An Interesting Misconception…

“The Church In China” or “The Chinese Church” is probably terms that you have heard before. It is interesting to me that people refer to Churches in China in this manner the majority of the time. People seem to lump everyone together and make statements about “the Church in China” as a whole. Because of this many misconceptions seem to arise about China.

We usually don’t do this as much when speaking about Churches in America. I think we say “Churches in America are…” or “American Churches are…” more than “The American Church is…” We talk more in the form of a plurality of Churches instead of one united movement. This might seem like a small difference, but I think it impacts the way we think about things. I am not trying to be picky with terms, as the wording can many times have the same meaning or have that of a majority/minority meaning based on context, but I think we generally think about it in this manner:

The first one leads to clicking the “apply to all” button while the second one leads to clicking the “apply” button. Let me illustrated:

Apply to All: If you say “The Church in China” is having a great revival. – This means all the Churches are having revival.

Apply: If you say “Churches in China” are having great revival. – This simply means that many Churches are having a revival but not all.

This wording leads one to believe there is this huge unified movement in China where all the Churches are connected and are not separated over issues of doctrine and denomination. This simply isn’t true. It is a false appearance of unity that comes from the loosely used and hard to pin point terms. If churches choose not to stand for key doctrines it isn’t because of an over spiritualization but because of an ulterior motive or a weakness in doctrine (not saying that being strong in doctrine necessarily causes one to be separate and cause division but it does cause one to contend for the faith and stand for truth).

Christian organizations also use this terminology by saying “help build up the Church in China” or learn how you “can be in a better position to serve the Church in China.” What does that mean?! Imagine if your church promotion for this Sunday was “learn how you can better serve the Church in America.” The diversity and locality of Churches in China have different and specific; needs not to mention the vast majority of local areas without Churches and therefore a Church would need to be started and men trained. (Interesting Note: I think this type of thinking is a contributing factor to why many Christian workers in China come to help “the Church in China” but never actually physically work in a local assembly of believers or even attend a local worship service regularly.)

Final thought on this, it moves thinking about the Church from local or even universal to national. It segregates those on the outside and forces unity for those on the inside.

The terminology isn’t really that big of a deal, but it is just a symptom that I have noticed about how a lot of people talk about Christianity in China. All of that to say, be carful about what you read and perceive to be true about China, weather it be good or bad.

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3 thoughts on “An Interesting Misconception…

  1. Jake

    The thought about Christianity in China is def. more water than concrete. Good point about the willingness of workers to be disconnected from any real church.

    Reply
  2. Darrin

    The “church in China” is about as diverse as the ethnicity of the people. Recently I took a trip to southern China, where there were about 25 different ethnic minorities. There was even a mosque in the ancient part of town. The sanctioned Three Self Church. that I observed was different than the house church. Many are relative “newborns” and are subject to the dangers that Paul teaches – from both East and West. There is a move for unity that I fear will do great harm in the future.

    An interesting secular book on the subject is titled “Jesus In Beijing.” Although the author doesn’t fully understand his subject or the difference between Scriptural truth and error, he at least seems to be objective and researched on the historical narrative he presents.

    Reply
    1. Mark (China Ramblings!) Post author

      Thanks for the comment. Here is my take on the book you mentioned:

      I read it while I was living in Beijing for two months. There are even parts of the book where he talks about the district that I was currently staying in.

      Besides the romanticism of reading a book about Christianity in China while living in an apartment in the capital of China, I really enjoyed the book. I thought the book helped piece together many things that I have heard and researched myself. It also helped me understand and taught me many things as well.

      The book is definitely best when the author is reporting the stories and not giving his commentary. He does tend to take one situation and apply it across the board, painting everyone with one stroke. Though he makes some wide assumptions and draws conclusion that I wouldn’t, I thoroughly enjoyed him reporting the history of Christianity in China via the lives of those who lived it. For the most part he gives real names and even pictures of those that he reports on. (Also, the back of the book includes translations of important documents.)

      The book inspired me, challenged me, and made me think about the current situation in China. It made me respect those who went through so much for the name of Christ, helped me understand better how the government responds to things, and also made me wonder about what more we could be doing today.

      I recommend this book to any student of missions in China; it is a valuable resource and a must read. If you are just curious about Christianity in China or want to hear the history of her story, then this is also a great book for you to read.

      Reply

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