While traveling in the Middle East in February, I had the rare opportunity to spend a day with one of BTJ’s original missionaries, named Cory (not their real name).
In the early 2000s, BTJ helped send out a team of five BTJ missionaries to serve in Yemen. The group had studied Arabic together before their departure. They were all in their early twenties but looked as if they were only teenagers.
Cory was one of those original five missionaries that the underground house church sent out to serve in Yemen. “I remember how everyone was praying for us before we left,” Cory recalled. “They sent us out knowing that we might never return to China again.”
Cory shared so many stories with me as we traveled together to meet another Back To Jerusalem missionary sent out by the underground house church in China only a few months back. We all ate lunch together and it was amazing to see Cory offering advice and vital information to the young Chinese missionary.
Seeing two Chinese missionaries meeting together in the Middle East seems pretty natural today, but it was not so natural only a few years ago. In fact, the Chinese missionaries are doing something that many mission experts said could never be done.
The Chinese vision to send out 100,000 missionaries from China into the unreached nations between China and Jerusalem was not well accepted by many western Christian observers in the early 2000s. In fact, when BTJ began to share about the Chinese vision of Back to Jerusalem, there were many ministries that openly scoffed at the idea.
From the armchair perches of plush Western headquarters, “mission experts” dismantled the Chinese notion that they could possibly send out 100,000 missionaries or complete the Great Commission.
Their reasons were multiple, but just a few of them were:
- The Chinese need training schools. They need cross-cultural training programs. They need a training curriculum written by professionals. As one organization said, “The BTJ Movement has been compared to a chain with many rings linked together. The problem is that all of the rings are incomplete, and many of them are missing altogether. These missing links include: Need for training schools. . . . Quality training programs do not materialize overnight.’ “In order for the movement to mature, much more original training material needs to be written. This, however, will take many years, even decades.”
- The Chinese church does not have proper Bible schools in place or education programs to train up the leaders. How can they call themselves leaders if they do not have a degree? As one mission newsletter put it, “What is probably needed is the translation of a whole set of Master’s degree level training material.”
- The Chinese are emotionally driven. They can’t just jump into this missionary work. It takes time. It takes planning. It takes a well-thought-out plan.
- The Chinese tend to over-spiritualize missionary work. Over-spiritualization can lead to too many Chinese desiring to be missionaries without truly understanding what the work entails.
For many believers, the consensus regarding Back to Jerusalem was well-expressed through the simple writing of one missiologist who wrote, they need “policy manuals, financial guidelines, and personnel structures.”
One China mission group wrote, “The talk of a large number of workers being put in prison and sacrificing their lives is frightening to all of us. Such a plan is certainly not strategic and can hardly achieve the goal of taking the gospel all the way to Jerusalem.”
One group was even more direct when they wrote, “There is no biblical basis for the church in China to ‘take up the last baton’ of the Great Commission. There is no support for the church in China to ‘finish the Great Commission’ by itself. There is no historical evidence that the gospel traveled only in a westward direction (from Jerusalem to Europe, to North America, then to China), and that by taking the gospel from China to Jerusalem, the Great Commission will be completed.
All of these concerns expressed about the Chinese underground house churches’ inability to carry out the Great Commission were very well-founded, but then God did something amazing! He used simple Chinese farmers like Cory, who had no training in cross-cultural missions, no bank account, no mission organization funding, and no health insurance plan.
Cory still lives and works in the Middle East as do all of the other missionaries who left out almost 20 years ago. Not only do they still live and work in the Middle East, but they now provide support and care for the new Back to Jerusalem missionaries that are arriving today – they are many.
Today China has several thousand Back to Jerusalem missionaries living and working in the 10/40 Window between China and Jerusalem. That is more than any other nation on Earth. China went from having no known missionaries in the area between China and Jerusalem to having the most missionaries in less than two decades.
God used China to prove all of the mission experts wrong. Today He is completing His mission through simple farmers from rural areas of China just as was prophesied and Cory has the distinction of being among the first.