A Back To Jerusalem Dialogue
by Anthony Bollback
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MISSION CONFERENCE “BACK TO JERUSALEM” DIALOGUE
By Anthony G. Bollback
(This “Back to Jerusalem” dialogue is a brief challenge churches can use at a Mission Conference or a Missions Moment on a Sunday to stir their members to prayer and commitment for China’s persecuted church. Three people are required for this dialogue: a narrator and two men to take the parts of Pastor Ma and Pastor Xhang (pronounced as jang). They can be seated at a small table. It takes approximately 8-10 minutes to tell this triumphant story of a movement that is sweeping China today. For added affect, the man reading the part of Pastor Xhang in the second section may appear with his head bandaged and his arm in a sling from the severe beating he suffered. A crutch is also effective as he slowly hobbles to the table)
(Narrator and Pastor Ma are seated at the table)
Back to Jerusalem—it’s been a rallying cry of the beleaguered house churches of China for more than 60 years. It is not a call to go shopping in the fascinating bazaars of Jerusalem. It is not the rallying cry of Chinese Christians to be on the Mount of Olives when Jesus returns, as wonderful as that might be. No, it is the passionate cry that has risen out of the caldron of suffering and privation of China’s persecuted church. Having personally experienced the sadistic wrath of their Communist persecutors, they believe that they are eminently qualified by God to plant churches from west China all through the Muslim countries along Marco Polo’s old Silk Road. It was in 1940, after evacuating westward before the onrushing Japanese army that this vision first burst upon the heart of Pastor Mark Ma of the China Inland Mission. Listen to the words of Pastor Ma.
I was in deep prayer on the evening of November 25, 1942 when the clear, unmistakable call of God came to me to lead a group of students from our Northwest Bible Institute westward, to the vast Muslim province of Xinjiang (Pronounced Shinjiang). All efforts to plant churches there had failed, but I heard God speaking to me saying, “Enter Xinjiang and preach the gospel.” I felt a fearful trembling in my heart as I realized the cost of such an undertaking in this province populated predominately by fanatical Chinese Muslims. For some time I continued praying about what this call meant. Then on Easter Sunday, 1943, God moved in the lives of our students that proved to be the genesis for a chain of events that drastically changed their lives. A large map of China had been drawn on the ground of the courtyard. In the quiet hush of the early sunrise service, the leader said, “Let those who have received the Lord’s commission leave your place and go, stand on the province to which God is calling you.” As the sun rose over the horizon, eight young people were found standing on Xinjiang! As soon as their studies were completed, they mounted camels for the long, arduous trek to Xinjiang Province. Filled with enthusiasm to evangelize this Muslim province, they were keenly disappointed when serious political unrest in the province caused authorities to refuse them entrance. Extremely disappointed, they retraced their steps and we all resorted to more earnest prayer.
(Pastor Ma exits after completing his part)
(Narrator sits alone at the table and continues the dialogue)
Undaunted by this set back, Pastor Ma realized that they needed more preparation for this Mission Impossible task. Unexpectedly, another serious hurdle appeared to stop the advance. The Communists swept down out of the north and engulfed the country in civil war. Mao Zedong was the eventual victor, plunging the nation into the darkest night of suffering and persecution in its long history. Hundreds of pastors and thousands of believers were sent to prison camps for reeducation where they suffered unbelievable privations and horrible persecution. Many in the western world believed that the church could not survive the cruel, relentless hand of the oppressor. The Back-to-Jerusalem light dimmed under Satan’s persistent onslaught, but thanks be to God, it could not be extinguished. Although thousands languished and died in those miserable concentration camps for 20 and more years, they faithfully bore witness to the saving power of the gospel. And, once again, the call came ringing in many hearts—“when this night has past, prepare workers to take the gospel back to Jerusalem.” One of the men God spoke to in the midst of the terrible night of suffering was Pastor Xhang Rong-leong who spent 14 years in prison. “Yes, Lord,” he responded, “I will lead your people to fulfill this Macedonian call.”
