China & Bible Smuggling (Part 3 of 3) Conclusion

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It sounds right, but there is one more part of the equation that many leave out. Who exactly is the “Chinese Church”? Who are the people receiving the bibles?

One smuggling bibles is probably likely to tell you that he has a “network” of people who the bibles get passed on to and they distribute them throughout China. Not knowing much about China, the person sitting in the pew easily accepts this answer. But I want to challenge the “network.” Why? Because statistically one-half to two-thirds of China’s house church Christians are somewhat Charismatic (or liberal theology, such as, speaking in tongues, woman as pastors, and belief that one’s salvation can be lost). If you believe in historical Christianity, are theologically conservative, and/or are a fundamentalist that stands on the Word of God, then this is a problem.

Should conservative churches be using their missions money to help build and equip the charismatic churches?

I challenge the network because we know little about it and we are not allowed to know about it. For the purpose of “security reasons” we have allowed the “who” to not matter and have no accountability.

Is the “network” made up of like-minded believers who are in need of Bibles? Is there accountability in the system to deliver the Bibles and make sure they are getting delivered and used? Can the we know about the network and how everything operates?

Think about it this way: If there was a Charismatic church teaching their doctrine in your hometown and where requesting 200 Bibles from your church (to keep teaching their doctrine), would you provided them with bibles? Would you use your missions money to give that Charismatic church bibles?

Conclusion: I am not against bible smuggling “if” the church needing the bibles is of “like faith and practice” can’t afford to buy bibles on their own, don’t have a local place to get them, and need more than what we could get by legally buying them in China. Otherwise, I think there are better places that we could be spending our time and missions’ dollars. For example:

  • Bible smugglers would have their time free to help train the local churches in correct doctrine.
  • We could have more money available to help legally publish Christian books in China.
  • We could support more missionaries to plant churches and train national leadership.
  • Money is saved from the short-term teams used to smuggle Bibles in or their efforts could be re-directed toward evangelism.

So three post later, what do you think? To smuggle or not to smuggle, that is the question!?

1 | 2 | 3 | Bonus |

27 thoughts on “China & Bible Smuggling (Part 3 of 3) Conclusion

  1. Brandon

    I agree 100% with your conclusion. The idea is not to eliminate bringing Bibles into China, but to make sure that these Bible are not being utilized to help a church spread false doctrine. (Although maybe if the charismatics would actually read them, they would come to the knowledge of the truth.) I am not against getting Bibles into China to help fundamental churches who are of like mind and faith. However, we must be careful that Bible smuggling does not replace church-planting, but becomes a help to it. It is good to send a Bible. It is better to send a man with a Bible who will plant Bible preaching, evangelistic churches. If this man needs Bibles, then I say let the Bible smuggler and the church planter work together to bring people to Christ!

    Reply
    1. Mark (China Ramblings!) Post author

      Thanks for the comment. I love the line “It is good to send a Bible. It is better to send a man with a Bible…” I do think there is a disconnect between the bible smugglers and the church planters. Most church planters will most likely say “Yes” to bible smugglers because they offer bibles and materials free of charge. If they say “no” then they will just find someone else.

      Reply
  2. Jon

    I too agree with your conclusion. I believe that as the pastor of a church that I need to make sure that the money we are given which in turn we give to missions efforts is being used to the greatest good for the Kingdom of God. I have never been told that there are places that Chinese Christians can get bibles legally. I wonder though how many Chinese Christians are concerned with the government really knowing their business and so do not buy bibles from these legal places.? Keep on working to reach people for Christ!

    Reply
    1. Mark (China Ramblings!) Post author

      Thanks for the comment. I hope these post help us all be better stewards of God’s resources. Christians in China come in all flavors :) From what I have observed, many aren’t “afraid” of the government church, they just don’t agree with it. Many don’t even disagree with the government church but like the atmosphere of the “house church” because it is small and you know everyone vs. attending the “mega” government church. Also, there seems to be a good number that “church hop” attending both legal and illegal churches. If one was really scared to buy directly from the government church, then another option could be buying online. The church we work with freely gives out Bibles to attenders that want one.

