Sunday, February 26, 2012

Fires of Holy Ghost Revival Burning in China

China revival
(Revival China Ministries)

I recently was invited to speak in an official “Three-Self Patriotic Church” in Wuchang, which is in Wuhan in central China. Wuhan, the capital of Hubei, is actually made up of three cities (Wuchang, Hankou and Hanyang), and is the most populous city in Central China with a population of about 9.8 million. There are several hundred official churches registered with the Religious Affairs Bureau and without a doubt several thousand house churches.

The pastor, Rev. Xu, then spoke to me about the situation with Christianity in China. He said, “In the West you are now putting emphasis on the cell church, or house church movement and many think the only way to reach China is through support of the house church movement. But after studying Christianity in China for many decades, I have come to the conclusion that China will be reached not only through house churches, but through large open churches preaching the gospel.”

I asked Rev. Xu, “Why do you say that?” He pointed to a large modern building of more than 40 floors, which you see everywhere in Chinese cities, and he said, “In this building there is probably one or several house churches. But other than the people who attend these house churches, who knows about their existence? How many sinners will they be able to reach and bring to Christ say over the period of 10 years? Perhaps it will be a few hundred or a few thousand.

"But look at my church. Every Sunday we have over 6,000 come to our meetings, many for the first time. They see a church building and attend out of curiosity, an interest in religion or at the invitation of a member. We have choirs, instrumental music, good preaching, Sunday Schools, youth ministry, divine healing meetings, prayer meetings, Bible Seminary and so on. Every month we reach countless thousands of people. Thus the key to reaching China is through ministry originating in large Spirit-filled open churches.”

I immediately thought of a conference for the “Simple Church” I attended in Dallas several years ago. I was asked to speak on the house church in China. They had all read a book named Pagan Christianity. The book basically states that because almost everything we know in Christianity has pagan origins, we thus should leave the “institutional church” and only meet in our homes in small groups in which anyone who desires can share (1 Cor. 14:26). All other things in Christianity are wrong: church building, clergy, choirs, Bible Schools, Sunday Schools, worship teams, youth groups, tithing, communion services, baptismal services, pulpit preaching, etc.

It would seem the authors have something against the “church” as we know it today. But I can totally agree with one of the basic premises of the book, which is, “the church is not a building we go to or have meetings in, but the church is people, the Body of Christ.” Having said that, in at least the Asian context, the church building is extremely useful and even vital to the development and growth of the “church, the body of Christ.”

Our Hong Kong church, Revival Christian Church, is a converted movie theater of 15,000 square feet. Almost every part of the building is being used every day by our congregation and other groups. Every month literally thousands will be ministered to in this building.

For decades we have experienced mighty revival in China, but it was mostly in the rural house churches. This has resulted in close to a hundred-fold increase in Chinese believers in the past 60 years. Now this revival is sweeping many large official churches often referred to as Three-Self churches. Also many congregations now meet in non-official but registered church buildings. These are basically house church fellowships that due to a recent relaxation in policy have been able to build their own church buildings.

During the first 25 years of China’s open door policy (starting in 1978) few house church leaders, believers and overseas Christian workers or missionaries wanted anything to do with the Three-Self churches. They called them the “harlot church” and Christians attending these churches were considered to be compromisers and the preachers as betrayers of Christ. After I attended some of these at the invitation of the pastor to preach and teach on the Holy Spirit and revival, I was told by one leading house church leader a few years ago, “You cannot even be saved if you set your foot in a Three-Self Church.”

This same leader was lamenting that his house church was in decline, young people were no longer praying or preaching as they did in the Cultural Revolution and the first two decades of the open door policy, and they were longing for the “old time religion” and the return of the past glories. However, he failed to see that many official churches that were in every part of that area (Wenzhou, Zhejiang Province), were packed with young people who were baptized in the Holy Spirit, praying in tongues and prophesying, and every service was lively with instruments, dancing and New Testament style worship. These churches were exploding with growth, conducing Sunday Schools, youth ministry, divine healing taking place in every meeting and powerful Biblical preaching by Spirit-filled ministers. It is truly time of revival, and at the present rate of church growth within in 30 years we will probably see the numbers of Christians increase from 20 to 30 percent of the population. It now stands about 9 percent.

While RCMI still focuses on ministering to house church groups in providing Bibles, Christian teaching materials and conducing training sessions both in mainland China and Hong Kong, we increasingly have open doors to the official churches. We still continue to conduct Bible Schools where we train workers. However we now have open doors to train in open churches.

Since I gave the leadership of our local Hong Kong church and local ministry to Samuel and Sharon Lau (note: the son-in-law & daughter of Pastor Dennis, now co-senior pastors of Revival Christian Church, Kwai Fong) in 2003, I have been dedicating the vast majority of my time to ministry in mainland China. While we have heard no policy statement from official religious organizations, there seems to have been a marked change in policy during the past year or so.

Evangelical and Spirit-filled leaders are taking over official churches, and have liberty to preach whatever they want. Many of these churches are developing worship teams, Sunday Schools, youth groups and are actually very active in evangelism and church planting. I have had the opportunity to preach and share in many of these official churches.

