As this amazing journey took us on some serious curves in 2019, I just want to look back and remember what our philosophy is and why we did what we did, even if it is just to remind myself of the boldness that brought us to where we are—and be encourage to keep on in this boldness. No regrets.
If you are just now following this story, here is the other posts related to our current situation:
- December 10, 2019: Resurrection is coming…
- December 5, 2019: Heartbroken
- November 17, 2019: Urgent: Persecution Continues. We Need Your Help And Prayers!
Because we have been questioned, told or warned by many “well-intentioned believers” about our approach to missions in China, I can hear a resounding, “You were too bold and open as a missionary to China!” in my head. And If I allow that thought to stay… fear creeps in and I start thinking about a philosophy of missions that I don’t want anything to do with. A philosophy of missions that would put one’s personal safety/comforts above the proclamation of the gospel (especially in the case of real or perceived persecution). A philosophy that would look down on bold missionaries as reckless or ignorant missionaries who didn’t heed the call of wisdom and harmlessness. A philosophy that rewards longevity in a location over obedience to the work of the commission. But that kind of philosophy of missions…I want nothing to do with.
I want a philosophy of missions that is biblically based. See the following series of articles from this blog (and note the year they were published):
- Sermons on Persecution (2018)
- Boldness (1 of 2) Speaking & Confidence (2012)
- Serpents and Doves (1 of 5) Introduction (2012)
- Undercover or Under-the-Covers (1 of 5) (2011)
- “We’re missionaries, it’s an occupational hazard.” (1 of 4) (2011)
Personally, these are all things that I have considered already and just need to be reminded of. I skimmed through some of my old articles under the following category “Persecution, Fear, Boldness” on this blog and I would like to share some of what I found and was reminded of.
This Is Nothing New
I have written about this subject before, the last time some of our friends were deported from the country. I think It would be good to review what I said then:
“People have been telling us for years that we are going to be kicked out of China. Some would say it to our faces and others would just say it to others. So, why didn’t we listen to these warnings? Why didn’t we listen to the caution and the perceived wisdom of others?
This is a good question to ask and answer. I wanted to answer it for those who may be wondering. I know haters will be haters, and this won’t change them. So let me try to explain for everyone else who is genuinely wondering…
Answer: We do ministry in the manner that we do because we believe it is right and the best way to accomplish our goals.
There are two aspects to what I mean here:
(1) The Fundamentals (non-negotiable) – These are the core things that we are committed to doing where ever we are doing ministry in the world, such as, preaching the gospel, making disciples, planting churches, training men, etc. If I was not able to do these things in a consistent manner, then I would change fields or be persecuted for doing them. To me, these “fundamentals” are to be obeyed or disobeyed.
Many people working in China often give up the rights to some of the fundamentals so they can do the other or vice versa (usually give up everything else for the opportunity to do some evangelism). But most people would agree that we need to obey these, and they usually don’t send hate mail to us because we shared the gospel with someone (though you might be suprised).
The hate mail usually comes from the second aspect:
(2) The Preferences (negotiable) – These are all the “hot button” issues. How open should we preach the gospel? How much information do we put on the internet? Do we have to talk in code? Can you send a text message to someone with “Bible words” in it? Can you invite strangers to your church or do they first have to have a relationship with someone, so you know they aren’t undercover police? Can you use Facebook? Should you use a false name? Should you witness to a police officer?
As a team, we have taken an “open” stance in both of these areas. For us, the “fundamentals” are settled. It is the “preferences” that are constantly changing. We do have limits. I don’t think anyone on our team has been preaching on the street with a bullhorn. We don’t think there is anything wrong with it; we just have chosen not to do it because we don’t think it helps us accomplish our goal. Opportunities for us to present the gospel in a more clear and effective way are abundant. So we have chosen a different route.”From an article I posted in May of 2014 titled: “Hate Mail (Considering Common Questions)”
Another question you might have is: How is this the best way to accomplish your goals if you get deported?
