Category Archives: China Missions Strategy

Confessions of a Missionary (2 of 3) CPM-Church Planting Movement

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A year later, a year after starting to live boldly in China, my friend had a new perspective. He had been told about CPMs and taught about them and even had to train for them, but his fearfulness hindered any movement taking off. Now, he has a new perspective. Now, he isn’t just trying to stay in the country, but he is attempting to see God do a work no matter the cost. God has done a work in his life and is using him in great ways. I pray that you will allow these posts to encourage and challenge you to live boldly for Jesus, no matter the costs!

It has been over a year, and our church is growing. It still doesn’t have a full-time Chinese pastor, but we believe it will soon. We still hope to create the right environment/DNA for a CPM to take place. We feel more capable now that we are no longer living in fear. Will we get booted from China? That’s in God’s hands. Will God’s seed be abundantly sown? Definitely!

Below is a list of the 11 common factors of a CPM.

Worship in the heart language. (Check)
Church services are in Chinese.

Evangelism has communal implications. (Check)
Most new believers believed partially because of their initial training in the firm foundations curriculum and strongly encouraged to start a Bible study with unbelievers using the same material.

Rapid incorporation of new believers into the life and ministry of the church. (Check)
We always find ways for people to serve using their gifts or help them cultivate their gifts to the point of service. All men are consistently encouraged to preach and give their lives to full-time ministry.

Passion and fearlessness. (Check) As stated above. [last post]

A price to pay to become a Christian. (Check)
Parents sometimes disown their children for their new found faith in Christ. One of many examples.

Perceived leadership crises or spiritual vacuum in society. (Check) Thanks to the Chinese Government eradicating religion in China most people do not have faith in any god.

On the job training for church leadership. (Check), Every Sunday’s second church service is reserved for people training to be in the ministry for example preaching or leading music. Also everyone is strongly encouraged to start evangelistic Bible studies outside of the church.

Leadership authority is decentralized. (Yes and no) We strive for healthy balance between decentralized and centralized authority based on biblical principals. The larger we get, the more decentralized we will become. For example as we get more people trained and stepping into leadership positions of, activity director, music director, we chat manager, Children’s minister, women’s minister, etc. it will naturally and organically become more and more decentralized.

Outsiders keep a low profile. (Check) In the model and assist phase of the model, assist, watch, and leave(MAWL) method it’s hard to keep low profile at first, but as people step up and take over it is evident that our presence will no longer be necessary.

Missionaries suffer. (Check)
Missionaries have suffered. We have not yet but are willing.

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Revisiting “On the Edge”

After I had surrendered to go to China as a missionary, I was taught that one of the ways to reach China was to live in a neighboring country. Our original name for our team strategy wasn’t “Project China,” but “On the Edge”. With recent events, I decided to revisit our original strategy. Here is how we defined ourselves:

What is On the Edge?

– On the Edge is a passion… for the millions living in Communist or former-Soviet nations.
– On the Edge is a team… committed to do whatever it takes to reach them.
– On the Edge is a strategy… to make an impact in China by training leaders outside of China.

Below is a basic summary of some of our ideas:

1. To plant vibrant, missions-hearted churches in _________?

The first stage of the plan involves building a stronghold outside of China from which we can export prepared Chinese laborers.

2. To disciple young men to become passionate leaders.

…Chinese students who are planning to return to their homeland after completing their education. What do you think would happen if these students could be reached for Christ and trained to do the work of the ministry? What if they could be prepared to make an impact when they return to their homes in China? This is the second stage, the very heart of our plan.

Please pray for our training center, which will be the center of all our operations on the border. Pray that God will fill it with students set apart to glorify His name. Pray that He will energize and equip them for His work. And pray that He will help them to make a difference when they return to China with the Gospel.

3. To conduct leaders safely into China.

Importation of trained leaders is the key to reaching China with the Gospel. As we train converts outside China’s borders to be leaders of leaders, we must support them as they return home to preach their Gospel to their own people. The Chinese that are trained for the ministry create much better channels for the Lord to work as they perfectly look, speak, and act Chinese. They will be able to work in underground situations much more secretively than foreign missionaries.

