Dear Missionary Candidate

There are many skills and tools a missionary in China or elsewhere  can utilize in the discipling of men for the ministry. When talking about the tools however, its important to acquire the right tools for the job. I recently met a young lady who was genuinely excited about the report I had just given in their church. I explained in the report that one of the tools of ministry in China is using English to make contacts with people that will lead to bible studies, gospel presentations, and one on one discipling relationships. Many young people like her come up to me with joyful expressions telling me how they’ve heard of english being this wonderful tool to use for the Gospel. This young lady and many like her are so enthused about this one tool, they spend four years in college honing the skills and later achieving the proper certifications to teach English as a Second Language.

I admit the idea of using English as an inroad into places for the Gospel seems like the sensible thing to do, but allow me to make some adjustments to this thinking. Let’s say I have just completed my four year degree in ESL and now have been ministering in China for several years. I have seen the beginnings of a Chinese believer’s life and how it forms into maturity even into leadership of a church. Assuming that my efforts has been the primary role in discipling this believer to maturity, how much of a part did ESL play in this young believers life, in his pastoral training? The answer is, it wasn’t worth the four years I spent training in ESL.

The point of using English or any other “platform” is just to make the initial contact. After the contact is made, I never use English with the new contact again. The young man is then trained in his own language, his heart language.

It is said, “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.” This is a true statement in the world of missions. Bringing an ESL degree into a church planting ministry is like bringing a sledge hammer when you only need a tac hammer, or maybe just your shoe. Assuming your understanding of missions is correct, that is making disciples of Christ is your ultimate goal, then you will find the right tools you need for the job. You will find some tools are too heavy or too light, others are just not necessary, but some can’t be done without. I’m afraid the most necessary tools of bible literacy, foreign language, and ability to teach are the most lacking in modern missions especially in China.

Now you could become an astronaut and spend all the years in school and training just for the noble goal of witnessing to the handful of astronauts that live in the space stations that orbit the earth. And after all the hard work you manage to train one of the astronauts to take the leadership of the space station church you’ve spent years and years of schooling, money, and efforts into building. The story would be legend, but not because your work was effective or fruitful, but for it’s novelty. Now as absurd as this sounds, this is just want some folks amount to doing with platforms like English.

Pragmatically, anyone with the goal of church planting and discipleship would not go about it this way. Experienced church planters know that the platforms they use are just ways to connect with people, and not means to an end in themselves. Our English clubs were very dispensable, and they served us well when we needed to make a few new fresh contacts. We never signed contracts with schools or entered agreements that would burden us further than the usefulness of the platform.

I am definitely not a survival expert but I do love studying and practicing the skills in wilderness survival. When you are all alone out in the wilderness nearing evening hours, shelter is a priority. If your food source is low then you can’t spend the calories erecting a palace to sleep in for the night, but rather you want to conserve energy by making a simple shelter using what nature has already provided. It may be a over-hanging rock, cave, or fallen tree, but the survivalist knows that the shelter is not the main thing, being rescued is. Spending unnecessary energy on a grand shelter could be a fatal mistake. Over emphasizing a platform in missions is like building a castle out in the wilderness when you are only going to stay a night or two. In China, it is super easy to begin an English corner whenever and wherever you like, no ESL degree necessary. You make contacts very quickly and then can move on to more important things from there.  The quality of the English corner that you host is irrelevant, especially if your first a language is English. The English corner becomes no longer necessary after you’ve filled your contact list with people to invite for bible study.  It will only become an unnecessary burden if what you really want to do is make disciples.

Experienced church planters and men trainers will give you a much different picture of what to prepare for and what tools are better suited for the job. The majority of the work in missions is not fine tuning the platform, although it is important to have effective platforms, but majority of work is loving the people you are discipling, and teaching them the Bible as well as how to study it. In the case of training leaders for church, they must be taught the doctrines of the Bible and learn the guidelines for the New Testament Church so they can continue to protect it from heresies after the missionary is gone. My recent trip revealed the fault of many past well-meaning missionaries that failed to pass on the leadership and doctrinal grounding. Many of the churches left behind have now been infiltrated by cults and “another” gospel.

