The China Partnership Blog is 1 year old! Join us during the month of October for a glance back over our favorite posts from the year.
This week, we revisit our posts related to global-local ministry. People are on the move as we enter the 21st century and it is now easier than ever to minister cross-culturally in your own backyard. Looking at theology, missiology, experience, and advice from our writers, this collection of posts encourages you to consider how God might call you to serve your Chinese neighbors.
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The China Partnership
“A global-local missions strategy encourages churches to make global connections that also make sense locally. Churches now have the opportunity to look to their local environment to help determine how to do missions when choosing global regions and countries to partner with. Let’s imagine a church has found there to be pockets of Mexican, Honduran, Iraqi, Pakistani, Ukrainian, Chinese, and Filipino people in their city. With a global-local missions strategy, this church now has a paradigm for reaching those people groups both in their local neighborhoods and internationally in their home countries.”
“I have found that God’s gospel is the most powerful motivation for all Christian service. What God has done for us in Jesus Christ is the only sustainable, renewable energy source for obeying all of the Lord’s commands – including Biblical hospitality. God’s work for us, and not our own, is the fuel for the good works God has prepared for us to do according to Ephesians 2:8-10. The bottom line is that God’s own gracious and sacrificial hospitality to us in Jesus Christ is what compels us, wholeheartedly, to reflect his welcoming love to outsiders, strangers, and foreigners. When we limit our love to people who are like us, we forget that we ourselves were once strangers and foreigners to God’s kingdom. Hospitality is a ministry of graciousness that flows out of our experience of God’s grace, our identity in Christ.”
“There are approximately 361 UPGs (Unreached People Groups) in the United States. This astounding number puts the US in third place, right behind India and China, for countries with the largest number of UPGs. It remains difficult to find extensive data on UPGs in North America, though. As missiologist J.D. Payne has noted, ‘We have better data on a UPG living on the backside of the Himalayas than we do on that same people group living across the street from us in New York, Toronto, Chicago… This is a pathetic reality and reflective of much of the missiology found in this part of North America.’”
“As we share the holidays with friends who are far away from home, it is a great time to share with them – as well as to remind ourselves again – that we worship a God who was also far away from home. After all, the holiday season is a time when we remember that God the Son left his heavenly throne to dwell in the midst of a foreign land. Although he was in the form of God, he did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped. He left his glory in heaven and became one of us, shared in our sorrow and our pain, and eventually took the punishment that we deserved by dying on the cross. Jesus was the ultimate immigrant and the ultimate sojourner. He came to us so that one day we can join him at his heavenly table and partake in a feast that will be far greater than our Thanksgiving and Christmas feasts. This is a blessing that flows to all people, to both you and me, Chinese and Americans, far as the curse is found.”
“By opening our homes and our tables to ‘the stranger at our gates,’ we willingly invite discomfort upon ourselves and upon our families. Your kids will probably roll their eyes and complain. Your parents may not understand why you don’t want to sit around the table with just them. Conversation will be strained at times and confusion is bound to ensue at various points throughout the day.
But in the end, you will have imitated Christ. God did not wait for us to invite ourselves to his table. He did not wait to extend his gracious hospitality to us. Nor did he leave us to our own devices, isolated and alone. Rather our Lord took it upon himself to extend his hand and welcome us into his celebration. He did not consider the discomfort and indignity something to take notice of, but rather he humbled himself in order that we might be included, even when we didn’t desire to be so.”
“When I go to someone’s home for a meal, I feel truly at home when I am able to help with the dishes. I believe it is the same for internationals here. What would happen if we gave them a chance to serve, even before they were believers? What if, with discernment from the Holy Spirit, we invite them to help share the good news with others (in word or deed) even as they are learning it? What if we invite them as friends into the ‘kitchen’ of our lives and ministry endeavors?
There are many ways we can share the good news and disciple Chinese scholars – listening well and loving them, teaching them, inviting them to our homes and small groups. But one of the most powerful ways to do this is by inviting them to ‘come and see’ the good news, serving alongside Christians. After all, that is the kind of partnership and friendship Jesus offered his disciples when he called them. Our invitation to the gospel is the opportunity to say, ‘You are not just someone I’m going to teach ESL to, or show hospitality to. You are made to overflow love to others. Come and experience that joy with me.’”
