Month 6:5, Week 1:4 (Revee/Shavu'ot), Year:Day 5939:153 AM|
2Exodus 1/40, 63/70 Firstborn Mourning
Gregorian Calendar: Saturday 30 August 2014
Repentance the Chinese Way
Continued from Part 4
Lessons from the Chinese House Church Movement
One of the things that fascinates me about the Chinese house church movement is what happens when hungry souls seeking for Yahweh, isolated from the world and the theological traditions of the churches, have only the Bible at hand, fervent prayer and their experiences in the mission field. To begin with, and contrary to the claims of certain élitist groups in the West who believe that they alone possess the 'true faith', there is no doubt in my mind whatsoever that what this Chinese movement has experienced is a work of Elohim (God), and a powerful one at that. Anybody reading the story of Brother Yun , who is not already prejudiced by church tradition and jaundiced in things of the Ruach (Spirit), must inevitably and honestly conclude this.
Primitive Messianism at Work
It is not until later, when the Chinese house church movement made contact with Western missionaries, and after Brother Yun escaped from the communists with his family to the West, that we find more and more traditional Protestant theology creeping in, even though certain elements like Christmas, Easter and the whole concept of 'church' rather than Messianic Israel  very quickly attached themselves to the movement isolated fronm the world by the 'Bamboo Curtain' because of the pre-communist work of Western evangelists in China. These aside, there is much we can learn of value from what I like to call 'primitive' Christianity - and I use the word 'primitive' not in a disparaging sense but with the meaning of 'basic', 'simple' and 'down-to-earth', reflecting root or core principles and values of the Besorah (Gospel). If we are interested in the first steps of discipleship and the essential spiritual meaning of the spring festivals then we have much to learn from the Chinese house church movement, at least as it was before it started splintering into denominations thanks to the importation of Western denominationalism (baptist, pentecostal, lutheran, etc.).
Worship in the Chinese House Churches
I have been reading the short book by Brother Yun's son, Isaac , to get the perspective of a different kind of conversion. He relates:
Authentic Spiritual Life
"We would often have Holy Communion as part of our prayer circles - much more often than in evangelical and free churches in Europe. This was a real high point of our community. There was lots of singing, and confession played a large part in it. Everyone acknowledged his or her sins before God and also before the people. Both men and women went up to one another for forgiveness for unChristian conduct and bad thoughts. When two people admitted their guilt to each other they would often cry, first with remorse and then with joy. People who had previously only spoken harshly to each other now held each other in their arms. There was a sense of genuine and great joy at such forgiveness. The new relationships were so honest and so heartfelt that I just wanted to be part of it all" .
Consistently we find in the accounts of both Brother Liu and his son Isaac that it was this transparency and the richness of changed relationships that was the power that drew even the most hardened communist officials, and those who had previously persecuted them, into the arms of Yah'shua (Jesus). Because of the genuineness and authenticity of the Besorah (Gospel) life amongst these believers, "praising God the Father and thanking Him for the death of His Son and for His victory over sin took up much of the time [in meetings]" . It is to be noted (to our great shame, I hasten to add), how the focus shifts away from vertical (with Elohim) and horizontal (with fellow believers) relationships and to either dry theology, legalism (salvation by works), social programs or superficial 'happy-clappy' worship driven by worldly music, as we lose this 'primitive' essence and core of the Besorah (Gospel). And I suspect the reason for this shift is in large part due to the failure of the Western churches to emphasise the importance of making teshuvah - of repentance.
A Chinese Baptismal Service
Describing a secret outdoor baptismal service in the freezing conditions of November, Isaac Liu relates:
"We sang two songs - singing by heart, naturally, but not as loudly as we Chinese like to sing. Then the baptismal gospel was read, followed by a short sermon of only 30 minutes . After that came a lot of prayer and praise that God was so powerful. We thanked Him that heaven stood open to all the sinners who were being saved that day" .
Baptismal candidates had to memorise and recite fluently John 3:16, Matthew 28:18-20 and Psalm 23 with conviction, and in the case of Isaac Lie, while standing neck-deep in freezing water! If the pastor felt the recitation and testimony was not satisfactory, baptism would be postponed a year . In other words, there was an accute sense of the qodesh or holy, a characteristic and sign of true believers that aligns with the spirit of Chag haMatzah.
There is much we can, and should, learn from the Chinese House Church Movement. I have personally found it both inspiring and shaming on me personally and on the casual attitude of Western believers to the Besorah (Gospel). It is not nearly precious enough to us but it will certainly become so, as in China, when the collapse and real, consistent and persistent persecution come our way. We may be endowed withy much knowledge but we still have much to learn in terms of humility, surrender and making teshuvah.
Continued in Part 6
 Brother Yun & Paul Hattaway, The Heavenly Man: The Remarkable True Story of Chinese Christian Brother Yun (Monarch Books, Oxford: 2002) & Living Water (Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI: 2008)
 You have to remember also that some Western Christian terminology and concepts have percolated to the Chinese house churches through Chinese translations of Western language Bibles which began in the 19th century. Denominational rivalries, theological clashes and linguistic disputes influenced these early translations until in 1919 the Protestant Chinese Union Version (PCUV) was produced which forms the basis of standard versions in use in China today. A Catholic version did not appear until much later, the Old Testament being translated in 1954 with a New Testament following in 1968. The classical Chinese translation of John C. H. Wu, a Catholic, which appeared in 1946, is a paraphrase and takes considerable liberties with the original. The Russian Orthodox Church produced the first Chinese translation of the New Testament in 1859/1864 directly from the Slavonic. Two other versions followed, the most recent being a Chinese vernacular version in 1910. Outside the Catholic and Orthodox communities, variants of the original 1919 Protestant Chinese Union Version (PCUV) dominate Christianity, and the house church movement, in China. Like all ecumenical versions in our own language of English, there are therefore Protestant theological biases, and so inevitably the Chinese house church movement will have been influenced by these too. Hopefully some of the better messianic versions will eventually be translated into Chinese and made available to believers there, not forgetting the biases of these too
 Isaac Liu & Albrecht Kaul, Son of the Underground: The Story of Isaac Liu, Son of Brother Yun, the Heavenly Man (Monarch Books, Oxford: 2012)
 Isaac Liu & Albrecht Kaul, ibid., p.38
 Sermons typically lasted 3 or more hours with congregations absorbed in wrapped attention because of the spiritual hunger for the Word. It was olike that in the Ukraine when I preached there in 1992
 Isaac Liu & Albrecht Kaul, op.cit., pp.39-40
 Interestingly in NCAY we were independently led by the Ruach (Spirit) to develop a similarly strict code - see the Constitution, Article 8, e.g. §8.2.2 where we expect a certain standard of behaviour for a minimum of one year before we will confirm anyone