For serious church planters who pattern missions after the works of Paul, the tools they would say to bring with you are the most practical ones intended for teaching, training, and loving disciples until they are mature and able to make disciples of their own. The platforms we use are often so over emphasized, they steal the spotlight of missions for their novelty and romanticism. They make a good story a lot of times, but lack any fruit that remains. For church planters, fruit isn’t seen immediately and people like seeing fast results. Persecution can often be a catalyst for maturity in believers as we have experienced, but either way, a young disciple needs time of mentoring in the Word of God before they bear true spiritual fruit.

My advice to young people or anyone praying about serving as missionaries is to speak with experience church planting missionaries before making decisions that will affect the next few years of your life. You may find in their wisdom a more direct and practical route to the joy of serving Jesus Christ in missions.

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Skype-a-Missionary

There is a trend in missions using Skype that provides a new inexpensive way for both churches and missionaries to get connected.

My wife and I are seeking to return to China or Taiwan by September the first, which does not give us a lot of time to visit new churches and raise the additional support we are recommended to raise. A simple solution is Skyping with churches who have the ability to do so. With the pastor or staff member’s help, we could share our burden, speak with teens, adult classes, small groups, show videos, answer questions, and even preach. We would be able to continue to schedule meetings even after we’ve returned to the field. For our provision, we will pray and trust the Lord like its all up to Him, but we also work and use our resources like it is all up to us.

So if you are a pastor reading this contact us and we’ll see about scheduling a meeting in the near future. We would like to get back to China fully supported, but willing to go with whatever the Lord provides us with.

walzinchina@gmail.com
740 407-4942

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House of Mirrors

 Every mirror offers a new slant to reality and after a while one begins to get lost in the conflicting perceptions of the same truth.

What will you change?

This is a question that has come up from namely an American audience, but also other fellow co-workers in China. Sometimes this question is handed to us in a mild form of rebuke for possessing a bolder approach to missions in China. Often, our open use internet including this blog is flagged by our critics (not by the Chinese police) as being the culprit of our deportation.

So I am writing a response for those young men who desire to serve God in China. Really, who or what is to blame for us getting kicked out of China, and what would we do different?

 

Deportation Through Our Eyes

Firstly, we knew being deported was and is a real possibility for anyone church planting in China.  It is illegal. For us, there are some things about missions and ministry that are not negotiable, like doing ministry out of a local church body. If there is not a local church body, then one must be planted before God’s biblical requirements are met to do anymore Gospel ministry. In China, there is no such thing as a missionary visa that will allow you to start churches. But there is enough room in China that will allow somebody to begin starting churches and training men. It can be done, it has been done. The four churches had seven years of history before we were expelled. Our experience tells us that is enough time to plant Gospel seeds in men who will withstand the sun of persecution and still be found faithful.

We do not consider deportation as failure. But I need to clarify what I mean. If we were deported for anything other than preaching the Gospel, I would head back to the drawing board to recalculate where we failed, but that is not the case. Our expulsion, I promise you, is not the result of deception on our part, nor was it because we failed to fulfill some condition in a contractual agreement, nor our presence on the internet. If deportation or incarceration is equivalent to failure then Paul was the worst failure on the planet. So if its for the Gospel, don’t worry about it. Paul didn’t.

 

Joy that Cannot be Manufactured

Paul died a happy man because of his spiritual sons like Timothy that he had trained. Paul left all for the sake of growing Christ’s church and raising up sons in the ministry like Timothy. Paul in a Roman prison cell, a direct result of his obedience to the Gospel, expressed his thankfulness and joy over Timothy. The Christian faith was born in a place where it was illegal and it has always flourished in places of severe adversity. Real joy and faith cannot be taken by man, because it does not come from man.

I feel like my time had been cut short in Harbin, but God blessed our time in Harbin. We are much more confident to do ministry today than the first day we landed in China. God used us while in language school to mature a young man to spiritual faith. The Lord did the same for my wife who experienced real ministry teaching young ladies in our home. The experiences in Harbin has persuaded us the ministry that was done was blessed without question. After losing our home and most of our material possessions as result, we have great joy from what we left in Harbin and what we have in Christ. Yes, our God can do that.

 

If It Aint Broke….

