by Robert L. Niklaus
News reports from around the world.
WILL CHINA OPEN?
Aging Chairman Mao Tsetung of Red China recently told visitors from the West, "I have a rendezvous with God." Mr. Chou En-lai, the prime minister, said in a published statement on the future of religion in China, "I do not imply that we are out to kill religion in China. That is obviously impossible. Far too many people believe in religion in China."
Do these and other statements on religion from high-ranking Communists suggest that China is about to open its doors a crack to Christian missions, as well as to Western businessmen, tourists and politicians?
Interpretation varies as widely as the groups that claim to be missionary organizations. One group in Texas issued an appeal for funds and personnel to send in a first wave of one thousand missionaries as soon as the doors to China open. On the other hand, some member denominations of the National Council of Churches seem to believe that the only acceptable future mission activity in China will be institutional work, such as education, medicine and agriculture.
A number ofevangelical missions held a consultation in October of last year, and in February this year, to examine the future possibilities of missionary work in China. Mission executives and Christian leaders of the Chinese communities of North America exchanged views and chose an ad hoc committee. This committee will continue the work of the consultation by encouraging evangelicals to prepare for the future day when some tangible expression of witness will be possible on mainland China. The committee will issue a bulletin of information and prayer requests.
This study group of evangelicals believes that for the predictable future traditional missionary methods will not have a chance in China. The Communist regime has inculcated among the people a hatred of traditional Western missionary work. Therefore, it seems that witness will necessarily be limited to businessmen, students and tourists able to share their faith on a one-to-one basis with interested Chinese: North American Chinese also say that the evangelization of China will be done mainly by overseas Chinese returning to their homeland with the message of Christ.
This one-to-one approach quite likely will have to continue until not only the generation of Chairman Mao has passed, but also the generation of his younger lieutenants. Perhaps when a new generation accedes to power around 1994 there will be opportunities for more direct and open witness.
For the present, the most effective means of witness by organized groups is the use of mass communications media. Radio FEBC in Manila, Hong Kong and most recently in Korea, a TEAM radio station in Okinawa and other groups beam many programs into China. Although feedback is limited and indirect, these broadcasters are encouraged by response from the mainland.
The United Bible Societies in Hong Kong printed 250 – 300,000 Bibles and made them available free of charge to people crossing into China from Hong Kong and Macao. Visitors to Red China have found that border authorities do not seem to mind if travelers carry only a few copies of the Bible into the country.
An unexpected assist to the UBS work came in November from the mainland. When other sources of paper failed, the Bible Societies requested and received 100 tons of quality paper from Communist exporters across the border. An additional contract has assured paper consignments through June of this year. Not only is Bible production thus assured, but the cheaper price of paper from China will make more Bibles available for the same amount of money.
HEALING SEEN AS CHURCH GROWTH AID
An article in Church Growth Bulletin (November, 1973) draws a causal relationship between healing and church growth. Pastor Jacques Giraud, a French evangelist, was invited to Ivory Coast last year to dedicate an Assemblies of God church. During his preaching ministry, many people were healed and the whole country was stirred. Subsequent meetings were held throughout the country, accompanied by numerous healings and conversions.
One feature of Giraud’s ministry was group response for conversion. In Toumodi, groups of inquirers from eighty-one villages sought salvation. In Bouake, groups from over one hundred villages did the same thing. Missions and churches in the country have been hard-pressed to find enough workers to move into new areas where people are now responding to the gospel through the French evangelist’s ministry.
In other parts of Africa missionaries report the same causal relationship between healing and church growth. The long-term revival in East Africa was accompanied by healings; the fastest growing churches in Kinshasa, Zaire, are those with a healing ministry. The same emphasis on healing has contributed to the rapid expansion of the indigenous, or independent, African church movements.
Nor is this relationship limited to Africa. The Church Growth Bulletin article cited a study in Argentina which credited a healing campaign with breaking the back of rigid resistance to evangelical witness. The same pattern is discernible in many other countries.
Although healing sometimes provokes controversies, Pastor Giraud emphasized two points that won him the apparent blessing of God and the support of various missions and churches in Ivory Coast. He stressed that God did the healing, not man. And he permitted public testimony only by those whose healing had been certified by people who know them.
Healing was one aspect of the early church’s ministry that attracted immediate attention and in some places led to a rapid increase of converts. Perhaps in the final days of this age, as God’s Spirit moves across the world, healing may become as much an asset to the church’s witness as it was for the early Christians.
MISSIONS INTEREST STIRRED AMONG YOUTH
In recent years some Christian youth of different nations have joined their unchurched peers in attacking the wrongs of their countries by marches, demonstrations and sit-in protests. They also criticized foreign missions, and for a time it appeared that missions interest was sagging badly.
