by Paul Hattaway
I would like to ask you for your most valuable commodity – your time. Just ten or fifteen minutes should be enough. My request is that I might be able to openly share my heart about a matter of concern that has grown among some sections of the Body of Christ in recent months.
From the outset of this letter I want to clarify that I have no desire to attack anyone at all. This is not the motivation. The desire in writing this letter is to stand up for the truth, and to let the Body of Christ know that there is a totally different side to a controversy currently raging throughout Asia and in many places around the world. Edmund Burke once famously said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” In a similar vein the Bible says, “Do not allow what you consider good to be spoken of as evil” (Rom. 14:16). This verse has been weighing on my heart. After consulting close friends and advisors, I am convinced that now is the time to speak out on the matter which I am about to. Nobody has asked me to write this letter. I am not a member of any board or committee of the Back to Jerusalem movement, nor do I receive any royalties from The Heavenly Man book, as I agreed to before I started writing the book. I write this Open Letter simply as a friend wanting to testify on behalf of another.
In 2001 I wrote a book called The Heavenly Man. It is the testimony of Chinese Christian Brother Yun. To gather background information and verify the testimonies included in the book I interviewed many people in China who were eyewitnesses to the events, as well as spending a few weeks with Brother Yun going over his story.
Even while writing the book I knew two things would happen. First, I knew the book would touch and bless many people’s lives, simply because Yun’s testimony is remarkable. I knew that despite his weaknesses and flaws, here was a man who walked with God in a way that Christians around the world hungered to see demonstrated. In Western churches especially there seemed to me to be a growing desperation among believers who were sick and tired of tradition and the status quo – they know there must be more to the Christian life than they had experienced. In Yun’s life and testimony there is an example of humility, faith and perseverance that could speak into the lives of many Christians.
The second thing I was quite sure would happen is that the book would bring great opposition from some in the Christian world. It seems that change is rarely – if ever – welcomed in the Church. Church history has shown it is easier for a sleeping church to attack the messengers of change that God sends, rather than accept their teachings and possible corrections. This was the case with the Old Testament prophets whom God sent to Israel, and this has been the case throughout Church history to the present day.
The ironic thing is that Yun’s message is really nothing new or revolutionary at all. In fact, it is as old as the Bible. His message is centered on the cross of Jesus Christ, and the victory of faith that comes to those who trust in the Lord, even in the face of great trials and persecution.
Both of my predictions for the book have proven true!
The Positive Impact of the Book
Let me start with the positive side. At the present time hundreds of thousands of The Heavenly Man books have been distributed, in almost twenty different languages. In the United Kingdom it was even voted ‘Christian Book of the Year’ for 2003, and ‘Best Biography’ in 2004. I have been really blessed and encouraged by the feedback of Christians from all parts of the world – from India to Iceland, Argentina to Zimbabwe – who have written to say how the book challenged and inspired them to a deeper walk with the Lord. A pastor of a small church in England wrote to say he was deeply touched by the Holy Spirit after reading the book that he purchased one for every family in the church. They too were inspired, and motivated to pray more and share the Gospel. Due to this fresh commitment to the Lord the church doubled in size in a short space of time!
Even some well-known Christian leaders have been blessed by the book. The German evangelist Reinhard Bonnke wrote,
“You may begin reading the book The Heavenly Man on your couch, but you will finish it on your knees. This is what happened to me. Anyone reading these pages will not remain the same. Brother Yun’s testimony wakes and shakes us up. This is the message: In the fiercest persecution God’s people, filled with the Holy Spirit, are invincible! They out live and out die the enemies of God and fill the world with the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ. We are condemned to Victory! This is not only true for China, but also for the rest of the world.”
On the Amazon.com website many readers have expressed their thankfulness to God, such as…
Mages of Malaysia, who wrote:
“This book is a gift from God to us in this end times. It will make you realize how unworthy you are in your own faith with the Lord. No words are good enough for this book and the faith that was shown by Brother Yun was beyond comprehension… You just have to read it because if you don’t, you’ve just missed a gift from God. God Bless you and may He speak to you the way He has to me through this wonderful book.”
Andrew of Columbus, Ohio:
“From the very first chapter, I was blown away! Next to the Bible, it has been the most convicting and moving book I’ve ever read. I realize more how good it is to know Jesus and how sovereign He is over the world and in our lives. The book’s convicted me to desire to live a more sacrificial life for God, given me more of a heart for the nations and scripture, and renewed in me my sense of need for God’s Spirit and presence. I highly recommend this book.”
Leonardo, from Cebu in the Philippines:
“I wish I could give this book six or seven stars. There are a few truly rare books out there that can genuinely change your life for the better: this is definitely one of those books… It’s a modern-day classic that will, perhaps, challenge your faith and your life as no other book you may ever read… This is what genuine… heart CHRISTianity is all about. The book is a rare treasure. Don’t miss it, OR the Message.”
And finally, Lawrence of Akron, Ohio:
“I read this book when I was on a mission trip to Africa and despite my busy schedule I was able to read the 400+ page book in 48 hours. This is the best book I have ever read. I sat in the middle of Africa reading this book, and it left me grateful for everything. I finished with the strongest desire to see the Kingdom of God come no matter what the cost. The story and life of Brother Yun created an unquenchable desire to go to China… I will be there in June one year after reading the book. I HIGHLY recommend this book to anyone. The most skeptical of people will be left amazed by Brother Yun’s life and sacrifice for The Kingdom of God!”
