Evangelism in China has unlimited possibilities, for here is found the largest group of humanity in any nation of the world. Here is the largest racial group in the world, and the largest group that possesses a common language. Here is found one of the finest types of civilization outside of Christianity. Their civilization is highly developed, and well adapted for getting along in society. Perhaps theirs is the most successful set of rules that could be devised without religion, for, strictly speaking, the Confucianism upon which Chinese life is based is not considered a religion, but a system of religion.
The people are justly proud of the achievements of the Chinese way of life. The acid test which they apply to Christianity is to scrutinize the second and third generation Christians among the Chinese to see the effects and results of the Christian way of living. This comparison constitutes an efficient yardstick on which to base their decision. What a challenge this should be to Christians !
Work among the Chinese people first calls for building confidence in God and His word, the Bible. God, the Creator, is introduced. Since modern education is spreading, carrying with it the theory of evolution, questions and obstacles among the student class increase as creation is presented. As among people of all nations, prophecy fulfilled is the unanswerable, convincing argument. The Chinese are essentially a practical people. Their minds function in a logical way, and they are willing to act when reason is presented.
Biblical teaching is compatible with the mental attitude of the Chinese. The religion of the Bible is an Eastern religion, and psychologically acceptable to the Eastern mind. The Occidental can fully understand many references in the Scriptures only after seeing the modes and mannerisms of living in the Orient. Here can be seen incidents enacted, the counterpart of which can be found in the Bible. The doctrines of the Godhead, the vicarious atonement, and others are more naturally understood and less mysterious to the Oriental mind. Teaching by use of parables is very effective.
The Chinese written character lends itself to striking titles and catch phrases. However, the most effective advertising for an evangelistic effort is on a conservative and dignified plane. Neat, well-written posters are prepared and distributed by the church. They are pasted on the walls of teahouses and on prominent places in the street.
There is a custom in the land of China whereby the host at a large party will invite several of his best friends to represent him in entertaining his guests. Their position might be termed "assistant hosts." This custom enables our ushers to act as hosts to those who come to the meetings. They are able to take a personal interest in getting a good seat for the "guests," in answering any questions that newcomers may have, in carrying on conversations that gain confidence, and in obtaining essential information which places them in an advantageous position in making visits to the homes later on.
In opening a series of meetings it is always a matter of courtesy to visit the leading men of the community—the officials and scholars—telling them of the meetings and of our desire to bring something of value to the district. It is sometimes possible to secure a public endorsement of the meetings from men of this type, and this adds prestige and standing to our work.
Music plays the same important role in evangelistic efforts in China that it does in other lands. Gospel music is different from traditional Chinese music. The schools have begun to teach Occidental music, and the people are eager to learn how to sing Western songs. Thoughtful, tactful, well-directed efforts to teach singing during the meetings produce very acceptable results.
Perhaps there is no country that has more reverence for the written word than China. It is well to have the Bible texts before the people. Since many do not possess the Scriptures, it is advisable to write them out on strips of paper to be hung before the audience. Care must be taken to secure a scribe who is exceptionally expert. Scriptural references may also be written directly on glass slides with Chinese brush and ink, and thrown on the screen with a stereopticon lantern. The truth is tenfold more impressive when read by the individual.
Evangelism in the country districts must be very adaptable. In the smaller villages night meetings are impracticable. The villagers do not possess adequate lighting, and so have not formed the habit of going out at night. Meetings can be held in the afternoon with good success. It is inadvisable to hold efforts during harvesttime and at other busy seasons in the country. New Year's is practically the only holiday of the year, and lasts at least two weeks. This holiday affords an excellent opportunity for meetings. The attention secured during this period can be developed later by energetic workers. This is especially true of the country districts where the people have nothing else to do during the New Year's holiday except to visit and discuss new developments.
The large percentage of illiteracy affords a great opportunity. All are desirous of learning to read. Our mission has outlined studies which enable beginners to learn the thousand characters used most. In a matter of week a fair start can be made. The material-selected by the authors of this course is germane to the truth, and must be assimilated during the studies, so that a lasting impression is made on the mind of the student. A great deal of excellent material has been provided for this class of people. Special 'Ss.-bath school lessons have been prepared,, which enable the students to be kept in one Sabbath school class for appropriate instruction on the doctrines presented in the lesson. We are encouraging our church members to start these one-thousand-character classes and form a foundation for branch Sabbath schools around their churches. This is proving very effective where a strong leader fosters the teaching.
As has been discovered with all members of the human race, regardless of where they may live, visual education is important. The use of pictures is helpful. The story told by a picture tacked on the wall is indelibly and effectively impressed upon the mind and heart. Sabbath school Picture Rolls afford a wealth of suitable material for decoration of halls and chapels.
The work of the third angel's message has proved to be especially fruitful where we have institutions, particularly medical institutions. The Chinese mind is inclined to favor settled, solid work. The people have been trained to think in terms of thousands of years ; so a permanent institution that produces tangible results will secure more consideration than an effort of only a few months.
Hurdling All Sectional Barriers
In nearly every province of China there is a strong provincial feeling. Chinese from another province are usually considered outsiders, and cannot work as effectively as men of the local province. This situation is becoming less noticeable since China declared herself a republic, but these sectional feelings are still apt to creep out even in our union boarding schools, where students from various provinces are brought together.
Other mission bodies operating in China have not as a rule sought to spread out over the entire country as we have. By concentrating their efforts in smaller areas they have been enabled to do more intensive work. Sometimes one mission body will devote all its efforts to-work in one county or district. By grouping all their educational, medical, and evangelistic work in one small area, they have often built up as much membership in one county as we have in an entire union.
A recent survey by a group of associated churches in China shows that the churches along the coastal regions are usually more self-sufficient and generally more deeply spiritual and aggressive than those in the interior. One explanation is that Christianity has a longer history along the coast, but has only comparatively recently been promulgated in the interior of China. However, there are fundamental differences in temperament that will help to account for these dissimilarities.
With the exodus of many educational plants, colleges, and universities to West China, a high type of Christian has been brought into the churches in that section. Many of the wealthy class have emigrated, and these with the educated classes have brought new life into the churches. This has also raised the standard of work that must be done in these sections in order to reach the higher classes.
The training of workers has not kept pace with the growth of the work. Our greatest need is facilities for the training of our staff. The workers in our ranks are anxious to improve, but are at a loss regarding how to get the help needed.
In the West China Union plans were made to organize an evangelistic flying squadron, under the supervision of the ministerial department of the union. The leaders of this group plan to hold institutes in connection with evangelistic efforts in key locations of the various local fields. Each local mission will allow its workers to assist in the meetings held in its field, thus securing for each worker the help of the institute and the practical experience of the effort. As the squadron visits the various sections of the field, this plan eventually will benefit the entire force of evangelistic workers in the union.
The use of the radio is a coming force in China. There are now many opportunities for radio work in unoccupied China. These opportunities should be seized and developed. As yet no competent worker has been selected to lead out in this work. By this means the countless millions of China would quickly hear the news of the soon-coming Saviour.