Around 1985, when I was a young researcher, an old missions researcher named Leslie Brierley, born 1911, was helping me write a book.
I had described how the opportunities for Christian missions in China had closed in 1949 after the communist takeover.
The year I was writing, 1985, was less than ten years after the death of Mao, and less than 20 years since the peak of the Cultural Revolution in 1969 – a moment in time when not a single Christian church met publicly in the whole country. Few glimmers of news had emerged since.
My 23-year-old apprentice self thought we should be pessimistic about the future of the gospel in China. My 74-year-old mentor didn’t agree:
"I feel that we are in for some surprises with regard to the Church in China, for in the 21st century (I shan't live to see it but you can tell me when you arrive in Glory) the Chinese will be one of the greatest waves of missionary outreach in the world."
Today, an estimate of 100 million-strong Christian community in China is mainstream. The Chinese missionary movement is stirring, and some of my own books have been translated into Mandarin for the house churches to use.
I look forward to telling Leslie.