In this exclusive interview, Elder Fu Xianwei, Chairman of National TSPM of the Protestant Churches in China, shared with us on the challenges facing the church today, needs for Bibles in China and the contribution of UBS to the Church in China.
SHANGHAI, China – For more than three decades, United Bible Societies (UBS) has had the privilege of supporting the Church in China in her Bible ministries.
We thank God that more than 75 million copies of the Bibles have been distributed in China, blessing millions of Chinese with the Word of God. UBS has also supported the Church in Bible translation, Scripture literacy and equipping of pastors and lay preachers with Bible resources and Bible seminars.
According to official figures, the number of Christians in China have increased from 2.7 million in 1949 to 46 million today, with most of them coming to faith over the last four decades. Some sources would put the figure at 100 million.
How is the Church coping today with its large number of believers? With China’s rapid economic growth and its remarkable success in poverty alleviation, do Chinese Christians still need help in buying a copy of the Bible? And what has been the effect of the partnership between UBS and the church in China over the past 30 years?
Following is the transcript of United Bible Societies’ video interview with Elder Fu.
Q: What are the main challenges facing the Church in China now?
The main challenge is that there are many believers but not enough pastors. The rate of growth of the believers is faster; while the number of seminary graduates per year is only about 1000 or so. There are many churches without pastors. The only solution we have now is to develop and train educated people amongst the believers and raise up leaders who will do preaching of the Word.
Secondly, due to the large number of believers, the problems faced by them are consequently more. They face a myriad of problems in their lives. For instance, issues of family harmony, marital harmony, difficulty in interpersonal relationship with colleagues, and stress from work. For all these problems, believers would need help from pastors, to receive some spiritual comfort. But we do not have enough pastors who can shoulder this responsibility.
The third problem is we hardly have young people from the better educated group of believers, and those from the coastal region (which are more developed) churches who would go for seminary studies and be theologically trained. Instead, those who enter seminaries are usually senior high graduates and those whose education level is not very high. This poses a problem for the development of our pastors.
Q: What is the demand like for Bibles in China today? Do China Christians still need help to buy a copy of the Bible?
As I’ve mentioned earlier, believers in China are very much in need of Bibles. They especially love the Bible. Regardless of their educational background, they all want to have a Bible with them. When they are faced with any difficulties or during their quiet moments, they will want to read the Bible to know more truths and the teachings of God. In general, believers in the cities have no problem: they can afford the Bible and will even purchase different editions.
But the most critical group is believers in the poor areas, they face real economic difficulty. So are their churches, which are unable to help them. To help them own a Bible, we will need Bible paper donation from UBS.
UBS supports us a great deal of Bible paper donations every year. With the supply of Bible paper, we can publish Bibles that are lower priced. Some are given free, some are sold, to supply to believers in central and western (poorer regions of) China, and to the ethnic minority who live in the mountainous regions, who face a more challenging living condition, and are less well to do than those in eastern region of China. To them, buying a Bible is a considerable financial burden. So, we have printed different ethnic minority language Bibles with the support of UBS and its members. Now we have published 10 different ethnic minority language Bibles. They are now able to understand the Bible better by reading it in their own language.
Therefore, the need for Bibles amongst the believers is still great. The key question is how to help those who are not able to afford a copy of the Bible, to own one. For instance, we have some elderly believers, who are retired at home and old in years but thank God, though they are not of high education level, when it comes to reading the Bible, they are able to read from the beginning to the end. Through reading the Bible, they experience more calmness in their hearts, peace in their daily lives and joy filling their hearts.
Q: How important is the contribution of UBS to the growth of the Church in China in the past 30 years?
When churches first started to reopen in the early 80s, we wanted to print Bibles but we couldn’t find a printing press. Eventually, through the coordination work of the relevant (government) departments, we found a printer that specialised in printing particular kind of books. After much effort in discussing with them, they agreed to help us to print Bibles. Now because of UBS, we have Amity Printing Company. Every year no matter how many copies of Bible we need to print, they will be able to meet our needs. And they are able to print Bibles of excellent quality. This is due to the contribution of UBS.
Without support from UBS, it’s not possible for us to have the printing company. Without support from UBS, it’s not possible for us to print so many copies of the Bible. In the past 30 years, UBS not only donated Bible paper to us, it has also provided us with Bible Medical Vans, helped us in ethnic minority Bible translation, helped us in procuring copyrights for Bible devotional materials, helped us keep in touch with various overseas Bible Societies enabling them to understand the Church in China so that these Bible Societies will be able to better support the Church in China. All these are the work of UBS.
So, for the Church in China, in terms of its development, the spread of the gospel, the nurturing, shepherding and spiritual growth of believers, I feel these are some of the effects of the work of UBS. We print Children’s Bible Stories and we teach Bible stories to the children. This is also through the great help of UBS who gave us the copyright and provided translation help to us.
So, without the support of UBS and its contact with various countries; by ourselves alone, all this work would be much harder.
Interview: Andrea Rhodes
Edited: Cynthia Oh
Photos: Clare Kendall, Hans Johan Sagrusten and UBS CP
2018 © United Bible Societies China Partnership