The growth and success of the Chinese church in recent decades has been well documented. Since the death of Mao Zedong, millions of Chinese have given their life to Christ. More recently, thousands of believers have ventured into the mission field overseas. (Read CT's latest story.)
But despite the passion and action of these Christians, the Chinese Church largely exists without formal resources and training, especially for those called to ministry. Enter Christianity Today's Building Church Leaders (BCL) partnership with Overseas Campus Ministries, now in its seventh year.
For a time, most Chinese congregations remained small enough that this lack of leadership training didn't hurt the church, says Matt Chen of OCM.
"But when congregations began to increase to 200 or 300 people, leaders needed more training that equipped them to lead the church," he said.
More than half a decade ago, OCM realized that rather than develop curriculum from scratch, many of the resources Chinese pastors needed already existed, thanks to Christianity Today and BCL. This particular ministry, www.bcl-chinese.net, translates BCL training tools and makes it available online for pastors and lay leaders.
Today, the website employs three translators (including the individual who translated Rick Warren's A Purpose Driven Life into Chinese) and has more than 100 translated tools available on issues ranging for spiritual care to small groups to vision casting and planning.
One of the most important topics has been assimilation—or teaching people how to be part of the life of the church.
"We've had three workshops on the topic of assimilation, with more than 100 churches participating," said Chen, whose primary role at OCM is to organize events to teach church leaders how to use these tools.
BCL tools have had real life impact on Chinese church life.
"Many people come to the church but few of them stay," he said. "We've used BCL's assimilation training tools in the workshops to increase the retention rate."
In addition to the translated BCL tools, the ministry sends out a newsletter several times a month to its more than 6,000 subscribers. They've also organized workshops in Los Angeles, Chicago, and Wenzhou. (Those taking advantage of the ministry also include Chinese immigrants to the US.)
One of the ministry's 2017 goals is to also translate more than 40 of CT's SmallGroups.com tools over the next three years. Why? There's a "vital" need for "for small group materials among Chinese Churches, especially the house churches in China," stated OCM's 2016 annual report.
"These training tools are especially beautiful for young Chinese leaders because it's relevant," said Chen. "The content is very solid and includes best practices from American church leaders, including many new but transferrable concepts that are not known by Chinese leaders."
One of those concepts: church leader organization.
"The BCL tools are very systematic: they have information for senior pastors, elders, deacons; from leadership management up to church operations," said Chen. "Leaders who know how to use BCL training tools can use them to develop and lead their ministry training meetings. It's very easy to use. The church leader can customize the training tools for 1-on-1 coaching, 1-on-1 training, board meetings, a one-day training, or church leaders' retreat."
"The Chinese church is grateful for the practical resources that Christianity Today has created and generously let us translate and use. These CT tools have engaged, encouraged, and equipped thousands of Chinese church leaders throughout our country and all over the world."
You can read more about Christianity Today's ministry to Chinese Christian leaders here.
Morgan Lee is an assistant editor of Christianity Today.