Elderly Mandarin ministry

A fellow worker in Queensland told me about another fruitful approach in Mandarin ministry, which is distinctly different from the usual students-and-young-families approach to Mandarin ministry.

They noticed that some young Mandarin families have been bringing their grandparents across from China to Australia in order to help with looking after their young children. The grandparents are then are generally stuck at home with the kids during the week while the parents are at work.

However the Mandarin speaking grandparents greatly appreciate coming together on the weekend with other Mandarin speakers – and these co workers have found this to be a very fruitful ministry.

As you can see, not the usual approach targeting the younger part of the age spectrum, but instead targeting the older segment.

How is this reflected in the statistics? Here is a graph showing the numbers of those people at the 2011 ABS census who were born in China, and who arrived in Australia within the past five years (I’ve just selected those aged 60 years and above).

Obviously these numbers are dwarfed by the figures for those Chinese migrants aged in their twenties. However taken on their own, these are not insignificant. Here is a table with the figures showing the year of arrival by age bracket.

Year of arrival 60-69 years 70-79 years 80-89 years 90-99 years 100+ years Total
2007 447 220 39 0 0 706
2008 486 269 30 4 0 789
2009 516 428 53 3 0 1000
2010 808 349 38 0 0 1195
2011* 446 127 20 4 0 597
Total 2703 1393 180 11 0 4287

Of course, Mandarin ministry to those in their twenties is the big focus at the moment. But might we also be neglecting an opportunity to love and serve an important section of the Mandarin community?

Ministry Needs in China: Part 1: Children of Migrant Workers

A lot of us do not know about ‘migrant workers’  (in china).  Here’s a quick introduction:

summary: migrant workers are internal migration within china from rural areas to major cities/manufacturing areas, for the purpose of employment.

While the above summarizes the economic impact, not many know about the plight migrant workers (in particular, their children).

for those that are not familiar with how things work in China, there’s a system called ‘hukou’ (literally account) – registering where everyone is born – (the province/town).  Each account holder is entitled to medical help and education – but only in their home town.

So migrant workers faces a choice do they:

a) leave their children to their relatives in their home town or

b) take them to the city without health/education support?

They are left with a hard choice – both family ties and education is at the core of the Chinese worldview.  For those that come to the city they are often left without education:

Purely in terms of pragmatics, i believe that education is relatively inexpensive as a form of aid (compared to natural disaster/war, or helping families suffering from substance abuse, mental illness/physical deformities).  It is really an area that one should invest in.

Furthermore, as Christians whose God is the defender of the poor/orphaned/widowed, we should have mercy on them.  It may also be an avenue for spiritual conversations through teaching English.

I have also heard that proportionally, there are more Christians amongst migrant workers than usual, since Christians often place a high value on the family.  Hence it may also be an avenue to encourage your brothers and sisters.

I guess anyone with english can go (e.g. Gap year, etc), but if you have an educational background, this maybe an awesome opportunity to serve in this area



In what way are Mandarin young families different from Honky young families?

1) Mandarin families tend to be child centric (see my post: https://chineseministry.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=67&action=edit)

2) Mandarin families have a hard time leaving their parents and cleaving onto each other

basically, the extended family structure is strong, and many people ask their grandparents to look after the children.(some even their grandparent to come from china to look after the children).  Given the visa situation for Chinese visitors for Australia  (if you spend X months in Australia, you need to be back for X months in China before you can come over), many choose to get their grandparents to come in turn and thus separate the grandparents’ marriage.


What questions do Mandarin people often ask?

Q1. what’s the difference between the different denominations?

(the reason why they ask: there aren’t any denominations as such in China.  There’s the official church, and if you belong in a house church/house church network, the other networks don’t tend to openly advertise themselves.  having said that, there are a few bigger clusters around the place)

A1: instead of going down church history, church governance structure, views on baptism – you should focus on which denominations are the ones that trusts Jesus as Lord and savior, and get them to be aware of cults.

