China (MNN) — China has a long, complicated history with religious freedom. And though it’s still a communist nation with many restrictions on religious freedom, over the past few years there’s been a new openness to the Gospel.
“God is still in the business of changing lives, and He’s in the business of building His Church,” Erik Burklin of China Partner says. “Like Jesus said to Peter, ‘On this rock I will build my church.’ When He said that, He said, ‘I will build my church.’ Not, ‘You Christians build my church,’ but, ‘I will.’
That’s something Burklin realized is happening in China on a recent visit. He visited the Union Theological Seminary in the city of Nanjing where a new chapel had just built and is set to open next month.
“When we asked the leadership there, ‘How in the world were you able to finance it?’ because for many years they were not able to finish the construction of it, they said, ‘The Central Government gave us a donation, an equivalent of 50 million Renminbi,’ which is $7.3 million U.S. dollars,” Burklin says.
“And there again, I was just scratching my head, thinking to myself, ‘How in the world is it possible that in China, where Communism still runs the country, a person in the Central Government would donate so that a local school — in this case, the national seminary in China — can finish constructing their chapel?’ It’s unbelievable.”
That’s not all.
“Then we met with leaders for dinner that night, and we asked the pastors there, ‘How many baptisms did you have last year? How many new converts did you have in your city?’ he then gave us an overview of what God is doing in their whole province. He was proceeding to explain to us that they have up to 100,000 new believers on the average every year…. That’s unheard of.”
One group China Partner is especially working to reach is young people. Though the Church in China is growing, Burklin says many churches don’t have a youth ministry because young people spend so much time on academics. Still, he says it’s important for churches in China to reach out to this generation.
“When we think of youth ministry, we think of anything under 18,” Burklin says — teenagers basically. Youth ministry in China is really under 40, or the younger generation, the young professionals, many who have graduated from college, young couples.
“We’ve actually, in our terminology, we’ve changed it from youth ministry to reaching the next generation, trying to give churches in China the tools they need to reach the younger generation for Christ — whether that’s changing their worship style to more of an inclusive, modern style, to concentrating more on parenting, marriage counseling. Divorce is on the rise in China unfortunately. There are some very practical ways that churches can minister to the next generation that is coming up in China.”
Can you come alongside the believers in China and the organizations working to reach others? Pray that the Holy Spirit would continue to stir people’s hearts toward the truth and that leaders would respond to the challenge of discipling the growing number of believers.