China Trip: Part 3
by Phil Martin
This is the third installment of a three part series that gives a full review of our survey trip in China.
During the second half of March we traveled through 6 cities in China. In all we boarded 6 flights and 5 trains, hailed dozens of taxis, crammed into several subways, walked nearly 100 miles, and hopped onto 1 bus. After processing our time for the past few weeks, takeaways fell into three categories. The trip was clarifying, motivating, and sobering. This post looks at the ways the trip was sobering.
A closer experience of the challenges we will face
Culture shock is real. It isn’t ultimate or insurmountable, but it is real. Although it probably isn’t what you think it is. The hardest adjustment for us will be from countryside (neighbors are turkeys and deer) to city (neighbors are street cleaner machines and construction cranes). Being back in a city reminded us of the particular challenges that come with urban living. Our short trip made those difficulties tangible.
I hope that at this point, everyone is aware that China is growing economically. Over the past ten years, the GDP per capita has more than doubled. That means the cost of living in China is rising for us as well. Since it’s been 6 years since I’ve been in China, some of the price increases surprised me a bit. We are confident that our target for support is sufficient for living and doing ministry. In the long run, finances will likely become more of a restriction on doing ministry in China.
Lastly, being a country that is run by an authoritarian government, the priorities are slightly different. Many buildings are designed with efficiency, not comfort or beauty, as the primary goal. In some cases, the architecture intentionally communicates control and power. I think this causes a type of emotional exhaustion. Being back in China, I was reminded of this challenge of day to day life.
We know very little about church planting in China
That shouldn’t be surprising to anyone. Our team has less than a quarter century of combined experience planting churches in China. In total, we’ve planted less than ten churches. Our confidence in God, the power of the Holy Spirit, and the directives about ministry in the Word is very high. Beyond that, all we have are ideas and a limited amount of evidence. The exact forms and methods of outreach, training, meeting locations, etc. vary quite a bit. While, this isn’t completely different than ministry in the states, missions does seem to engender more unfounded attachment to methods.
The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few
In several of the cities that we visited, we managed to find aerial views. There is nothing quite as sobering as seeing the vastness of a city that is running headlong after the false gods of materialism, man centered religion, education, and wealth. The road that leads to destruction truly is wide. It is uncomfortable to think about the reality of hell, but it is necessary, biblical, and honest. This world needs Christ. May we not rest until they have him.