Happy Lunar New Year! This week, please join us in prayer for Michelle Mingyue Kang from China.
Home to over 1.4 billion people, China has the world’s largest population. According to a 2014 Peking University study, 74% of Chinese are irreligious or practice folk religion, 16% are Buddhist, 3% Christian, and 0.5% Muslim. Despite the Gospel’s presence in China since the 7th century, many Chinese still view Christianity as a Western religion. Especially since President Xi Jinping’s call for the “sinicization of religion” in 2016, Christian leaders have sought to present their faith in ways that are faithful to Scripture, resonant with Chinese culture, and relevant to Chinese society.
Michelle is pursuing a PhD in Intercultural Studies at Fuller Theological Seminary. A Korean Chinese, Michelle is especially interested in cross-cultural dialogue, ecumenism, and the historical roots of sinicization, which draws on cultural resources to present the Gospel in Chinese contexts. Her research focuses on the public theology and legacy of Bishop Ding Guan Xun (known as K. H. Ting in the West), the former Chair of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM) and former President of the China Christian Council, the umbrella organization for government-sanctioned Protestant churches in China. Prior to her studies, Michelle served on the Harbin Christianity Council and taught at Heilongjiang Seminary, where she will return as a professor after graduation.
Michelle shares the following message:
Thanks to SCHOLARLEADERS INTERNATIONAL for praying for China.
1. Self-Care of Pastors and Teachers
Due to the shortage of pastoral staff and the relatively many church members, most church leaders and teachers are working over twelve hours a day and seven days a week. The idea that suffering and sacrifice are two requirements for ministers and evangelists has long influenced Chinese church leaders. Many church leaders’ spiritual needs are not met and even their physical bodies are in a worse situation now.
May the Lord lead the development of self-care ministries for pastors, and connect more talented people and resources together to serve more ministers, church members, and lay leaders. There are indeed vast ministry needs in churches and beyond. Through learning self-care, hopefully more church leaders can sustain their own spiritual life and physical health, and bring new wholeness and life to others.
2. Theological Education and Library Management
Pastors and seminary students of the post-80s and -90s generation have higher educational levels and more theological training than their predecessors. However, most seminaries focus on practical Bible study in training evangelists, without engaging the systematic and contextual theologies that have developed in the academy.
As the social environment gets more complicated, believers are facing a host of issues related to the family, such as extramarital affairs, homophobia, questions related to sex education and social services, etc. Due to a lack of academically trained professors, and a dearth of Christian writers and researchers, Chinese theological education cannot build itself up and remains ill-equipped to tackle these issues.
On the other hand, even though many professors have done research on Christian history, thought, and culture from social scientific and religious studies perspectives, few of them can present their work from a theological and biblical perspective. Not many professors can teach and write on both sides. We need well-educated Christian researchers, theologians, and writers.
3. Christian Education in the Home and Sinicization
Sunday school has always focused on children, neglecting the primary role of the family in Christian education. Now, as children’s Sunday school is banned in most churches, we need to organize parent groups to raise parents’ awareness and to offer practical lessons on nurturing children’s spiritual growth.
One small family can have a big social network in China. If a Christian family is full of positive energy and love, then it will impact the people around it by witnessing to God’s blessings. Individual success is not enough. It is only when the whole family becomes better that people will believe that the family is endowed with God’s blessings. Therefore, now is a good time for building up the Christian family, instead of only focusing on individual salvation. This emphasis on the family is also consistent with Chinese culture.
I think this is a good chance for Chinese churches to think about sinicization as planting the root of Christianity into the soils of Chinese culture and accepting the incarnate Jesus also as a Chinese Christ.
Blessings to you,