by Christina Kuo Graham
China is one of the oldest civilizations on the face of the earth and home to one-fifth of the world’s population. Chinese are an amazing group of people. What nation could have built a great wall so long that if superimposed on a US map would stretch from Los Angeles to New York and beyond? Only the Chinese. This achievement not only reveals human potential but spiritual potential. God knows this but so does the enemy, Satan. Therefore, anyone who has been called to ministry in China is aware of the spiritual warfare that is present and that it must be overcome on a daily basis.
Today, China is fast becoming the world’s next superpower. Their ability to provide quality goods and services, faster and cheaper to the global world market is compelling other nations to rely on this once “sleeping giant.” With 1.5 billion people, China is the largest consumer society on the planet. Unfortunately, progressive cities like Shanghai may have the highest GDP in the country but it rates the lowest on citizen morale, happiness and well-being. The top two social problems in this financial capital are suicide and divorce. A large wave of farmers and peasants continue to move into the cities looking for work and a higher standard of living. Despite the frenetic hustle and bustle, Chinese are spiritually empty and long for greater meaning and purpose in life.
During the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) most of the churches went underground. But today Christianity is emerging and experiencing greater religious freedom than it has ever known. On any given Sunday, churches are packed in the city and in home meeting points throughout the countryside. Believers come in every form of transportation to hear the Word of God. Even those who are physically-challenged overcome all obstacles to make their way to church. Unfortunately, there are not enough pastors to minister to the growing flock of believers, so many who need discipling or spiritual counseling often leave with their needs unmet. In John 21:16 Jesus tells Peter if he truly loves Him to, “Feed My sheep.” Now more than ever, East Gates is focusing on discipling believers so no one will go “hungry,” but instead, be filled with the Living Word of God.
Now some may ask, “Isn’t there religious persecution?” Yes, but it’s not pandemic like most in the West are led to believe. This is a complex issue and our China staff says it is very important not to generalize or come to quick conclusions when you hear or read about persecution in China. (See Persecuted Christians — What’s Really Happening?)
Chinese believers are learning how to live out their faith in wisdom like Christ did while on earth. We share with our Chinese brothers and sisters that if need be, we are to suffer persecution for righteous sake (1 Peter 2:20-23). We are not to invite persecution through unwise actions. There is a difference. Christians in China who know the true Church in China, and what is “happening on the streets,” will tell you that both conditions exist. It’s up to us in the West to discern between the two and not jump to overall conclusions about the matter.
For those who are impatient with the progress of Christian growth and development in China, one wise Chinese pastor said, “When you have a country as old as China, you must look at where we’ve come from and where we are now. One must look for small improvements every day for nothing happens overnight, especially in areas that concerns the human soul.” His wisdom clearly illustrates the Chinese proverb, “Every thousand mile journey begins with a single step.”
It is important to remember that no other country has experienced as much political, economic and social change as China has since the late 20th century. At East Gates, we use the analogy that in the West, we had time to go from the 45 LP record to the tape cassette. Then we rapidly transitioned from the CD, to DVD, MP3 and now we have instant Internet download. China had to transition from the 45LP to DVD overnight.
In the West, we have a different geopolitical, religious and historical background than in the East. In the US, we have struggled for religious freedom and human rights among different ethnicities. We must allow China, a nation with one-fifth of the world’s population the same grace period to establish itself in these areas. Maintaining geopolitical, socio-economic and religious stability in a country that is so culturally and ethnically diverse is not easy. Thankfully, the Church in China is predominately non-denominational in orientation which fosters greater unity among believers. As China continues to open doors, we pray this unity will grow and be strengthened so that Christians will have a positive and far reaching impact in their communities, cities, government and nation.
About the author: Christina Kuo Graham is the wife to Ned Graham (son of evangelist Billy Graham), and is the Director of Operations for East Gates International. East Gates International is an interdenominational religious non-profit organization dedicated to serving the Church in China as well as other entities that best serve China’s future growth and development.