Friday, May 18, 2007

Chinese Church DNA

I continue to reflect upon the amazing growth of the church in China over the last half century. I believe that our ecclesiology has significant implications for our missiology. It seems, from what I can observe, that somewhere along the line, someone in China got something right in regards to church “DNA” that might prove to be effective in reproducing and multiplying true, authentic disciples of Jesus Christ all around the world. As far as recent work specifically related to the IMB is concerned, David Garrison, in the Church Planting Movements booklet, points to factors such as what he calls “POUCH” church methodology, and “MAWL” leadership training:


stands for participative Bible study/worship groups, describing the type of cell group meetings through which seekers are led to faith and new believers continue as church afterwards. O refers to obedience to God’s Word as the sole measure of an individual’s or church’s success. U refers to unpaid and multiple lay or bi-vocational church leaders. C stands for cell churches rarely exceeding 15 members before reproducing into new groups. H indicates homes or storefronts as the primary meeting places for these cell churches.


Model, 2) Assist, 3) Watch and 4) Leave. Modeling referred to the act of doing church with the new (or soon to be) believers using the POUCH approach described above. Assisting referred to the act of helping the newly formed church to plant a daughter church. Watching was an important and conscious effort to see to it that a third-generation church was started without the assistance or direct involvement of the missionary. Leaving was the final crucial step of ensuring that the movement was truly indigenous and self-propagating.

No doubt, both POUCH church models, and MAWL leadership training are positive factors related to church growth and reproduction. Also, most assuredly the great groundswell of prayer on behalf of the evangelization of China has played a major role in the gospel harvest there. But, I can’t keep from thinking that, beyond all that, there is something special about the spiritual DNA of the church in China that goes back before all that. As subsequent history, and the discussion on the previous post point out, there are some thorny issues related to Nee’s ecclesiology that I believe we would do well not to ignore. However, I, at the same time, tend to believe there may well be a “baby” for us, both as Baptists, and as Evangelicals in general, lying in the “bathwater.”

How do we as Baptists (sorry to all you non-Baptist readers) respond to this? I think the following words of advice from David Garrison in the Church Planting Movements booklet give us a good clue:

The nondenominational context of churches in China meant that there was no denominational tradition that the churches adopted. It remains to be seen whether heretical expressions will emerge within the movement. However, the highly decentralized nature of the Yanyin Church Planting Movement is not conducive to a single individual gaining control over the whole. At the doctrinal heart of each cell church is a commitment to obey the Bible. Since church worship consists of participative Bible study with multiple leaders, there is a natural corrective from within the group itself to misinterpretation or extremes of interpretation.

When asked about the movement’s lack of denominational identity, the strategy coordinator commented that, even though the government forbids denominational expressions in China, the Yanyin churches are more Baptist than most Baptist churches he has known. He further predicts that their pattern of allegiance to the Bible and commitment to the priesthood of the laity will keep the movement on track.

As further evidence of the positive effects of Chinese Church DNA for the fulfillment of the Great Commission, I invite you to open up the following link and view this amazing 7-minute video on the Chinese “Back to Jerusalem” vision for reaching the unreached peoples of the 10-40 window with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

You can also link to the “Back to Jerusalem” website here.

When all is done and said, I wonder if the believers in China have more to teach and offer us as believers in the West than we have to teach and offer them.


GuyMuse said...

I wonder if the believers in China have more to teach and offer us as believers in the West than we have to teach and offer them.

Quite definitely. I noticed in the video you refer to above, "Back to Jerusalem" there is a short sequence with Bro. Yun. His "The Heavenly Man" has got to be one of my all-time favorite books. It explains so much why God is blessing in China and there is so much we can learn from reading his story. God hasn't changed down through the centuries, we have. We are the ones who have gotten out-of-sync with His ways and therefore lack the power of the Hs in our lives to touch entire nations like these Chinese brethren are doing.

Tim Patterson said...

Thanks David for pointing us to this video, it is inspiring.

I think you are right that there is more to the DNA of the Chinese churches that we are not getting. I hope to somehow learn more.

Does China have more Christ followers than any other country in the world? Including the U.S.? If the figure 100 million is correct... I think that they do.

Carr Family said...

David, I became acquainted with the story of "The Heavenly Man" about two years ago. We were in Zhengzhou (the city where he was jailed and escaped) adopting our first child. Through many divine appointments we met several like-minded Americans. They told me of his story.

As a "lifetime" Southern Baptist, it was stretching me to believe so many of the miraculus stories. I was just there again this past week. While talking with my American friend he told me of a few of his Chinese friends who know Bro. Yen personally. They all verify his stories eventhough there are some who have tried to discredit him.

There is still a lot of theological disagreements within the Chinese churches. The more I talk to those on the ground, I am amazed to hear that they too are arguing over different issues including charismatic gifts and Calvinism/Armininianism.

As someone who loves the Chinese (I now have two Chinese children) I really appreciate your attenting on the Chinese Church.

David Rogers said...

Carr family,

Thank you very much for your words of encouragment and corroboration.

It is a sobering reminder that even the Chinese church, with the degree of unity they seem to have achieved, still argue over things like charismatic gifts and Calvinism/Arminianism. But, then again, these type of arguments (or at least arguments on a similar level) were present in the New Testament church as well, weren't they?

Carr Family said...

Absolutely... As I am still suffering from jet-lag which affected my previous post(as I now see my typos), I was not intending to disagree with you. The point of my post was to confirm, to a degree of my knowledge, the validity of Brother Yen's story. I just find it interesting that they too have many of the same disagreements and discussions.

My eyes have been opened in the past two years to missions. I had heard the stories and saw the videos (or slide shows). But until I touched it, felt it, and smelled it, I never REALLY had a heart for it. But over the past two years, God has given us a heart for the Chinese people.

I have a new respect for people like yourself who plant their families and lives throughout the world for the sake of the Gospel. God bless you and our families prayers are with you.


Trey Atkins said...

Thanks for the great video link and great questions. I have to agree with Guy and say that believers in China definitely have more to teach and offer us than we do them. That would be my conclusion regarding believers in Eastern Europe as well. My questions is why is that true?

Believers here also suffered for their faith, some even as much as Chinese believers. It seems the suffering here, for the most part, caused a reaction of legalism instead of the bold proclamation of the gospel and discipleship that seems so prevalent in China.

I do understand why persecution could make a group become more like a legalistic sect, than a powerful, culture changing body. It seems the real miracle is that God has used the suffering in China to produce something entirely different.

Kevin, Somewhere in South America said...


From everything I have read concerning the modern God movement in China is that there is one thing, above all else, that we want to recapture in other parts of the world: they have a great faith in a great God.