Why under heaven would we want to change something that God mandates and blesses? Someone says, “because of your presence, the poor Chinese people are in danger.” They were it a lot more danger before they got saved. Perhaps you think it’s better to leave to the wrath of a Holy God? “You guys got kicked out because of putting stuff on the internet.” We spent more than enough hours in a police station and years on the field to know that our presence on the internet had nothing to do with it. The police knew everything about us and the churches. They knew our names, phone numbers, and where the churches were located. They were happy to brag on their wealth of knowledge about us and how they got it. Nothing of our internet presence was ever mentioned. They did not know about our websites or blogs. It never came up in the interrogation sessions we sat through. If we had not started churches and if we had not done any ministry, we would still be there today. The verdict was clear, Jake and I are out because we are preachers of the Gospel.

Why blog? We want to help others serve the Lord. I love to fish and I love it when someone who is catching the fish tell me how their doing it. Friends, they are biting in China, but there is a price to pay to catch them. But let me say this when about our blogs and internet presence. Unlike church planting and training men, a blog is negotiable. We would take it down if we thought it would of helped our cause in anyway. If China had the persecution such as the kind in N. Korea or in some Muslim countries, our approach to church planting would look different, but it would remain a church planting ministry.

I do not want to give the impression that our spirit is unteachable and shut down to outside advice. Even negative criticism is considered if it merits any true and thoughtful provocation. We are not likely to bend to the non-negotiables, but we’re all ears to everything outside of it.

 

Back To the Drawing Board?

Missions doesn’t need to be reinvented for every new generation that comes on the scene. Again, I am speaking of the non-negotiables of the Gospel mandate: Discipling men, church planting, being unashamed of the Gospel, boldness in preaching. Expect more of the same from us, church planting that is. Wherever the Lord might open a door for the Gospel, Lord willing, we will be over-joyed to repeat Harbin a thousand times over.   

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The Harbin Church’s Response to Persecution

I have a video here that I am using while on furlough which features what you would normally see in a missions video. But near the end I’ve added the incredible response and heart attitude that Pastor Liu has towards those that arrested him. I believe this is the Christianity in China that should be promoted over a Christianity that operated in fear and in the shadows.

The leadership that Pastor Liu has for the people there is encouraging to me as we iron out new plans to return to China with a renewed passions for Jesus Christ and His glory in the earth.

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Providential Furlough

After an emotional week of services and powerful message by Jake Taube in Monday nights special service, we bought tickets to fly back to America where will regroup and try to re-enter China on a new passport.

Originally we had plans next year to visit churches looking for new support for our own independent church planting ministry in China. But it looks like we are advancing those plans. We will at least spend a couple months in the States depending on circumstances.

So if your church would be interested in having us on such a short notice, please contact me by email.

WALZINCHINA@GMAIL.COM

We would love to spend time to get to know you and share our heart to serve the Lord Jesus in China. Regardless if we are able to regain entry into China (though gut is telling me we will), we will move on to set up a church planting ministry where Chinese people and language is the majority, a Taiwan being first on the list.

Thanks to everyone for your prayers, love, and support. We “get” to!

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Harbin Church Update: New Direction

The decision to deport us has been finalized and we have ten days to leave. Our families are blessed to be kicked out for Jesus’ sake. Our time in Harbin has been profitable in our training towards training men and church planting in cultures outside of own. We are near language independence, confidence in preaching, and capable of hosting bible studies. Being deported from China doesn’t mean we cannot plant churches in other Chinese speaking countries, Taiwan for starters.

Concerning our approach to ministry, there are some things we could change, but boldness to train men and start churches openly isn’t one of them. We’ve seen the results of faithful, bold, and wise preaching of the Gospel. No one on our team sees our expulsion as a failure, but the result of faithfulness to Jesus Christ and the example of biblical missions. I am thankful for their reminders and encouragement through the whole ordeal.

We will spend these last days with the pastors and interns, encouraging them to press on. Jake will make it clear to them he’s not “leaving” them, but will use whatever means necessary to stay connected with them.

After this week is over we may fly to Taiwan to survey five different cities each with populations over 1.5 people. According to statics there are less than 3% Christian population in Taiwan’s 23 million people, that’s a lower percentage than mainland China. During our time there we will finish our last semester of language study and Lord willing begin a new work of church planting and men training there, all the while looking for ways to renter China on a permanent basis.