      Reply
  3. tom hatley

    It would be hard for one to say they were against “smuggling Bibles”. However a better use of mission money would be to help church planters of like faith. “Smuggling” Bibles maybe good, but short sighted.

    Reply
    1. Mark (China Ramblings!) Post author

      Right on! The question isn’t are we for or against the bible and suppling churches with the bibles, but is “bible smuggling” in China no longer necessary because of recent developments. There are still many places that we should smuggle Bibles into. To my knowledge, North Korea is a place that “bible smuggling” is still a necessary ministry.

      Reply
  4. Danny

    I guess my question would be(and this is not being critical of your post just asking) as you have brought up the subject on the churches in China who they are and their doctrines, where did you get your info? Have you been there to see for yourself or are you depending on info from someone else. We are here and we rely on others to give that info. I too want to make sure the right people are getting them, not the charismatics, One statement you made ” government churches” this raises a red flag for me as my family was is foreign missions for 15 years and I know a little about government sponsored or qualified churches. Not being critical just asking.

    Reply
    1. Mark (China Ramblings!) Post author

      Thanks for the comment and good questions. Some of the information is from personal experience and some of it from books, websites, and talking with other workers in China. One point that I stressed in the post was challenging the “network” because usually there isn’t specific details to whom that “network” is made up of, and thus we are not sure where all these Bibles and materials are going. As for the “government church” I am not in favor of them for the most part. The government church, though there are exceptions, were brought into existence to control the Christians in China and the head of these churches is the communist/atheist government, not the Lord Jesus Christ. The post in this series are not an endorsement of those churches but within those churches you are able to purchase bibles (which I have done), the same ones many bible smugglers are smuggling into China.

      Reply
  5. Danny

    There are a lot of things going in in church ministries that are not necessary as they once were. I am into the church planting idea myself. Train nationals and watch the Lord work thru them planting other churches. The churches we started on the field are now starting other churches.

    Reply
    1. Mark (China Ramblings!) Post author

      Danny, exactly! Bible smuggling was a legitimate ministry that, for the most part, no longer needs to be done in China. This type of ministry is always meant to be “temporary” or until the doors open, and in this area in China they have. The hard question then for those smuggling bibles is “what do we do now?” Most can easily keep smuggling but I love what you offered in your comment, plant churches and train national leadership. China is in need of this type of laborer in great abundance. Thanks for the comment.

      Also, are you in China? I would love to hear more about your ministry.

      Reply
  6. Fred

    I think that while some of the things you bring up are legitimate concerns we need to be careful about not having all the information needed before making blanket statements concerning the efforts of other missionaries and their ministries. The “bible smugglers” I know, do know where the bibles are going and not just sending them where ever to whom ever.
    You have alot of misinformation from what I’ve read. You may not even know it, so I am not accusing you of intentinally putting out false information. Just don’t be so pressed with yourself and how you do it that you hinder the work that God has led others to do.
    China is a big place and just like all large countries there are vast differences in each area. Hope you take this in the spirit that it was intended, not looking to a great debate. In Christ.

    Reply
    1. Mark (China Ramblings!) Post author

      Fred, thank you for the kindness in your comment. Two things I tried to make a point of in the first post of this series is that these post are not against “bible smugglers” themselves (the ones that I have met or know about seems to be godly men) and that I am willing to learn more about this ministry if my information or perspective is wrong.

      Sorry for any blanket statements in the post, I can understand how that is annoying. Anyone who feels there “bible smuggling” ministry is falsely represented by these post, then I welcome their comments.

      Also, in the first post I mentioned…”I may be wrong in some of my assumptions and information. Thus, I am willingly to learn from those who are leading the way for bible smuggling in China.”

      You stated the post did bring up legitimate concerns but also I didn’t have “all the information”. I would love to hear your thoughts on this in more detail. Also, please let me know the “misinformation” and I am more than willingly to be accountable and correct it where correction is needed (I have no intention of purposely putting out false information. I welcome the correction as this blog helps with accountability in being open in the matter).