At the same time, many house church fellowships, through contacts with various government officials, have applied to and been given permission to build large church buildings, some more than 12 floors high. One floor will be a large meeting hall that can accommodate a congregation of up to 1,000, and they will have multiple meetings on the weekends. Other floors will be used for a Bible College, dormitories for students, offices and canteen. I am often invited to minister and without exception the preaching will focus on being baptized in the Holy Spirit, revival, biblical worship and praise, and missions. Also many will give their lives to Christ and become Christians after we speak.

We still greatly need teams to visit Hong Kong to help us to take in and distribute desperately needed Bibles and Christian books to China. This is because some of the Study Bibles and teaching books (such as Shepherd’s Staff) are not available for sale in China. However, with offerings given for Bibles we can through our contacts in the official churches purchase large amounts of Bibles. The Christians always appreciate this for they are officially printed by Amity and The Chinese Christian Council, and possession of them will never result in any problem.

I also appeal for overseas workers to come to HK to work with our ministry, learn the Chinese language and eventfully go to China to serve the Lord. While China has no such thing as a missionary visa, countless thousands of missionaries are already in China doing various ministries. But we need tens of thousands more if we are to bring in this last harvest. We are living in the time of opening doors, not closing doors.

Dennis Balcome is the founder of Revival Chinese Ministries International and a sought-after speaker around the world. He speaks fluent Cantonese and Mandarin. He is currently involved in ministering to the Chinese as well as non-Chinese throughout Asia.

His website:


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

In 200-year tradition, most Christian missionaries are American

February 21, 2012
Thomas R. McKibbens (C), playing the role of Adoniram Judson, and Melinda Parry, playing the role of Ann Hasseltine Judson, speak during ceremonies to mark the 200th anniversary of the Judsons' departure for Asia in Salem, Massachusetts Feb 20, 2012. — Reuters pic
SALEM, Feb 21 — At a church on the New England coast 200 years ago, five young men became ordained as Congregational missionaries and set off on cargo ships to India as the first organised group of American missionaries to travel overseas.

Their departure signalled the start of the US missionary movement, and today the United States sends more Christian missionaries abroad than any other country, experts say.

The United States sent out 127,000 of the world's estimated 400,000 missionaries abroad in 2010, according to Todd Johnson, director of the Centre for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Massachusetts.

In distant second place is Brazil, which sent 34,000 missionaries abroad in 2010, he said.

The United States receives the most missionaries as well, with 32,400 in 2010, he said. Many are Brazilians - Catholic, Protestants and Pentecostals - who largely work in Brazilian communities in the Northeast, Johnson said.

Two of the original American missionaries — Adoniram Judson and his wife Ann Hasseltine Judson — settled in Burma, the Southeast Asian country now known as Myanmar, where Adoniram Judson remained for decades and translated the Bible into the local language.

The Judsons defied expectations that the group would never return, coming home to the United States before leaving again. But he died at sea, and she succumbed to smallpox and spotted fever in Burma.

Roughly half of the original group and their families died at sea or abroad.

Christians credit Judson and his wife with laying the foundations of the American missionary tradition and this month held events in Massachusetts, from lectures to tours of historic sites, to mark the 200th anniversary of the couple's four-month sea journey in 1812.

Christians in Myanmar hope to celebrate the anniversary of the arrival of the Judsons next year, organisers said.

Historic departure of first US missionaries re-enacted

At a reenactment on Monday of the Judsons' departure from Salem Harbor, once a thriving seaport, about 60 people gathered to watch as actors dressed in period costumes spoke of leaving on a foreign mission, perhaps for the rest of their lives.

The actors, wearing black hats and long coats, waved farewell before walking along a wharf toward the harbour.

In the audience was Maung Htwe, 44, pastor of the Overseas Burmese Christian Fellowship church in Allston, Massachusetts who grew up in Yangon, Myanmar. He said many Burmese people know about Judson because he translated a Burmese-English dictionary that is still in use.

There are 1.5 million Baptists in Myanmar today, "so that gives you a sense for the importance of that sailing and the pattern that he set for missionaries to follow down through the ages," said Dexter Bishop, a representative of the Adoniram Judson Baptist Association.

At the time the Judsons left Salem, thousands of European missionaries had already fanned out across the globe, working to promote Christianity among native populations under the auspices of colonial powers, Johnson said.

The role of missionaries has changed dramatically since the Judsons' time, he said, and missionaries today tend to work independently or through organisations not affiliated with churches that traditionally ran missionary agencies.

And their work may be focused on providing humanitarian aid rather than founding churches and winning converts. Some mission groups question whether to send missionaries to developing countries at all, Johnson said.

"There are still streams within Christian missions that are suspicious of all preaching, or suspicious of all social action," he said.

After World War II, many newly independent countries declared moratoriums on western missionaries, and independent missionaries became more prevalent, said Dana Robert, author of "Christian Mission: How Christianity Became a World Religion."

Humanitarian work became common, and churches in the 1940s started large nongovernmental organizations, she said.

By 2000, about two-thirds of the world's Christians came from countries where western missionaries worked a century earlier, and there was an explosion of interest in mission work among Christians from Asia, Africa and Latin America, according to Robert.

With the increasing globalisation of communications and transportation, there has been an exponential increase of short-term volunteer missions, Robert said.

"The current situation is almost a total free-for-all," she said. "Somebody sitting at home with an Internet connection can virtually set up a mission." — Reuters