“First, consider that Christian hospitality contrasts with holiday entertaining. Jesus reminds us that hospitality is not inviting your friends, relatives, or business associates (typical holiday guests). Jesus says in Luke 14:12: ‘When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid.’ Biblical hospitality contrasts with entertaining: you offer a place to reflect God’s grace, and expect no repayment.
What is biblical or Christian hospitality? Here’s my definition: to welcome strangers graciously in Jesus’ Name, to treat them as your honored guests, to invite them into your home and life, and to offer them a place of safety, growth and healing. Notice that the key point is that you welcome strangers (that is, foreigners or outsiders), and not just people like you! The New Testament word for hospitality (xeno + philia) literally means family love for a stranger or outsider. The practice of hospitality is a grace that transforms strangers into friends, and international students into your extended family.”
“The birth of Jesus doesn’t just empower the Chinese house church, it also enables the American church to step out of the shadows of the steeple. Church is not a building we attend on Sunday. It is the Bride of Christ, a vibrant community of people whose lives are centered on their resurrected King and who long for their Redeemer to make all things new. This motivates the Bride to love and serve those around her, seeking to bring more people into this community of faith.
It is often easy for church members to believe they are not called to love and serve in the church. Maybe we see others stepping up. Maybe we have not been asked or don’t know how to participate. Maybe we have not been told how or believe we do not have the right personality traits or abilities. Read this blog post as an invitation – an invitation to begin living your life through the lens of the incarnation and becoming an active participant in the renewal of all things.”
“In conclusion, we need to repent and believe the gospel all the time. To plant any church, but certainly a multicultural church, you have to learn to live in the gospel. 2 Corinthians 12:9 must be your song if you are going to travel this road. ‘But God said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’’God’s strength to build his church through weakness has become the underlying song of my heart as a planter and pastor of a multicultural church.
Stay rooted in the gospel – preach it, believe it, apply it. If you minister in a diverse community then expect to see a foretaste of what we find in Revelation 7:9-10. You will get to worship Christ with diverse people from every tongue, tribe, and nation.”
“I often say to church groups, ‘I greet you in the name of God’s Foreigner. He came to his own people, but they did not welcome him. But to all who receive him, he gives the power to become children of God.’ Sometimes we are like the lawyer who asked Jesus, ‘How big is my neighborhood?’ And Jesus tells us a gospel story to teach us that we cannot define a neighbor. We can only be a good neighbor. One day, we will ask him, ‘Lord, when did we see you?’ And he will say, ‘When you welcomed (or did not welcome) the foreigner, you welcomed (or did not welcome) me.’”
“But the needs are much greater than the numbers of people currently reaching out. There are more and more Chinese coming to our universities, but many never have the type of connection with a Christian described by the scholars we surveyed for my dissertation. If relationship and shared lives are so vital to a Chinese scholar’s journey of faith, then we desperately need more people willing to make their lives available. Christians in university areas can impact the largest country in the world right from where they are. Churches can open their doors, and especially their community life, to these sojourners and welcome them in.”
“But just because it is hard, and sometimes embarrassing, to be identified with uncomfortable situations, the church is not allowed to ignore Christ’s call and example. Just because we are on this side of the ocean, we do not have the right to expect cultural comfort. We are called to sacrificially engage across the lines of Babel, surrendering our lives, pride, and expectations in the name of Jesus.
Thankfully, the good news is that there is joy in this surrender. After all, the mess is where Christ resides. The joy is not flippant – culture is a serious and beautiful thing, and not something we thumb our noses at easily. But rather, the joy is good and healing. It lets us put our cultural expectations and concerns into their proper place.”
“Therefore, each year millions of migrant workers literally cross over mountains and rivers to go home to their native villages. Many of these folks have left their villages to work in large cities, some of them living in small factory dorms or shacks made out of metal sheets, for the purpose of earning money to send home. Chinese New Year offers the only opportunity in the entire year for them to see their families. Each step towards home brings up the memories of separation, loneliness, and homesickness that surround their lives in the city. For them, family reunion is a time when their souls can fully rest and be comforted.”