      Yes, I do agree a lot of bible smugglers know where there bibles are going BUT they don’t. What I mean is, how many people can you know? Most have friends and church planters in the country that they supply, but that generally is a small number of the Bibles they are smuggling in. Then they have the “network” … in which they must take someone’s word for it. The bible smugglers probably don’t speak Chinese and don’t live in China. You miss a lot. You interpret things wrong. And everyone puts on a show for visitors. Thus they have to trust the advice of “others” much the same way a pastor has to trust a missionary about his field. Eventually there could be something lost along the way.

      I hope this series of post don’t hinder others and their work for God, but to help people realize a door has been opened, times have changed and we need to focus more effort to preaching the book than smuggling the book (in China).

      I hope you read the same kindness in spirit that I read in your post.

      (Please advise me on the “misinformation” that you stated I have given.)

      Reply
  7. Kenny

    I agree that there’s probably better ways to help china’s christian church then to travel there to smuggle bibles dollar for dollar. There’s a big concern with the limited bibles and training resources for Christians which has opened a big door for occults to come in such as the eastern lightning and others. As far as your concern for resources going through charismatic ministries, you lost me. A huge role of the revival in china is because of those charismatic pastors and ministries. I think what is most important is that chinese church is able to not only able to to have access to the word of God, but also training on sound doctrine And pastoring. One concern with the national church is that they can still control the teaching and theology similar to the English church back in the day. If you’re that concerned with women pastors springing up in communist china, that’s fine, I just don’t share the same concern. I think the church should work with each other instead of fighting over what they don’t agree on. Theres several ministries that are doing great work in china, and if you want to work one with the same s.o.f. As you, that’s great. However that doesn’t mean we should boycott other ministries. Just my opinion.

    Reply
    1. Mark (China Ramblings!) Post author

      Thanks for the comment. I think we are coming to different conclusions because we have different “assumptions”. 1) You are assuming there is a “big concern” with limited bibles and training resources. Living in China and working in house churches, I do no see this “big concern” for a lack of bibles and training resources. 2) Cults are growing because in many ways are more bold in their approach. 3) I agree that a part of the “revival in china” is because of the charismatic pastors and ministries, you assume this is a good thing, I don’t. I don’t believe charismatic doctrine is “sound doctrine” and thus uniting with them would hurt our purpose of “training in sound doctrine and pastoring”. 4) I am concerned with “women pastors” because I believe they are not pastors according to the Word of God. You assume they are. 5) You are assuming unity is more important than truth. I assume the opposite.

      I agree there are a lot of people and ministries doing a great work in China. I even agree that that are many things (in reference to opinion) that we can overlook for the unity of the body and furtherance of the Gospel. At the same time, the line has to be drawn somewhere, otherwise we will be accepting and including many cults that have a “Christian appearance” to them.

      I have noticed that many working in China misinform many in the USA about the true condition of the “Church in China”…such as the lack of bibles, resources, the unity of the chinese church, revival etc. The reality of missions in China and the perception of missions in China truly are contradicting. Then again, China is a big place, and as someone once said “everything you heard about China is probably true somewhere in the country.”

      I hope that helps clear things up a little.

      Reply
  8. Kenny

    I think there is a big difference between our views on sound doctrine. If I were to tell you that it is sound doctrine that women should be pastors would be just as false if you were to tell me that speaking in tongues is against sound doctrine. There are many views in the church that the bible has only a little to say about. I think that it’s easy for many Christians to think of their views, or the views of their denomination to be rooted in sound doctrine. The truth is that there are many differences on views on what the bible says on several topics… That’s why there are so many denominations these days. That doesn’t make one denomination preach sound doctrine and the rest don’t. The line should Be drawn on the word of God, and not one’s interpretation of it. This is where sound doctrine comes in… I’m not here to debate with you on why you should or not believe this, but that I think your focus is too narrow. I’d rather lead one person to jesus then convince a thousand Christians to have the same view as me. I understand concerns on doctrine, but if the doctrine is sound… It’s Jesus that’s being preached, minor differences should be less of the focus than building towards the same goal of reaching the lost. On a more local outlook, in my city I don’t want to just see my church flourish, I want to see all of the healthy churches see revival. I don’t get upset when I see a babtist, methodist, Presbyterian, or nondenominational church grow because they teach different views. Why? Because Jesus isn’t coming back for one denomination, he’s coming back for his church, the body of Christ. I would rather put my energy towards building it, not criticizing the parts that aren’t the same as me.

