Chinese Baptists celebrate partnerships in Indy

INDIANAPOLIS – Chinese Southern Baptists came from a dozen states to participate in the 2024 Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) annual meeting at the Indiana Convention Center.

They gathered late Tuesday afternoon, June 11, for a dinner meeting of the Chinese Baptist Fellowship of the United States and Canada.

“I was excited to see so many [Chinese] coming to Indianapolis because that showed they wanted to be a part of the Southern Baptist family,” Executive Director Jeremy Sin told Baptist Press.

The “business” of the Chinese gathering included recognizing its SBC partners – SBC Executive Committee (EC), International Mission Board (IMB), North American Mission Board (NAMB), Guidestone and Gateway Seminary – plus reports from Fellowship President Howard Li, pastors in Indiana and Arizona, and from Executive Director Sin.

“Then everybody had a great fellowship,” Sin said. “Even in this meeting we have church planters from Illinois, Indiana, Florida and Virginia, and we have one church looking to plant its fourth one.”

Benny Wong pastored First Chinese Baptist Church in Los Angeles for 30 years. During that time, the church planted First Chinese Baptist Church in San Gabriel Valley in 2009; Restoration, an English-speaking church for American-born Asians, in 2013. In 2017, First Chinese Baptist Church of San Gabriel Valley planted First Chinese Baptist Church of Rancho Cucamonga. No firm plans have been made – but there is talk! – about a fourth plant.

“That is surely exciting,” Sin said, especially since the church is continuing its church planting efforts though Wong is no longer pastor of First Chinese Los Angeles. In 2023 he was named director of the Chinese-English Bilingual Program and associate professor of leadership formation at Gateway Seminary.

President Li noted 300 churches that worship in a Chinese context – Mandarin, Cantonese and English – in the United States and Canada. 

Li has been pastor of the Trust in God Baptist Church in the Chinatown neighborhood in New York City since 2000. New York state was hard hit by government regulations as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and many workers are needed to help rebuild the congregation, which has dropped to about half what it was pre-pandemic. Baptisms that were in the double digits for 15 straight years have dropped to fewer than 10 in a year.

Wong followed Li with a prayer for the convention center’s kitchen and janitorial staffs, that their hearts would be drawn to God by the vibrant Christians they would encounter the week of the SBC annual meeting.

As SBC Executive Committee’s associate vice president of Convention Advancement and Relations, Charles Grant, brought greetings from the SBC EC and thanked the members of the Chinese Fellowship for their participation in Southern Baptist life.

Churches in the Chinese Fellowship gave 5.6 percent more in 2022 than in 2021 to missions through the Cooperative Program, Grant said. Even more noteworthy, Chinese churches reported 24 percent more baptisms in 2022 than in 2021.

Grant read from 2 Corinthians 2:14 and added, “Keep spreading the aroma of the knowledge of Him who sent you. God bless you for your commitment to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

Ramon Osorio, a church planting mobilizer with the NAMB brought greetings from NAMB President Kevin Ezell.

“We must keep thinking how we can reach people in the next town over,” Osorio said.

Greg Mann, leader of the IMB’s Asia-Pacific Rim affinity group, brought greetings from IMB President Paul Chitwood.

Matthias Wu, church planting pastor of Chinese International Baptist Ministry in West Lafayette, Ind., north of Indianapolis, reaches out to students at Purdue University. At least 1,000 students on campus were from China before the COVID pandemic of 2020.

“Now the number has dropped drastically,” Sin said. “Pastor Wu is working hard in outreach and to work with students.”

Michael Lin is Chinese pastor of Northwest Chinese Baptist Church in Phoenix. Stephen Yee is English pastor. The church has doubled in size over the last year, Lin said. But that’s not the story he got up to tell.

The church invited an internationally-known Chinese vocalist to perform in a contest, and invited Chinese from across the city to attend. Northwest Chinese Baptist’s facility was too small for the anticipated audience, and Calvary Baptist allowed the concert to take place at Calvary.

The concert was Sunday, June 9. More than 700 attended, and 78 people made a profession of faith in Jesus because the vocalist is a Christian who shared his testimony.

“I think the fire has lit up,” Lin said. “We need more pastors in Phoenix to start Chinese churches!”

The rest of the story: Both pastors – Lin and Yee – were in Indianapolis on June 9. Others in the congregation brought off the concert “without a hitch,” Lin said.

“The Chinese Fellowship seeks to connect with the 300 Chinese Baptist churches,” Sin said. “We emphasize encouraging one another, learning from one another and partnering together for missions.”

The Chinese Baptist Fellowship’s biennial meeting is set for Sept. 16-19 at Mandarin Baptist Church in Alhambra, Calif., a Los Angeles suburb.

Victor Chayasirisobhon is to be the English plenary speaker. He is director of missions for the Orange County Southern Baptist Association and co-pastor of First Southern Baptist Church of Anaheim.

Hong Yu Jian is to be the Chinese plenary speaker. He is the pastor of Faith Chinese North American Baptist Church in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

“Dr. Chayasirisobhon has served as an SBC vice president, and as president of the California Southern Baptist Convention,” Sin said. “Dr. Jian teaches reformed theology courses to the Chinese diaspora communities around the world, especially to scholars and immigrants from mainland China.”

Chinese churches faithfully support the Cooperative Program because “many of them were blessed by IMB work overseas,” Sin said. “Also, they see through the Cooperative Program many new works are started.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Karen L. Willoughby is a national correspondent for Baptist Press.)

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