These brief testimonies are a small sample of how thousands of people have felt, and for that we are grateful to the Lord. May He be glorified!
‘Smoke and Fire’ Theology
At the same time as these encouraging events have unfolded I have watched as a campaign has arisen strongly attacking Brother Yun’s integrity and his testimony. At first I didn’t think too much of the attacks, putting them down to the constant opposition that anyone serving God inevitably faces. Having known Brother Yun for a number of years and have seen the slander and opposition he has endured. Some of it could only be described as extraordinary.
The main source of these attacks is a website hosted by a Chinese man living in Hamburg, Germany. On the website he gives his name as Lin Mushe, but his real name is Titus Pan. This website is completely dedicated to trying to destroy one person – Brother Yun. It is in Chinese, English, and German, and spares no effort in trying everything possible to make Yun look bad. It is full of outright lies, slander, half-truths, and nonsense. It has even gone so far as to publish fake letters from Chinese believers denouncing Brother Yun. When these people were contacted they were shocked and distressed that their names had been falsely used to slander a brother whom they loved and respected. According to a statement issued by eight respected Chinese pastors who investigated the claims made on this website,
“Unfortunately, there is “someone” living in Hamburg, Germany, who keeps sending out accusations through the internet, email, letters, cassette tapes and CDs to discredit brother Yun’s reputation. We have checked the accusations thoroughly and found the accusations to be false, baseless and a distortion of the true facts. In addition, certain persons being quoted in the accusations also deny having discredited brother Yun in anyway. They also expressed their displeasure of being falsely used, out of context, and without their consent and by distortion of the true facts.”
Dennis Balcombe, a well-known figure in China ministry and the pastor of Revival Christian Church in Hong Kong, says,
“I am aware of the attacks of Titus Pan against Brother Yun and the reasons behind them. From the very beginning I took a strong stand against these malicious attacks and have told Titus Pan my position on many occasions. It is sad and regretful that he would allow the enemy of the church to work through him in this way. All that he has said and is saying is totally false. We pray the Lord will work in the hearts of sincere people to see the truth and support Brother Yun, whom God has raised up.”
Bizarre as these accusations were, many Christians (especially Chinese believers living outside China) have believed these accusations. Surprisingly, even some senior well-respected mission leaders were taken in by them. Various critics and opponents have emerged, some intent on doing all they can to destroy Brother Yun and his reputation through gossip and innuendo, content to pass on false information as fact without making any effort to verify it. This false information spread like wild fire not only among Chinese Christians, but to many Western missionaries and pastors have also jumped on the bandwagon, even though “they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm” (1 Tim. 1:7). Almost every day I receive emails from people who have heard something via someone else, who in turn met someone who read it on the Internet!
This kind of reasoning is completely unbiblical and extremely dangerous for God’s people to indulge in. All Satan has to do in order to destroy the reputation of one of God’s children is to start a few rumours. He knows all he has to do is put it out there and the believers will do the rest of the job for him! This is exactly what has been happening in the case of Brother Yun. In China, for whatever reason, this sin tends to be especially prevalent. It is sometimes difficult to find anyone who has anything good to say about anyone else. I believe it is one of the biggest weaknesses of the Chinese Church, and one of the main threats to the tremendous revival that God has blessed them with in this generation.
Part of the problem is that around the world the Chinese house churches are usually presented in all their glory, as great men and women of God who live in perfect harmony. It is thought that some leaders have suffered in prison for so long that they are practically sinless! The reality is a little more down-to-earth. It has been said “The Chinese Church has a New Testament kind of Christianity.” I agree! But in the New Testament we read not only of miracles and revival, but also of personal conflict, jealousy, opposition, and “false brothers.” A glance at the messages the Risen Christ gave to the seven churches in the early chapters of Revelation will soon reveal the early Christians were just like us – with many weaknesses and failings.
Many people practice a kind of theology that says, “If there is smoke there must be fire.” The thinking is that if there is controversy about a brother, then chances are the accusations are true, at least in part. This kind of theology is completely unbiblical and dangerous. If it were true, then Jesus would be a sinner! He was strongly accused of all kinds of sins by the Pharisees and others. He was a highly controversial figure. There was plenty of ‘smoke’ around Jesus, but no fire except the one burning in his heart for the lost. Numerous other Biblical figures were accused of various dirty and devious things that were untrue: Moses, Aaron, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Nehemiah, Joshua, Joseph, the Apostle Paul… just to name a few.
‘Friendly Fire’ in the Church
In recent years soldiers fighting in Iraq have used a new expression to describe the very worst kind of way to die or be injured in battle. They explain that if they were killed or wounded by an enemy bullet they would consider it a great honor, but the worst insult they could experience is to be wounded by ‘friendly fire’. It is a terrible feeling to be shot by fellow soldiers whom you thought were on the same side!
Unfortunately, and tragically, ‘friendly fire’ is alive and well among God’s people today. Christians like Brother Yun would consider it a great honour to be shot dead by a Muslim or speared by a tribesman while they are preaching the gospel in some far-flung corner of the earth. But to come under fire from fellow Christians, who are meant to be fighting on your side, is a miserable and terrible thing to have to cope with.
It is sad commentary that some Christians assume the worst about people they know nothing about. If there is a new preacher going around with a message worth listening to, assumptions about his motives and integrity are often made, such as, “They must be in it for the money,” or “He is deceiving people with his false message.”
