China has attempted to develop "soft power" through the Mandarin language and cultural programs, including its most effective ambassador, the giant pandas. However, she realizes that it is through success in the realm of soccer that she can truly reach the whole world. We strongly believe that each of us can learn much from the churches in China, especially in their resilience under persecution. We pray that believers in China will grow and flourish spiritually in times of prosperity and secularism as they have in the past under persecution.
China has engaged in "stadium diplomacy" by building soccer stadiums across Africa and Latin America for years. They were also trying to smooth political relations and gain access to natural resources in those places. Now China wants to become a major soccer power herself. Although the government forbids churches from having unapproved contact with foreigners and mission organizations, the church in China still receives much of its resources from abroad. We praise God for this assistance but pray earnestly against the false teachings that corrupt many naive believers.
The government of China is determined to improve its soccer standing in the world so it has announced a grand plan with some eye-popping goals: 20,000 training centers, 60,000 new soccer fields, and 50,000,000 youth playing soccer regularly by 2020. There are also many grand visions to make China a missionary-sending powerhouse, especially with the official "One-belt, One Road" plan. We pray for humility and a willingness to partner with other countries to make it a kingdom-minded effort rather than just a nationalistic goal.
Despite the soccer targets set by China's government, there are many social impediments. The "one-child parents" with their single-minded focus on education rather than sports and the lack of a soccer or even a sports culture are hindrances as well as the history of failure to win soccer games. It is common knowledge that "one-child parents" who are Christians discourage and forbid their children to serve the Lord full time. We pray for the young people whom God has called to Him and want to attend seminary but must overcome parental opposition, especially those parents who are not yet Christians.
China is officially an atheist country and the Communist Party has about 88 million registered members who are forbidden to believe in any religion. The government oversees religious activities, assigns pastors, and provides guidance to the so-called registered churches. It is often quoted that there are as many Christians as there are Communist Party members in China. No matter what the numbers are, we pray that believers will not be in name only but rather be solidly rooted in the Bible and able to live out the love of Jesus Christ.
The so-called open churches in China are known in Chinese as sanzi, meaning “three-self,” standing for self-governance, self-support, and self-propagation — part of an effort to disavow foreign meddling. These churches often feature rhetoric in line with the Party doctrine. Visitors generally say they cannot really find fault theologically with the preaching in the open churches. We pray that God will continue using them to strengthen believers in sound doctrine and help them to aid the less affluent churches nearby, especially those that do not have a shepherd.
One can find a Three-Self or so-called "Open Church" easily in China but finding a house church is totally different. When someone who became a Christian overseas returns to China, that person needs to have a contact to give him/her an introduction ahead of time to be connected with such a church. Many Christians attend both open and house churches. We pray for the strengthening of believers so they will not compromise in the foundational Biblical truths. We pray for all believers as the new and more restrictive official religious policy is implemented.