China (MNN) — Many organizations have been focused for years on helping either the underground church in China, or the above-ground church in China. Typically, they haven't tried to help both.
WorldServe Ministries is looking at what they're doing in China so that they can have the best impact.
Some believe ministries need to work with the underground church because it's the "real" church. Others believe that following the government rules and working with the registered church above ground is the best approach.
According to WorldServe's Ken Leggatt, "The country is so big and so diverse that as the saying goes, 'Everything is true in China.' It's just an amazing country."
Up until now, WorldServe has focused on the underground church in peasant areas. However, Leggatt says with China quickly turning into an economic power, people are migrating to the large cities. "We're seeing a new church emerging in China, and that is an above-ground house church in urban settings with professionals and intellectuals attending. Now, WorldServe is looking at how best to work with this new church that's growing in China, as well as with our house church friends."
Many ministries criticize those working with the registered Chinese church. Leggat says, "It's not the old paradigm of the Three Self Patriotic Movement Church that is the official church in China. These are new, above-ground house churches. Some of them are led by leading business people."
Leggatt says, "The house church wants to reach the cities, but sometimes they lack the education or the ability to penetrate the professional domains in the urban settings."
That's why WorldServe wants to begin working with this segment of the Chinese church. "WorldServe is called to advance the Gospel and to impact nations, and what better way than to work with the new emerging leadership within the country — urban professionals who are boldly proclaiming their faith. These are 'movers and shakers' within the church, within business circles, and within the community."
According to Leggatt, while these churches are registered, they're not controlled by the government. He says when they have meetings, police and government leaders are invited to attend. That doesn't prevent them from proclaiming the Gospel.
While WorldServe is still working through details, the ministry is hoping to begin working with Chinese graduate students who are now Christians and are heading back to China. "Many of these students, through organizations like the Navigators, Campus Crusade, or other organizations, have accepted Christ. When they get home, often times they don't have a church network to plug into. We want to work with these students returning to China from North America and help them grow in their faith."
Leggatt says there are between 80,000 and 100,000 Chinese students who are heading back to China each year. He says many of them have been exposed to the Gospel.
Pray for wisdom as WorldServe begins implementing this new strategy. Pray for the needed funding to begin the program.