Monday, October 30, 2006

Matt 24 Watch, 6: the Back to Jerusalem Chinese House Church Missionary Movement

The persecuted Chinese house church movement has courageously formed a visionary missionary movement, on the theme of Back to Jerusalem: i.e. following the classical Silk Road trade route through the 10/40 Window countries and anti-gospel strongholds, back to Jerusalem, witnessing to the gospel and planting churches all the way:

The Back to Jerusalem vision is something that thousands of Chinese Christians are willing to die for. Why? . . . .

Back to Jerusalem is not some kind of end times theory . . . BTJ refers to a call from God for the Chinese Church to preach the Gospel and establish fellowships of believers in all the countries, cities, towns, and ethnic groups between China and Jerusalem. This vision is no small task, for within those nations lay the three largest spiritual strongholds in the world today that have yet to be conquered by the Gospel: the giants of Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism.

More than 90% of the unreached people groups in the world today are located within the 10/40 window – more than 5,100 tribes and ethno-linguistic groups with little or no Gospel witness.

Of the world’s 50 least-Christian and least-evangelized countries, all 50 are located within this region! . . . .

Right now there are already hundreds of Chinese missionaries working outside China in the Middle East, North Africa, Central Asia, the Indian Subcontinent, and Southeast Asia. Thousands more are in training, learning languages such as Arabic and English that will be put to use on the mission field.

A team of thirty-six Chinese missionaries departed China in March 2000 for a neighboring Buddhist country. They were the first contemporary team of Back to Jerusalem missionaries, the first-fruits of a great flood to come. Few people around the world knew of this event, but their going was the result of years of prayer and planning. On that day China once again became an active participant in worldwide mission . . . .

Despite tremendous opposition, all 36 of these house church missionaries had faithfully preached the Gospel throughout China for years, establishing churches and seeing more of God’s power manifested through their ministries each month than most Christians see during their lifetimes.

As the Back to Jerusalem vision unfolds, you may start to hear reports of Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists coming to Christ in places where the Gospel has long struggled to make an impact. When this happens, don’t be amazed at the Chinese Christians, we are just sinners saved by grace and undeserving of any attention. Rather, be amazed at the wisdom and manifest beauty of God’s plan. “For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.” 1 Corinthians 1:25

We hope you will be encouraged and challenged by the Back to Jerusalem vision, and moved to prayer and involvement in the fulfillment of the Great Commission in these last days, until “the kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever.” Revelation 11:15.

What a challenge to us, as the oh-so-at-ease-in-Zion Christians of the Caribbean!

But, here is the shocker, for as Christianity Today reports:

The Back to Jerusalem movement began in the 1920s, went underground for decades, and now hopes to send 100,000 missionaries to 51 nations. Critics who perceive missionary efforts as rooted in Western imperialism will find their assumptions defied by this movement of Chinese Christians who want to reclaim Christianity's ancient missionary roots . . . .

When the Chinese say "Back to Jerusalem," they're talking first of all about a geographical advance of the gospel throughout history. The gospel started in Jerusalem and then spread in a generally westward direction into North Africa and Europe. Throughout history it has continued to spread westward around the globe, with China as its farthest advance. With a Chinese mindset, they see that to fulfill the Great Commission is to encircle the whole globe with the gospel, until it goes back even to where it began. Their aim is not Jerusalem or Israel, but all the countries and unreached people groups between China and Jerusalem. Along the old Silk Road, which once brought trade from the Middle East to China, you find approximately 5,200 unreached people groups and tribes . . . .

[T]he kind of Christianity that God has instilled in Chinese believers allows them to impact the Islamic and Hindu and Buddhist worlds in a way that most other Christians cannot.

I'm sure all your readers are aware of the persecution that has affected Chinese churches. There are hundreds of pastors in prison today. Yet they don't see it only as a satanic attack when they are tortured and put into prison. They see it as God's training ground, and God's furnace of affliction to purify them so they can be effective witnesses. The Chinese are in the position to send workers who have been though the furnace for so long that they're willing literally to die for the gospel . . .

In short, this vision has long been in place, and is by God's grace now blossoming after -- and indeed even through -- the decades of chaos and persecution triggered by the Communist Revolution in China. To illustrate, one topic of training is "how to witness for the Lord under any circumstance, and that means even if you're handcuffed and being led to the execution ground."

