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Guest Blogger: Erik Burklin, China Partner

December 22, 2009

I still remember this story as if it had just happened yesterday.  A dear Chinese pastor shared it during his Sunday morning sermon he gave at the China Symposium in Krelingen, Germany, in 2000.  Rev. Li is the senior pastor of the Mu’en church in Shanghai.  He was talking about an experience he had had with an American singing group that had come to China on a “missions” trip.  He had invited them to join his church for Sunday worship and to minister through music as he had done with numerous other foreign Christian groups visiting Shanghai. This group was overjoyed at the opportunity to perform in his church. They had composed a special song for this occasion.  When it was their turn in the service they enthusiastically sang, “How wonderful for Jesus to have returned to China.”  Rev. Li appreciated their song but then pulled them aside after the service and said, “Thank you so much for your enthusiasm and gusto, but listen—Jesus never left China.”

This is an example of a well-meaning group of young people, who raised a lot of money to go to China, thinking that they were the first ones to bring the gospel back to this country after it had been closed to the gospel for so many years.  “China needs Jesus and we are the ones who will bring him to them.”  That is what they probably were told during their orientation sessions prior to their leaving for China.  This attitude that we have to go to a different country so that WE can bring THEM Jesus is quite common in our evangelical world view.  This is especially true when we plan for mission work in countries we consider “closed”, such as China.  I agree with Glenn Schwartz, who wrote the article “How Short-Term Missions Can Go Wrong” when he states, “Realize you are a guest not a specialist – many short-termers go to places to “preach the gospel” where the Gospel has been preached for decades, sometimes centuries.  They should not have the impression that they are the first to bring the good news for the first time.”

In a land of 1.33 billion people (approx. 1/5th of the world’s population) China has a growing evangelical movement—presently consisting of an estimated 40 million believers[1].  However, there are only an estimated 3,700[2] ordained and assistant pastors ministering to these believers—one pastor for every 10,000 Christians!  As the Church in China continues to grow this ratio will only increase, unless more Christian leaders are trained.  This is the greatest need in the Chinese church today—more trained leaders.

The good news is that God is using theological schools and churches in China to train current and future Chinese Christian leaders with needed ministry insights and methods.  China Partner, the ministry I serve with, exists to serve the Church in China to help meet the need of training additional emerging Christian leaders.  Our aim is to help the Chinese church leadership equip more leaders so that they in turn would be able to reach more Chinese with the life-changing message of Jesus Christ.  The ministry follows the 2 Tim. 2:2 model—training leaders who will train further leaders.

China Partner’s mission is accomplished through four strategies: 1) training current and future Chinese Christian leaders with needed ministry insights and methods; 2) providing Christian literature to Chinese leaders, churches, and ministry training centers; 3) learning about China’s culture and policies, the Chinese Church, and how to partner with God’s work there; and 4) building new training locations and churches with the Chinese through partnership and financial assistance.

One of our main values is to minister in China openly and legally respecting the governing authorities according to Rom. 13:1-3; Titus 3:1, 2; and1 Peter 2:12-17.  This approach has given us many open doors of effective ministry including sharing Christ with government officials.  As Christians, our first allegiance is to Jesus as Lord, but we also must obey our government and its leaders.  Christians are not above the law.  When Peter told his readers to respect the civil government, he was speaking of the Roman Empire under Nero, a notoriously cruel tyrant.  Obviously he was not telling believers to compromise their consciences; as Peter had told the High Priest years before, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).  But in most aspects of their daily lives, it was possible and desirable for Christians to live according to the law of their land.  This is precisely what the believers in the registered church in China have chosen to do.  They have told us repeatedly, “Even though we have registered with the communist government (and therefore become legal) we know that Christ is still the head of the church.  We don’t agree with their policies however we respect their authority and therefore are willing to submit to them.”  We have ministered in China since 1981 and have never had any issues with the communist government.  I believe the main reason for this is how we have chosen to minister in China—open and legal.

The great commission found both in Matt. 28 and Mark 16 commands us to “go and make disciples of all nations” and “go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.”  But how does this work in a country like China?  Do we from the West even need to go to China to bring the people there this good news of Jesus Christ?  My premise is that we need to think strategically when it comes to ministry involvement in China.  Our tendency of having an attitude of supremacy needs to be changed.  Rather our attitude should be as found in Romans 1:5 where the apostle Paul sums up his calling as a missionary this way: “Through him and for his name’s sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith.” (NIV) Notice that he says: “For him and for his name’s sake!”  It is about Him, not us.  It is about working for Him and His kingdom, not about working for ourselves and our “kingdom”.  It is about His glory, not our glory.

God is truly doing an amazing work in China.

[1] Based on survey results completed in 2008 by the Department of Education of China and China Partner.

[2] Source: Chair of the National Three-Self Patriotic Movement of the Protestant Churches in China, based in Shanghai, China, 2008


Guest Blogger: Erik Burklin (President, China Partner)

“Serving the Church in China”

Erik is a third-generation missionary whose grandparents served with China Inland Mission (CIM) taking the Gospel to China before it closed to foreign missionaries in 1950.

In 1989, his father, Dr. Werner Burklin, founded CHINA PARTNER (CP) after realizing that the greatest need in China was training and equipping emerging Chinese Christian leaders.  In 2001, Erik took over as president for CP.  He regularly travels to China organizing and teaching at pastoral training seminars, where future Chinese pastors and lay pastors learn about evangelism, evangelistic preaching, pastoral care, Christian leadership and discipleship.

Since 1991, CP has conducted over 50 pastoral training seminars in 20 different cities in China and has trained over 5,000 pastors and Christian leaders.  In addition, CP has provided students, faculty, and seminaries/Bible schools with mini libraries—over 40,000 theological study books have been distributed since 1991.

He and his wife, Tammy and two daughters reside in Highlands Ranch, Colorado.

One Comment leave one →
  1. dennarr permalink
    December 22, 2009 11:17 am

    Erik, than you for the post. It was great to meet you a few weeks ago. In the short conversation we had, I could see your heart for China and for serving, equipping, and training the Chinese church. I did check out your website that afternoon!

    Sadly, your statement – “Our tendency of having an attitude of supremacy needs to be changed. Rather our attitude should be as found in Romans 1:5 where the apostle Paul sums up his calling as a missionary this way: “Through him and for his name’s sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith.” – can often be applied to us (me) even in our own country…let alone abroad. By God’s grace and through the prompting of the Holy Spirit, I pray we “GE IT” for His glory!

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