China Will Change the World

EF Gregory serves as China Partnership’s Assistant Blog Editor. She spent seven of the past thirteen years living and working in China and currently lives in the Los Angeles metro area with her husband and two small children. She remains involved in ministry alongside and to Chinese, working to plant a church with her husband in their predominantly Chinese community.

The first time I visited China was the day I moved there. That was almost fifteen years ago, and what I thought would be a year in China turned into nearly a decade. I grew to love a people, a city, and even delicious, oily, spicy, mouth-numbing Sichuan food. After living most of my post-college life in or headed to China, my family and I left two years ago, this time for good. Recently, I returned to visit with a few women from my church in the States.

Of all the places in the world, why did our church visit China? There are many answers to this, answers specific to our church and generalized to the church in America. For me, the answer now is the same as it was all those years ago: China will change the world, and I want to be part of that.  

In Exodus 17, Moses sat on a hill and watched the Israelites fight the Amalekites. When his arms were raised, Israel won; when they dropped, Israel lost. Yet Moses was too tired to hold his arms up alone. He needed help. His companions, Joshua and Hur, were there for him. As Moses’s arms faltered, they stood beside him and held up his arms when he was too weary. 

I hope the American church can play this same role for our Chinese brothers and sisters. I believe the most useful thing we as Americans can do is to help hold up their arms. There are many ways to do this: sharing resources, praying, intentional encouragement, and compassion. We do this by physically going to visit our brothers and sisters, and by remembering that no matter our location, the church is one flesh and one body. 

Our church visited China not just for the sake of China, but to remind ourselves that we are a part of the church universal. Churches in America can be lazy, entitled, and materialistic. We need to see believers who are different from us, and to know the costs they bear. We, the American church, need to be challenged by the passion and faith of the Chinese church – whether that be evangelistic passion or perseverance under pressure (our definitions of pressure and persecution are laughable to so much of the world).


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That is why we went. What did we see? 

We saw it can be hard. In recent years, the Chinese church has experienced spectacular growth. By some accounts, Christianity grew from around 1 million in 1949 to upwards of 60 million today, with much of that taking place in the last several decades. While dynamic growth is a blessing, the number of experienced Christians is low, particularly in comparison to the amount of new and immature believers. There are not enough shepherds to guard the flock, and heresies and faulty teaching abound. Dynamic growth has led to the common ailment of youth: enthusiasm that outstrips preparedness. 

We also saw that life can be lonely. Like Americans, many Chinese are in a competition to prove their worth, whether that be through social media likes, academic achievements, or professional wealth and success. In the midst of this competitive environment, it can be difficult for Chinese believers to find fellowship. Christian community, of course, exists. In fact, I believe the fellowship of believers in China is often deeper and more meaningful than that experienced by many Americans with a shallow and superficial faith. But the loneliness and isolation of being the only Christian in the office, in the class, or in the apartment complex can make Chinese believers feel even more out of step with their culture. While they may not be consciously aware of it, Western believers at least have a cultural heritage of Christianity. The trappings that accompany that heritage – such as a general regard for charity or “good deeds” – endure even as the beliefs themselves disappear.

Finally, we saw that, for some believers, these are scary times. There is probably more uncertainty today regarding the relationship between Christianity and the state than has existed since the early 1990s. Pastors are preparing for persecution, and many congregations are splitting into halves or quarters to avoid attention. Predicting the future is a fool’s errand, but there is no denying the anxiety with which many full-time local Christian workers are living.

For me, some of this was a surprise; most of it was not. I lived in China, I love it, and although I no longer live there, I keep a close eye on its events. But after nearly two years away, a few things did take me by surprise. 

First, the constant change. Things in China are always in flux. If you are interested in China enough to follow this blog, you know this. But a few years out of the country and the endless infrastructure growth overwhelmed me. A new high-speed train! A new airport! A new subway line! A new shopping mall! And all of this in fields where just a few years ago peasants were growing bok choy. The relentless adjustments to economic, political, or social realities demanded by life should have been no surprise, and yet I could not overcome my constant shock at how quickly things had changed.

Second, I was surprised by the stress experienced by many local Christian workers. Christianity has always been officially out of favor in China, but this trip I was taken aback to hear friends openly discuss their anxiety over the future of Christian ministry, for themselves and their families. Everyone always knew the wind could turn and they could face trouble; but all of a sudden, many friends are simultaneously preparing for the same what ifs.

Finally, I was encouraged and challenged by the lack of anxiety displayed by most believers. I am a generally fearful person, more cautious than most. While I internally panicked for my friends, they calmly carried on with their work. “It’s uncertain,” one local friend told me, “but at the same time we are seeing open roads. So, we just keep following this path, because God is doing something.” As I’ve returned home, my mind keeps returning to that: I don’t know what God is doing, but I can perhaps see as far as the next right thing.

For me, a mom who is mostly at home with young children, it means physically serving my kids and praying for patience and perseverance with uncertainty. China is easy to romanticize, but the truth is that obedience there is just one more costly, painful step down the road. In some ways it is the same for me. The call is to “run with endurance the race set before us,” no matter where or what that race is (Heb. 12:1). 

I am grateful for the cloud of witnesses all over this globe, and for God’s good providence in using his people to encourage one another in this marathon of the Christian life. I pray this trip reminds me, most of all, to daily pour myself out in prayer for my family in China.

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Further Reading

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Qingdao: How to Pray
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Qingdao: Locals and Outsiders
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Qingdao: Good Soil for the Gospel
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LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT IN CHINA

With rising pressure and persecution in China, there are two challenges imperative for church leaders. The first challenge is for current leaders to love Christ above all else, and not to stray into legalism or love of the world. The second challenge is to raise up the next generation of leaders, who will humbly model Jesus even if current leaders are arrested.