How sad and grievous this is to the Holy Spirit!
Although the term ‘friendly fire’ may be relatively new, sadly it has been practiced among believers since the Church was birthed in the Book of Acts. All throughout Christian history we can find God’s revival fires being quenched by church leaders, many of whom did so out of ignorance and zeal to ‘protect’ the Gospel. More often than not, however, they were persecuting that which they didn’t understand.
Many of the great Christian leaders throughout history have been the subject of brutal attacks from other Christians. Journalist Alex Buchan commented on some of these in a November 21, 1997, article of Compass Direct. Buchan, whose article was actually about a slanderous attack by a prominent Chinese house church leader against another, said,
“Perhaps his reaction meant more to me because I had a similar feeling a few days before, reading about the Church Fathers. I stared aghast as the great Tertullian lays into Praxeous, the heretic, in the most uncharitable terms imaginable. I read with disappointment the downright ungraciousness of the so-called Doctor of Grace, St. Augustine, as he calls for the Donatist sect to be punished by military force.
It seems to be a fact that many of the great heroes of the faith burned with as fierce a hatred toward those they perceived to be the enemies of God, as they were inflamed with love for God.”
Sadly, ‘friendly fire’ is not new in China either. Recently, while researching for a new book, I read how the Nestorian Christians strongly attacked John of Montecorvino at Beijing in the year 1305. John had baptized 6,000 people in the preceding years, but was called a “spy, magician, and deceiver of men” by the jealous Nestorians. John later commented, “If not for all the slanders I should have baptized more than 30,000.”
During the Welsh Revival of the early 1900s God used a young man named Evan Roberts as the main instrument of blessing to a dry and thirsty nation. Most Welsh clergy of the day, however, strongly opposed Roberts’ ministry, fearing the influence he would have on “their” congregations. Several full page advertisements were taken out by Welsh pastors in the newspapers of the day, denouncing Evan Roberts as a heretic and swindler. Dozens of pastors put their signature to the slanderous attacks.
Today, the name of Evan Roberts is fondly remembered around the world as the human vessel that God used to bring revival to Wales one hundred years ago. Few can remember the name of even one of his detractors. The same can be said of revivalists like Charles Finney and D.L. Moody, who were also strongly denounced by other Christian leaders.
Even Billy Graham has been strongly attacked throughout the years of his faithful ministry for his Lord. His autobiography records how a series of early meetings in England met with tremendous opposition from the churches, who opposed him and did all they could to send the evangelist back to America. A friend of mine who attended a Billy Graham crusade in the United States several years ago told me of his astonishment when he saw a group of Christians protesting outside the stadium, holding up signs saying things like, “Don’t listen to this man. His teaching will send you to hell!”
The first thing we need to realize is who is really behind all attacks against the children of God. The Bible says, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph. 6:12). How blind we can be! We cannot fight both the kingdom of darkness and each other at the same time, so Satan knows if he can turn Christian against Christian, he has already won the battle. Paul pointed this out to the Corinthian believers long ago, when he wrote, “The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already” (1 Cor. 6:7).
The Attacks on Brother Yun
As mentioned previously, a website has been set up by a Hamburg, Germany-based Chinese man named Titus Pan, who calls himself ‘Lin Mushe’ on the internet. He bitterly declares Brother Yun to be a fraudulent con-man, a liar, and a thief.
I would like to ask one simple question to start. You may have heard the expression, “I couldn’t see the forest for all the trees.” Am I stating the obvious to suggest that a Christian should find it strange, and suspicious at best, if one professing Christian should have an entire website dedicated to trying to destroy another Christian?
There seems no limit to the variety of ways these attacks on Brother Yun have been launched. The internet, email campaigns, videos, cassette tapes, DVDs… have all emanated from the same source. It is not worth speculating why Pan has been so motivated to do this. All of my efforts to contact him have been left unanswered. What is even stranger is that Titus Pan in the late 1990s was a strong advocate for Brother Yun, even being the first person in the West to publicly promote Yun and his testimony.
All these attacks were only causing minimal reaction until the website in Germany managed to convince three church leaders from China – Samuel Lamb, Moses Xie and Allen Yuan – to sign a letter of opposition to Brother Yun, telling him he should “repent before it is too late.” Samuel Lamb even penned a short article entitled ‘The Heavenly Man – China’s Great Con Man,’ which he distributes in both Chinese and English to anyone who visits his church.
Many people reason that if these three elderly respected leaders from China say Yun is a liar, then surely it must be true. After all, Pastor Lamb spent more than twenty years in prison for the Gospel and is looked up to by Christians all around the world as a heroic kind of statesmen of the persecuted church. Surely someone like him would never issue a denunciation against another brother unless it was true?
Firstly, let me say that it is a good thing for the Body of Christ to be wary of charlatans, deceivers, and heretics. In fact, the Bible exhorts us to do so, and such perversions are one of the signs that we live in the end times (see Matt. 24:4-5 for example). If Brother Yun was guilty of even a fraction of the terrible things being said about him, then it would be a duty to warn others about him. However, the Bible also clearly lays out the way people should go about discovering if a person is in error or a danger to others. If these principles are not adhered to, then all someone has to do to destroy another’s reputation is to make up some lies and pass them on. There are usually enough gossipers around to ensure such lies will get wide circulation.
