I am convinced that the Church in the United States has lost her understanding of Christ’s Kingdom. It seems that rather than sharing the Gospel with our sinful neighbors, we would much rather just legislate their sin away. As if that was even possible. Sadly, the prevalence of American patriotism, statism, and militarism causes the US church to look more like 1st century pharisees than the light shining out of darkness. For me, the quickest cure to such maladies is to think missionaly. That is, to make our brothers and sisters in Christ of greater importance than our political representatives; to look to the world as a field, ripe for the harvest instead of creating a nicer, safer place to raise our children.
Professor Bruce Baugus has provided us with an invaluable tool to do just that. We need to think missionaly. We need to know that more of our brothers and sisters are meeting for worship and fellowship in China weekly than in all of Europe, combined. His book, China’s Reforming Churches, for which he serves as the editor, is a collection of essays penned by some of the leaders involved in the revival of Reformed Theology and church polity in and through China. The book is divided into 4 sections: 1) The History of Presbyterianism in China 2) Presbyterianism in China Today 3) Challenges and Opportunities for Presbyterianism in China 4) Appropriating a Tradition. My exposure to Chinese missions was limited to the life of Eric Liddell, made famous by the film Chariots of Fire, the story of Hudson Taylor, and the single missionary that smuggled Bibles into China from the church in which I was raised. So for me, the first section was so important in helping provide a more thorough context of the success and challenges that missionaries to China over the last 400 years have experienced. The second and third sections opened up the hood and let the reader get a glimpse into the existential issues the Church in China is facing. Though ostensibly Christianity is banned, it thrives in many areas. However, the political climate does make the formation of Reformed seminaries difficult to operate. I encourage the reader to dwell on the implications of chapter 9, Two Kingdoms in China: Reformed Ecclesiology and Social Ethics. This will help the reader understand the challenges faced in China, but will also help Christians in the US better understand the implications of having a citizenship in the Kingdom of Christ.
From the introduction we read, “Highly individualistic and pragmatic, American evangelicals and Pentecostals tend to have a low view of the church and lack the biblical, theological, and historical perspective needed to appreciate her crucial role in God’s redemptive program. It is not surprising, then, that American evangelicalism also frequently suffers from a low esteem for and lack of confidence in the ordinary means of grace God has appointed for the work of the ministry.
The consequences are numerous. Defining the mission of the church without reference to the church’s role in God’s redemptive program, evangelicals have at times operated with a missiology focused almost exclusively on evangelistic activism—a kind of “counting coup” approach to missions. Though many evangelical groups have come to see the need for what they typically term follow-up or discipleship, they have not always focused on developing the church to this end.”
I offer up 1000 amens.
I heartily recommend this book to both the layperson and the minister alike. We need to think missionaly. We need to have a conscious pulse on the lives of our brothers and sisters that happen to reside in countries outside of the US. This book should help the reader to focus more energy on building up the Kingdom of Christ instead of “fixing” the temporary kingdoms around us. For me, a must read.