Ten thousand Chinese become Christians each day, according to a stunning
report by the National Catholic Reporter's veteran correspondent John Allen, and 200 million Chinese
may comprise the world's largest concentration of Christians by mid-century,
and the largest missionary force in history. If you read a single news
article about China this year, make sure it is this one.
I suspect that even the most enthusiastic accounts err on the downside, and
that Christianity will have become a Sino-centric religion two generations
from now. China may be for the 21st century what Europe was during the
8th-11th centuries, and America has been during the past 200 years: the
natural ground for mass evangelization. If this occurs, the world will
change beyond our capacity to recognize it. Islam might defeat the western
Europeans, simply by replacing their diminishing numbers with immigrants,
but it will crumble beneath the challenge from the East.
China, devoured by hunger so many times in its history, now feels a
spiritual hunger beneath the neon exterior of its suddenly great cities.
Four hundred million Chinese on the prosperous coast have moved from poverty
to affluence in a single generation, and 10 million to 15 million new
migrants come from the countryside each year, the greatest movement of
people in history. Despite a government stance that hovers somewhere between
discouragement and persecution, more than 100 million of them have embraced
a faith that regards this life as mere preparation for the next world. Given
the immense effort the Chinese have devoted to achieving a tolerable life in
the present world, this may seem anomalous. On the contrary: it is the great
migration of peoples that prepares the ground for Christianity, just as it
did during the barbarian invasions of Europe during the Middle Ages.
Last month's murder of reverend Bae Hyung-kyu, the leader of the
missionaries still held hostage by Taliban kidnappers in Afghanistan, drew
world attention to the work of South Korean
Christians, who make up nearly 30% of that nation's population and send
more evangelists to the world than any country except the United States.
This is only a first tremor of the earthquake to come, as Chinese Christians
turn their attention outward. Years ago I speculated that if Mecca ever is
razed, it will be by an African army marching north; now the greatest danger
to Islam is the prospect of a Chinese army marching west. . . .
Richard T. Cooper, "General Casts
War in Religious Terms," Los Angeles Times, October 16, 2003
[The most audacious even dream of carrying the gospel beyond the borders of
China, along the old Silk Road into the Muslim world, in a campaign known as
"Back to Jerusalem." As Aikman explains in Jesus in Beijing, some Chinese
Evangelicals and Pentecostals believe that the basic movement of the gospel
for the last 2,000 years has been westward: from Jerusalem to Antioch, from
Antioch to Europe, from Europe to America, and from America to China. Now,
they believe, it's their turn to complete the loop by carrying the gospel to
Muslim lands, eventually arriving in Jerusalem. Once that happens, they
believe, the gospel will have been preached to the entire world.
Most experts regard that prospect as deeply improbable; Madsen said he
doubts more than a handful of Protestants in China take the "Back to
Jerusalem" vision seriously. Aikman is more sanguine, reporting that as of
2005 two underground Protestant seminaries in China were training believers
for work in Islamic nations.--John L. Allen, "The uphill journey of Catholicism in
China," ncrcafe.org, August 3, 2007]