We Europeans sometimes suffer from a Euro-centricism which can blind us to global realities. This is not new. When Marco Polo returned from his momentous Silk Road travels to China in the thirteenth century, people simply didn’t believe his reports of a sophisticated civilization outside of Europe.
This blindness led to one of the great missed opportunities in missions history. The Kublai Khan sent a request through Marco Polo to the pope, for 100 missionaries to be sent to China to teach the people about the Christian faith. The great Mongol ruler told the pope in his letter that within a short time there could be more followers of Jesus in the east than in the west.
But no-one went. Years later, a further plea arrived in Europe from the Kublai Khan, repeating the same request. Eventually four(!) Dominican brothers set off along the Silk Road. But they got no further than Armenia.
A stupendous opportunity for the Kingdom was lost. The Khan’s predictions were never fulfilled.
Yet this week I have seen and heard things that stir hope for that vision finally to be realised very soon! We have just concluded a YWAM Global Leadership Team meeting in a city in southern China. David Aikman, former TIME bureau chief in Beijing, shared with us about current trends in this great awakening nation.
China, he believes, will be the next major Christian country on earth. It will also be the next major missionary sending nation, evangelising the moslem world and the so-called 10/40 Window. He referred to the ‘Back to Jerusalem’ movement of indigenous Chinese, with 100,000 believers ready to head off along the Silk Road in the opposite direction the gospel was first carried, taking the good news back to the Biblical Lands.
Chinese leaders have told Aikman how they thank God for the continuing persecution because it is preparing them for this coming thrust of world evangelisation. Christianity is no longer mainly rural in China, he reported, but is spreading rapidly among urbanites and professionals. Church growth has not slowed down, and a Christian intellegensia is emerging, with confessing Christian professors at all the major universities. Scores of Chinese universities now run Christian study programmes. One professor in Shanghai observed that virtually all of the professors who studied Christianity were sympathetic to the faith.
Aikman compared the situation to the last days of the pagan Roman Empire. Secret believers are to be found all throughout the government. Sons and daughters of major political leaders have been baptised.
China has now the largest charismatic church in the world. The Chinese church is overwhelmingly evangelical, evangelistic, charismatic and missions-minded. Many want to learn English to go on missions. Some have already sent missionaries to Burma.
Already China boasts many more evangelical believers than all of Europe. In this sense, the Khan’s vision is already fulfilled! In fact, today there are as many believers in China as Germans living in Germany! Who would have dared to hope for such amazing future possibilities a few short years ago?
But, warned Aikman, the future is not automatically assured. If evolution towards democracy and rule of law is hindered, China could develop an ultra-nationalistic fascism and become regional bully. Whatever the future, China will be powerful. He urged us to pray for China to become Christian by the time it surpasses even America’s superpower status within the coming two decades.
We Europeans need to wake up to these new global realities.
Till next week,