Called to Complete the Great Commission
Brother Yun, Peter Xu Yongze and Enoch Wang with Paul Hattaway
The jacket of Back to Jerusalem recalls Napoleon's observation, "When China is moved it will change the face of the globe." The book suggests that this may take place in ways that Napoleon did not anticipate.
The Back to Jerusalem vision has been a force among Chinese churches since the early 1940s, and in recent years an increasingly powerful one. It is based on an understanding of two millennia of Christian history which sees the expansion of Christianity as moving in an essentially westward direction. Now that the church has become firmly established on Chinese soil, Chinese church leaders believe that it is their task to continue the westward advance, and to take the gospel back to Jerusalem where it began. However, along that westward route, which comprises the old silk road and other ancient trade routes, lie the centres of the great religions — Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism. The vision, then, is not simply to move from China to Jerusalem, but to plant churches in the heartlands of the great world religions.
The earliest attempt to implement this Back to Jerusalem vision coincided with the seizure of power by the Chinese communist party in 1949, and bore little obvious fruit. Those involved were imprisoned and most died before being liberated. However, the vision endured, in the form, for example, of hymns, and was powerfully rekindled with the release from prison of Simon Zao in 1988, one of the only pioneers to survive. The aim now is to mobilise 100,000 missionaries from China who will move quietly — 'an army of worms' — westwards and plant house churches on the Chinese model in the most resistant parts of the world.
In Back to Jerusalem the leaders most involved with this movement describe the origins of the vision, explain their strategy and respond to questions, also describing how they got involved themselves. The final chapters constitute a call to the rest of the world church to recognise the priority of mission and to engage in it.
Back to Jerusalem is a brief but remarkable book, significant for a number of reasons. First, it brings to the fore the significance of the hugely growing mission movement arising from the Majority World churches, and the extent to which the centre of gravity of the world church has shifted not only in numbers but also in vision and dynamism. Second, it underlines the fact that the presence of the Holy Spirit in a church is indicated above all by its zeal for the expansion of the gospel. Third, it is a reminder that God's mission may be advanced in many ways, and that the structures and strategies that western mission has set up and become dependent upon, are not the only means. The Chinese church is seeking to adapt the approaches that have proved so effective in its own growth in order to take the gospel beyond its political frontiers. Fourth, the authors recognise the biblical truth that the mission of the church will mean suffering for those involved. Of 39 missionaries sent out already all but 3 have been arrested. The authors' response is that the progress of the gospel has always been accompanied by suffering, and that the areas they want to evangelise will not be reached without it.
Back to Jerusalem demands careful attention on the part of the western Christian readership for whom it is intended. It should be seen not least as an urgent challenge from the Chinese church to renewed and sacrificial missionary effort.
Keith Ferdinando, December 2003
Dr Keith Ferdinando is the author of The Triumph of Christ in African Perspective: A Study of Demonology and Redemption in the African Context (ISBN 9780853648307 / 0853648301, Paternoster, 1999). He taught mission studies at London School of Theology for several years before returning to Africa full time in 2006 to continue his work in theological education there with AIM International at the Faculté de Théologie Evangélique au Rwanda.Piquant | Order from www.christianbookshops.org