Voice: A New Mission Field in China is Community

A picture show green grains facing the sun.
A picture show green grains facing the sun. (photo: pixabay.com)
By Ruth WangDecember 2nd, 2022

Many Christians hope for spiritual revival, but they believe it initially demands prayer, repentance, and holy living. But in any case, revival needs crowds.

In history, the revival of Christianity in China has everything to do with the movement of the masses. In the 1980s and 1990s, the revival was apparent in rural churches, where the largest crowds were also to be found. Through the process of urbanization after 2000, the crowd began to move to the city, which was accompanied by the emergence and revival of new urban churches.

Today, urbanization has further deepened and strengthened the construction of new communities. The crowds flocking into cities gradually gathered in new "urban villages". Be they large or small, these are now usually called “communities”.

With that comes the question that community, as a new way of gathering people, may be the mission field for our next step of ministry.

The concept and features of "community"

“Community” is a new buzzword these days, as humans have always been gregarious.

The sociological study of "community" began with the sociologist Ferdinand Tönnies. He believes that community is both the simplest and most natural form of society. Sociologists define community in more than 140 ways. Despite different perspectives, the community represents a group of people with interactive relationships. These people may be connected by living in a joint place such as a quarter or street, or by being of similar age, culture or similar in values, such as the Jewish people, the Chinese around the world, or the youth community. Such groups may form a community.

No matter how times change, it is difficult for people to leave two groups: both the family and the community.

With the development of sociology, studies began to discover the value of community. For us ordinary people, the urbanization process in the past 20 years has made the value of community increasingly obvious in our way of life.

Therefore, community-building is increasingly seen as a necessary trend.

Experiences from the pioneers

In this context, Christians increasingly understand that community may be the trend for our next means of ministry, so they have begun to experiment and explore.

Church positioning

Pastor S from a church in a third-tier southern city compared the modes of church renewal in Europe, America and South Korea. He discovered that it was different from what he had understood before. The church he remembered before was a tall Gothic building with a chapel and many heavy benches that were difficult to move. However, the church in most developed countries today is bungalow-style, which is like a community with all kinds of offerings. There are churches with places for people to stay, read, drink coffee and pray. The chairs are flexible and can be moved at any time.

What impressed him most in these churches was that they took root in their own communities and serve their communities. For example, some communities may be characterized by dual-income parents. These would set up free childcare services. The church’s service is formed in response to the needs of the community.

With the development of society, churches in many developed countries now position themselves as more of a "community church".

Different crowds

In addition, the concept of the community also means a group of people with similar characteristics, but in different locations. Brother G, who is engaged in social charity service consulting, suggested that his church should serve such people around it. If there are a large number of elderly people in his church, it makes sense to help them steer clear of chances for financial fraud.

Pastor T, who is a pastor of an emerging church in a second-tier city in East China, observed that many churches have difficulty attracting young people, such as those born after 1995. This group is of particular value and the church should expand itself so that it can attract the young and lead them in positive ways.

In addition, crowds can also be grouped according to their interests or hobbies. For example, many young people like ACGN (Animation, Comic, Game, Novel), games, skateboarding and music: others have the same occupation and experiences. These diverse communities are an open field for many churches and Christians.

Social services

Brother Y in B City in Central China mentioned that he has gradually become more involved in community service and has encouraged followers around him to do the same. His change was inspired by a development he had heard of several years ago: There was a rural church revival followed by an urban church revival. Should we, therefore, prepare for and participate in community revival? The current situation is that most front-line pastors and coworkers have little knowledge about the concept of community management.

He mentioned that the 1976 Lausanne Congress had put forward the concept of holistic care and stressed that evangelical work should not only rely on oral communication but also assume social responsibilities. Only when the two are present, can wide-ranging evangelical results be achieved. However, Chinese churches are currently more focused on internal pasturing than on outside service - not to mention the social and cultural realms.

"We are at a time when the community is taking on a more important role," he said. "Churches and Christians need to be more aware of this trend and find out how we can better serve, such as serving the elderly without families or resolving family and marriage problems within the community.”

- Translated by Oliver Zuo

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