The Unknown Evangelists Reaching the World
The Biblical Mandate. The Lord entrusted the first man and woman with a mission, to fill the earth and have dominion over it (Gen. 1:28), so that the whole world would bring glory, delight and joy to the Loving Heavenly Father (Ps. 72:19, 96:3, 108:5). God renewed this great commission with Noah after the Great Flood (Gen. 9:1), and Noah’s descendants carried knowledge of the Infinite-Personal Creator God with them when they were dispersed to the area that we now call China (Gen. 11:8).
Over the centuries, sin and idol worship abounded and knowledge of the Holy One grew dimmer and dimmer over all the earth. Even among those entrusted with the very Word of God, the Jews, the truth became so obscured that few recognized the Messiah when He came to fulfill His mission of atonement and restoration for the sons of Adam and daughters of Eve. (Jn. 15:6) Yet during His earthly ministry, the Lord Jesus gave the Great Commission anew, to His new creation, the Church. (Mt. 24:14, 28:18-20; Mk. 16:15; Lk. 24:47)
The Church in China.ATwo hundred years ago, there was one Protestant missionary in China. In 1907, there were 4,000 foreign missionaries and 180,000 Chinese Protestants. Today, reasonable estimates of the number of Christians in China are in the 50-100 million range.
Who are the missionaries in China today? If we define a missionary as a cross-cultural worker, then in China today they are overseas Chinese, Koreans, Africans, and those from Oceania, Europe, and the Americas. They are tourists, teachers, students, and businessmen. As they have studied the failures (and successes) of the pioneers, they have come to love China and to partner with and serve the Chinese Church. But there is more. Missionaries also include Han and other Chinese who are taking the gospel to other nationalities, both inside China and across the borders. These laborers are the heirs of those whom God raised up in the 1930s and 1940s: the Northwest Spiritual Movement, the Jesus Family, the Back to Jerusalem Band, etc. They are Christians from Wenzhou, from Henan and from all parts of China. They are old and young, male and female, evangelical and charismatic.
The Challenge. .All those who in the 1960s or 1970s pronounced the church in China dead and the missionary enterprise a failure need to ask themselves, who has done this? All those who doubt that the church in China will play an important role in fulfilling the Great Commission need to ask themselves, why not?
In 1948 while serving as a missionary among the Miao, Bian Yunbo composed a poem, To the Unknown Evangelists, My Brothers. Later this poem was put to music, and it has inspired many to dedicate their lives to Christ and His Great Commission. In 1998, Brother Bian wrote: “Perhaps the revival in the Chinese and overseas church today is God’s preparation for an even greater revival. Let us ask the Lord to once again raise up a people who love Him as did Gideon’s 300, to take up their wonderful staffs and run the final lap of the race.”
We are now in the midst of a Year of Prayer for China, September 2007-August 2008. May God be pleased and glorified as His people, inside China and outside, renew their commitment to fulfilling the Great Commission. Maranatha! Lord Jesus, come soon! (Rev. 22:20)