    I want to reitterate that I’m referring to churches that are rooted in the word of God and don’t teach false doctrine.

    I think you make some great points on more specifically effectively helping the church in china. God bless!

    Reply
    1. Mark (China Ramblings!) Post author

      I agree and disagree with the comment “The line should Be drawn on the word of God, and not one’s interpretation of it.” For each person they need to study the Word of God and come to their own conclusion instead of just believing what someone else says, correct, but how can the line be the Word of God if we can’t interpret it?

      I am ok with you thinking my focus is too narrow, because I think yours is pretty narrow as well. :) It sounds I am more conservative in theology and you are more liberal, that is fine but both are narrow. Why? Simple, you want to be around and work with people who are like you, and I the same, otherwise this conversation wouldn’t be taking place. You want to be inclusive, but if you truly are you would have to accept what I say without argumentation. Being inclusive of all is in and of itself exclusive, just like who one claims to be exclusive in it’s beliefs.

      I like your passion to reach souls with the Gospel. I want to see all healthy churches flourish and have revival as well. There we agree. But I am also to teach the whole counsel of God and issue will arise that I believe the Bible is clear on, which another fellowship and their leadership may disagree on. That is fine. But those thinking that I am too narrow in view will most likely distance themselves. For example, If I am teach on proper leadership in the church and another church has a women pastor, then they most likely are going to distance themselves, since I see their view of scripture as wrong according to the Word of God. There isn’t this dream world of churches that can teach contradictory things and work side by side without problems. On certain issues, you must have an “interpretation” of what the scriptures say, there in no neutral ground. Simply saying “either way is okay” is a step in the inclusive community verses the exclusive community.

      I just read this quote last night “Any community that did not hold its members accountable for specific beliefs and practices would have no corporate identity and would not really be a community at all.13” I think that is helpful to this conversation.

      Everyone draws the line somewhere. You seem to draw the line with preaching Jesus. But your line is more narrow than that because you disagree with where I draw my line. You are about as exclusive as I am, even though I draw mine line more around historic christianity and even more so baptistic doctrine. (Side note: We took a survey to the villages to find house churches the we could work with, the only question we asked was “do you believe Jesus is the one and only way of salvation”…many disagreed to this statement. Do you think people supplying Bibles to these churches know this?)

      I agree with you as well that Jesus is coming back for his church, the body of Christ. I also agree that we should put energy towards building it, not criticizing the parts that aren’t the same…but preaching truth (one side of doctrine) will automatically bring criticism to the other side. It can’t be avoided. But as you said our energy isn’t to try and point out everyones faults and problems because they don’t align with ours, this is a waste of time.

      I think the need for those who are “rooted in sound doctrine” are needed in China. A study of Chinese Church history will show you that the Chinese church has just as many differing beliefs and denominations. Some got to the point where they stopped preaching the true gospel of grace.

      My influence, resources, finances, and time are all limited. I want to use them to the best of my ability to preach the Gospel and to preach the whole counsel of God. It would seem self-defeating to support groups who I believe are teaching things against scripture or of what I am not sure they teach.

      As for churches and/or individuals that do not come to the same conclusions as ours and do not have the exact same stand on “certain” issues that we have, we state the following:    

      We are willing to fellowship with those who have not come to the same conclusions as we have in our personal lives and ministry. We believe that we should reflect the principles of II Timothy 2:24; Romans 14:1-6; Ephesians 4:3; and James 3:17. We recognize that, as servants of the Lord Jesus Christ we “must not strive, but be gentle unto all men,” we must not “despise or judge,” but “let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind” while we “endeavor” to keep unity, and that “wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.”

      I hope that helps Kenny. Thanks for the comments!

