China is a hot topic these days. Between earthquakes and the upcoming Beijing Olympic, all eyes are on China.
Christianity Today has a couple of good, missions oriented articles in circulation online. Aiding China's Shaken Church is an interesting read focusing on Franklin Graham's approach to evangelistic efforts by Western visitors during the Olympics and Unexpected Dialogue is an article discussing the book A Friendly Dialogue Between an Atheist and a Christian written by Luis Palau and Zhao Qizheng.
Graham, son of international evangelist Billy Graham, told the Associated Press that he opposes illegal missionary work at this summer's Beijing Olympics, saying, "I would not support any illegal activity at all." source
Franklin has taken heat from a few organizations for his position, but I applaud this rebel with a cause. His experience working diplomatically with foreign governments in order to help and serve alongside local, foreign churches to make a long term impact comes hard earned. Unlike the hit and run style of evangelism practiced by western tour groups. They gladly obey the law of the land back home, but care little for the laws of host countries. Why should they? They're "doing the work of Jesus." But this quick-fix style of evangelism actually sets the church in-country back. They have to work hard to un-do the damage done by cultural novices looking for self-gratification and bragging rights. I like what Graham said: "The church in China has been growing pretty rapidly without anybody's help. So I don't think a few Christian groups coming into China is going to make a hill of beans worth of difference during the Olympics."source
The Palau article approaches culture, politics, and missions history in China. The Chinese have conflicted opinions about western missions endeavors. Zhao, Palau's co-author and self-proclaimed atheist had this to say: "In history, Christian missionaries made contributions to China's development. They brought Western civilization to China. But the situation changed in the 19th century: The Western powers invaded China, and in this process some missionaries helped those invaders. So the Chinese people changed their attitude towards missionaries."source
Missionaries inserting themselves into local politics and taking sides in regional conflicts does more damage than good. It is true that Christ "invaded" humanity, but He did it in the least threatening way possible. He came as a child. He came as a servant. He brought Good News and changed the course of history with His Invasion as the Prince of Peace. I love the opening line in the CT article: "In preparation for an evangelistic tour of China, Luis Palau befriended Zhao Qizheng, then minister of the State Council Information Office of China."
Palau befriended. That's a great verb, befriend. That's a good start to getting out the Good News. Let's start with befriend. To do that, we need to put some other verbs in play: Listen. Learn. Serve. Love. None of these really fit into the context of the politics of conflict or pushy, hard-sell evangelism.
Read the articles and let me know if you have any thoughts.