Lastly, we are planning between two options, one to return to the US for a short time to have the baby and meet a few more new churches, or secondly stay for an extended period of time in Taiwan. I realize that scheduling new meetings maybe impossible for a lot of churches this suddenly, but we weren’t considering on being home under these circumstances. We trust the Lord is orchestrating these event and we’re just along for the ride! Let me know if my family could be a blessing your church in these next few months, we would love to come and share our experience and our burden for the Chinese people.

walzinchina@gmail.com

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Harbin Church Update: Bittersweet

The more important of the recent developments is not what will happen to us, the missionaries, rather the spotlight belongs to what God is doing in the church here in Harbin. It is apparent, yet not totally certain that we will be deported in the next few few days. This means we would most likely be unwelcome in China for several years, but what belongs to God is the reaction of His church in Harbin. God should be praised for work He has done in these young men’s lives, creating in their hearts an unshakable faith.

The pastors remain undeterred, the group of five interns have not quit and continue towards full time ministry. The result of God using the Taube’s in the last 7 years are four churches in mainland China that are being managed by full time pastors. This Wednesday night we attended services again wanting to encourage believers, but it resulted in the missionary being encouraged instead. It is evident if our departure is necessary, then these churches will endure both financially and spiritually. God is saying, “the missionary isn’t that important”, God is and always has been running the show, building His church.

God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed,
and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;
Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled,
though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah.

Success for a missionary isn’t weighed in being able to stay in places of persecution as long as one can, but rather obedience to the biblical command that we call “missions”. Paul, our missionary example frequently knew what it was to be ousted and pressured on every side. Missionaries and frankly anyone who names the name of Christ should know what it means to be persecuted, because it is inevitable for anyone carrying a Holy message to a sinful world.

Come, behold the works of the Lord,
what desolations he hath made in the earth.
He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth;
he breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder;
he burneth the chariot in the fire.
Be still, and know that I am God:
I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.
The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.

I expect we will know within a couple days what will become of us, and then we will need to decide as missionaries where the next church planting field will be if it cannot be mainland China. I am certain we will continue to work where there are Chinese and in places where Chinese is a major language. We need wisdom reading God’s Word and looking for our answers for the future decisions. We will let you know what happens and which road we will eventually take.

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Harbin Church Update: Their Words Are Never Final

After a second day of questioning, many of the churches and pastors personal items have yet to be returned. They interrogated Jake and Pastor Steven for another round this morning. Evidenced by the police’s quick elevation of this matter and the detaining of our personal belongings along with our passports, it appears that they intend to deport both myself and Jake’s family.

For those who do not know, Jake Taube has been training men in this city for the last seven years and calls Harbin home. For Jake and his family, deportation would most likely mean not being able to return again to China, and the same goes for myself. While, I have yet to start independently, we too would be barred from returning. This situation has yet to come to a close and while deportation is possible, it still isn’t certain.

Regardless of what the Lord sees fit for us, we trust He will gain all the glory from this. We need prayers asking the Lord for wisdom to answer our interrogators. It seems Jake will have another round with the national security bureau, and I am still waiting to called in from my technical house arrest. We were ordered of course to cancel our Easter celebration that was to take place this Saturday, but surprisingly, the churches themselves were not ordered to cease. So we feel there is something else behind their motives.

Regardless what they say, their word is never final, God’s will always wins. By God’s providence, the interns and pastors have been teaching on persecution in recent studies, and I have begun a personal study on the seven churches in Revelation myself. I personally don’t believe our work here is finished, but if that is the case, we will Lord willing continue to be church planters somewhere in the world where the Gospel isn’t heard. It’s still very possible we will not be deported. I will know more after they call me in again for more questioning.

We get to!

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Resurrection Morning 2014

Pastor Levi just said “amen” at the conclusion of his sermon when we were visited by Harbin police Easter morning. Levi had just finished preaching on how the resurrection of Christ should encourage Christians to persevere in their faith even the midst of persecution, such as the kind the church in Smyrna encountered in Revelation 2. They came in first with camcorders taking everyone’s photo and recording while Pastor Levi was finishing his sermons-end prayer. The cups and bread lay ready for the Lord’s Supper on the back table, but we didn’t make it that far in the service. We were ordered not to speak or use our phones. Some of our people’s cell phones and iPads were confiscated, some returned and some not. At one point we were told that not knowing the law isn’t excuse for not obeying it, so with that being said, I can’t imagine what excuse these men will have while standing in front of the Lord’s throne.