“The Chinese ministry has brought a new dimension of ministry experience to our church members. Now, instead of just sending missionaries to other parts of the world, we see that we ourselves are called to become the “missionaries” at home. We are meeting and reaching out to people who have never had the opportunity to hear the gospel, but are highly educated and headed toward roles of leadership and influence both in China and in the United States. Members see and understand the way that their work will influence the future of China.
As we do the work to make disciples every week, we are teaching and re-preaching the gospel message to ourselves and seeing the reality of the Holy Spirit’s power to do unexpected and wonderful things. So our faith explodes and is more experiential and dynamic as we experience the winds of the Holy Spirit being poured out through us and these people. We are all changed together! Praise the Lord!”
“This ministry creates awareness in the church of the diversity in our population and helps to break down the distinction between our active overseas missions program and the local work that is right among us. It has also attracted more internationals to the church when they see they are not the only ones who look different or speak differently. People have become more involved with outreach locally, causing spiritual growth in ways that giving money to missions never has provided. So prison ministry is thriving, as well as work among the poor of our city. There are so many ways our ministry can inspire and cross-pollinate work in God’s kingdom.”
“In most American churches, small groups are one of the major ways that peer discipleship and fellowship happen. We experience Jesus revealed in each other as we know joys and sorrows, eat together, serve, laugh, and learn. We begin to truly know others, and allow ourselves to be known. For international seekers or new believers who plan to return to their home countries, being wholeheartedly welcomed into small groups can be very powerful, even if only for a short time.”
Many internationals have never heard of a “small group,” and even if they might be interested in joining, they need an introduction to what it is and what to expect. They need to know what they are signing up for, and often need extra help connecting with a group…
I have found that people do not really know what a small group is and do not understand what they were committing to, which leads to some misunderstandings. We want to set people (and small groups) up for success.”
“The purpose of this training is to prepare and equip small groups to welcome internationals, and also to develop a vision for becoming the international members’ spiritual family when they return to their home countries. It is a privilege to host an international in your small group; most of the internationals coming to small group do not have the spiritual family and resources that we have here in the United States. Your small group has the privilege of becoming the spiritual family and support system for an international who will one day go home, most often to a situation hostile to faith.”
“Does the Christian faith in China simply mean inward peace for individuals? Does it mean becoming more Western as one matures in faith? Does it mean that all of Chinese history and culture must be abandoned? If we agree that the answer to these questions is a resounding “no,” then we must reconsider the overly simple gospel explanations we as American Christians are telling our Chinese students. We must wrestle to find ways of preaching the gospel that communicate the bigger, fuller picture of God’s plan for the world, a picture that includes China, its lengthy history, complex culture, and multifaceted people.”
“People tend to view challenges in missions or in the church as unique to our period of time, but in fact, many are issues the church has previously faced. For example, one critique dominating discussion today in churches and missions organizations is that our youth are not as committed to missions as previous generations; but this issue actually faced mission societies in the early 1900s. Church and missions leaders are asking the same questions as previous generations – how do we effectively engage our congregation, how do we encourage generous giving to both world and home missions, and how do we make missions a vibrant component of our DNA?”
“These vast differences in our languages reflect the large gulf that separates our cultures, but they are also opportunities for us to show respect to one another. As a native Chinese speaker, I deeply appreciate my friends’ efforts to help me use my tongue to enunciate English syllables. For my American friends, I encourage you to slow down and “sing” through the rise and fall of pitches behind each Chinese character. When you meet a new Chinese friend, do not stop at pronouncing his or her name as staccato notes. Ask him or her to teach you the tones behind each character, and seek to capture the melody behind them. It may take you a few attempts to get it right, but this small gesture may be important to understanding the meaning behind their names. Otherwise, instead of finding common ground, you may end up staring at a toilet. Worse yet, you may end up calling a numb horse your mother!”
