Postmodern Small Church USA & China!

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Today you can read the transcript and LISTEN to the audio of David Aikman’s exciting report on what is happening in the Chinese church. You should also read an interesting piece about the post-modern emerging churches in the US.

Mel Gibson’s “The Passion” has provoked an interesting poem that “gets at” the church’s schizophrenic desire to be loved, juxtaposed on Jesus promise that if we are faithful to him, we will be persecuted. This in part explains why evangelicals are conflicted about Gibson’s movie.

The following is an excerpt from my book in progress that reflects the tension I feel as I relate American and Chinese church life.

“In place of Jesus’ message warning of persecution and sacrifice, American evangelicals offered comfort and success I recall a trip to China where I heard the testimony of an underground church leader who spent eighteen years in prison. He had been beaten, chained, subjected to physical and psychological testing. They lied to him, fabricating stories about suicide attempts and infidelities of his wife and son. He showed us the purple grooves in his wrist where the chains penetrated his rotting flesh and rubbed against his bones. He was offered freedom if he would just deny Jesus and he told us how weak and vulnerable he felt.

He wept as he told me of the consolation he found in repeating to himself the story of his savior Jesus, who “emptied himself, took upon himself the form of a servant and made himself obedient unto death.” You hear these stories repeatedly in China where the house church movement has experienced rapid numeric growth combined with deep spiritual maturity.

The day I returned to the states, a postcard from a new, seeker sensitive church was on top of my stack of mail. It pictured a “convict” in black and white striped prison garb and dragging a ball and chain. When I flipped the card over the message said: when you think of church does it feel like prison? Not any more! I was offered a comfortable stadium-style seat at a local Cineplex where they would serve me popcorn, provide fun and games for my kids, and best-of-all, there would be no preaching—just inspirational multimedia presentations that would make me more successful.

I asked myself is this the same or different gospel? Is this just a strategic accommodation that will in the end produce not only numeric growth, but the spiritual depth and maturity as the Chinese house church? The answer seems obvious.

It seems that evangelicals are producing Christian conversions but not disciples. Unfortunately, as anyone who reads the New Testament knows, Jesus never called anyone to be a Christian, he only called people to be disciples.”

Remember, “these are the best of times and the worst of times, but they are the only times we have.” (For now!)

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