Now a new wind seems to be blowing across the teen- and college-age generation of Christians. While over 14,000 students and missionaries met at the InterVarsity missionary convention in Urbana, Illinois, at the close of December, in the Philippines a similar gathering attracted 800 students and graduates from twenty-four nations. The "Asian Urbana" was co-sponsored by the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students and the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship of the Philippines.
Meeting in Baguio City north of Manila, the first Asian Student Missionary Convention geared its program to challenge Asian students to become missionaries. Thirty-six seminars were devoted to individual Asian nationas and the best means of evangelizing them. Speakers in the plenary sessions spoke to the larger obstacles that have hindered the missionary outreach of churches in Asia. The keynote speaker estimated that only 1,125 missionaries have gone out from Asian churches to work in that part of the world, a ratio of one missionary to 1.9 million Asians.
The conference planners and sponsors, the principal speakers and the seminar leaders were all Asians. A theme constantly reiterated during the convetion was the responsibility of Asian Christians to reach Asia. An awareness pervaded the assembly that missionary initiative was becoming an acute concern of Asians.
At times, speakers intimated that Asians had best put distance between themselves and Western missionary efforts, if they wanted to see the best results for their witness. One speaker cautioned against seeking training for Christian service in American or European schools, since Western thinking and style of living could cause the Asian students to lose rapport with their own people.
Responding to the call of God at the conference, some 250 Asian youth said they were prepared to serve the Lord in Asia as full-time missionaries.
Their action would well be the response sought by the fledgling All-Asia Mission Consultation, which pledged itself last year in Hong Kong to field 200 new missionaries in this year.
Meanwhile, Christian students in Europe are already planning their own Urbana-type conference. The fifteen-year-old European Student Missions Association (ESMA) has taken the initiative in coordinating the efforts of other youth-oriented movements to organize a giant missionary conference duing the Easter holidays in 1976. The first organization meeting took place in Lausanne last October.
A new wind indeed is blowing across the youth scene around the world. The former concern of Christian young people with the real and imagined wrongs of society is at last broadening to include the overwhelming spiritual needs of the world. Should this trend continue, it could be the most significant student missionary movement since the historic prayer meeting under a haystack in Massachusetts at the beginning of the nineteenth century.
NEUTRALITY LEADS TO MINISTRY IN CHILE
"Plan Z," the code name of a plot by left-wing extremists in Chile, outlined how at a given moment well-trained and wellarmed assassination squads would wipe out influential people in the country who could oppose a total Communist rule. The list included not only military and political leaders, but pastors and leading Christian laymen as well.
The military coup in September foiled "Plan Z" and thousands of known or suspected Communists were imprisoned while being subjected to a meticulous investigation. Bated by their enemies and deserted by their friends, these political prisoners had no hope of any one’s befriending them. They certainly did not expect kindness from the Christians who were marked for extermination.
Pastor Rodolfo Campus, an evangelical pastor in Temuco, had an experience typical of what took place in other areas of Chile. Since the evangelicals had not been identified with either the Marxist regime or its opponents, Pastor Campos and two colleagues received permission to visit 280 political prisoners in the Temuco jail. He took 200 New Testaments, hoping that a few of the men would ask for a copy. What happened next was amazing.
"I was surrounded by prisoners asking for the Testaments," he was quoted as saying in an article published in The Alliance Witness. "They were like children after sweets – pushing, reaching, begging for a portion of the Bible. They were doctors, lawyers, professors, farmers . . ."
On another occasion he and his associates were asked to hold a service close to a building housing political prisoners already convicted. During the meeting, a group of prisoners from the building asked if they could sing. To Pastor Campus’ amazement, they began to sing, "Jesus, Lover of My Soul."
Pastor Campos and others like him throughout Chile have been able to have such a ministry because they are viewed as neutrals in the political struggles.
Their experience is reminiscent of what happened in Indonesia after the abortive Communist coup in 1965. Many Indonesians were appalled equally by the savagery of the Communists in their short reign of terror, and by the brutality of the predominately Moslem forces in retaliation. Only the Christians seemed to have a message of love, and they ministered to all who suffered. As a result, Indonesians have since been turning to Christ in unprecedented numbers.
The same pattern could develop in Chile. The lesson learned in moth Chile and Indonesia should be remembered by Christians in those countries, especially in Africa, where the churches have allied themselves openly and actively with the political parties in power.
Copyright © 1974 Evangelism and Missions Information Service (EMIS). All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or copied in any form without written permission from EMIS.