Friday, February 10, 2012

Sunday: The Church in China

I was going to write a bit about the confusion over the differences between the registered church and the underground church in China. But I don’t know nearly enough to stick my big toe into that conversation. Well, actually, I know a ton about the confusion, I just don’t know how to sort through it. Bob asked our hosts and we learned a lot by talking with some young Chinese Christians, but we’ll save that conversation for another time.

Suffice it to say that Westerners are not famous for contributing toward better relations and understanding in this matter. Rather, we have a reputation for adding to division and fear especially if we try to “take sides”--looking only the positive aspects of one type of church and only criticizing the other form of church. So, I’ll try to stay out of the mess and let more experienced voices teach us. I hope it is fair to tell about our experience of one Sunday service, knowing that it was just that--a single service and our hopeful, expectant experience.

We went to a registered church. The multi-story building had a huge red sign in English and Chinese that could be seen for miles around: Haidian Christian Church. The taxi ride from our hotel took 40 minutes out to the suburbs of the city--way out to the area of Peking University. We made it in time to join the line forming down the steps and around the building--all worshipers waiting for the next service--in full view of neighbors, taxi drivers and anyone else who cared to notice their presence. There are 5 services on Sundays--just one in English. The church has an attendance of between 6-7,000 each week.

Many of the songs were familiar choruses led by a talented and friendly group of young musicians. It was contemporary, but not a polished show. Most in the congregation were young--college and early professionals. This is common especially for the English service, where some of those attending are simply curious about the language. We also heard that Christianity is spreading most rapidly among the young in China. The sermon was enthusiastic, true and engaging--and it was from the OT-- about the snake in the desert!

If anecdotal evidence is allowed to weigh into the discussion about faith practices in China, we would say that we experienced authentic Christian worship this Sunday morning. This church preached and worshiped the true triune God and the name and work of Jesus was proclaimed. After the worship service, we went out to a busy public food court for lunch with a group from the church. We openly prayed over our meal and no one in the group was shy about talking about their own conversation and faith- growing stories. One young teacher told us that his students have asked him about his faith here in China--but in the six years he studied in Europe, no one ever cared about his faith.

Whatever your view on the subject, be aware that--unless you are one of the few people reading this blog who works in/with/for/alongside of Chinese ministries--you (and I)
probably need to learn a lot more before making a judgement. But don’t stop praying for the moving of the Spirit in China. God is working here!

Here’s a picture of me with the pastor of the English service, Pastor Jessica.

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