      Reply
  9. jshaw

    ugh…i feel like you are being too polite. There hasn’t been a legit need for smuggling bibles into China for years. However, there are any number of ministries that maintain their perceived relevance through a somewhat false dichotomy of “real” and underground vs. state churches. And while i don’t disagree that it’s our job to judge which of those is the real christianity, i think we are better served in judging whether a ministry is making good use of our money or not. I think it makes us, as western Christians who somehow feel guilty deep down inside for having it ‘so easy’ feel better and more relevant if there is a suffering christian population elsewhere that we can “help” (not help by actually going there of course…by help i mean stay at home and read that <>Randy Alcorn fiction book that everyone always gives me when i’m home). I think there is an industry built on this Us Vs. Them, Christians vs. evil Communists, Free world for the Martyrs simplicity. As a marketing schtick, it’s effective. but that industry should either pivot towards a more realistic ministry, or change their tactics/message. in my, ever so humble, opinion. also, by the way, if anyone would like either a Randy Alcorn book, or a Taiwanese Bible…i have dozens that people have smuggled to me over the years. you can take one of mine.

    Reply
    1. Mark (China Ramblings!) Post author

      Good thoughts. There are a number of ministries that maintain their perceived relevance through a somewhat false dichotomy and thus use marketing tactics to get people involved…real ministry is boring to most.

      Reply
  10. Drew

    Thank you for the article. It was thoughtful and well-written. I had a couple of thoughts and a question.
    1. The argument about legality seems interesting to me when church-planting missionaries in so many parts of the world aren’t exactly “legal” in visa status and work.

    2. The argument about need versus demand is understandable. Obviously there is a great demand. The numbers certainly indicate that the legal Bible printing in China could not possibly keep up with demand and even if it could, I would certainly trust Christians to distribute (or most other people for that matter) before I trusted the government. The “need” would probably depend on how a person looks at another point you made…. Which brings me to my question..

    You mentioned that many of the “Christians” are “Charismatic.” How would you define this? It sounds like you and I are along the same lines as far as belief. You mentioned women pastors; I certainly do not consider this good but it is not heretical. You also mentioned house churches that do not believe that Jesus is the only way to salvation (this is certainly not good and IS HERETICAL). So that would be my question- what exactly do you mean by charismatic?

    Thanks and sorry for the long post

    Reply
    1. Mark (China Ramblings!) Post author

      (1) The “legality” argument is relevant in this case. Why would you choose to break the law if you can accomplish your goals legally? If you couldn’t legally and freely buy bibles in China, then I think we should smuggle them. (In your example, most can’t legally get a missionary visa, thus they go through another means to get a visa.)

      The “great demand” isn’t as great as people make it out to be (not here anyways). I am in the process of starting a church in China and we offer free Bibles to anyone that wants one. Most people won’t take them because they don’t want them. I gave a bunch of Bibles to a friend to give the college guys in his dorm. He gave them back to me a few days later because they didn’t want one.

      The bookstore here is filled with bibles for people to buy. You can also freely order them online.

      The need may be more ignorance than lack of supply.

      (2) If a church does not believe that Jesus is the only way to salvation then they are definitely heretical. In the other areas (Charismatic or not), each person will have to decided what they are comfortable helping and supporting…and that is what I was trying to communicate.

      I have a series coming out on my blog “Doctrine” that will help define where I am on some of this.

      Here is a link to the first in the series:
      http://www.chinaramblings.com/archives/12228

      Reply
  11. Rick M

    If the you think the people are being taught false doctorine then why would it be a good idea NOT to give them bibles…. Just sayin

    Reply
    1. Bonnie

      Exactly! People think that God Almighty can’t open the eyes through his Word? It is akin to worrying about giving the homeless man a coat, because he might turn around and sell it to buy drugs… So, we just let him shiver in the cold… Some day, those of us, who have had the opportunity to buy Bibles for a smuggler to take into China might have to explain why we didn’t help. “Well, God, it’s like this–I didn’t want to break the law, and well, those Chinese could have got a Bible legally, if they had saved up for a year or two, and if they had gotten permission to buy one at a legal book store, and if they hadn’t been too chicken to buy one openly because sometimes they are targeted for being Christians…”

      Reply
      1. Mark Post author

        Bonnie, God’s Word proclaimed is exactly what He uses!