4. To develop means to transport new students to _________?

The greatest strategic challenge that we face is that of getting Chinese converts from mainland China to our training center in _________.

5. To involve American students in the world-plan of God.

God wants to raise from the forces of our churches a capable army mobilized to carry the Gospel to the lost of this world. We want to give every Christian the opportunity to make a personal impact in China.

If you have been burdened for the Chinese people and have been looking for an outlet of service, then I invite you to pray with us for the ministry to the border of _________ and China. We have some great dreams! Come and dream with us!  

Originally, the blank was filled in with Russia, but in today’s world, Russia is not ideal, and it would seem Taiwan would be the best option available. (I think at the time of the original strategy, there was no direct flights from China to Taiwan, but now there is.)

Our original ideas was preparing Chinese pastors out of the country:

Many missionaries are beginning to search for more strategic and effective methods for ministry in China. For On the Edge, this means building an exterior training center to prepare Chinese pastors.

I think there is a lot of truth in the original plan, especially when it comes to being able to “setup a base” to work from. There is a great loss in stability working only in the mainland. I think our original strategy, and what we have learned since then, will lead us into an even more effective strategy.

As we are working these things out and finding your role in all this, one things remains to be true:

Until we have young men and young women of God who are willing to do anything necessary to see God’s name glorified, there will be no city-taking. Until there is a generation willing to suffer, willing to bleed, and willing to die for the glory of God, there will be no conquering of the land God has promised us. We may watch walls fall and doors open, but it is our hearts that determine whether or not the cities of this world will be taken.

All quotes taken from “On the Edge: A Strategy for China in Our Generation”

Notes from Reading Chinese Missions History

Here is an informal list of things that I noticed from reading Chinese Missions History. More than just being an amusing list or common factors that I noticed, I think it can be instructive in our China missions strategy today. Hopefully, they can help us not make the same mistakes as the generations before us and encourage us in the right direction. (I was surprised at how many of these are true for today.)

Notes from Reading Chinese Missions History:

  • Some missionaries spoke the language well and others didn’t; it affected the effectiveness of their mission.
  • Missionaries were involved in “other jobs” which at times greatly hindered their mission.
  • Targeting “average” people versus targeting the “elite” was more effective.
  • Many people (missionaries) came, but few stayed for long periods of time.
  • Most saw some fruit, but after the missionary left it often didn’t last.
  • There was a lack of training leaders; thus, churches in China have always struggled.
  • The Chinese adopted Christianity to fit their own culture, often going against the Bible.
  • Persecution has always been a problem that comes and goes.
  • The government has often been xenophobic–extreme dislike of people from other countries.
  • Cults who took on the name of Christianity gave real Christians a bad reputation.
  • Missionaries working alongside the government and those with political or business intentions, may have opened doors, but also caused problems.

Three-self Church: Baptism and Works

I have written before about the 3 “Kinds” of Churches in China. One of those is what we refer to as the three-self church. I wrote:

“Three-self – Or for the full name, Three-self Patriotic movement, are churches that are meeting with the government’s permission because they have agreed to follow all their regulations. The name stands for 1) Self-governing, 2) Self-supporting, and 3) Self-propagating. The ones that we have been able to see have hundreds of people at them with the majority of the people and leadership being women. They believe they are the true church in China because they are in submission to the state.”

After moving to our new city, I learned more about the three-self churches in our area. We had people come to our church that had visited the three-self church before. They would go hoping to learn more about the Bible and the Gospel only to walk away confused.

I have had the same testimony from several different people about what I am about to say. According to different testimonies from Chinese people who have visited or took part in the three-self church in our area and then came to our church and heard the truth according to the Scriptures, here is what they reported: The churches border belief in baptismal regeneration and works for salvation.

Let me explain. Upon inquiring how to become a Christian, they will be asked how long they have come to the church or have been interested in Christianity. Then they are told they need to learn about what Christianity is and learn enough to pass an exam. If they study hard enough and pass the exam, and enough time has passed, they are permitted to be baptized to wash away their sins. If they don’t get baptized, they can’t claim to be a Christian. If they don’t pass the exam, they can’t get baptized.

