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With the Chinese Church in the UK at a crossroads, now is the time to act

Author: Bible Society, 10 February 2022

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Dr Yinxuan Huang is a graduate of the University of Manchester and a research fellow at the London School of Theology in a post fully funded by Bible Society.

We’re preparing to welcome many more Chinese Christians into the UK from Hong Kong and mainland China. Dr Yinxuan ‘Yin’ Huang is carrying out a study of the Chinese Church in the UK to help us do that. Here, Yin thanks Bible Society supporters and tells us why Bible and Chinese Community in Britain Research is so important:

 My dad was a hard-core atheist with a very strong personality. Before I left home to study in Europe, Dad told me, ‘Never go to a Christian church; they are liars and bad people.’ This is not so surprising in China, but about a year later, I had a phone call from my mum.

Chinese Christians pray at a Bible study in England.

She said, ‘Your dad has been weird, he’s been going to a church and wants to be baptised.’ This news stunned me and I soon found out that this lion of a father had been transformed into a sheep. God had transformed his heart. He became so humble and tender. I went to church to figure out why this was happening to my dad, and that’s where I learned about Christianity.

Watershed moment

That’s a little of my background, but now I want to tell you about why I am carrying out research into the Chinese Church in the UK.

 The Chinese Church here faces a watershed moment, and we don’t exactly know what will happen next. Covid, social and political changes, restrictions on religion in mainland China, the movement of people from Hong Kong to the UK – there is so much to be considered.

In order to respond to the mission field, we need to know what it needs. We need to know demand and provision; we must identify gaps and see the big picture, in order for all churches and not only Chinese churches to engage in this crucial ministry.

A complex mission field

A Chinese Christian at a Bible study group in England.

When we speak of the Chinese Church in the UK, it’s inaccurate to refer to a single community. It’s a complex and uncertain mission field; highly diverse in language, regional background and political views.

We are still waiting for the new census, but the 2011 census reported the Chinese diaspora at around 0.7 per cent of the UK population. It’s not large, but it is growing fast. There are now around 140,000 Chinese students here in the UK. China not only sends the most students here of any country – it sends more students than countries two to eight on the ‘most students list’ added together!

Then there is Hong Kong with three million people eligible to come to the UK. For the first time ever there are now British Hong Kong churches just for Hong Kong migrants.

There’s been some research on the Chinese Church in the UK but nothing up to date and comprehensive. The initial stage, the first 18 months, of my research is to establish a broad picture. The main research will be a national survey, focusing on Chinese Christians in the UK and the wider Chinese community.

A neglected mission field

If you look at participants in the Chinese Church here, most new congregants are Christians coming from outside the UK – so, migrant believers from Hong Kong and mainland China. We want to identify the needs of these churches and work together so that they grow and reach out to their communities.

Also, how do we prepare and resource those Chinese Christians here in the UK who one day will go back to their homeland? This is a long-neglected and under-served mission field, which has strategic importance for nurturing young leaders for China. Thanks to the prayerful giving of Bible Society supporters we hope to be able to give these people the resources or training they need in years to come.

 This story first appeared in our Bible a Month prayer letter. By joining Bible a Month with a regular gift of £10 or more, you can support ongoing work in China and in the Chinese Church in the UK, enabling the Scriptures to reach more people. Opt in to receive Bible a Month emails when you join so you can hear more of Yinxuan Huang’s story.

Find out more about Bible a Month

Yin invites ethnic Chinese in the UK to take part in his survey, which will remain open until the end of February. Complete the survey below:

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