        When I was in Chicago, a homeless man was asking for money for food. I didn’t know what he would use the money for nor did I have time to find out. So instead of giving him money, I took him inside the restaurant where I bought him a meal and gave him the gospel. These articles just ask for common sense. We can ask the churches that we are providing Bibles to what they believe. If they believe something false, then we can give them the proper teaching with the Bibles.

        If our goal is just to provided any person with a Bible, then it doesn’t really matter. Nor do I think that it accomplishes much. There needs to be the Word and a teacher of the Word.

        Also, I don’t think anyone will have to do any explaining to God in Heaven.

        And to deal with the myths again: to buy a Bible legally…

        …you do not need to saved up for a year or two
        …you do not need permission to buy one at a legal book store
        …you aren’t targeted for legally buying a Bible

        and finally “if they hadn’t been too chicken to…” So we encourage the Chinese to be scared to buy Bibles legally, but encourage Americans to be bold with smuggling in Bibles illegally? Americans are targeted more for smuggling in Bibles than Chinese are for legally buying Bibles.

        I am not sure where all these myths come from, but let us have a open mind and reconsider our preconceived thoughts!

        Reply
  12. Bonnie

    One way to promote sound doctrine is to provide people with a personal Bible to read. Many people, leave their “cults” after they begin to read the Bible for themselves. When my son was a little boy, he used to “buy” Bibles from Bibles for the World. We packaged them and shipped them off to India. EACH BIBLE WAS SENT OFF WITH PRAYERS FOR THE RECIPIENTS! God honors those prayers. He knows each recipient intimately. How can they be saved, without hearing the message? How can they learn about God, without his Word? Regarding breaking the law: officials told Paul to stop preaching. And how about Jesus healing the sick on the Sabbath? If Jesus thought it was okay to break the Jewish blue laws, I don’t think he would have problem with breaking law to bring God’s Word to the Chinese people. Yes, you might be able to get a legal Bible, but at what cost in terms of time, money, and possibly consequences ranging from unpleasant to dire? You want to open a dialogue. When people live in opulence, it is easy to have fun talking about all the what ifs–the ethical issues, moral issues, legal issues, economic issues, logistical issues, etc…surrounding feeding and helping the truly destitute. We who are sated with Bibles–lets just GET THE BIBLES TO CHINA, through smuggling, bookstores, English teachers, air drop. Do you really have to worry about WHAT IF a cultist gets a Bible? Really?

    Reply
    1. Mark Post author

      Bonnie, thank you for the dialogue, but I think you missed the point of these articles.

      Regarding breaking the law: As Christians we shouldn’t break the law of a country if there is no reason to do so. If a country makes a law against what the Bible tells us to do, then we should follow the Bible over man. I know and believe this personally, I am a church-planting missionary in China. I also believe that if there is a legal way to do what God has commanded us, then we should seek to go that route to live peaceably with all men.

      We can legally buy Bibles in China, at what cost you ask? Much more reasonable in all areas considered than smuggling them in.

      …in terms of time: I can drive to the bookstore and buy one or order 100 online and have them delivery to my house in a few days. No need to plan a bible smuggling trip that last a week or more.

      …in terms of money: You can get a normal Bible for a few dollars or you can spend more and get a much nicer Bible, even a study Bible. No need to spend thousands of dollars on airplane tickets to get Bibles in. For every airplane ticket saved, we could be buying hundreds of Bibles.

      …in terms of possibly consequences ranging from unpleasant to dire: Umm what? There are no consequences for legally buying a Bible. There are consequences for illegally smuggling in Bibles.

      Remember, I live in the middle of millions who don’t have a Bible and have forsaken the comforts of America to actually be here and work among the Chinese people. I opened this dialogue because those in the States don’t understand the true condition of China and are fascinated by the stories of history more than they are about the present realities.

      I agree with you, lets GET BIBLES TO CHINA, but lets not throw common sense out the window in the midst of our zeal. If people understand these posts for what they are meant to be, then they will realize that we can do more than we have ever done when it comes to getting Bibles in the hands of the Chinese people.

      The point about the cults is: you are providing them with Bibles that they are using to teach false doctrine. I know this can’t always be avoided, but what good does it do to provide a church who preaches a false gospel using the Bible you provided them with?

      Reply
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