The first thing that the Bible lays out in such circumstances is that the accused person should be confronted. Jesus taught, “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses’. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector” (Matt. 18:15-17). The Apostle Paul taught what to do when a brother has been trapped in a sin: “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted” (Gal. 6:1).
Have these principles of confrontation followed in this case against Brother Yun? Did Samuel Lamb or the other elderly Chinese brothers attempt to go to Brother Yun about any ‘concerns’ they may have?
In fact, it may surprise you to learn that Pastor Samuel Lamb admits he has never even met Brother Yun before, nor has he read his book – either in Chinese or English. The fact is, Lamb knows little about Yun’s life or ministry, except what he had been told by Titus Pan (Lin Mushe), and therefore his attack is meaningless and senseless. Surely such an attack on the integrity of one person by another who has not even met him carries no credibility at all!
I have personally carried Bibles and met with Samuel Lamb in his church at least ten or fifteen times since the late 1980s. I last spoke with him as recently as the morning of June 27, 2005. I found him as friendly and charming as ever. He admitted that he had never met Yun before, and that if he had the opportunity to do so, he would refuse, because Yun is “a bad man.” Pastor Lamb also said he had learned about this from ‘Lin Mushe’ (Titus Pan) of Germany. When I suggested the source of his information may be lying, Lamb chuckled but didn’t answer. When I asked if he thought it was right to denounce someone he had never met, the response was once again a disarming chuckle, and nothing else. He is still handing out his ‘Con Man’ article to those who visit his church. Similarly, our colleagues have tried to speak with the other two Beijing-based brothers, Moses Xie and Allen Yuan, about this but they also are very hesitant to explain why they have signed the statement. These two dear Christian men admit they met Yun many years ago, but never since.
Even the secular world doesn’t listen to such testimony. Can you imagine the scene in court where one person is accusing the other of some horrible crime? The judge leans forward and asks the accuser, “How long have you known this man?” The accuser, red-faced, whispers, “Ah, actually I have never met him before your honor…” This situation is no less ridiculous, but many believers have immediately assumed the accusations against Brother Yun are true because of the weight of these three men’s reputations.
Unfortunately this kind of character assassination is all too prevalent in China today. In December 2004 an American missionary whom God has used to be a blessing throughout China sent a lengthy email to many different leaders of China ministries, rebuking them for the same thing – the spreading of gossip and slander among the missionary community. This letter had nothing to do with Brother Yun’s situation at all, but was regarding similar accusations against yet another house church leader in China. Part of this brother’s treatise said,
“Some believe it is their ministry to say what they think and repeat what they hear. I was taught that we will give an account to God for every idle word that we speak. There seems to be a dangerous lack of the fear of God today, especially with those in China ministry… Some seem to thrive on negativity. Missions is a competitive field (for some). We need to write newsletters. We need to impress people and raise money. Often we feel that we need to have a story; or some incident to fight for or against. All of this can make us unreliable reporters.
“Why do people fly to China and schedule meetings to hear stories about leaders? If the brother is guilty, all will come out publicly; either in this life or at the Judgment Seat of Christ. The Holy Spirit does not need you or me to be His voice in the world, warning us of our brothers’ sins… In fact, the accusations people make will in no way affect the outcome of the life or ministry of any servant of the Lord. God has not given you or I that kind of power. He alone is sovereign.”
The writer, who had many years experience working in Communist countries in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union before coming to China, touched on another serious aspect to Christian work in Communist countries – the fact that some church leaders have compromised and become tools in the hands of the authorities. In effect, some of the most vicious attacks and slanderous campaigns are launched by the government, using pastors and leaders who they have managed to corrupt. He says,
“In a Communist country it doesn’t matter if one hundred trusted sources tell you something, it could still be a lie. That is why the Scriptures give us clear guidelines on how to deal with these issues… There are many traitors in the Chinese House Church; we would be naïve to think otherwise.”
Throughout all of these struggles I have watched Brother Yun closely, and have been amazed at his godly responses to all of the criticism leveled against him. Not only has he refused to get into any public debate with anyone, he has completely forgiven all of his persecutors and holds no grudges at all.
What is Brother Yun’s response to these three old patriarchs of the Chinese Church? Is he bitter and looking for revenge? Well, let’s see what Yun says in a remarkable statement on the Back to Jerusalem website:
In the presence of the Lord I would like to say I hold absolutely nothing against the men of God who wrote the booklet about me, and I have completely forgiven them. In fact, the booklet did not reduce the deep respect I have in my heart towards these men.
I know that one day we will embrace before our Father in Heaven and any misunderstanding will be forgotten as we worship the Lamb of God together.
If anyone has any questions about my story, or any other enquiry, I am very willing to meet either publicly or privately and answer any questions that anybody may have.
Let’s put aside all hindrances and march forward hand in hand for the sake of the kingdom of God!
The Wave Spreads around the World
The publication on the internet of these false accusations against Brother Yun have just served to embolden those who already wish to see his downfall. Several Christian newspapers and magazines have taken up the story. Even a number of Western and Asian mission leaders have jumped on the bandwagon. I can imagine the devil laughing as thousands of Christians who had been blessed and encouraged by Yun’s testimony felt their hearts sink as they read how three old Chinese church leaders had denounced Yun and his story as false. The surge of spiritual hope and faith that many believers felt when they read Yun’s book was extinguished by these accusations.