There are exceptions of course. One of the women paid a pastor 200 RMB ($33) for the pastor to go to her house and sprinkle (baptize) her mother who was sick and not physically able to go.

Others have given testimony of not understanding the preaching because it is too “lofty” and not “simple.”

Also, many have said you are required to pay when you go. This was hard for me to believe at first until we started passing out flyer for our church. People would call me to ask about the church and almost everyone that called asked how much it was to come! I gladly told them that all of our services are free.

Foreigners who partner with the three-self church need to be weary. If you don’t speak Chinese you need to be extra cautious.

If these claims are true, then they are preaching another gospel, and there is no other, no not one!

Note: After writing this I personally visited a three-self church one afternoon. There was an older lady sitting in the back pew so I thought I would ask her about baptism in relation to salvation. She was probably in her 80’s! I asked her if a person can be saved apart from baptism. She looked at me confused, like she had never been asked the question before and said “I don’t know.” She followed-up saying that she wasn’t sure but that she was knew that salvation was by faith in Jesus. From asking her a few more questions, it seemed she really did believe, knowing enough of the gospel to believe it, but never considered the other areas.

The Cult of Eastern Lightning (4 of 4) The Truth

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Every week when I stand up to teach the Word, I try to present the truth clearly and truthfully. Through my experience with this cult, I have tried to emphasis the truth even more specifically.

I think the best way to guard against the false teaching of this group is to emphasize the truth to the point that the believers in your local assembly will know immediately that their teachings are false because it doesn’t coincide with the truth that have already learned.

I think we should emphasize the following truths:

  • Know that False Christ and Prophets will arise.
  • The Bible is the Word of God and Our Only Authority.
  • Jesus is the Only Christ and the Only Way of Salvation.
  • The Trinity. One God. Three persons.
  • We are waiting for Jesus to return and are still in the “age of grace”.

Constantly, firmly and lovingly teach these truths of Scripture and pray.

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The Cult of Eastern Lightning (3 of 4) Tactics

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Their way of convincing people seems to be to introduce truth, or state things as truth, and then introduce doubt, confusing a young Christian in the faith.

From here they combat “real truth” by playing on the emotions.

Anger and Judgement
The book is written in a very harsh way. It has a condescending and undermining tone. Since this is the age of judgement it seems to be proper to do so. They constantly warn those who reject this teaching of the new Christ, no matter what your previous belief was, you will be punished and perish.

“I tell you, those who believe in God because of miraculous signs are surely the brood to perish, and those who cannot accept the words spoken by the Jesus returning in the flesh are surely the sons of hell…” [1] (Note: “Jesus” here is referring to the new christ that is a woman).

Pharisees: A Scare Tactic
This cult quotes Matthew 24:23-24, which refers to false Christ and prophets. They undermine this verse by saying that we are so worried about these false teachers that we missed the second incarnation of god. They used the countless stories of the Pharisees who rejected Jesus and scare people with “Don’t be a Pharisee! They rejected Jesus and he was the first incarnation, I am the second and you are rejecting me, are you not a Pharisee?!”

Confusing Terminology
This group seeks to confuse Christians by using very similar terminology. Consider this sentence:

“You acknowledge that Christ is God’s incarnate flesh, but why do you take a scronful attitude toward her?” [2]

You aren’t really sure who they are talking about until you read the last word “her” and realize this sentence is referring to the second christ which is a woman.

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The Cult of Eastern Lightning (2 of 4) False Doctrine

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This group can be very deceiving, especially for Chinese house churches. This group was born out of a house church movement that believed to some decree “shouting” and crying in the church service was a sign of the Holy Spirit and thus being truly saved.

With this being the basis of their origin, they already knew how the house church works and its lack of Bible teaching. They knew how to use Biblical language to make up their own doctrine and mislead many down the wrong path.

