As one of China's underground church leaders, Brother Yun lived a life that seemed straight off the pages of Acts. After over 20 years of preaching, imprisonment, church-planting, and being endlessly hunted down by authorities, Yun finally had to escape from his beloved country to Germany. While he would have gladly died in China for his faith, it was not to be—instead, now blacklisted from ever being able to return, he now serves the Chinese Church as an ambassador, telling their stories and challenging Christians in the West to partner with them in the Great Commission.
While on a recent trip to the US, Brother Yun and his translator spoke with In Touch about evangelism, the state of the Western Church, and China's special calling to missions.
Erin Gieschen: Many who read your biography, "The Heavenly Man," are amazed at how rapidly the underground church grows, and especially the strong commEGent of the Christians in China. Yet, as you know from living in the West, it's often a very slow, patient process that the Church goes through here to communicate to others at this time, in this generation. Our challenges seem so different because people here have heard "the gospel," but not always in its truth—only in the outward "form of godliness," not the reality of it. With that in mind, what's your advice for the Western Church in the area of communicating the gospel in truth?
Brother Yun: I have to be honest; I don't have a bountiful number of ideas of how to do this successfully. But one thing I know for sure is that the key is the love of God. We have this really passionate love for Jesus, and with that passion we pray for others. Something happens when you are praying for someone's salvation with this kind of powerful love. The passion of your heart will be communicated right into the soul and the heart of that person. The way we are sharing the gospel in China may, of course, be different because of cultural differences, but I believe that the teaching of the Bible says it's through our love we will win the world.
There is one part I see missing from the gospel in the West. We are asking people to receive Jesus as their Savior, but we are totally unable to communicate the necessity that every believer has also to become His disciple. We often do not share with people that to be a disciple you have to pay the price for that discipleship.
In China, we always first present the grace of God. And then after the people have tasted the grace of God, then we will share with them the truth of God. It seems that in the West we are very quick to point out the truth. And then maybe later introduce God's grace, but the West doesn't emphasize its power, and that is one of the keys for the success of spreading the gospel in China.
We have experienced that if we first try to answer all the questions of the people who come forward, it's just one answer that will create another question and it's an ongoing, long process. But if we are able to bring this person into a prayer relationship with Jesus, then he can directly communicate with Jesus, and that is already the beginning of that person's walk with the Lord.
I like to use this illustration from the Bible, in John 5: One day Jesus came to the Bethesda Pool, and there was this guy who had been lying there paralyzed for 38 years. Jesus did not ask him anything else except the most important thing: "Do you want to get well?" When the man said that this was what he wanted, Jesus said to him, "Stand up and walk." And the man was healed. It was only afterwards, when Jesus met the same guy the next time, that He taught him and gave him instructions how to go onwards further in his life.
EG: What do you think God wants to do in the church in America? And why do you think we aren't having the spiritual impact that He might want us to have?
Brother Yun: My real prayer is that the church in the USA would have a passionate relationship with Jesus. If our foundation is not solid in Christ alone, then in whatever we do, those other foundations will influence our actions. I think that is has to do also with the type of gospel that we are preaching. We are not called to determinate other people's failures and sins. We are called to share the good news about our Savior, Jesus, who came to save the whole world.
I'm really worried because sometimes I have seen in Christian media, some publications and TV programs that are accusing and attacking other believers. It seems they don't remember that all of us who have come to the Light will one day have to stand up for trial for everything we have done. When we are attacking others, we hurt the church and it does not bring any glory to Jesus. The Lord is the one who first loved us and that's the reason we should love Him and all who are His followers. When we attack one another, we come to lose all the anointing upon our ministries and our work to the Lord. We are really losing this battle because we are not trustworthy. Our message as we preach it is not trustworthy. The Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists living in this nation, they can hardly believe the gospel because they see all the internal strife that is going among the Christians. So our reputation is oh-so-very low just because of this kind of thing.
So I pray and believe that God is going to bring His church together in unity to stand behind Him to accomplish the Great Commission. Many have different plans and ideas how to achieve that, but the Great Commission is saying to the church that we should all labor together for its fulfillment within our generation.
EG: Can you tell us more about the Back to Jerusalem movement that you and many other Chinese church leaders are involved in?
Brother Yun: First of all, I want to emphasize that Back To Jerusalem is a vision. It is not an organization or the national plan of any organization. It is a God-given vision to His church in China. It is part of the Great Commission and it's about the last fulfillment of the Great Commission, to bring the gospel to the ends of the earth.
When God started to communicate this with his church in China in the 1940's, about 60 years ago about the Great Commission, He also gave us a geographical direction. From the very beginning, it was very clear that from the Great Wall of China to the Eastern Gate of Jerusalem, on this ancient road known as the Silk Road, every nation and people group needed to hear that Jesus loves them and is their Savior. Starting from China and traveling west, our vision is to fill every village and every city, every town, every country with the gospel of Jesus Christ. The Lord has called us to be ambassadors for the Kingdom of God. Not expanding anything of our own; we just want to expand the Kingdom of God. And the Lord has promised that the whole world will be filled with His glory and presence. (Habakkuk 2:14)
Most of the first generation of Back to Jerusalem missionaries with this vision died during imprisonment. Some survived, but many were sentenced to tens of years of prison as they were caught by authorities in the late 1940's. But God-given vision is always greater to us than our lives. So the vision survived even when the carriers of the first generation passed away.
Wherever we are, we consider it our "Jerusalem," so we start in the place where we are and we make sure that there is nobody living around us who has not yet heard and had the chance to receive Jesus Christ before moving on. The church in China is already marching towards the west. These missionaries are present in several countries already.
The reason why we come to the Western world such as Europe and America is to wake up the church to start the work from where they are to meet us somewhere midway. In Chinese, we have a saying that "Foreigners have high noses," which means that Westerners are thought to be proud. But I know that not all are; I have also seen many who are really humble, and they are also needed to reach the world with us.
Again, the Back to Jerusalem vision is nothing more than fulfillment of the Great Commission. It belongs not only to the church in China, it belongs to the church in America, Europe, and around the world—we should all bring the gospel of Jesus Christ, with its power, to those who have not yet heard. I recognize that in the history of Western Christian church there are a lot of failures, and really bad things have happened in our relationship with the Muslims. But I believe and I see that there are many Christian groups growing up in this nation [the U.S.] with true love and compassion towards Muslims. I really praise the Lord for that.
If we really discover our roots in the love of Jesus, He will be able to use us as messengers to communicate that love to the world.
SI Moderator - Greg Gordon