Q2: What does ‘???’ mean (during english services)

Despite our best attempts, our English services have lots of jargon (e.g. songs, sermons, even chairing, bulletin).  so we need to work out how to make it more user friendly.  (e.g. i just used the word ‘service’.  What does that mean? are we a bank? or a mechanic?)

Q3. Science and Christianity related ones

This one is especially common amongst guys. There’s a good book (a bit aged now, but at least it’s free) that is helpful in answering this question:


Q4: Does it work/how do i know that is true?

Chinese are pragmatic.  They will often ask this

Q5: creation questions:

Many get stuck on the question of creation.  (when you use two ways to live).  at times i use a different tract just to get around that as an initial question/barrier



Ministry Needs in China: Part 2: Family/Marriage ministry

There has been a increasing rate of divorce in China, the blog below explores the various factors :


The secular voice is screaming that this is going the way of western norm, turbo driven by the egocentric nature of 2 people born of under the one-child policy coming together.

In this vacuum there exists a Christian voice that is distinctly appealing:
* for mutual submission out of reverence for Christ (instead of self serving freedom)
* for the husband to lead the household just as Christ loving the church (instead of the woman suppressing men)

Those with a passion and gift, and experience for marriage and family ministry, i implore you to cast your eyes on the abundant harvest.

Sending young kids back to China

I recently met someone from a church who has been doing a play group style ministry with some Mandarin migrants in it. They made the observation that they have had a few instances of parents sending their very young children back to China to be cared for by grandparents and relatives. This is so that the parents here in Australia can focus on work, or look after a newborn. They also observed that when the kids did eventually return to their parents, the personality of the kids was quite different from what they were like before.

I wonder if others have noticed the same phenomenon? what, if anything does it reveal about Mainland Chinese culture and society?

It’s interesting to see that that connections are being formed at some level through a play group – but not with the level of trust required to call on people here in Australia to help out.

What implications would this have for ministry? what opportunities or failings does it reveal?

Why do cults easily take root amongst Chinese?

Recently Andrew Hong has blogged about the appearance of the Lightning from the East in Australia (https://chineseministry.wordpress.com/2013/01/09/lightning-from-the-east-now-in-australia/)

I have had exposure to this cult when I was in China.  The exposure came in the form of one of my disciples in a Bible study group telling me that he was contemplating leaving the group but wanted to asking the explain the meaning of some of the verses quoted by this cult.  

Most of the verses quoted were wildly out of context, so why do people fall for these cults?

1. Power distance

People easily accept the words of teachers (i.e. lecturers, pastors) – but also cult leaders. 

The reason for this is a concept called ‘power distance’.  (To understand more, please visit http://geert-hofstede.com/china.html)

The implication of this is that people are not taught to question the authority of the leader, or its teaching.  This makes it fairly easy pickings for cults.

2. Sermon Style

At some churches, many people expect the pastors to have greater spiritual understanding (partly because of point 1, partly because of other issues), and some pastors are used to allegorical preaching. The Lightning from the East also tries to read the Bible allegorically and hence for the young Christian with limited Bible knowledge, it is impossible to tell which way of allegorical reading is heretical.  (well, even if it is doctrinally passable, it is not the ideal way of reading the Bible).


1. Teach, model the reality of the Lordship of Christ and the importance of His word

Christians will all agree (or some at least pay lip service to) the idea of the Lordship of Christ and the Bible being the ultimate authority to our faith and practice – but do we model it to those we lead and teach (especially Mainland Chinese Christians?).  When people ask you a question about Christian Ethics/Christian Living, do we model careful bible study or is it easier to just give an answer from the top of our head? Even if it’s a sound answer, people will take the authority from the leader, not the Bible.  We need to model this both in regards to the question they ask and also the way we conduct our lives.  Give scriptural reasons for everything that we do. 

As we model this, our flock should realise that the authority does not lie in the pastor/leader, but in Jesus and his words. 

2. Teach Bible reading in context. 

I have just come back from NextGen, and was encouraged by the start of the mandarin strand.  If people are taught to read the bible in context, it will be awesome.  encourage mandarin speaking people to go to the mandarin speaking strand of nextGen next year! (more info from: http://www.nextgen.kcc.org.au/)

the implication of this is also profound for leaders.  be open to be corrected by the bible.  One of the ways to practice this is if someone ask you a question in your bible study group, and you don’t know the answer – say you don’t know and look at the Bible. If in our haste we gave a ill considered answer from the Bible, admit it and correct ourselves (from the bible) the next time we meet.