This use of Biblical language and knowledge has been useful for them to undermine Biblical Christianity. Here are some of the heresies I found that they teach:

One God with Multiple Names (a denial of the Trinity)
This cult teaches that God is one with multiple names. His first name was Jehovah, then Jesus and now the Almighty. The same way you would give one person three different titles for three different jobs.

“Today, I am no longer Jehovah or Jesus whom people knew before but the God who has returned in the end time and who will end the age and the God Godself who arises from the ends of the earth, filled with all my nature and full of authority, honor, and glory.” [1]

Two Christs not One
This group defines “Christ” as God coming in the flesh to carry out his will in person. The first Christ was Jesus and the second Christ is called “the Almighty” which claims to be the second incarnation of God in a small Chinese women who is still on the earth today. This second Christ is also the last Christ, so no other can overcome her.

Three Ages of God’s Management Plan
This group believes there are three ages to God’s plan. This first was the Age of the Law. The Second was the Age of Grace. Thirdly, and currently is the age of Judgement. Just as the Age of Grace made void the age of the Law, so does the Age of Judgement make void the Age of Grace.

“I will do the conquering work in the Gentile nations, thereby ending the age. If people always call me Jesus Christ and yet do not know that I have opened a new age and carried out a newer work in the end time but keep waiting for the descent of the Saviour Jesus foolishly, I call all such people ones who do not believe in me, who do not know me, and who pretend to believe in me.” [2]

Rejecting the Bible and Undermining it’s Authority
This group makes a hard effort for Christians to turn against the Bible and only follow the “new revelation” that is given by this “new Christ”. The Bible is considered an outdated book and cannot help anyone in this current age.

“They equate ‘me’ with the ‘Bible’: no ‘Bible,’ no ‘me’ and no ‘me,’ no ‘Bible.’ They do no care about my existence or my deeds, but care much and greatly about every word of Scriptures.” [3]

“”Those who seek to be compatible with the letters of the Bible and those who only seek to be compatible with the vague god are low in my sight, because what they worship is dead letters, is a God that can bestow vast wealth to man, and is a nonexistent god manipulated by man in any way” [4]

Salvation Only Through the New Christ + Works
According to their teaching, everything that Jesus did is worthless if you reject the new Christ (since they are the same person). To reject the new Christ is to reject Jesus and Jehovah. They use confusing terms that are hard to pinpoint what they truly mean. For example, Jesus makes redemption possible but without the new Christ we can’t receive God’s “approval”. But ultimately, a believer in their teachings will ultimately be judge by their conduct, performances and deeds… to decide their outcome.

“I do not care how many people worship me. That is to say, I do not care how many people believe in me. I only care how many people are compatible with me.” [5]

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The Cult of Eastern Lightning (1 of 4) Introduction

We were working with a small group of people, when one of them invited their cousin, who recently moved to the city, to meet me. He was a national Chinese missionary.

We met and I talked with him for a short time. He asked me about receiving the Holy Spirit and speaking in tongues. The way he asked it, I was alarmed and warned those we were working with to “be careful” because of what other doctrines he might believe and teach. But thinking he was just of a Charismatic background.

I didn’t make anymore time to meet with him after that. Therefore, he sent me a book to read. I also receive a letter from one of the main guys I was working with about how confused he was from this man’s teachings (apparently he was having many that we were working with over to his house). I started to be worried.

The book was originally written in Chinese, but he gave me a copy translated into English. The name of the book was “The Word Appears in the Flesh” (Selected Pieces) published by the Church of the Almighty God.

I still was unclear what this meant. I did some quick research on the internet and realized it was a cult called “Eastern Lightning”.

As I read the book that was given to me and did more research online, I was absolutely disgusted by this group’s teachings. I have never read something with so much undermining to the Bible and Biblical Christianity.

If you are going to work in China, you should be aware of this group and their false teachings.