In America the rumours and false information have also started to weave their way through the Body. One large church in Wisconsin even purchased 1,000 The Heavenly Man books for the members of their congregation, only to send them back to the publisher after they were told the story is untrue by a visiting mission leader. Now a number of Korean church leaders plan to publicly denounce Brother Yun as a heretic and con man, even though Yun has never even been to Korea, and the people planning to release the statement have never met him or spoken to him.
Thankfully, not everyone is so quick to rush to such poor and unbiblical judgment. One large ministry in Malaysia has displayed wisdom in their handling of this. Late last year Yun was invited to speak in a series of meetings throughout Malaysia, where his book has impacted thousands of people’s lives. The meetings were arranged by the National Evangelical Christian Fellowship of Malaysia (NECF), a well-known and respected national church body.
During the meetings more than 1,200 people across Malaysia made first time commitments to follow Christ! Many repented of their sins and found God’s mercy and grace as they became children of God. Many thousands more Christians were encouraged, challenged, and built up in their own walk with God through Yun’s ministry. As usual, Yun refused to leave each meeting place until all the people who wanted to meet him and talk with him had the chance to do so. Sometimes this meant he did not get to sleep until the early hours of the morning as hundreds of people stayed behind for prayer or just to have a chat with Brother Yun. I have personally seen on numerous occasions how patient, kind and loving he is with people – giving them his full attention and displaying a genuine concern for their wellbeing. Yun figures that Jesus cares for people deeply, and so should he.
As with most places where Brother Yun goes now, the good came with the bad in Malaysia!
At the same time that God was using Brother Yun to touch many lives for Jesus, a strong opposition arose from numerous church leaders and others who had read the rumours against Brother Yun. No effort was spared to stop or disrupt the meetings. Each new city the NECF took Brother Yun they found a pile of emails, faxes and letters had preceded them, protesting the meetings and accusing Brother Yun of being a false prophet, among many other things. After all, they had read about it on the internet, so it must be true!
This placed the NECF in a difficult position. On one hand they had arranged the meetings, and on the other a storm had arisen slamming their guest speaker, accusing him of a string of dirty and dark deeds. Even some of the Malaysian pastors who had hosted Brother Yun in their homes came under strong attack for doing so!
Rev. Wong Kim Kong, the Secretary-General of the NECF who travelled around Malaysia with Brother Yun, later wrote,
“The Heavenly Man’s visit to Malaysia caused quite a stir with thousands flocking to his meetings in Petaling Jaya, Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Ipoh, Malacca and Johor Baru. At the end of his whirlwind trip spanning the north and south of Peninsular Malaysia, many people had responded to his challenges to: receive Jesus as saviour, commit their lives to sharing the gospel, or participate in the Back to Jerusalem (BTJ) mission to bring the gospel to the many nations lying between China and Jerusalem.
Liu Zhenying – or Brother Yun as he is known worldwide – has indeed been an impactful witness for the Lord here. Yet, his visit was not without controversy. Even as he was preaching, e-mails questioning and attacking his authenticity were circulating fast. Most of them pointed to a website that was specially set up to refute his testimony, alleging he is a fraud who is out to gain wealth and status. The website carries pictures of several China house church leaders – such as Samuel Lamb Lin Xiangao, Moses Xie Moshan and Allen Yuan – signing a letter calling for his repentance.”
You can read the whole article here.
Thankfully, Rev. Wong and the National Evangelical Christian Fellowship of Malaysia were mature Christians who have been ‘around the block’ a few times in Christian ministry. They judged Brother Yun not on the content of the accusations against him, but on the content of his Christ-like character and by the good fruit produced by his ministry. Rev. Wong later wrote another article called ‘Sifting the Speaker,’ which outlined the Biblical steps his organization takes when one of their invited speakers turns out to be controversial:
“What happens when the potential speaker is a controversial figure or whose reputation is riddled with rumours?
“Firstly, we will ascertain whether the rumours have any basis, bearing in mind that in our contemporary context, e-mails and other forms of media have been abused by unscrupulous people out to cause mischief and malign others,’ Rev. Wong pointed out.
Character assassination can be due to many reasons, such as differences in personality, doctrines and ministries; ministry rivalry; envy; or just plain mischief.
We Christians are as prone to these carnal temptations as anyone else, so it’s important to consider whether there’s any of these going on between the accusers and the accused,” he cautioned.
The information or accusations against the person concerned must be verified with various sources here and abroad, and not just one source, to ensure a fair hearing. ‘We will also weigh the general consensus here and abroad towards the person. For example in the case of Brother Yun (of The Heavenly Man), he is highly regarded by David Pawson and Dennis Balcombe, both who are respected evangelical leaders worldwide.’”
Article: NECF.org.my, Sifting the Speaker
May other church and mission leaders apply the same kind of wisdom to their decisions!
The Witness of Brother Yun’s Character
From my vantage point, the whole debate that has raged among many parts of the Church has divided into two main camps – those who don’t personally know Brother Yun and those who do.
The many thousands of people around the world who have spent time with Brother Yun have found him to be a good man, humble, loving, and always eager to bless and build up others in Christ. Those who have attended a meeting where he has spoken have made up their own minds whether this man is someone who loves Jesus Christ, or a deceptive con man out for personal gain.
While I can assure you Brother Yun is certainly not yet perfect, having certain weaknesses and faults like any of us, he is far from being any of the rotten things his critics accuse him of being. In my experience, those who have met Brother Yun invariably see his humility and zeal for Jesus. There is good fruit resulting from his life wherever he goes with people saved and Christians becoming more committed to the Lord. Without doubt, Brother Yun has left good fruit for the Lord wherever he has preached the gospel. Jesus said, “By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit” (Matt. 7:16-17).