Lightning from the East – now in Australia!

1394556_83266980 cropped1. Lightning from the East

Lightning from the East is a cult originating in China that claims that Christ has returned again, in the form of a woman named Lightning Deng from the Henan province of China. This cult has been around since the 80’s and has grown in influence in China. It is also known by the name Church of the Almighty God (website here).

However there are now reports that Lightning from the East is making inroads among Chinese Christians in other countries. Hong Kong church leaders are particularly alarmed at attempts to infiltrate churches and win over church leaders (see news report here).

And significantly, there have recently been a number of reports of Lightning from the East followers making their way into Chinese churches here in Sydney.

Lightning from the East teaches doctrines that are based loosely on Christianity – but asserting that Jesus has already returned in the person of Lightning Deng. They also teach that God’s attempts to redeem the world first through the Old Testament law, and later through grace (Jesus) were incomplete, and that God is now redeeming the world through Lightning Deng. It promises a higher state of salvation that sweeps away the corruption of sin inside of us (more on their beliefs from OMF here). Lightning from the East followers have also been in the news for falsely predicting the end of the world in December 2012 (see news report here)

The name Lightning from the East refers to a passage from Matthew 24 describing the return of Jesus:

 27 For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.

Matthew 24:27 (NIV)

The claim is that Jesus has now returned – and has done so in the East (ie. China). However just as Christ came in the form of a man in the first century, now Christ has come in the form of a woman, in accordance with Genesis 1:27. Lightning from the East claims that this is the woman known as Lightning Deng. And like lightning, the influence of this Christ will spread across the world, from the East to the West.

2. The appeal of Lightning from the East

Lightning from the East seems to attract a hearing primarily by appeal to supernatural revelation, with people claiming to have had dreams and visions. Chinese Christians tend to be more open to things which appear more spiritual than fleshly – especially those influenced by the theology of Watchman Nee (read more here). This makes believers unwilling to test or challenge visions that people have had, opening the door to the reception of new revelation and the acceptance of new doctrines on the basis of spiritual experiences.

Also on an experiential level, Lightning from the East commends itself as being very practical in that it promises a greater work in the sweeping away of the sinful nature inside of believers. Who wouldn’t want to be assailed by temptation? who wouldn’t want to be troubled by their sinful nature? And so Lightning from the East promises a victory over sin that is more tangible and immediate than that provided by the ‘old’ Jesus.

One of the common criticisms that Mainland Chinese have about Christianity when they first hear about it is: “if Jesus is so good, why didn’t he come as a Chinese person instead of a Jew?” Behind this is a measure of ethnic pride in being the Middle Kingdom with such a long and glorious history. Why would God leave it so late for the gospel to come to the Chinese nation? Lightning from the East taps into this nationalism, because here at last Christ has come again – rightfully – as a Chinese. And why not, since the ‘old’ Jesus himself promised that when he returns, Lightning would come from the East?

3. Ideal conditions for Lightning in the East

The appearance of Lightning from the East in Chinese congregations here in Sydney is worrying, particularly for Mandarin congregations in Anglican churches. In many of these cases, an Aussie rector may have a Mandarin congregation in his church – but the rector may not really know what is going on in that congregation because of language barriers. Yes, people are coming regularly and serving – but what is being taught in small groups? what books are being passed around?

I have also noticed that Mandarin ministries can be somewhat jealous of their own territory and tend not to work with one another or share information with one another. This creates a partitioning effect which means that one Mandarin ministry may be completely unaware of serious problems affecting a nearby Mandarin ministry.

All of this creates ideal conditions for Lightning in the East to spread unopposed to many churches, and especially to fledgling Mandarin ministries.