Answer: We believe that we can produce more fruit doing ministry with a wise forwardness (boldness) in a short period than doing ministry with a fearful mindset over a long period.From an article I posted in May of 2014 titled: “Hate Mail (Considering Common Questions)”
If you see our team doing something that you are wondering about, it is probably for one of the five reasons:
(1) We don’t think it is a threat.
(2) It is a threat but a fundamental.
(3) It is a threat, not a fundamental, but the effectiveness is worth the risk.
(4) It is not a fundamental, but we don’t know if it is a threat or not, so we are testing the line and willing to take the risk.
(5) It is not a fundamental, but it is a threat and we are not wanting to take the risk.From an article I posted in May of 2014 titled: “Hate Mail (Considering Common Questions)”
How To Go Forward?
Many people are probably wondering “how do they move forward” after an event like this happens.
If our American missionary friends get kicked out, how can we in good conscience tell others to go? How can we encourage people to continue to be bold in China? Were we out-of-place in our thinking and bold approach to ministry in a closed country? We talked much, and now we are in trouble. What now?
To me, the answer to these question are simple: we will keep doing what we have always done because it is biblical. Nothing changes. We do not advocate being bold because we think you won’t get caught, but because it is the Bible thing to do.
There are mixed emotions that come with an event like this, but I do know that it encourages me (to train men and continue attempting great things for God). You can be confident that…
We will not back down.
We will not be silent.
We will be loud.
We will be bold.From an article I posted in May of 2014 titled: “What next? How do we go forward?”
How To Continue?
How can someone continue to serve in persecution?
They can continue to serve in persecution because of JESUS! They have fallen in love with Jesus, the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. They know him as Savior and Lord. Jesus has radically changed their lives and therefore they are willing to give their own lives for Him. This is the biggest and most important reason that a person can endure persecution and serve in the face of threats.From an article I posted in August of 2011 titled: “Serving in Persecution”
Was It Worth It?
We were given about 8 years in China. Two years doing full-time language study and six more years doing church planting. Here is what we are leaving behind… and Lord willing will be working to push forward as we continue to reach into mainland China while serving in Taiwan.
In 2012, we moved to a new city in Northeast China which has a population of 6.17 million souls. We started pioneering our first church plant. Finally, by God’s help, Grace Baptist Church was officially organized on Sunday, November 9, 2014. The Lord has been growing His church and we have seen many souls saved and baptized over the years. The church is actively reaching out to the local community through its different ministries and at the same time edifying the saints inside the church. Besides our public worship services and Bible studies, the church also hosted a bilingual children’s ministry that reached out to unbelieving families. We have had a great response to this ministry and we are excited about how God has used it.
As the church was growing, we were praying that God would give us men to train. Several men were in the discipleship funnel and eventually God heard our prayers and gave us two men who surrendered to be full-time pastors. We trained those men for the next couple of years before we turned the church over to one of them as we left China for furlough. The other Chinese man also started pastoring a church in the same year. Eventually, the Lord gave us a third Chinese pastor to train and influence.From “About China Ministry”
Conclusion: Counted the Cost
Even though the timing of our somewhat forced departure from China caught us by surprise, the fact that we would one day possibly have to leave China because our ministry efforts there wasn’t. We knew ahead of time that our philosophy of ministry could lead to possibly deportation and/or persecution…and we wouldn’t have change it. We counted the cost.
Thus, in closing this article, I give the same call as I did back in 2014, “For perspective missionaries, come with us to China and risk being deported for the gospel”—meaning give your life to do great things for God in China even though that means you might get persecuted for doing so… never seeking persecution but fulfilling the great commissions in spite of it.
After all, we are missionaries, it’s an occupational hazard.
Will you count the cost? Will you go in my place? Will you be counted among the brethren who have and currently are paying the price of following their Saviour in the country of China? Ignore the critics. Look to Jesus…the Lamb who was slain! Andy may we reach China with the gospel proclaiming: “May the Lamb that was slain receive the reward of His suffering.”