Gordon Hickson, a British pastor who has been working with the Back to Jerusalem movement in the UK, says:
“I have been working closely with Brother Yun and Back to Jerusalem now for several years. During this time I have organized many dozens of meetings for Brother Yun throughout the United Kingdom. For those people who know Yun, and know how his meetings are organized, this accusation that he misuses finances would be totally laughable if it wasn’t so serious. The truth is that Brother Yun does not handle a cent of any money that comes in from his meetings anywhere in the world. This has always been the case. He never emphasises donations at all, and has never asked a single person for anything except their prayers.
“Our experience of Brother Yun in the UK, and other parts of Europe, has been nothing but exemplary. He has personally had a massive impact on the Church in the UK, both through his book and the many meetings he has held with a view to awakening the UK Church to their Missions calling and responsibility. We highly honour his integrity, humility, accountability, and financial transparency. He has no personal access to the finance generated from his meetings, which is all put at the disposal of the Back to Jerusalem vision.”
German Pastor Waldemar Sardaczuk is the Honourable President of a well-known European mission called Aktionskommitee fur Verfolgte Christen (AVC). Recently Waldemar testified:
“Brother Yun and his family have been living with us in Nidda, Germany for many years. We’ve got to know him and his wife very well. They are members of our church and are a great testimony in their walk with God. I met brother Yun in China many years ago. At that time I would have never thought it possible to meet him in Germany. However, God brought him out so he could be a blessing to the Church around the world. As with all men of God who are used by the Lord, Brother Yun has been the object of much slander, attack and jealousy… Brother Yun has been a great blessing and he is a servant of God who has opened our eyes to the situation of the Christians in China.”
There are countless allegations circulating against Brother Yun, but I am still waiting to meet a single person who has been wronged by him in any way.
Answering Specific Accusations
The number of different accusations and rumours I have heard about Brother Yun are so numerous that I haven’t been able to remember them all! Some have been so ridiculous and childish that they do not deserve a response, such as “Brother Yun does not pray at all,” “He is no longer walking with the Lord,” “He was imprisoned because he is a gold smuggler,” etc. There seems to have been about ten main accusations that I keep hearing, so here I will answer these, one by one.
1. “Brother Yun is a millionaire, living like a king in the West.”
The truth is that Yun and his family live a modest life in Germany. A mission called AVC for years has provided housing for Yun and his family, and taken care of them. German Pastor Waldemar Sardaczuk shed light on Yun’s lifestyle earlier this year:
“I can shed some light on the daily life of Brother Yun and his family… Neither he nor any of his family members drive or own a car. They are totally focused on ministering for the Lord, and have little concern for material things. His manner of life, his conduct, and his family are in accordance with the Bible. We are deeply impressed and also appreciate brother Yun’s reaction to all the lies, slanders and accusations told about him… He has always endeavoured to help the persecuted Christians in his country without any desire for personal gain or glory.”
2. “Brother Yun steals money raised at his meetings around the world.”
This accusation is quite ridiculous as Yun does not handle a cent of any money raised anywhere! Yun decided years ago that he wanted to do speaking tours which were hosted and arranged by existing ministries that were already involved in China and who have a good reputation. This is what they have been doing. This means that the host organization takes the offerings. Yun is glad, knowing that the money is going to end up being used to bless believers in China. For example, recently Yun had about 20 meetings in Europe, hosted by a mission. They collected the offerings and used them on their existing projects in China, where they have been working for 15-20 years already. This is also the case in other countries around the world where Yun speaks. In some meetings there are offerings that go directly to BTJ work. This money is sent to a Hong Kong-based organization that then sends it into China as designated. This organization’s finances are independently audited. From donations given at Brother Yun’s meetings around the world I know for a fact that many tens of thousands of Bibles have been printed, hundreds of evangelists supported and training centers established, plus many other forms of assistance that have helped to build up the Chinese Church. The terrible irony of these accusations is that by attacking Yun the indirect result has been to damage the work going on in China.
3. “Yun and his co-workers falsely claim there are 100,000 Chinese missionaries already outside China, or poised to leave China.”
Yun has never claimed this. The 100,000 figure is a vision that may take many years to see become a reality. Both The Heavenly Man and Back to Jerusalem books clearly state this. In the BTJ book (p.105 in the US edition; p.126 in the UK edition) it says regarding the timing of this vision, “We do not have our own timeline; we just want to obey God’s will and leave the timing to him.” I see this issue of the 100,000 as something similar to the Joshua and Caleb situation in the Bible. There are those who see the potential of the Chinese missionary movement, even though it is still in its infancy, and those who can only see the problems. I am reminded of when Loren Cunningham, the founder of Youth With a Mission, started out. He had a vision of thousands of young people serving Jesus all around the world on the mission field, and openly shared his vision in churches, even though the reality at the time did not match the vision at all. Some church leaders even rebuked Cunningham for lying, much like they are still doing today to Brother Yun.
4. “The figure of 100,000 missionaries from China is hype and impossible to achieve.”
