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The Great Call of China: Churches Poised to Become Major Exporters

Hundreds pledge lives to missions at ‘Chinese Urbana’ as red tape rises.
The Great Call of China: Churches Poised to Become Major Exporters
Image: Giulio Bonasera / Salzmanart

When 1,200 youth gathered for the first Chinese “Urbana-style” missions conference this fall, 300 pledged to become full-time missionaries.

“This is one of those historic moments,” said David Ro, director of the Wilson Center for World Missions at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. “There are lots of challenges ahead, on the mission field and in China. And yet God is doing something—while they are being attacked, they are still moving forward.”

The gathering was “a unique opportunity to witness the authentic demonstration of a vibrantly growing Chinese church under dynamic indigenous leadership,” said Nana Yaw Offei Awuku, a field ministry director with Scripture Union Ghana who spoke at the event. “The beauty of intentional intergenerational leadership was at its best.”

Held in Thailand, the conference was part of Mission China, a movement of unregistered churches to send out 20,000 missionaries by 2030.

It’s an ambitious goal for churches that have yet to obtain legal status. And it may have run into a snag this summer when two young Chinese Christians—who traveled to Pakistan to teach Mandarin at a private school—were kidnapped and killed by ISIS.

The incident put China in a tough spot. As it seeks to expand its influence westward, its leaders need to be able to protect the 70,000 Chinese who were issued visas to Pakistan last year. But its atheist government also doesn’t want to be exporting Christianity.

“The Chinese authorities are in a very difficult position,” said Chinese religion expert and Purdue University professor Fenggang Yang. “[Most] didn’t realize that Christians had become active in west and central ...

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