“Of course, in our culture diversity is a very, very important theme and topic. Anyone who is actively opposed to diversity is usually shunned by people in our society. And of course, much good has happened from our pursuit of equality and racial diversity and we ought to be thankful for movements that have made us more aware, helping us to build greater cultural agility and sensibilities for people who are different than us racially. But just because as the recent events in our country have shown, we have an ideological worldview for embracing racial diversity, that doesn’t necessarily mean that there is an intentionality in your lived experience. And so what we find here with John in this Biblical vision is that John in the narrator and he sees all of these different tribes and all of the different people from different people groups and languages and cultures and they’re gathering together and Jesus is at the focal point. Before the Lamb, and before the throne, before God where they are worshipping God together.”
“As followers of Jesus who seek to relate to and love our Chinese neighbors, we must see reality – even conflicting realities. China is a country filled with contradictions, but also with confidence and pride. The people are hard-working, frugal, and creative. Most importantly, they bear the image of God. We do not have to see China as a competitor to be reckoned with. We cannot approach China thinking that we have some secret knowledge to pass along, or some democratic expertise that can improve its society. To reach China and to gain the trust of its people, we should learn to see its potential, to imagine what it could be, to promote shalom in its society. Perhaps we may even reach out to our Chinese friends and say, ‘We admire and are proud of what you have achieved, and we believe that under Christ’s lordship, China can be much more.’”
“I’m especially clueless when it comes to grief. Often friends who are going through a hard time will not want to ‘inconvenience’ or affect me (and others) with their sadness, so they won’t tell me if something hard has happened (miscarriage, death in the family, depression, etc.). If your friend is going through a hard time, ask another Chinese friend how you can help your friend, as it may be counter-intuitive to you and stressful to your friend when you offer your American style of help. For example, a friend of mine had a baby, and I wanted to organize a meal train, which is a normal American tradition. For her, however, this was a terrifying prospect, and yet she felt hesitant to tell me so. I asked her friend about it to see what she thought, and she said, ‘It is because in China the mom stays home with the baby for 40 days afterward, and they do not have visitors.’ No wonder!”
“Be open about the cultural mix. Don’t be afraid to let your guests know when you are following American tradition and when you want to follow Chinese tradition. For example, I decided that despite my efforts to be more like a Chinese host in many other areas, I would stick with American tradition concerning shoes in the house. My husband and I frequently wear shoes in our house and when guests come over we do not expect them to remove their shoes. As is typical with Americans, some will choose to take off their shoes themselves, but there is no rule about it. When we host Chinese in our house, we simply explain that because we are American, we are accustomed to wearing shoes in the house and it is not necessary for them to remove their shoes. Of course, this can sometimes introduce awkwardness, but I place a cup of hot water in their hands once they enter and the cultural mixing begins.”
“Avoid using the phrase ‘Chinese food.’ I understand the need to distinguish Chinese cuisine from a variety of food choices in America, but when you are conversing with a Chinese friend, what we eat is simply ‘food’ to us. By referring to something so natural to us as ‘Chinese food’ automatically creates a distance between us. Instead, try using questions like ‘Tell me about the food you eat at home,’ or ‘What are some specialties from where you grew up?’”
“For those of you who are familiar with Chinese cuisines, you are perhaps aware of the diversity of flavors and dishes listed on a Chinese menu. Such variety testifies to the creativity of the Chinese people, and their relentless, audacious pursuit of new things – an audacity that leads many of them to eat exotic items like lotus roots, snakes, cow stomach, and basically anything they can lay hands on. Unfortunately, this ingenuity and audacity also created a nation of picky eaters. This can often be intimating to Americans who want to invite their Chinese friends over for dinner. What can you prepare to satisfy your guests’ palates? The truth is it may not be as difficult as you imagine, but there are certain preferences that your friends might be too polite to say.”
“The poem and this holiday perfectly capture the sadness and yearning that characterize so much of our human experiences. Separation is never far from reunion; full moons are only a few days from waning. Even on joyous holidays such as these, an inevitable sense of sadness and loss always lingers. At times we may be too quick to turn away from these sorrow, perhaps believing that they are unworthy of our victory in Christ. But it is precisely such helplessness in our separations that connect us as human beings and drive us to the Cross, for we do not have a God who is disconnected from our separations. On the Cross, God the Son was separated from God the Father, so that we may have eternal reunion with Him. Unlike all the sad stories we tell, this is not a story that ends in eternal separation. In Christ, our separation is temporary, but reunion is forever.”