Most of today’s estimates of the Church in China put the number of believers at between 50 million and 100 million. Let’s assume the lower figure of 50 million is accurate. Is it unfeasible that the Chinese Church in this generation could send out just one out of every 500 of their believers as missionaries? Recently a Philippines-based trans-denominational organization called the Philippine Mission Mobilization Movement announced their vision to send 200,000 Filipino missionaries out! The Protestant Church in South Korea, a country with a population about 25 times smaller than China, has already sent out 12,000 missionaries according to Patrick Johnstone’s latest Operation World (p.387). The same source says in 2001 there were already 201,260 Protestant missionaries throughout the world (p.4), with possibly a similar number of Catholic missionaries.
5. “The Heavenly Man and Back to Jerusalem books have resulted in much persecution for the believers in China.”
This is nonsense. We have yet to hear of a single person who has been arrested on account of either of these books. In fact, if anything the number of arrests of believers in China has fallen in the past few years since these books were published.
6. “Brother Yun never fasted for 74 days in prison in 1984.”
Certainly I am aware that this testimony is extraordinary, and in fact completely impossible in human terms. But Jesus has said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God” (Mark 10:27). There are eyewitnesses of Brother Yun’s condition at the end of the fast, including his pastor, his wife Deling, and his extended family all of whom saw his shrivelled body in the prison. Those who make this accusation were not there. Yet I was presented with strong evidence that Yun did, in fact, fast for 74 days while in prison in 1984. In researching the book I spent a couple of weeks with Brother Yun himself, going over his account. To make sure any language problems were minimized, I asked a Chinese friend from Taiwan, who has spent decades translating (including for leaders such as Billy Graham) to be involved with our interviews so that we could get an accurate translation. No stone was left unturned in our effort to achieve this. The testimony of Yun’s 74 day fast in prison has been well known for many years now. Dennis Balcombe, the pastor of Revival Christian Church in Hong Kong, says,
“In 1991 I translated a book called Lilies Amongst Thorns. The author, Danyun, was actually a leading house church leader who spent two years carefully researching the testimonies of those featured in this book. With an educated Henan house church writer, he wrote the manuscripts that I translated. I myself did a lot of research to ascertain that the contents were accurate and factual. One chapter in this book is called “The Heavenly Man” in which there are 57 pages of Brother Yun’s life which are identical in detail to the first part of Paul Hattaway’s The Heavenly Man book. The sources of the materials are different, but the contents the same. Long before Yun was well known or there was any controversy about his testimony, people in Henan spoke openly of his testimony of being in prison, fasting and prayer and other details that are well known now.”
Perspective is a funny thing. While some Western believers ridicule this testimony and say it is completely impossible, when I shared it with some pastors from a remote area of Nagaland in northeast India, nobody seemed surprised or disbelieving. One pastor later told me why. He said in the 1960s, when a powerful revival was taking place, one pastor is known to have fasted for 100 days!
7. “Brother Yun never supernaturally escaped from prison in 1997.”
This has been one of the main issues of Pastor Samuel Lamb’s attack on Brother Yun. When I researched Yun’s book, I interviewed three eyewitnesses who saw this remarkable situation unfold with their very eyes. They were all pastors in prison with Yun at the time, having been arrested at the same meeting. Their testimonies proved to be consistent, even though I interviewed each of them at separate times and in different places. We also have the testimony of the family whom Yun visited immediately after his escape. As a writer, it was not a difficult decision for me to include this testimony in Yun’s book. On one side I had a group of eyewitnesses whose testimony correlated with Yun’s, and on the other, the testimony of those who were not there and who know nothing about the situation. I want to go on record to say I remain confident that the testimonies I wrote in The Heavenly Man book are true and accurate.
8. “Brother Yun is not the leader of the Chinese Church.”
Amen! He has never claimed to be, and anyone who did so would be crazy. Jesus Christ is the leader of the Chinese Church. After he left China, Yun became an “authorized representative” of the Sinim Fellowship of house church leaders, who produced a letter which was translated and included in The Heavenly Man book (p.291-292). The assertion that Brother Yun is a main leader of a house church network may have been made by others in error, but it has certainly never come from Brother Yun’s mouth. In fact, anyone who knows Yun realizes that he does not want any attention focused on himself, so in the past few years he has asked to be introduced simply as “a Christian brother from China.” The lie that Yun is claiming to be some great leader originated on the website set up to discredit him. It has no basis in reality.
9. “Brother Yun was never a major house church leader in China.”
This is entirely true! Yun was not one of the major national house church network leaders (known as the ‘Lao Da’ in China), and has never claimed to be. Nor does his book suggest that he was. Yun was an evangelist who was renowned for his God-given ability to lead many people to Christ, as his book clearly portrays. He also was involved with leading some local training centers and meetings, but was never considered one of the big leaders in China. He has been a servant to God’s people, as evidenced by his efforts to bring unity between the different church leaders, and has never put himself forward as anything else.
10. “Brother Yun is being used by foreigners for their own gain.”
This implies that Yun is somewhat ignorant and able to be tricked and used. He is anything but this. The Christians Yun works with in the West, such as his translator and others, have had a long and fruitful relationship with him many years, both inside China and since he came out. There is a deep level of trust in those relationships. Together they have faced many battles for the Lord. Furthermore, these Westerners who travel with Brother Yun are not without accountability. Their ministries have boards of directors who are responsible for the integrity of their actions. This accusation, once again, is completely groundless.
Where to Now for Brother Yun?
I believe those who oppose Yun are going to be increasingly unhappy because it seems their slanders and attacks have achieved nothing except to increase the visibility of his ministry for the Lord and open more doors of opportunity than before! Yun is not going away, by God’s grace.