Come with me on an imaginary journey back to his prison cell. A few days ago, he was beaten unmercifully.
(Pastor Xhang enters leaning on a crutch with one arm in a sling and his head bandaged from the severe beating he suffered. Some blood spots on the bandage will add effect. The narrator continues as the pastor slowly and painfully takes his seat at the table)
During more than 18 hours of interrogation and beating, his arm was broken, and his head badly injured. His cell is cold and damp, and he moves with great pain, but his heart beats in tune with God’s heart as he pours out his soul for his lost countrymen.
Oh, my Father! The night is long and the darkness is so dense, but you are here with me in this miserable place to sustain me for the purpose of preparing young people to fulfill the task of the Great Commission. I praise you that you have revealed to me that this present suffering is in preparation for Chinese believers to penetrate the darkness of the Muslim world of west China and all the way though the countries between there and Jerusalem. You have proven to me, and I am sure to many of my fellow pastors, that no Muslim can think of tortures any greater than what we have already suffered here at the cruel hands of the Communists. And I praise you that now we know we can endure through the power of your Son Jesus Christ no matter what the cost may be. By faith, I see hundreds, yea thousands of house churches in South China, that you will allow me to raise up to be heralds of the gospel. I see thousands of believers willing to die for you in the lands along the old Silk Road on the way to Jerusalem. May the day be hastened when I will be released from this bondage to be part of this miracle—an army of Chinese believers marching relentlessly forward in the name of our blessed Lord Jesus Christ.
(Pastor Xhang slowly leaves the platform in obvious pain)
God answered that prayer in an astounding way. Today, there is an estimated 20 million Christians in the South China network of churches organized by Pastor Xhang, and all are consumed with the passion to reach the lost in the 60 predominantly Muslim nations of the 10/40 window. A few years ago, Pastor Xhang spent several months outside of China sharing his powerful message. Many urged him to remain in the West because he was a marked man in China. He chose to return to his homeland to lead his people forward.
(A window frame can be made with bars giving the impression of a prison cell. Pastor Xhang stands behind and looks out at the congregation as he grips the bars and tells this part of the story from his prison cell)
In 2004, I was arrested again and held for almost two years without trial for having left China on what the police say was a falsified passport, and for being in possession of Bibles and literature not printed in China. Last fall, I was finally sentenced to 7 ½ years of hard labor. But brothers and sisters, the vision of the Chinese church raising up an army of 100,000 workers burns brighter today than ever before. With God's help, I will make this prison my pulpit to continue challenging God's people in China to move on out to the Muslim and Buddhist countries without the gospel. Dear friends, like the Apostle Paul in the Roman prison, I can say that "what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. ... And because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly." I do not ask to be kept from persecution and suffering; nor even to be delivered from this prison. I only ask that you will earnestly pray for me, and many others in like circumstances, to endure triumphantly as shining lights in this awful darkness. Pray that hundreds, yea thousands will hear the call of God because of my chains.
(The pastor reaches arm out through the bars toward the people as he continues to say the following)
Will you reach out your hand to mine and commit yourself to pray for me? I do not ask you to pray for my release, but pray for strength to turn my prison cell into a pulpit so that my imprisonment will challenge thousands of Chinese people to respond as workers to plant churches all the way to Jerusalem, and awaken Christians all over the world to pray for the persecuted church of China.
You have heard the passionate heart cry of the leader of one of China’s largest network of churches. It is one thing to be fascinated with this visionary challenge, but it is quite another thing to be part of the onward march of Christ’s messengers. Dear brothers and sisters, sitting here in the comfort and safety of our church, you too must respond to this challenge. It is not only for the Chinese church to heed the call, but for each of us here to surrender ourselves in a new commitment to pray for these courageous believers, and to give of our resources for the support and training of these messengers. With Pastor Xhang, I commit myself to the tearing down of the mighty strongholds of Satan and the release of millions held in bondage and fear? Will you?
(Someone should close in a brief prayer of commitment to conclude this narration)
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