Rise of the East Asian colossus
by Justin D. Long
2025: Materialism and a growing economy, coupled with three major disasters and increasing pressure over human rights issues, have all but thrown the doors wide into Eastern Asia. The church has grown to in excess of 200 million Christians. Problems of discipleship and training are beginning to be addressed as new technologies and new creativity make it easier to distribute banned materials throughout China. Already, Chinese Christians are beginning to consider the western regions of China, still unevangelized, as well as the rest of the Asian continent. Although the believers in Asia are still a minority, the weight of 200 million Christians--nearly as many as the total population of the United States--will be making themselves felt, and perhaps in the best possible place. After all, World A is their backyard.
From just over 2 million believers around the turn of the century, the church has grown to well over 80 million today. The growth rate shows no sign of decline. Despite persecution and unceasing harassment, GEM's researchers estimate the church will grow to well over 200 million by 2025.
The question before us is: what sort of effect will this massive concentration of Christians have on the world_ Hardened by persecution, owning few possessions that they must leave behind, already prepared to walk over many miles through rough weather to bring the Gospel, and with World A as their home town_ We in the West can hardly understand the power of that sort of commitment. Projecting the effect of it is difficult, other than to say it will be massive.
Persecution will not end, and it will hamper efforts. New technologies that make it easier to smuggle materials in will also make it easier to track, identify and harass Christians. Nonetheless, governments will find it increasingly difficult to hide this persecution, and if Christians worldwide get involved and persuade our governments to tie economics to human rights, then perhaps China, with the world's fastest growing economy, will feel the weight of international pressure and ease up a little. On the other hand, this may not be the best course of action. Persecution certainly has a purifying effect. Another route for the church to take may be not to seek an end to persecution, but rather to seek out ways in which it can be avoided, escaped, or the effects lessened. Chinese believers themselves have sent requests: "Do not pray for an end to persecution, but rather for strength for believers." Persecution, they believe, makes them strong. They fear materialism above persecution.
This is something they have every right to fear. Polls, surveys and news reports seen recently coming out of China evidence a rising tide of materialism that would make an American blush with shame. Materialism - the seeking of personal wealth - saps the missionary strength of the church and introduces structures of sin that corrupt it.
Perhaps the best case study, however, are the thousands of Asian students who committed themselves at GCOWE'95 to evangelism in the 10/40 Window. If this sort of commitment can be repeated across Eastern Asia, then China's legacy may not be Communism, but the final evangelization of World A. In the eyes of the Communist revolutionaries, that would be ironic indeed.
Other than the evangelization of their own countries, very little. But this is no small earthquake: If China, by 2025, could be brought to 75% evangelized, this would in itself represent a massive reduction in World A.
East Asia may be the best hope for cracking the barriers surrounding World A. That may be God's plan: to plant a huge church +behind+ the wall, below the radar scope of the Enemy. If 1% of China's 200 million Christians were to go as missionaries to the surrounding countries, it would represent 2 million new missionaries to World A.
If you want to be involved in World A, you can't afford to ignore China, the Koreas, Japan and Vietnam. If you want to make any sort of impact east of Pakistan, you'd better be developing long-term relationships with East Asian ministries. Even if they're not working in your area right now, by the time you're ready to retire and hand the ministry on to someone else, you may be handing it on to a Chinese national.