Reflections on a Wandering Life.....

Sunday, November 23, 2008

This was the first baptism I have seen at the new English service at Haidian Church. I say "new," but it has actually been going for more than a year now. This is the only English service I know of that has been officially approved for operation at a Three-Self church. There are international services, but they are not allowed to admit local people. The English service at Haidian Church is open to everyone. There are strings attached, of course. Churches in China must not appear to be controlled by foreigners. They are allowed to have guest speakers once in awhile, but having a foreigner speak regularly would be out of the question. The Catholics get by with it, but you would never see it in a Protestant church. For some reason, the government has always been a little more wary of Protestant churches. Since the Church does not have enough English speaking pastors to cover the English service every Sunday, they use students. It would hyperbole to say that you get baptized one Sunday and preach the next, but that's almost the way it happens. The majority of speakers at the English service are new believers. They are not formally trained in theology or the scriptures, but they are Chinese citizens, so this makes them politically acceptable to the Religious Affairs Bureau. But the fact that they are young and inexperienced does not mean that they are not good speakers. I quite like listening to them, actually. They are some of the best minds in China, and they are bright, alert, well educated, thinking people. If ask me, I would say the situation is a blessing in disguise. After all, I have been around church long enough to know that professional preachers are not necessarily better speakers.

The English service was a bold experiment. Success was not by any means guaranteed. But after watching it develop for the past year and a half, my impression is very positive. I sometimes wondered if Chanel knew what she was getting into when she kept pushing for this, but she was right. So many Chinese young people who would never come to church are now regulars at the new English service. This is a very effective ministry.

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