Welcome to China, a nation whose land mass is almost the size of Canada and is home to one-fifth of the world’s population. In Nebuchadnezzer’s time, the ancient city of Xi’an in Shaanxi Province was the capital of China and the largest city in the world. During the time of explorer Marco Polo, Xi’an was brought to the attention of the outside world. The “Silk Road” carried China’s precious silk to Rome, Constantinople and Jerusalem. It also carried Islam, Buddhism and Christianity into China. Today it attracts millions of tourists from all over the world.
By faith, we see God glorified through the establishment of the Church among the unreached people groups of Western China.
Country & Ministry Profile
China’s land mass is almost the size of Canada and is home to one-fifth of the world’s population. While King Nebuchadnezzar ruled the Old Testament world from Babylon, the ancient city of Xi’an was the capital city of China and the largest city in the world. During the time of the explorer Marco Polo, Xi’an was brought to the attention of the outside world when commerce forged a trade route from there to Rome, Constantinople, and Jerusalem mainly to trade in China’s precious silk. This became known as “The Silk Road” and is today an attraction for millions of tourists from all over the world. It was along this road that Islam, Buddhism, and Christianity entered China.
Since the expulsion of foreign missions and missionaries in 1949, the church of Jesus Christ has seen sustained growth, and it is now estimated that there are over 100 million Christians. This growth has occurred through both the official churches and house churches. Biblical teaching and leadership development are in great demand.
Western China borders Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Bhutan, and Myanmar and is home to almost 100 million Muslim and Tibetan Buddhist people. This is a spiritually needy area where there are few Christians and churches.
There are great opportunities for Christians to work or study in China in order to build relationships for Christ and to partner with the church to reach minority people groups of Western China.
China’s 1.3 billion people are composed of 56 officially different people groups. The Han majority dominate all aspects of China’s social, political and religious life, yet the 55 minority people groups amount to 100 million people.
Each minority has their own unique culture and many have their own language. The Uyghur, Tibetans, Mongolians and Hui, to name a few, have limited autonomy in special regions of Western China. They are exempt from the “one-child” policy, have “minorities universities” and are free to practice their Muslim and Buddhist beliefs.
Many in the minority groups have not had an opportunity to hear of Jesus’ love and respond to his forgiveness.
History of Christianity
Christianity was first introduced to China 600 years after the time of Christ by Nestorians from Persia and Syria, but the modern missions movement began with the arrival of Robert Morrison of the London Missionary Society in 1807. In Macau he worked with great dedication as a student of the Chinese language, Bible translator, and scholar of Chinese culture. Before his death in 1834, he produced a dictionary of the Chinese language and a full translation of the Bible.
In 1842 the Treaty of Nanking ceded Hong Kong to Britain and opened major East coast ports to foreign trade. This made it possible for men like William Lockhart (London Missionary Society); Elijah C. Bridgeman (American Board of Missionaries for Foreign Missions); William Martin (Presbyterians in North America); William C. Burns (English Presbyterian Mission); and James Hudson Taylor (China Inland Mission) to establish themselves in the coastal cities. Churches were planted, but because this missions work was facilitated by the opening of ports through the Treaty of Nanking, it was difficult for the Chinese people to see this as anything other than foreign imperialism.
James Hudson Taylor established the China Inland Mission in 1865 and appealed for 1,000 missionaries to enter the Chinese interior. For the next 30 years, China witnessed the first wave of frontier missionary work while missions based on the coast spread into major cities throughout China. A three-fold approach to mission work was adopted: medicine, education and discipleship. Nearly every mission established clinics that grew into hospitals. Primary schools opened for children and some of these later developed into high schools and 13 Christian universities. Bible teaching and discipleship also resulted in new churches until by 1927 there were more than 8,000 Protestant missionaries in China and half a million baptized believers.
When Japan invaded China in 1937, the nation was plunged into turmoil. Missionaries were evacuated, Christian institutions relocated and believers suffered. Indeed, all Chinese people suffered greatly as a result of the turmoil and war. In 1949 a new China emerged with the establishment of a Communist Government under Chairman Mao Zedong.
The State Church
During this socially and politically turbulent period, the Han Chinese (majority people group) church continued to grow. The Communist government wanted churches to be indigenous and not controlled from outside China, so they required the registration of churches. At this time the “Three-Self Patriotic Movement” (TSPM) was formed comprised of all registered Protestant churches. The China Christian Council was also established at that time, to assist the TSPM in ecclesiastical affairs including; the publication of Tien Feng (the TSPM monthly magazine), public relations with overseas Chinese and foreign Christian visitors and the running of seminaries for the training of pastors.Not all churches chose to register with the government and join the TSPM and many remain unregistered and independent to this day. Over the years, the unregistered churches and individual believers have been misunderstood by local officials and often persecuted as cults.
In 1985 the Amity Foundation (a social service organization) was set up by the TSPM/CCC. After acquiring a modern printing press from the United Bible Society, the foundation began printing Bibles in China and now prints 1 million Bibles each year. However these numbers are vastly inadequate when compared with the growth of the church and the ever increasing demand for the Scriptures.
The Chinese government estimates there to be 30 million Christians in China today. Unofficial estimates state between 50 and 100 million.