Well, this was an interesting Sunday. We started out by going to what is probably the largest foreign church on mainland China for their early service. They fill up an enormous theater in a hotel complex, and the stage was filled with the electronics and instruments for the worship band. Their services are bilingual, and are only for foreign passport holders (they checked ours at the door). It was a very contemporary service, without much form or formality, but with lots of pop style music to get everyone in the mood to worship. The preacher of the morning was a guest from Oklahoma, and his message was all about how Jesus doesn’t love crowds, he just loves everyone. The logic of that one escaped me, and about the time he said that Jesus loves everyone (Romans 9, etc., notwithstanding) for the fourth time I had enough and stepped out. It was pretty bad. Lots of glitz, but not much substance.
From there, we went to the regular services of another church that ministers to the expatriot community. The contrast between the two services was stark. A very small congregation, their service was very orderly and quiet, with more substantial praise and a basic sermon based on the Word (which I understand is pretty typical). We celebrated communion together with them, and enjoyed the fellowship.
Both of these churches, as well as the other expat churches in the city, are targeting their work at those who are already Christians pretty much. The big one has a lot of small groups set up around the city for fellowship and targeted content according to what people want. They also have a counseling center and a lot of other ancillary ministries. None of the expat churches are really there trying to vigorously evangelize the expat community, of which there are about a million in Beijing alone, 300,000 of them English speakers. So, that is a real need. A big part of the expat experience in China could be summed up as “eat, drink, and be merry,” if the advertisements and articles in the expat magazines are any indication.
In the afternoon, a group gathered at our friend’s place for a few hours and I was able to talk about the history of music in the church, complete with lots of sound bites! We had a great time together, and the hope is that we will be able to do this again in the future, on this and other subjects. So I hope that will happen. We wrapped up the day with a number of us enjoying a wonderful meal together and fellowship until I had to go and finish packing!
This morning as I was leaving China an enormous earthquake struck the country in Sichuan province, about a 1000 miles south of the capital. The tremors were felt there, and as far south as Vietnam. At the epicenter, over 12000 are dead, 18000 are missing, and the count will certainly rise. Between that and the astronomical death toll in Myanmar from the cyclone that hit there, Asia has been dealt major blows to their economies, their futures, their pride, their people. I’m thankful for the privilege that I’ve had the past month to travel through the region, and my heart aches for these many millions who need to know the Christ of the Scriptures more than anything else. Thanks again for your prayers. I’m writing this last post from Detroit, waiting for my connection home. It ‘s good to be home – and yet as I watch the hundreds of people streaming past me here on their way to wherever, it occurs to me that most of them are in as great a need for Christ as anyone there might be in Asia. The fields are white, ready to harvest – where are the laborers for the King?