A month ago I was listening to Chinese pastor and revivalist brother Yun as he was conducting some meetings in Sweden. His autobiography, The Heavenly Man, was one of the first Christian books I read, and it has impacted me a lot. Yun describes both countless miracles and unspeakable suffering, persecution as well as revival. These aspects go hand in hand, he argues, the glory of the resurrection cannot be separated from the pain of Calvary.
As a Western Christian who at that point had neither experienced revival nor persecution, Yun’s testimony opened my eyes to what Christianity really is about. Having fled from China in 2001 to Germany, he had some very interesting reflections about the state of the Western church. Based on the story about the lame man in Acts 3, he wrote prophetically: “The Western church has a lot of silver and gold. The Chinese church rises up and walks.”
Of course there are exceptions, but generally this is painfully true: churches in high-income countries are rich in money but poor in spirit, churches in middle- and low-income countries are poor in money but rich in spirit. I would say the latter group is better off, still I am constantly aware of the urgent material needs they have in order to fight poverty and nurture revival.
Knowing this, it breaks my heart when I see Western churches spending billions on concerts, cultural events and, of course, church buildings. Most of them spend more money on these things than on missions. In contrast, the Bible orders rich congregations to give much money to the poor ones so that it becomes “equal for all” (2 Cor 8). Our current situation is very abnormal.
The church movement brother Yun was leading in China is a house church movement. It was mainly the result of the persecution, but this also created a cheap, flexible and dynamic type of church. When you don’t have to spend billions on building, using and mantaining church buildings, you suddenly got a lot of money for buying Bibles, bikes for missionaries or aid for the poor. More churches need to follow the Chinese model. A Christian shouldn’t be rich, and a church shouldn’t be rich either. In the early days only house churches existed, and that’s not a coincidence. Instead of wasting resources on buildings, we should finance development and revival.
You see, my vision is a global partnership between Christians in the north and in the south where the former share their abundance of material blessings and the latter share their abundance of spiritual blessings (Rom 15:27). Missions shouldn’t be viewed as a way for the Western church saving the world, on the contrary, missionaries from the former “missions field” need to be sent to the West to spread revival. I am much more willing to listen to the insights of brother Yun or Surprise Sithole than Western preachers who only read, but aren’t experiencing, the book of Acts. Instead of spending so much money on empty “church activities” and listen to leaders without a vision, the Western church should bless the South with their money and recieve their revival blessings. That’s the form of missions I want.
Reblogged this on Manly Life and commented:
Some great thoughts here…
As someone who have been on missions to the not so materially sufficient places, my personal take is ‘teach them to fish rather than giving them fish’.
Another thing to note is that it is fast becoming a myth that the West is rich. Many nations in the West have debt problems. China happens to be an extremely rich country these days – there are many billionaires with lots of money to spend. I would dare say there are far more rich people in China than in the West.
Thanks for your comment! I totally agree that our development assistance should aim to empower people to sustain themselves, and we also need to change unrighteous structures that trap them into poverty. I think it was Desmond Tutu who said: “It is not even sufficient to teach them to fish if the fish are dead due to pollution.”
First and foremost though, I want international economic equality between churches. That requires a lot of money transfer. It is not enough with just a little bit of help while the givers continue to be ten times richer than the recipiants, as missions often is constructed today. We need a system shift where it becomes equal for all.
Also, thanks for your contribution to a more nuanced view when it comes to wealth between nations. I wouldn’t say that it is a myth that the West is rich, but I agree with that the rich aren’t necessarily living in the West. In fact, West, North and South are all insufficient terms, especially when thinking of countries like Australia or South Korea, or areas like eastern China, and they all make the mistake of trying to put all the countries of the world in two boxes. For the sake of argument and simplicity, I still used them above, although I am critical towards their definitions.
However, no matter where churches are located geographically, we still have rich and poor ones. And although this is a generalization, rich ones lack revival and poor ones development. That is why I want increased cooperation to fill this gap.
Again, thanks for your comment. God bless you!
Yes I see where you are coming from.
My heart’s desire is to see homelessness eradicated, and for more ethical land developers who build to provide affordable housing instead of luxury homes.
Amen! Keep that vision alive 🙂 Actually, I had a discussion with a brother here on this site on precisely this topic, whether a Christian could own a fancy expencive house or not: https://holyspiritactivism.wordpress.com/2012/11/09/revival-on-the-mount/comment-page-1/#comment-405 It may interest you.
I know of a Christian family in my city who built this giant mansion for themselves and a basement for them to specially hold meetings every Friday night, bringing in anointed speakers. In their area of work their focus is really the highend corporate clients/customers, though I believe they hold marketplace meetings for the different levels as well. They also organise missions trips on their own and go out to preach/teach. They keep a very low profile, perhaps in an effort to remain humble. I guess they have devoted all their lives to prove that it is Biblical to be rich.
I’m sorry but I don’t understand how this comment lines up with your previous one about not buying luxury homes. As I’ve written above we need global equality – and because of environmental reasons it’s not sustainable for every Christian to have mansions, not to mention the enormous costs! It’s biblical to sell everything and give the money to the poor, not to live in mansions. God bless that couple, but I’m sure they can do more on the missions field if they sell their mansion.
Sorry to confuse you.
I do not think it right to buy luxury homes, but I am just saying that some Christians do. And they try to justify it by throwing some right ministry work.
Blessings to you too!
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