Texas Baptist churches reaching out to some of 1.3 billion Chinese

GREENVILLE?Kevin Herbert had a stereotypical view of the work church groups do when they travel to China: “You go. You see some sites. You do some prayer walking.”

Beyond that, little could be accomplished in a Communist country, Herbert figured. His opinion changed in 2003, however, after he traveled there on a trip sponsored by the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.

Four years later and with a handful of trips under his belt leading Texas church groups to mainland China, Herbert has become an advocate for church-based work among the Chinese, who number 1.3 billion people or four times the United States population.

Between 2-5 percent of Chinese are professing believers, Herbert said, which means nearly 1 billion are not.

Because the state is deemed supreme and man is viewed in evolutionary terms, “when you are speaking to the Chinese, you start with ‘There is a God who created you and loves you ? I’m not a monkey and there is a God,” Herbert said.

Twenty years ago, Southern Baptist church groups rarely traveled to China on short-term mission trips. Today, however, “The IMB is saying, ‘Please, send those five to 10 people and help us make significant progress among the Chinese people,” Herbert said.

To that end, the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention is planning a “Heart for China” workshop March 5-9 for pastors and church leaders interested in doing short-term, church-based ministry in China. The workshop will be at the church where Herbert is pastor?t1:PlaceName w:st=”on”>Ridgecrest Baptist Church in Greenville.

Through a partnership with the SBTC and the International Mission Board, SBTC church groups may travel there for short-term work in English language instruction, prayer walking, sports outreach, encouragement ministry, and street ministry.

Herbert said since 2003 he has taken around 100 Texans with him to China with fruitful results, mostly from English language instruction and sports outreach.

“Of those, a good percentage have gone back,” Herbert said. “Before we return to the U.S., they are saying, ‘OK, now next year we’ll do this or that.”

The Chinese people are eager to learn English from Americans, “which often leads to more relational dialogue,” Herbert said.

Also, the Chinese are very interested in athletics. “Basketball is huge,” he said. “Outside of soccer, basketball is it. Yao Ming [Houston Rockets] is well known. Michael Jordan is huge.”

With the 2008 Summer Olympic Games planned for Bejing, news coverage of China will escalate.

“That’s good for me because that promotes the work even more,” Herbert said. In a 10-day to two-week period, “you can have an impact.”

This year Herbert is overseeing three trips to China

TEXAN Correspondent
Jerry Pierce
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