is really growing! God is on the move!
Over at the Gospel Coalition website: Matt Smethurst interviews (via translation) Liao Yiwu, whose book God Is Red: The Secret Story of How Christianity Survived and Flourished in Communist China (HarperOne, 2011) won the Books & Culture 2011 Book of the Year award.
It is pretty interesting to read. There was one segment that stood out to me about how Christianity in China has or is beginning to become distinctively “Chinese.” Here it is:
One hundred fifty years ago, the London-based China Inland Mission started to send missionaries to China. Many of those brave Christians set their sights on the villages hidden up in the mountains. Because modern transportation was lacking, they journeyed for many days to reach them, arriving just in time to save the mountain people from a devastating bubonic epidemic with Western medicine and their knowledge of modern hygienic practices. They also preached Christianity, which, to the locals, was as foreign as their own appearances.
Gradually, these brave men and women won the hearts and minds of villagers, who for generations had found solace in the chanting of local shamans and the worshiping of pagan gods. Over the past century, the Christian faith has passed down from generation to generation despite the government’s brutal persecution against Christians in the 1960s and 1970s. In those villages, Christianity has taken root and become a part of the local heritage. It is as indigenous and life-sustaining as qiaoba, a popular buckwheat cake. During my visit there, I never felt that the locals had embraced a foreign religion. It blended seamlessly with the local cultures. Villagers held their services led by local leaders in their native tongues, and celebrated their Eucharist or Christian holidays in a way that they knew the best—local delicacies. It definitely had a distinctive Chinese identity.
Isn’t this really good news? Isn’t how things should be? That the nations receive the gospel and make it their own? Now I could see a bunch of conservative Christians getting their pants in wad over the people using local delicacies to take communion as though it “must” be bread and wine specifically. But hey? Where does it say that in the Bible? Sure Jesus says the bread is his body and the wine is his blood, but would that not be a case of contextualization in that setting? Getting in a fuss over this, I think, would be to miss the point and miss out on the fact that the many peoples of China are taking on this ordinance as their own, they are taking on the person and work of Jesus Christ as their own and applying it and I think that is and should be the ultimate goal of the Christian missionary task.
Good things are happening in China and the Far East! And do take note, Liao Yiwu does say China is still in great need of missionaries, those who will go to the vast number of isolated (and unreached) villages to bring the gospel to those peoples!
Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”
And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”