Ethnic Chinese and the rise of Christianity in Southeast Asia

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Ethnic Chinese migration has caused a rise of Christianity in Southeast Asia - especially charismatic Christianity.[1][2]

Singapore Management University reports:

...more and more people in Southeast Asia are converting to Christianity. But these new converts – mostly ethnic Chinese – are drawn particularly to charismatic Christianity.

This new wave of religious fervour accounts for the rise of “mega churches” in this part of the world. Juliette Koning and her colleague, Heidi Dahles of VU University Amsterdam, had been studying Indonesia and Malaysia respectively when they first took notice of how many ethnic Chinese business managers were embracing charismatic Christianity. They decided to study this phenomenon through an anthropological lens and presented their findings in their paper, 'Spiritual Power: Ethnic Chinese Managers and the Rise of Charismatic Christianity in Southeast Asia'...

Koning noted that there was a rapid expansion of charismatic Christianity from the 1980s onwards. Singapore, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Indonesia and Malaysia are said to have the fastest-growing Christian communities and the majority of the new believers are “upwardly mobile, urban, middle-class Chinese”. Asia has the second largest Pentecostal-charismatic Christians of any continent, with the number growing from 10 million to 135 million between 1970 and 2000.[3]

Eurasia Review reports:

The independent Pentecostal movement has been growing rapidly in Southeast Asia in recent decades, benefitting from the broader expansion of charismatic Christianity from the 1980s onwards in Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia, as well as further afield in Taiwan and South Korea.

There are several reasons why the growth of this movement in this region is important. Firstly, to a large extent the Pentecostal movement has an ethnic face. The majority of Pentecostals in urban centres like Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Surabaya, Jakarta and Manila are, with some notable exceptions, upwardly mobile, middle-class ethnic Chinese. In countries where the ethnic Chinese are in the minority, Pentecostal churches and cell groups are crucial spaces for social networking, business contacts and identity-making.

Secondly, it has a wide economic appeal suggesting an ability to tap into different concerns and aspirations. For while the megachurch, the most popular incarnation of independent Pentecostalism, is often associated with the middle classes, it has great attraction for the poor and the working class in urban centres like Manila.

Thirdly, the central figure of the charismatic leader in Pentecostal churches means that senior pastors enjoy great deference and sway over large congregations.[4]

Justin Wood wrote:

Ten thousand Chinese become Christians each day, according to a stunning report by ...veteran correspondent John Allen, and 200 million Chinese may comprise the world's largest concentration of Christians by mid-century, and the largest missionary force in history...

I suspect that even the most enthusiastic accounts err on the downside, and that Christianity will have become a Sino-centric religion two generations from now. China may be for the 21st century what Europe was during the 8th-11th centuries, and America has been during the past 200 years: the natural ground for mass evangelization. If this occurs, the world will change beyond our capacity to recognize it...

China, devoured by hunger so many times in its history, now feels a spiritual hunger beneath the neon exterior of its suddenly great cities. Four hundred million Chinese on the prosperous coast have moved from poverty to affluence in a single generation, and 10 million to 15 million new migrants come from the countryside each year, the greatest movement of people in history. Despite a government stance that hovers somewhere between discouragement and persecution, more than 100 million of them have embraced a faith that regards this life as mere preparation for the next world. Given the immense effort the Chinese have devoted to achieving a tolerable life in the present world, this may seem anomalous. On the contrary: it is the great migration of peoples that prepares the ground for Christianity, just as it did during the barbarian invasions of Europe during the Middle Ages. [5]

Mission 2030 Conference in Hong Kong: Goal to send out 20,000 missionaries from mainland China by 2030

Professor Fenggang Yang indicates:

One sign of the advancing state of Christianity in China is that it is reaching out to the larger world. Nine hundred Chinese pastors gathered in Hong Kong this fall for the Mission 2030 Conference. Their goal: To send out 20,000 missionaries from mainland China by 2030.[6]

See also