…As the century of missionary activity was winding down in the 1940s, J. K. Fairbank summed up the prevailing view well when he said it had “become evident that few Chinese people were likely to become Christians and that the missionaries’ long-continued effort, if measured in numbers of converts, had failed”.
Looking backward””and ignoring the possibility God had other things in store for China””that was not an unreasonable conclusion. According to Stark and Wang, “The best statistics place the number of Chinese Protestants [at the time] at 1,005,699”. And since it was widely believed many of those were “rice Christians,” it wasn’t hard to imagine that number collapsing under Communism. But it didn’t. Sixty years later, tens of millions of Chinese are believers.
This doesn’t take away from the contributions of foreign missionaries; in fact, their efforts before 1953 laid the groundwork for the rise of Christianity we’ve seen since. “Had the missionaries never gone to China,” in other words, “it is doubtful there would have been any books written about Chinese Christianity”. The missionaries A Star in the East mentions never saw the fruit of their work, but it was God’s work, which means it was not in vain. This is an encouragement to missionaries currently serving in China””or anywhere, for that matter.
3. Persecution has profoundly affected the nature of Chinese Christianity.
A number of years ago I was talking with a Chinese Christian friend about Christianity in China. She was a very opinionated woman who always pushed me to think hard about things. “What we need,” she said, banging her fist on the table, “is more persecution. It’s way too easy to be a Christian in China today.”