Here is a quick introduction:

“The Eastern Lightning cult was founded by Zhao Wei Shan in A Cheng in Hei Long Jiang province in 1989. Zhao used to be a member of a denomination called the Shouters. He later broke away with a group of people, and started a new sect called “Church of the Everlasting Foundation,” calling himself “The Powerful One.” Later on he joined with a woman named Deng in He Nan province. He began to call her “The Almighty God” – the female Christ in the flesh – and the name of the sect was at that time changed to “The Church of the True God.” The last name they have adopted for themselves is “The Eastern Lightning” which was taken from Matthew 24:27 in the Bible. At the present time, they have penetrated over 20 provinces in China; they have over a million followers and are attacking and greatly damaging Christian house churches in China.” [1] [[1]]http://www.chinaforjesus.com/EL_development.htm

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Doctrine (4 of 4) Grey Areas

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China needs solid churches. There are so many here who have never heard the gospel. We can’t get side-tracked by focusing on starting churches of “every flavor” when there are so many without the truth. This can happen because we separate over “grey areas”. I mean the areas in scripture that are not black or white. The Bible doesn’t say either way is right or wrong. This hurts us in partnering with those who are truly of the faith and working towards the advancement of the gospel.

I have seen this between missionaries and it truly saddens me. I want to offer the following two cautions:

(1) We need to take caution not to authoritatively speak where the Bible doesn’t. Too many times we are guilty of making arguments from silence and over emphasizing scriptures about a general principle and dogmatically applying it to an area of life that the Bible doesn’t say much about.

(2) We need to take caution not to ignore Biblical principles and advice that we are given when making decisions about the areas the bible is silent on. Just because the bible is silent on an area doesn’t mean the biblical wisdom can’t guide us in making a proper decision.

In light of these two cautions, when making decision about grey areas we need to:

  • Seek out what the Bible says about the subject.
  • Study and know basic Bible principles.
  • Ask for spiritual counsel from godly leadership.
  • Apply the above “findings” and make a decision.

These four steps should help us make decisions in hard places. The next important thing to remember is that your decision isn’t a dogmatic position, meaning, someone could go through the same process about the same area and come to a different conclusion. This doesn’t mean you have to break fellowship with that person, or that person is wrong. Each of you are making the decision to the best of your ability based on the above criteria.

Churches and/or individuals that do not come to the same conclusions and do not have the exact same stand on “certain” grey area issues that we do, the following is proposed:

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 2 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.

In conclusion, China needs churches. China needs churches that believe sound doctrine. China needs men to start these churches. Men that aren’t worried about that petty issues as much as they are worried about the souls of men. Is that man you?

Doctrine (3 of 4) The Fundamentals

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Last year when we did a survey of the villages, we asked one question to the different groups claiming to be “Christian”. We simply asked if they believe Jesus was Lord and the only way of salvation. I was sadly surprised how many did not believe this.

This opened our eyes to how many cults are in China. To avoid these cults and to better learn about the churches here, we need to start with the fundamentals. We need men to come to China and teach these fundamentals of the faith.

  • The Deity of our Lord Jesus Christ (John 1:1; John 20:28; Hebrews 1:8-9).
  • The Virgin Birth (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23; Luke 1:27).
  • The Blood Atonement (Acts 20:28; Romans 3:25, 5:9; Ephesians 1:7; Hebrews 9:12-14).
  • The Bodily Resurrection (Luke 24:36-46; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, 15:14-15).
  • The Inerrancy of the Scriptures Themselves (Psalms 12:6-7; Romans 15:4; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:20).
  • The Salvation of Sinners by Grace through Faith in Jesus Alone (Ephesians 2:8-10).

If a branch or denomination of Christianity has different views on these, then there is a good chance that it would be hard for us to fellowship or partner with them in good conscience. These are points of separation.

We need men to start churches who believe the right thing and what the Bible teaches.

But we need to be careful to make what isn’t a fundamental, a fundamental. We don’t need a new church here for every different “opinion” when there are so many people without the fundamentals.

As we stated in the last post, churches are independent. This means that each church will look, feel and act differently. Each church gets to choose, according to scripture, what they believe, their expression of worship and how culture is applied to their local church. We hope that they will believe correctly on the essentials (no flex room) and choose wisely in the grey areas (flex room).

In the next post I want to consider the grey areas.