Have you ever read Bunyan’s book Pilgrim’s Progress? Did you ever read Roland Allen’s little book, “Missionary Methods, St. Paul’s or Ours?” Or did you read A. W. Tozer’s Pursuit of God? Books like these are classics that affected the whole world of Christianity for decades to come.
I’ve just finished reading a new book called Back to Jerusalem with Paul Hattaway. This is a block-buster of a book that could affect world missions more than anything that has been written since Roland Allen. Its subtitle gives insight into the thrust of the book: “Three Chinese house church leaders share their vision to complete the Great Commission.” Between them, these three Chinese house church leaders spent more than 40 years in Chinese prisons and, believe me, both their theology and missiology comes right out of the heart of God. They are NOT just sharing their own vision – but rather a vision that was born back in China in about 1940. The vision was for Chinese Christians to take the Gospel all the way along the Silk Road from China “Back to Jerusalem.” It traces the story of how these early missionaries got as far as places like Lanzhou and Xining and then pressed on into the very provinces that we in SIM have targeted in Western China. One of those early Chinese missionaries Simon Zhao eventually got to Kashgar right on the boarder with Pakistan where he was imprisoned for 31 years.
During the years of communism the Back to Jerusalem vision lingered in the hearts of a few faithful ones – but the philosophy of communism, the power of Mao, and the persecution of the church buried the coals of this vision deep within its own ashes. These coals, however, burst into new flame when in 1996 a number of leading house church pastors (representing 58 million believers) met for several days to see how they could work together for the gospel. Out of those meetings came a very clear plan to train 100,000 missionaries to take the Gospel back thru all those Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist countries that lie between China and Jerusalem.
The dedication, sacrifice, faith, perseverance and vision of this movement is unequalled in anything in missions since Jesus gave the Great Commission. This is far more than just a few people with an idea – it is a whole movement. Behind it is the vision and passion of the Chinese church – which of course is by far the largest church in the world. There may be 1 million Chinese congregations meeting every Sunday. But these are not “cultural Christians” or “post-modern Christians” like we have in the rest of the world – but rather red hot, do anything, ready to die for the gospel types! One of their major strategies is to be imprisoned all along the way and evangelize the prisons with the gospel! No-one is allowed to join the missionary bands who is not ready to shed their blood for the Gospel. They see themselves as an army of worms setting out to erode the foundations of Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism (which of course are the major religions of those countries between China and Jerusalem).
The movement has already begun. Three years ago a team of 39 set off down the Silk Road as the first envoys of this great movement. Before they ever got out of China, 36 of the 39 were caught and put into prison. Word filtered back to the churches in China – and all over the country there were prayers of praise and thanksgiving – that three of the 39 who set out did actually get out of China!
I think that Paul Hattaway wrote the book so that the Western Church would understand what is going on inside China. But what he has done is put together something that will shake the non-Western church to its roots!… My prediction is that this book will stir up the post-modern Western churches as well. This is “real Christianity” the way Jesus and Paul lived it! The book is going to appeal to the new generation in western countries who are fed up with the twin gods of materialism and pluralism. Young people are going to read this book and say “Yes – this is what missions is about!” And some of them will come knocking on our door and say, “I want to be involved!” We had better be ready with an answer.
Finally, I’m pretty sure that the whole academic world is going to take a very strong look at this new way of doing missions. Some of their thoughts are absolutely revolutionary in today’s age – like their commitment not to build a single church – and their refusal to get involved in denominationalism – their insistence on working in missionary teams – and their view of persecution and suffering. It will challenge current missiology which is largely born out of the western world with a new powerful vision. These people want to turn the world upside down.
When you are done reading the book you will want to kneel at the cross again and recommit your life to the Great Commission.