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China: 200 cities with no Christian witness

BEIJING (BP)–Imagine a city as large as Louisville, Ky., with only a handful of Christians and very few churches — perhaps not any churches at all.

Although such a city does not exist in the United States, there are more than 200 such cities in China.

With the largest population of any nation in the world and only a small percentage of Christians, China’s spiritual needs are tremendous. Missions resources must first be invested in the largest of cities, including more than 100 China cities with more than 1 million people, five of which have more than 5 million people.

So in China, a country of 1.3 billion people, there are entire cities as large as Birmingham and New Orleans that are “too small” to be placed on International Mission Board priority city listings.

These growing cities with their multitudes of Chinese men, women and children presently have only a handful of local Christians and no concerted Christian witness. There is certainly no presence to compare to the hundreds of Christian churches that dot the landscape of the southern American cities of comparable size.

But fortunately, the last chapter hasn’t been written.

Recognizing that an alternative strategy is needed, individual Southern Baptist churches are beginning to adopt these “medium size” cities. Because of the commitment of churches that are willing to go to the edge, each of the cities may soon have someone to share Christ with them.

Determined that these cities will not be ignored or given over to the evil one, Southern Baptists are boldly entering these cities to pray, receive ministry vision, relate, learn, interact and share — to the end that all who dwell therein will know the Savior.

In the last six months, three churches have “adopted” 10 of these cities and additional adoptions are underway.

Each adoption has begun with a visioning tour involving two church leaders who have traveled to the prospective city of adoption and spent two days praying for the city, roaming the streets and gaining a vision for the spiritual needs of the city. From there, each of the adoptions has proceeded to a “scouting tour” that has involved about six church members.

These members travel as tourists and spend their time learning as much as they can about the city, while praying for discernment in how best to reach it for Christ.

Because most of the cities are off the beaten tourist path, the task is not easy. Yet the rewards are great. The first few scouting groups that have traveled into these cities have found that God has preceded them and has “people of peace” waiting for them.

One group was approached by a 22-year-old young woman named Mei Ling, who was so excited about seeing westerners in her city that she just wanted to talk with them. The group was preparing to climb to a high pagoda to pray over the city. Although the young lady was not aware of their purpose in ascending to the high place, she offered to accompany them.

At the bottom of the hill, however, Mei Ling hesitated, saying she was afraid to climb to the top. She explained to the group that because a young couple had killed themselves there in a lover’s suicide pact, she was fearful that she would encounter ghosts on the mountain.

The group took advantage of this open door to explain that they were not afraid, because they had the Spirit of God in their hearts. She acquiesced and continued with the group. At the top, she offered to sing some Chinese songs for the group, and requested that they also sing.

There on the top of the highest place in this unreached city, the group sang, “I Love You Lord.” She asked them to sing it again and again, which they did gladly. Then they shared about their faith in Christ and their relationship with Jesus that had given them the song.

Mei Ling entertained the group in her home over the next four days, introducing them to her friends and showing them the beauty and culture of her city. Four days after initially hearing of the Savior’s love, Mei Ling prayed to accept Christ into her heart.

Now committed to making numerous trips to the previously unclaimed city, the group is confident her decision was just the first of thousands that will follow.

To that end, their church will be sending teachers, business people and other professionals who can relate in various ways to the city over the next few years. They will be sharing the needs of the city with many others who will join them in praying and giving and going. And they will do so until a fulltime advocate and strategizer is called of God, equipped and available to take the reins of leadership in reaching the city.

According to an individual who facilitates these unclaimed city adoptions, churches who embrace this unclaimed city adoption plan should definitely feel a strong sense of God’s leading and be willing to accept the challenge of entering China almost on their own.

“This assignment is not for the nominally committed. Nor is it for the weak of heart,” he said.

Although a representative with experience in China will accompany a church’s first group, all other travel and ministry coordination will be the responsibility of the “adoptive parent” church. Experienced China workers will continue to serve in a supportive capacity through encouragement and prayer, as well as through the provision of resource materials.

Since the bulk of the responsibility will fall to the adoptive church, the churches best suited for this task most likely will have members with international travel experience and mission experience, as well as professionals who can easily plug into educational or business opportunities in the adoptive city.

Bridges to Chinese believers who can partner with the church in reaching the city also will be vital. For instance, it might be ideal to have someone who speaks Chinese on each of the teams.

Just as it is unthinkable that God would write off Birmingham or New Orleans, it is equally unfathomable that he would turn his back on any of the more than 200 cities of China that are of comparable size. That leaves a big challenge in the hands and hearts of those who love and serve him.

How will they hear unless someone tells them?

For more information, contact [email protected].
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: LOST.

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  • Wendy Lee