A month ago I was listening to Chinese pastor and revivalist brother Yun as he was conducting some meetings in Sweden. His autobiography, The Heavenly Man, was one of the first Christian books I read, and it has impacted me a lot. Yun describes both countless miracles and unspeakable suffering, persecution as well as revival. These aspects go hand in hand, he argues, the glory of the resurrection cannot be separated from the pain of Calvary.
As a Western Christian who at that point had neither experienced revival nor persecution, Yun’s testimony opened my eyes to what Christianity really is about. Having fled from China in 2001 to Germany, he had some very interesting reflections about the state of the Western church. Based on the story about the lame man in Acts 3, he wrote prophetically: “The Western church has a lot of silver and gold. The Chinese church rises up and walks.”
Of course there are exceptions, but generally this is painfully true: churches in high-income countries are rich in money but poor in spirit, churches in middle- and low-income countries are poor in money but rich in spirit. I would say the latter group is better off, still I am constantly aware of the urgent material needs they have in order to fight poverty and nurture revival.
Knowing this, it breaks my heart when I see Western churches spending billions on concerts, cultural events and, of course, church buildings. Most of them spend more money on these things than on missions. In contrast, the Bible orders rich congregations to give much money to the poor ones so that it becomes “equal for all” (2 Cor 8). Our current situation is very abnormal.
The church movement brother Yun was leading in China is a house church movement. It was mainly the result of the persecution, but this also created a cheap, flexible and dynamic type of church. When you don’t have to spend billions on building, using and mantaining church buildings, you suddenly got a lot of money for buying Bibles, bikes for missionaries or aid for the poor. More churches need to follow the Chinese model. A Christian shouldn’t be rich, and a church shouldn’t be rich either. In the early days only house churches existed, and that’s not a coincidence. Instead of wasting resources on buildings, we should finance development and revival.
You see, my vision is a global partnership between Christians in the north and in the south where the former share their abundance of material blessings and the latter share their abundance of spiritual blessings (Rom 15:27). Missions shouldn’t be viewed as a way for the Western church saving the world, on the contrary, missionaries from the former “missions field” need to be sent to the West to spread revival. I am much more willing to listen to the insights of brother Yun or Surprise Sithole than Western preachers who only read, but aren’t experiencing, the book of Acts. Instead of spending so much money on empty “church activities” and listen to leaders without a vision, the Western church should bless the South with their money and recieve their revival blessings. That’s the form of missions I want.