WILL YOU JOIN US IN PRAYING FOR LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT IN CHINA? PRAY FOR:

  1. Current leaders to grow in their daily walks with Christ
  2. Current leaders to shepherd and raise up new leaders
  3. New leaders who love Christ and will model him to the world
  4. New leaders to love and care for the church

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ABOUT LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT

About Shenyang

Shenyang is a city located in northeastern China and is the capital of Liaoning Province. It is known for its rich history and cultural heritage, including the Shenyang Imperial Palace, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Shenyang is also a hub for China’s heavy industry, with companies such as the China First Automobile Group and the Shenyang Aircraft Corporation having their headquarters in the city.

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About Qingdao

Qingdao is a city located in eastern China and is famous for its beaches, beer, and seafood. The city is home to several landmarks, including the Zhanqiao Pier and the Badaguan Scenic Area. Qingdao is also a major port and has a thriving economy, with industries such as electronics, petrochemicals, and machinery.

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About Xiamen

Xiamen is a city located in southeastern China and is a popular tourist destination known for its beautiful coastal scenery, including Gulangyu Island, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The city is also a hub for China’s high-tech industry, with companies such as Huawei and ZTE having research and development centers in Xiamen.

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About Chongqing

Chongqing is a city located in southwestern China and is a major economic center in the region. The city is known for its spicy cuisine, especially its hot pot dishes, and is also famous for the Three Gorges Dam, the world’s largest hydroelectric dam. Chongqing is also home to several historic sites, including the Dazu Rock Carvings, which are UNESCO World Heritage sites.

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About Nanjing

Nanjing is a city located in eastern China and is the capital of Jiangsu Province. It is one of China’s ancient capitals and has a rich cultural history, including the Ming Xiaoling Mausoleum, the Nanjing City Wall, and the Confucius Temple. Nanjing is also a modern city with a thriving economy and is home to several universities, including Nanjing University and Southeast University.

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About Changchun

Changchun is a city located in northeastern China and is the capital of Jilin Province. It is known for its rich cultural heritage and is home to several historical landmarks such as the Puppet Emperor’s Palace and the Jingyuetan National Forest Park. Changchun is also a hub for China’s automotive industry, with several major automobile manufacturers having their headquarters in the city.

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About Guangzhou

Guangzhou, also known as Canton, is a city located in southern China and is the capital of Guangdong Province. It is one of the country’s largest and most prosperous cities, serving as a major transportation and trading hub for the region. Guangzhou is renowned for its modern architecture, including the Canton Tower and the Guangzhou Opera House, as well as its Cantonese cuisine, which is famous for its variety and bold flavors. The city also has a rich history, with landmarks such as the Chen Clan Ancestral Hall, the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, and the Temple of the Six Banyan Trees. Additionally, Guangzhou hosts the annual Canton Fair, the largest trade fair in China.

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About Kunming

Kunming is a city located in southwest China and is the capital of Yunnan Province. Known as the “City of Eternal Spring” for its mild climate, Kunming is a popular tourist destination due to its natural beauty and cultural diversity. The city is home to several scenic spots, including the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Stone Forest, Dian Lake, and the Western Hills. Kunming is also famous for its unique cuisine, which features a mix of Han, Yi, and Bai ethnic flavors. The city has a rich cultural history, with ancient temples and shrines like the Yuantong Temple and the Golden Temple, and it’s also a hub for Yunnan’s ethnic minority cultures, such as the Yi and Bai peoples.

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About Shenzhen

Shenzhen is a city located in southeastern China and is one of the country’s fastest-growing metropolises. The city is renowned for its thriving tech industry, with companies such as Huawei, Tencent, and DJI having their headquarters in Shenzhen. The city also has a vibrant cultural scene, with numerous museums, art galleries, and parks. Shenzhen is also known for its modern architecture, such as the Ping An Finance Center and the Shenzhen Bay Sports Center. Despite its modernization, Shenzhen also has a rich history and cultural heritage, with landmarks such as the Dapeng Fortress and the Chiwan Tin Hau Temple.

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About Chengdu

Chengdu is a city located in the southwestern region of China, and the capital of Sichuan province. It has a population of over 18 million people, and it is famous for its spicy Sichuan cuisine, laid-back lifestyle, and its cute and cuddly residents – the giant pandas. Chengdu is home to the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, where visitors can observe these adorable creatures in their natural habitat. The city also boasts a rich cultural heritage, with numerous temples, museums, and historical sites scattered throughout its boundaries. Chengdu is a city of contrasts, with ancient traditions coexisting alongside modern developments, making it an intriguing and fascinating destination for visitors to China. 

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About Beijing

Beijing is the capital city of China and one of the most populous cities in the world, with a population of over 21 million people. The city has a rich history that spans over 3,000 years, and it has served as the capital of various dynasties throughout China’s history. Beijing is home to some of the most iconic landmarks in China, including the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, and the Temple of Heaven. The city is also a hub for political, cultural, and educational activities, with numerous universities and research institutions located within its boundaries. Beijing is renowned for its traditional architecture, rich cuisine, and vibrant cultural scene, making it a must-visit destination for travelers to China.

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About Shanghai

Shanghai is a vibrant and dynamic city located on the eastern coast of China. It is the largest city in China and one of the most populous cities in the world, with a population of over 24 million people. Shanghai is a global financial hub and a major center for international trade, with a rich history and culture that spans over 1,000 years. The city is famous for its iconic skyline, which features towering skyscrapers such as the Oriental Pearl Tower and the Shanghai Tower. Shanghai is also home to a diverse culinary scene, world-class museums and art galleries, and numerous shopping districts. It is a city that is constantly evolving and reinventing itself, making it a fascinating destination for visitors from around the world.

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