When people in China think of the arrival of Christianity, what comes to their minds is the Opium War, killing of missionaries, various unequal treaties, and invasions of China by Western powers. As the government fans the nationalistic passion in China, people begin to resist all things foreign. The rise of nationalism is a double-edged sword for believers in China and affects the missionary efforts of churches there. May the Lord give us humility and help us not to consider that Chinese are somehow superior or brag about that China will be a nation with the greatest number of Christians.
Historically, Christianity and missionaries were intricately associated with foreign aggression in China in the 19th century. The Communist Party continues to remind and reinforce young people of this chapter of modern Chinese history. We pray for young believers that they can appreciate the contribution and sacrifices of early missionaries in China. We also pray that God will give them the burden to share the gospel in foreign lands and call some of them to be cross-cultural missionaries.
After Christianity arrived in China, believers were forbidden to worship their ancestors and told they could not worship other deities. This was in opposition to the traditional Chinese practices and customs, and inevitably created great tension and even clashes. Some Christians are short on patience, even being extreme in putting down Chinese folk religions, denouncing them as of the devil. We pray for wisdom for believers, not to engage quickly in vigorous debate with unbelievers, but rather pray for the Holy Spirit to soften hardened hearts.
In Confucius' hometown of Qufu, there are people who oppose the construction of a Christian church because they insist on defending Confucianism rather than upholding religious freedom. Obviously there is a conflict of Chinese and Western civilization already happening in China. Many intellectuals in China harbor resentment and even hostility toward Christianity. We pray specifically that Christian intellectuals will live a good life, have a good testimony, and be able to attract others to come to know Jesus Christ.
The revival of Sinology has a strong nationalistic undertone and is actually aimed at stemming the invasion of Western culture. Since Christianity and Western culture are so closely linked, it has naturally become a target for those who support the so-called "New Confucianism". We pray that believers in China will be prepared to give an answer to anyone who asks them to give the reason for the hope they have and especially how they personally overcame the idea that "Christianity is a foreign religion".
There are extremists who hate Christianity as a "foreign religion" and want to expel it from China. Based on the growing enthusiasm for nationalism, it is likely that interest in Sinology will also continue to grow. We praise God for the efforts and sacrifices made by all of the foreign missionaries to China during the past two centuries. We pray that churches in China will learn the meaning of "to give is better than to receive" and the Lord will help Christians there to overcome the stereotype that Christianity is a foreign religion.
Churches in China need to counter the impression that Christianity is an alien religion and look for ways to contextualize it within the Chinese culture. This issue has actually been around for several hundred year but it is up to us and future generations to find the ultimate solution. We pray that churches in China will maintain a good reputation, believers there will be able to live out God's love and be bright lights in a society that worships money and is corrupt.