An Experience of Amazing Contrasts

by Juan F. Martínez

A recent trip I took to China was an experience of amazing contrasts. We had the opportunity of serving pastors, meeting Christians in many different walks of life, interacting with university professors and students, and visiting churches. Early Sunday morning we took a two-hour bus ride to go to church in Mianzhu. We worshiped in a style that felt like the church I grew up in over forty years ago. After worship I faced the first dissonance of my time in China. We went to see the new building that is under construction for the church. It is a huge structure that will seat 1,600 people. The current building has a clear Chinese style. The new building looks like a Western cathedral.

That afternoon we started the first pastoral training in pastoral counseling that would last until Tuesday. I was pleasantly surprised to see how many women were in ministry. Several of the twenty pastors in the training are responsible for large congregations or even several congregations. One of the pastors is Korean Chinese and pastors congregations in Chinese and Korean. I was able to interact with several of the pastors and to lead a devotional. Truly China is a complex country. It is clear that the Chinese state does not know how to deal with religion. It has tried to destroy religion and now is attempting to “use” it. But because it does not understand religion it continues to trip up in its efforts. This was clearly manifested in the way to structure Protestantism and its inability to deal effectively with the unregistered churches. I am excited with what Fuller Seminary is already doing in China and what it might be able to do in the future. I am grateful to God for those who have invested so much and am in anticipation of what God will do through Fuller in the future. Fuller finds itself in a complex situation in China. It has a very public presence linked to the Three Self Patriotic Movement churches and to public universities. Yet it also has graduates who are linked to unregistered churches. How will it support its alumnae while at the same time maintaining the types of relationships it needs to continue working effectively in China?

This article was published in Theology, News & Notes, Fall 2011, “Where In the World Are We? Reflections on Fuller’s Expanding Global Reach.”