Wednesday, September 17, 2008

China’s Changing Youth – the New Church Coming

Yesterday I pointed carefully to the young couple that I have come across in my life. Debt ridden and buried in new problems, attending a church that is facing the same kind of problems as the individual does. Their own problems are their main concern – not that of a Church Group… leaving the church to face its own problems in a serious way.

Further study of the crisis in the USA in the financial power districts like Wall Street seems to lead down to the individual family crisis and their Family Home Mortgage problems along with personal debt. In fact the huge banking organizations failed when they were carrying too many huge bundles of failed Mortgages. The Mortgages all failed when the value of the houses dropped so low that it was worth far less than what was owed on it.

Do you remember when the greatest drive was to get a place or your own and simply provide a good life for your family?
Do you remember when the greatest drive was also to get out of debt as soon as possible and then build toward the future?
Do you remember a time that no one would ever consider having debt at all?

If you remembered these times – you are likely over 60 years old and maybe even in your 80s.

As I have been studying and writing about money problems and cash flow I came across the article that I am publishing here in full. It is relevant to what we see happening around us now. It is written by a friend of mine, David Wang, the President Emeritus of Asian Outreach and published in Asian Report.

The article is entitled “A New and Tough Congregation” (page 5 of link below).

I ask as you read it consider the similarities to our North American family setting. Then consider the church that they attend and the one that we have in our hemisphere.

~ Murray Lincoln ~
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“A New and Tough Congregation”
By David Wang

The topic of their private discussions at the spa, and over meals, was the changing characteristics of their congregations. Over the years it was always accepted that believers gathering in China’s Three-Self official churches were mostly elderly, the remnants of China’s missionary era. Whereas congregations in the rural house churches were made up of mostly semi-illiterate peasantry. “Both of them are relatively simple, passive and obedient,” the urban church leaders expressed. “They are grateful just to be able to gather to worship. And if there happened to be someone to preach from their pulpits, they are satisfied.”

But then, China’s urban churches are a new phenomenon. People they attract are post-Cultural Revolution. They are shaped by the social changes and dynamics of 30 years of Open Door Free Market policy. In other words: much more freedom and wealth.

Of their young congregations, the urban house church pastors are now identifying these new personas:

1. Individualistic: They are all single children of China’s One Child Law, who have been raised as “China’s Little Emperors and Empresses.”

“We are all self-centered, low EQ’ed, spoiled brats. And unfortunately — we are proud of it!” One IT specialist, in her late 20s, thus described herself and her friends in church. “We don’t know how to really be considerate or care about others.”

2. Irresponsible: In their growing up, few, if any, have had to share responsibilities or struggle together with their parents to make ends meet. “Our only responsibility was to do well in school, to get ahead,” the same young woman told us. “Even then, our parents hired private tutors to serve us. And the tutors got the blame if we didn’t improve.”

3. Entitlement: This generation of city youth are used to being given everything by their “Six Adults” — two sets of grandparents, plus their own parents. These senior generations have suffered much poverty and hardship in their own lives. Thus they just can not stop piling everything onto their one and only child.

China’s popular Youth Daily has dubbed this Now Generation as the “Wealthiest in the 5,000 years of our history, and the most undeserving.” The urban pastors lament that their congregations are taking it for granted that the world owes them everything.

4. Consumerism: “For the first 50 years of New China, our national hobby was to save everything. We were frugal to the point of being miserly.” Professor Zhang Xinghua, of Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, once told me. “In the last 10 years the national hobby has changed 180°. The Chinese now are spending everything.”

The youth most probably will add this footnote to the professor’s remark, “And we spend it on ourselves!” They eat at restaurants, shop at malls, visit cinemas, and sing at karaoke’s. Almost always chasing after the latest, and most fashionable of these. Likewise they hop churches.

5. Info-overload: During this very retreat, China’s Internet population topped 250 million. “It’s now the world’s largest, and growing exponentially.” The trend is, at all costs to push China from the Agricultural Revolution into the Information Revolution, bypassing the Industrial Revolution.

“Our congregations are now using mobile phones to do their daily reading. Whether its news, sports, weather reports, or even the Bible,” the pastors acknowledge. “They have all downloaded concordances, references, dictionaries, even lexicons onto their hand phones.” The knowledge level of China’s urban church is rapidly rising. “But the level of commitment to a new life in Christ is not.”

The Church in China endured the Cultural Revolution and learnt to overcome - in persecution. Please pray that the Church of China today will also overcome - in prosperity.

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Murray Lincoln’s comment… does it seem odd to you that the Young Chinese Population has caught up to and maybe even are running a neck to neck tie - with our society - for first place in Self Centredness? Hmmmm?


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