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The Back to Jerusalem movement began in the 1920s, went underground for decades, and now hopes to send 100,000 missionaries to 51 nations. Critics who perceive missionary efforts as rooted in Western imperialism will find their assumptions defied by this movement of Chinese Christians who want to reclaim Christianity's ancient missionary roots. Paul Hattaway, a New Zealander working in Asia, has extensive connections with Chinese house-church leaders. He is the author, with three leaders of Chinese house-church networks, of Back to Jerusalem: Called to Complete the Great Commission (Gabriel Resources, 2003). CT senior writer Tim Stafford reached Hattaway in Thailand.

What is the Back to Jerusalem movement?

The name unfortunately leads a lot of people to believe that it's about evangelizing Jerusalem or Israel. That's not the case at all. When the Chinese say "Back to Jerusalem," they're talking first of all about a geographical advance of the gospel throughout history. The gospel started in Jerusalem and then spread in a generally westward direction into North Africa and Europe. Throughout history it has continued to spread westward around the globe, with China as its farthest advance. With a Chinese mindset, they see that to fulfill the Great Commission is to encircle the whole globe with the gospel, until it goes back even to where it began. Their aim is not Jerusalem or Israel, but all the countries and unreached people groups between China and Jerusalem. Along the old Silk Road, which once brought trade from the Middle East to China, you find approximately 5,200 unreached people groups and tribes.

How did it start?

The vision goes back to the late 1920s, when a group called the Jesus Family had formed in China. They lived ...

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April 2004

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