From the above, we can also see how powerful South-South [and South-North] Missionary initiatives are; as they pull the steam out of the often very polarising rhetoric that Missionary initiatives are part of Western Imperialism.

That raises the challenge of the George Liele Caribbean vision.

For in 1783, this Black American former slave came to the Caribbean as a refugee fleeing re-enslavement and planted the first successful black churches in Jamaica, out of which grew the powerful and nation-shaping Baptist movement. Not coincidentally, fifty-one years later, in material part because Christian slaves stood up for liberty, slavery was dead in the British Empire. And, five years after full-free in 1838, one hundred Jamaican Baptists went to West Africa with the gospel, helping plant the powerful belt of churches there that are a shining monument to their sacrifice. Indeed, for generations, missionaries from the Caribbean have served in Africa and elsewhere, so that in a recent Missiology article in Ghana, Isaac Kamta hailed Liele as "black prophet and father of the church in Africa and the Americas." [Journal of African Christian Thought, Vol. 5, # 2, Dec 2002. Akropong-Akuapem, Ghana: Akrofi-Christaller Memorial Centre for Mission Research and Applied Theology. Pp. 33 – 36.]

Now, in the Caribbean, we are by and large descended from the peoples of the 10/40 window, who came to the Caribbean, often in a context of the most wicked exploitation. But, in large part through the liberating, empowering, reconciling and healing force of the Gospel, we have become a free, cosmopolitan region with many vibrant Christians and powerfully established, richly endowed churches whose members are descended from the peoples all across the 10/40 window: from West Africans, to Jews and Arabs, to Indians, Chinese and Javanese, to even Japanese. As a region, our voice in world affairs far outweighs our numbers, and we have many well-received sports and cultural ambassadors, as well as two entire music genres that are welcomed around the world: reggae and its descendants, and calypso and its descendants.

Thus, we have plainly come to our estate for such a time as this. [Cf. Esther 4:14.]

Accordingly, I invite us to explore together:

1] The re-visioning of the Caribbean Church's Mandate

2] The creation of a mutually supportive, collaborative regional network of grassroots-level, community initiated Missionary Vision and Action Teams [MVATs]

3] Through these MVATs, tackling of innovative local and regional evangelism, discipleship and community reformation projects under the enduring mission of the church in the Caribbean

4] Preparation for sustained initiatives under the mission of the church from the Caribbean, in collaboration with the church across the world, and targetting especially the 10/40 Window but also the lands of the North that have now so sadly largely walked away from their rich gospel heritage

5] Under this, the formation and development of a network based initiative and Institute -- the George Liele Institute [for the obvious reason] is the best name I can come up with -- as an umbrella organisation for developing and carrying forward the vision. This should have a capacity-building focus, and thus a financial and technical project support arm, but also an emphasis on action-oriented research and the intellectual and practical engaging of critical issues, including apologetics and ethics. For instance, we must tackle the wave of apostasy and moral disintegration bearing down on the region from the North, and the Islamist agenda from the East too. [I note that once we successfully engage this pattern here, it equips us to face the same pattern overseas too!] Eventually it should be integrated with the emerging regional Christian University system.

6] I think that the widespread regional emergence of low-cost broadband Internet capacity, web site creation, blogging and podcasting technologies plus affordable teleconferencing technologies allows us to network a cluster of local micro-campus cybercentres that with local mentoring and community support can become nodes in the GLI system. Imagine a network of community centres hosted in churches, schools, cyber cafes etc, with clusters of say 8 - 15 or 20 PCs and able to host classes with local mentorship and courses delivered by leading Christians from across the region and beyond. Imagine online textbooks, like this in introductory philosophy, this in basic apologetics and this in discipleship and reformation, or this in first-stage follow-up for new converts or even this and this in evangelism [personal and meetings respectively], or this in small/cell group leadership [PDF!], or this in basic counselling, or this in Bible Study, or this in prayer; multiplied a thousandfold and available as well in print or thought CDs distributed at low cost.]

7] Over the next decade, through these and related developments, setting the target that we will not only carry out a steady, sustainable stream of initiatives in our region but will use them as a launch-pad and seed-plot for cooperative, sustained global initiatives under the church's Great Commission of evangelism discipleship and reformation.

Again, have we come to our estate for such a time as this? END

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