must also be mentioned, representing one-quarter of all the world’s population. Without considering China, the church can never consider that the world is evangelized. These two major nations, along with the rest of Asia, present to the church the greatest challenge in its witness of Christ.
On the other hand, a large segment of the church (in Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Viet Nam, Indonesia, the Philippines) is increasing its involvement in missionary outreach. Asian Christians are saying, "Asia is our responsibility-we must rise and meet this challenge." Already mission boards have been set up within the churches mentioned and they are sending missionaries abroad. Asians are being trained by Asians and westerners to be missionaries. Asians are being told by their own people that laymen must also accept the responsibility of Christian witness, particularly in countries where missionaries cannot presently go. Today new creative thinking and planning, as well as achieving, along the lines of world evangelism are being realized. The church must constantly keep before it the biblical mandate and directives for world missions.
The statement of the first All-Asian Mission Consultation in Seoul, Korea, held August 27-30, 1973, on this matter of missions is clear and inspiring. When steps are fully taken to attain the goals set forth by this consultation, the world can expect to see the greatest missionary thrust "into all the world" ever experienced. The commands of Jesus remain: "Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel," "preach and teach," and "disciple all men." We are expected to plant the church in all lands; to train the church to reproduce itself. As this cycle of events unfolds and is perfected in all the church in all the world, the world will indeed then be evangelized.
There is another very exciting area of development in the church in Asia which we can expect to see unfold within the next ten years, and that is in the area of education. Within several countries in Asia Bible colleges or institutes are emphasizing the need for developing strong Christian leadership, and-this in the context of an Asian environment. Several seminaries or graduate schools have already been established. More are in the planning stage. Korea leads the way in educational programs for the church. In Hong Kong, Chinese Christian leaders from all over the world have pooled their thinking, resources, and abilities to plan a unique graduate school of theology for Chinese in 1975, to be called The China Graduate School of Theology. The Asian Theological Seminary in Manila has already been launched and will provide high-level education for Christian ministry for Asians. The Ebenezer Graduate School of Theology and Missions in Zamboanga City, Mindanao, Philippines is being planned with similar goals.
In the area of communications we find that Asian leaders are being trained and indeed are taking leadership in literature publication offices, such as the Crusader Magazine in the Philippines; in radio ministries as in FEBC, Philippines, and the Pacific Broadcasting Association of Japan; and in TV programming in Viet Nam. Radio is pioneering a witness to China and other closed lands of Asia. When the day comes for an in-presence Christian witness in these lands, many people will have been prepared for that witness through the ministry of radio, as letters from mainland China are already indicating.
Over the past ten years of missions in Asia vast multitudes of people have been brought to the Savior. Remarkable spiritual leadership has arisen in the church. However, statistically in the years ahead the population of Asia will expand at a much more rapid rate than conversions to Jesus Christ, at the present rate of growth. The vast majority of Asia’s two billion people do not know Jesus Christ as Savior. We need all the missionaries and laymen that God is calling to serve in that area; but they must indeed be called, well trained, and disciplined.
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