The Torah Club Smuggler

One billion four hundred thousand people in China, seventy million Christians, and one Torah Club smuggler.


Teaching EventsDec 2, 2015

Teaching EventsDec 2, 2015


A Chinese woman reading Torah Club (Image © First Fruits of Zion)

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Why carry Torah Club into China? She wanted it because she already teaches weekly parashah classes in the underground church.

That’s her job.

That’s what she does: teaching weekly Torah classes to Chinese Christians. She does it so often and so regularly that she says she could use another teacher to share the load and meet the growing demand. She already has several of the other Torah Club volumes, and every time she crosses the border, she tries to bring another volume or some other Torah resource home with her.

Her efforts remind me of how we take God’s word for granted in the West. We have more access to Bible teaching than a Chinese Christian could imagine, but we spend far less time learning than they do.

From the world’s perspective, her efforts seem futile. One lone teacher in a vast sea of people cannot hope to accomplish much. From a spiritual perspective, however, her efforts are of enormous consequence. One soul obtained for Yeshua and secured for the kingdom is an eternal victory and, “Whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:19).

Reflections on China

Boaz and I are both back in our respective homes after a fabulous two-week teaching trip to Hong Kong and beyond. This was Boaz’s second trip; my first. Our experience with the Mainland Chinese Christians probably benefitted us more than we benefitted them. Their quick minds, rapt attention, and eager and open hearts touched us as we presented teachings about the Torah, Messianic Judaism, and the kingdom of heaven. Again and again, in conversation after conversation, we met brothers and sisters who took their faith seriously because they had sacrificed so much for it already. We found inspiration witnessing the powerful message of the Gospel and the good news of the kingdom taking root in good soil.

I grew up in a Western Christianity that more or less idealized Chinese Christians in the underground house church movement. We heard about how they suffered for their faith. We were vaguely aware of the persecutions that Christians endured in China of the 1970s, 80s, and 90s. The Chinese Christians were an inspiration to believers in America who felt vaguely guilty about never having suffered for our convictions. They were heroes to us.

A Serious Need

What we were not told about the underground Chinese church is that the scarcity of Bibles, the scarcity of teachers, the lack of ecclesiastical structure, the absence of spiritual authority, and the almost total isolation resulted in a shallow form of Bible education that left believers vulnerable to cults, strange teachings, and bizarre departures from biblical faith. For example, consider the rise of the blasphemous Eastern Lightning cult, which twists the true message of the kingdom into a counterfeit and endangers kingdom-teaching millenialists throughout China by way of association.

Better-grounded communities blessed with Bibles and teachers have fared better, but the type of Christian education they offer is not “made in China,” it’s been imported from the West. They have mass produced an over-simplified, knock-off of Western theologies originally brought to China by our missionaries. China has all the flavors: Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant, Lutheran, Episcopalian, Presbyterian, Baptist, Pentecostal, etc., etc. Boaz and I often heard Chinese leaders bemoan the fact that their churches have simply reproduced the theological ideas brought to them from Western Christianity without questioning the origins or reexamining the assumptions. Many of the pastors and leaders that we met were willing and even eager to reconsider matters from a Jewish perspective.

Future Church

Chinese Christians need the message of the Jewish Yeshua, discipleship, Torah, and good news about the kingdom. They need education in the Bible. They need what FFOZ has to offer.

At the same time, we need them and what they have to offer. Christians in China make up a small percentage of the population, but in a population as large as China’s, a small percentage can still be a lot of people. Estimates place the total number of Christians around 70 million. Christianity in Europe has been dead for most of a century; Christianity in America is in sharp decline, Christianity in Africa is faltering, but Christianity in the East is vibrant, alive, and growing. Asian Christians have the potential of becoming the leaders of the church and defining what Christianity looks like globally in the next century.

At First Fruits of Zion, we are keenly aware of this dynamic, and that’s why we are eager to work inside China now, providing materials to raise up teachers and leaders who can influence the church with solid Bible teaching, a Torah foundation, a Jewish perspective on Jesus, and the life-changing message of the gospel. Chinese Christianity does not need to repeat the mistakes the church has made in the past. Chinese Christianity does not need to perpetuate replacement theology and theological anti-Semitism. Chinese Christians do not need to be taught that the Torah has been canceled by grace and that the Sabbath has been abolished.

We don’t receive any revenues from the sale of our materials in places like China. Instead, we hand the rights to the materials over to trusted local ministries and Bible teachers who can better disseminate them. This is possible only because of the generous support of our FFOZ Friends, and with their continued support, we hope to make visits to China and other ports of call in Asia a regular part of our annual schedule. We need to send teaching to the places where God is raising up disciples. We want to see the Torah and the message of Messianic Judaism for All Nations in China, India, Singapore, Malaysia, Korea, the Philippines, and wherever the good news is flourishing; wherever our voice will be heard.

Until then, the future of Messianic Jewish teaching in Chinese Christianity relies, in part, on the simple efforts of the Torah Club smuggler.

Other stories about China:

http://ffoz.org/discover/teaching-events/

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About the Author: D. Thomas Lancaster is Director of Education at First Fruits of Zion, the author of the Torah Club programs and several books and study programs. He is also the pastor of Beth Immanuel Sabbath Fellowship in Hudson, WI. More articles by D. Thomas Lancaster

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