China is one of the oldest civilisations in the world, and is home to one fifth of the world's total human population. It is poised to become a major world economy early in the new millennium. This is a far cry from China at the close of the nineteenth century, when it was known to the world as the 'sick man of Asia'. The nation was ravaged by corruption, natural disasters, civil strife and foreign aggression. After the Quing Dynasty collapsed in 1911, nationalists and communists fought for control.
In the middle of this the Japanese invaded China, bringing terrible oppression and great loss of life. After the war and further civil war, Mao Zedong founded the Peoples Republic of China in 1949 as and authoritarian communist controlled state. Mao made everyone learn Mandarin as the national language and standardised the written language. This has been a blessing for communicating the Gospel in a country with over 55 ethnic minorities and huge language differences. The Chinese government organised a massive persecution of Christians in the 1950s. many were killed or tortured. Thousands were put in gaols and forced labour camps. Bibles were burned and churches closed or destroyed. This campaign of horror was at its height during the Cultural Revolution from 1966 to 1976.
Explosive Growth of China's Church
Change came in 1979 through the farsighted leadership of Deng Xiaoping, who opened up the country to the west. This 'open door policy' greatly helped the economy. Foreign investment and business help was encouraged and has resulted in an unprecedented economic growth. Over the last ten years, China's economy has grown at a yearly average of 7%, which has rewritten economic textbooks. Along with this explosive growth the government has allowed the Chinese Church to rebuild itself. Growth in numbers in the underground church and the registered church have been without precedence anywhere in the world. The training of new ministers for the church has not been able to keep up with the explosive growth. In Henan province in central China, there are 106 pastors in the registered church catering for 5 million believers. That is 1 trained minister for 47,000 church attendees. Now there is an even greater need for extra resources and leadership training. The words of Jesus, 'the harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are so few' are an apt description.
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