Located just off shore from Mainland China, Nan Ao Island is a singular place of beauty. I spent five-plus years working as a tent-maker missionary in China. These years were without a doubt the most rewarding and fulfilling years of my life on just about every level. Always fascinated by China and its 5,000 year old culture, these years gave me the opportunity to experience first hand many of the remarkable changes that are taking place. In addition, it also gave me a chance to be a witness for the Lord through my interactions with the many Chinese friends I made during my years there.
One of the most obvious things I observed was just how spiritually hungry the Chinese people are. With the collapse of the Marxist and Maoist world view and the transition to a market economy, many Chinese are searching for something to hold on to, something that will not only give their life a sense of meaning and purpose, but also, something that will give them a sense of traction in a society that is literally changing from one day to the next. I think it is this very spiritual hunger that is fueling the phenomenal growth of the Protestant Church in China.
Efforts at ascertaining an accurate number of professing Christians in China are wrought with difficulty. This is due in large part to the reluctance on the part of many true believers to publicly identify themselves as such. And, with the horrid history of severe persecution, who can blame them? Further, the numbers proffered by the government cannot be trusted as they normally include only statistics from the officially sanction Three Self Patriotic Movement churches. Independent researchers come up with varying figures as well. Keeping all this in mind, the most reliable counts put the number of Christians in China at somewhere between 80 and 110 million.
A recent report by the National Catholic Reporter¡¯s veteran writer John Allen stated that 10,000 Chinese become Christian every day. If this figure can be trusted, and other researchers affirm that it can, this would mean that by mid-century there will be at least 200 million Christians in China. It boggles the mind and the ramifications are tremendous. Whereas for centuries the Christian faith has been a largely western phenomenon, in just a couple of generations, Christianity may well be ¡隆茫Sino-centric.¡隆脌
Research into the makeup of the Chinese church is also somewhat difficult for the same reasons that accurate numbers are hard to collect. Still, several trends are readily discerned. First, the growth rate in the church is increasingly occurring among the nation¡¯s intellectuals and on its university campuses. This is a significant trend in that it is these very people who will increasingly occupy leadership roles within the apparatus of the state. The more Christians occupying positions of influence, the more these believers may be able to guide the direction of the country.