Wouldn’t it be great if we chose to be as wise as Gamaliel the Pharisee, who didn’t try to stop something he couldn’t understand, but instead said, “Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God” (Acts 5:38-39).
If Yun’s ministry is not from God it will surely fail. If God is with him, nothing that any of his attackers try to do with make any lasting impact.
Perhaps David I. Hong, one of the reviewers of The Heavenly Man book, sums it up best when he says,
“I am appalled at anyone who attempts to slander this brother and his testimony. Their accusations are pharisaical at best… or are part of another ministry that does not agree with Brother Yun’s supernatural accounts. May the LORD deal with all of you ever so severely, all who testify falsely against this brother. He is a man who has tasted heaven and the very One Who created it. He is indeed a heavenly man in love with Jesus and I highly recommend this book. Please do not believe the false accusations surrounding this man. Please pray in the Spirit and test these things for yourself. He is genuine. Praise the Lord!”
When a Malaysian Christian magazine asked him what he had to say in reply “to the accusations that you are a fraud and that your testimony is a big lie?” Brother Yun gave a simple answer, straight to the point as usual:
“Good tree bears good fruit, bad tree bears bad fruit. From the fruit, you can know whether the tree is good or bad. What people say about me is not important. What is important is that Jesus knows who I am and I know who I am. I know whom I serve. I actually don’t like to explain or clarify those attacks because according to God’s Word, everyone has to bear his own cross to follow Jesus. But I have absolutely no ill feelings towards those who have attacked me.”
Recently Brother Yun shared a message from God’s Word with some of his co-workers in the Back to Jerusalem vision. In part, he said:
“After encountering great opposition and hardship, the Bible records: ‘But David found strength in the Lord his God’ (1 Sam. 30:6). God is always the way forward. He is always the light at the end of our tunnel and the tower of strength to withstand the worst storm that the devil can throw at us! It is IN HIM that we find inward strength, peace, and overwhelming joy! I have learnt that it doesn’t matter what is going on around us, or what fiery darts are aimed at us, they cannot touch the inner life of Jesus that lives inside of us. That is why so many thousands of martyrs have died courageous deaths in spite of cruel tortures. There was a secret, hidden inner place that no man could touch, and no flames could burn…”
When God gives such a word, no demon in hell will be able to stop it coming to pass. I have absolute confidence that God has given a word to the Church in China to preach the gospel and establish God’s kingdom among all the peoples of the Middle East, Central Asia, Southeast Asia and everywhere Christ has not yet been named… As you hear the Word of God today, I pray you will be encouraged to stand and advance for God in whatever circumstance he has called you to. Do not give up, and do not bow to opposition. It is merely there to test us and refine us so we can be a more effective weapon in the hand of God. The Apostle Paul always had these dual factors operating in his ministry: opposition and effectiveness. To the church in Corinth he wrote, “A great door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me.” (1 Cor. 16:9). Without opposition we will not be as effective as God wants us to be. Without persecution in China there would not have been revival, and without a crucifixion there would not have been a resurrection.
Let’s pray for a new determination and a fresh vision, while all the time “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Heb. 12:2-3).
For the whole of this message from Brother Yun, Click Here.
And so I have come to the end of my “Open Letter”. I thank you for spending the time reading about what is happening to a servant of God whose love for God and people is larger than anyone I have been privileged to spend time with.
I don’t expect to write anything else on this matter, as I feel I have pretty much said all that needs to be said. People are free to either accept it or not.
Let’s repent of all these foolish things that Satan has used to take our eyes off the work of God’s kingdom, and rededicate ourselves to serve the Lord afresh once again. This is what I plan to do, and I know this is the desire of Brother Yun’s heart. Out of all the huge groundswell of rumours, slander and controversy that has arisen around this simple-hearted man who loves God, one thing that most people agree on is that Brother Yun experienced a tremendous amount of persecution for his faith when he lived in China. Now that he is outside China, what an absolute tragedy it would be if certain sections of the Body of Christ took over the role that the prison guards and police used to do in China, and we become responsible for persecuting this brother with our words and our misinformed character assassinations. This appears to be exactly what is happening today to Brother Yun. Let us try to put ourselves in his position for a moment. It must be a terrible thing to have to go through.
If you have any questions about Brother Yun’s testimony or his character (or anyone else’s for that matter), please have the courage to do what the Bible says, and go to him. Don’t rely on second or third hand information. Yun is not hard to find these days, and he is always willing to sit down and answer any question you may have. I have yet to meet anyone who has spent time praying with Brother Yun and went away believing he is a con man or a liar! I believe that unless we are willing to confront someone we have heard negative things about, we have no right to repeat those things to others. Perhaps this is part of what Jesus meant when he said, “But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matt. 12:36-37).
In closing, Dennis Balcombe has written the following endorsement of Brother Yun, the sentiments of which are echoed by countless other people who have come to love and respect Yun as a genuine, God-fearing man who loves Jesus with all his heart:
“I have known Brother Yun very well since the early 1980′s, long before he was known in the West. I have seen closely his ministry, travelled with him on many occasions throughout China, know his family and the testimony he has among other Chinese evangelists. I have also been with him as he ministered in Europe and have heard countless reports from around the world given by many who have been greatly blessed and ministered to by him. He has my total support as a man of God with high integrity, who has in the past and is presently making a great contribution to the kingdom of God.”