Good for One, Good for All (?)
It is interesting how in one culture to one group, a message is considered as on target as possible. To a group holding the same faith though in another culture, it brings harm and confusion.
BEIJING — The Prayer of Jabez by Bruce Wilkinson, one of the best-selling non-fiction books in the past ten years, has gutted China's house church movement, say observers.
"Chinese Christians used to sacrifice everything for Christ. Now they only want God to bless them," says one Chinese elder who has served five prison terms for planting churches. He and others say China's Christians have "grown soft with navel-gazing" and have lost their tolerance for persecution.
Copies of The Prayer of Jabez began circulating in China in 2001. Many Christians began "talking endlessly about God expanding their borders and keeping them free from pain," says one Chinese pastor whose weekly prayer meeting shrunk to half its previous size.
"Instead of asking God to strengthen the Chinese church they pray for personal fulfillment. They ignore all the Bible except Jabez," he says.
Sun Young, 24, says he and other Christians are tired of hearing only about "the way of the cross."
"Jabez changed my life. I pray every morning, 'God, let your hand be with me and keep me from harm,'" he says.
Unlike his parents, he does not want to suffer for Christ, but rather hopes to flourish in his personal giftings. "Jabez showed us a new way," he says.
According to 1 Chronicles 4:9-10 Jabez was "more honorable than his brothers. His mother had named him Jabez, saying, 'I gave birth to him in pain.' Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, 'Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.' And God granted his request."
As the Jabez book spreads to China's interior, the house church movement, once a model of Christian endurance, is bracing for even greater loss of members.