Be Still and Know: Jerry's Reflections from China

February 28, 2024 • Chinese


When Jerry An visited China last fall, it was the first time he set foot on his home country’s soil in four years. As the Chinese ministry leader for ReFrame Ministries, his goal is to share the gospel with Chinese speakers around the world using media. As the ministry team celebrates 50 years of Chinese ministry, Jerry recently reflected on his return to China and what he saw as opportunities and challenges in this rapidly-changing mission field.

The first thing I noticed was that everything seemed quieter. Yes, quieter.

At first, I thought this quietness may be due to the popularity of electric vehicles. But it went beyond that—people’s faces seemed to lack the confidence I saw in the past. The quiet may be the oppressive political environment, or it could be the trauma of the pandemic, or concerns about China’s economic downturn.

Compared to the past, Chinese churches also seem to be extraordinarily quiet. I spoke with young pastors in many cities, and learned that under today’s harsh and comprehensive control and surveillance, churches are mostly forced to organize themselves into small groups and keep a low profile. With online gatherings giving people more choices for worship, many churches are rapidly dying out or downsizing their buildings.

Evangelism in the digital realm is seeing breakthroughs in the last few years.

Since keywords related to faith are easily censored, Christians try to use more common language to express their faith—the content has shifted from believer-oriented to broader public topics such as marriage and family or literature and art. Since more followers draw more attention from the government, the operation no longer pursues numbers, but serves a niche more accurately. The rise of short video platforms has given a new generation of Christians the opportunity to be creative.

The Chinese church may be passing through its adolescent phase. The new generation of believers and church leaders are no longer easily excited by large conferences and mission movements, but are willing to delve deeper into each individual’s life. They have started moving away from focusing on the relationship between church and state and are now turning their attention to broader public concerns.

At ReFrame, we’re working to adapt to these changes as well. Our printed books, and online components—when available to publish safely—offer theological leaders an opportunity to dig deeper into what it means to be a Christian in today’s society. They help Chinese speakers answer tough questions about their faith, and they offer biblical responses to current events in China and the greater world.

The quietness in China may be a sign that the Chinese church is maturing, and I’m hopeful for that. Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still, and know that I am God.” Still is also translated here as quiet, calm, and relaxed. In quietness, we can let go of our worries and fears and refocus our faith and hope on the almighty God.

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