China (MNN) — The church in China has been growing at astronomic rates since the 1980's. But as some of those original home church network leaders get older and the church continues to grow, a new generation will need to take the lead.
On a recent trip to China, David Shibley with Global Advance had the opportunity to spend time with the 22 "uncles" of the Chinese church. These uncles essentially began the Chinese house church movement in the 1980's. Each of the 22 represents a house church network. With all networks combined, these men represent about 16 million believers.
These 22 faithful men are getting older, however, and the church is growing so quickly that there are not enough trained leaders to keep up with it. New leadership is desperately needed in order for the church to keep growing and remain in line with the Truth.
Of course, there are some dangers involved with becoming a leader in China. "All of [the 22] have been imprisoned at least once for the cause of Christ," assures Shibley. "There is still tremendous harassment, and though imprisonment is not as frequent as it was in the past, there are still horrible challenges that these men face."
More leaders are needed for the sake of China's growing church, but they are also needed for the sake of the mission field. "[The church in China] represents the greatest potential not only for the evangelization of their own nation, but also they want to literally double the missions force in the world through the Back to Jerusalem Movement."
The church in China has a vision for 100,000 Chinese missionaries to join this Movement and reach out to the Middle East. But this awesome, God-inspired journey cannot possibly move forward without leadership.
Training for church leaders in China, however, is extremely difficult to come by. David Shibley says, "Global Advance is involved very strongly in helping to undergird two training centers for new leaders for these churches." The training centers will be invaluable resources for believers who are willing to step up to the challenge of leading a church or network of churches.
"I believe all of that together is positioning the Chinese church perhaps to be the major player of any national church in the 21st century," says Shibley.
Pray that men and women would step forward to take over the house church networks as the uncles get older. Pray also for more people to be willing to be trained as pastors. Pray that the work of the Holy Spirit would not be snuffed out, nor would it even flicker because of lack of leadership.