The police also visited other churches in Harbin disrupting the preaching, taking computers, taking the offering money, and detaining everyone until they’ve given over their personal information. As for the foreigners, we were detained much longer. Foreigners on student and English teaching visas we’re let go but myself and Jake, who was attending in a different location, were singled out for interrogations to held at separate police departments. Pastor Levi and Pastor Stephen, Chinese pastors were also taken in for interrogation. Police were reasonable with us, making sure we had food and water as well as bathroom breaks when we asked, but Jake’s home was searched and mine was observed while retrieving our passports off the bookshelf. At the police station we joined them in the small lunch, however the Jake and his family were a little more hard pressed for food until a church member went to get french fries for their 1 year old daughter. The interrogations were held in a small padded room with a desk and a wooden chair placed in to the middle of the room where I sat for 2 hours answering questions. Questions such as:

1. Do you know house church is illegal?
2. Where does your money come from?
3. What do you do with your money?
4. Do you financially support all illegal churches in China or just these in Harbin?
5. Who are your partners?
6. Do you know the names of other missionaries in Harbin?
7. What do you do in church?
8. Who teaches you Chinese?
9. What does your wife do?
10. Which church supports you in America?
11. Don’t you know we can fine you heavily for breaking the law?
12. What is your past history in China?
13. What are your future plans?

These questions I answered honestly and withheld nothing in attempt to hide my intentions while in China. There were other questions, all mostly interested in the use of finances. The opportunity came several times to explain the Gospel to my interrogator, one occasion answering a question about our particular beliefs. We were released, but were yet somewhat under house arrest seeing they have confiscated our passports which makes leaving the country impossible at the moment. Jake is scheduled to meet back at the police department tomorrow morning, and I am awaiting a phone call within a few days to decide what they will do with us. At this point we expect fines, at the worst fines and expulsion, so please pray for the situation. None of the pastors were told that they had to stop doing what they’re doing. It is evident that police already knew well that we exist. We assume that the picture taking was their departments way of proving their worth and “hard work” to the higher ups. Truth is, these guys could at anytime come and stop the churches permanently if they wanted, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Their purpose is hidden, but ours is not, so please pray the Lord would be glorified–this is all for the glory of the resurrected Jesus Christ The Lord.

I totally feel unworthy to receive any kind of persecuted for my Lord Jesus’ sake, but I’m grateful to be experiencing it in some way. We were not met with violence and at worst it seems we may be out a few thousand dollars, but It makes me think about the real heroes of the faith who’ve given up there lives for the Gospel sake. We’ll see what happens in the next few days and keep everyone updated. We GET to!

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James Bond Need Not to Apply

The idea of undercover missions, or what I call, “James Bond for Jesus” in China comes from the days of the revolution in China many years ago. However those days are over and times are changing. The political lines between government churches and so called “house” churches are disappearing. Recently we took some seminary interns to Beijing to visit one of these “house churches”, a field trip for future pastors. This technically illegal church enjoys the third floor of an office building in downtown Beijing. One walks in through the doors, you are greeted by smiling faces and professional staff members willing to direct you to a classroom, the auditorium, or even the coffee shop. We estimated over a 1,000 people visit this church on Sunday throughout the multiple services of the day. The Christians we work with here in Harbin will work on their 6th and 7th church plant this summer, of which one of the nine interns now involved in a missionary-led seminary will Lord willing take over these churches. I am not the missionary leading these church plants, so there is no bragging going on here, rather I am sharing with you back home and hopefully that timid missionary in China who is still acting in James Bond mode. The horizon for missions in China excites me and it appears that Lord is preparing answer a lot of prayers concerning His church in China. I personally know and work with Chinese men who are willing to risk being persecuted if need be, but God be thanked, that hasn’t been the case. This all might be different if we were discussing missions in North Korea, but this definitely is not North Korea. These men know that full time ministry is possible because they were taught that it could be done. The most important thing to them was not just the teaching, but the example of God’s man showing them how.

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