Church leaders need to prepare their churches to be on the lookout for Lightning from the East. But the best way to do that is not merely to raise awareness of this one cult. What church leaders really need to do is inoculate people against any claim that spiritual experiences are a higher authority than the Bible. In the end the door is opened to Lightning from the East because of an openness to other authorities apart from the Word of God.

Which countries are the Chinese going to for study? (2012)

Due to the growing affluence of China, many young Chinese are leaving China to study overseas. But which countries are they choosing to study in?

Here is a useful infographic showing the proportion of students going to different countries around the world. You can see the original post at good.is.

Infographic of where China’s students choose to go when they study abroad (2011)

A magazine study reports that 27% of Chinese students studying abroad are going to the United States, 22% to the United Kingdom, 15% to Canada, and in fourth place 7% to Australia.

Notice that the top countries historically have a Christian tradition underlying their culture. This is promising, as hopefully Christian student groups and churches near universities in these countries will see the unique opportunity they have to befriend, show love, and share the gospel with them.

This also means that lessons learnt and ministry strategies developed to reach Mainland Chinese students in one country could apply equally well in other countries that are also seeing their own influx of students…

The many Mainland Chinese students who stay on – and implications for ministry

1. Mainland Chinese students

Universities are great places for doing ministry with Mainland Chinese. Many students are coming from China to study for several years, and this gives us tremendous opportunities to welcome, care for, and share with them (see this post).

A common question is: exactly how many of these students will return to China after completing their studies? Is it 90%? or more like 50%? Because this has huge implications for how ministry should be done…

2. Do they stay? or do they go?

A comparison of the 2006 and 2011 ABS census data enables us to get a glimpse of what’s going on (for more detail see this post). Here is a table that summarises what happened with Mainland Chinese people in Australia in the 16-25 year old age bracket in the five years subsequent to the 2006 ABS census. It shows how many were still around at the 2011 census, and how many had departed by then.

Age at 2006 census 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 Total of 18-23 yr range
Still here 5 years later 2286 2813 3556 3781 4109 4099 4577 5014 4807 3805 25136
Departed during the last 5 years 268 706 873 1127 1406 1816 1991 2321 1763 858 9534
Percent staying 76.33% 77.10% 74.40% 72.75% 67.86% 68.73% 67.24% 72.31% 80.97% 87.18% 72.50%
Percent departing 23.67% 22.90% 25.60% 27.25% 32.14% 31.27% 32.76% 27.69% 19.03% 12.82% 27.50%

On the right hand side of the table I have added up the information for the 18 to 23 year old age range.

Here is a pie graph summarising the proportion of the 18-23 year old group that stayed on (green) and those that departed (red). And the results are surprising:

Instead of 90% or 50% of Mandarin students departing Australia, it turns out that it’s more like 27.5% of Mainland Chinese students in 2006 who departed from Australia. A surprising amount of Mainland Chinese students stayed on in Australia!

3. Implications for uni and local church ministries

This has huge implications for university ministries. The task of preparing students to return to China is still important – a significant 27.5% of students will depart Australia within five years. However we can now see how that is not the only task, since 72.5% will stay on in Australia. And so rather than working independently of local churches, it is crucial for university ministries to connect students to church ministries for life beyond uni, and give them a positive vision of life and ministry in a local church.

This also has huge implications for local churches. Because church ministries can no longer leave it up to university ministries to reach students and prepare them for life back in China. They must instead get involved in actively welcoming Mainland Chinese graduates, intentionally making the most of the gifts that they bring, and genuinely incorporating them into the life and mission of the church.

And make no mistake: in many cases this will mean huge culture changes for local churches. Chinese churches that have been around for 20 years or more will know about the challenges of having more than one culture uneasily co-existing, and sometimes clashing in the same church (eg. OBC and ABC). However in most of these cases ABC congregations have put up with it, because of familial relationships. This means a certain level of elasticity that allowed churches to weather strains in relationships across congregations.

However this elasticity will not exist for Mainland graduates that join a Chinese church. There are no familial relationships that tie them to one particular church. And so local church leadership needs to be especially alert to how Mandarin congregation members perceive decisions that impinge on them.

The challenges that face us are huge. How will your ministry respond to these realities?