December 12, 2008
Froese with Phil Bender
CHONGQING, China — “Why should a church mission agency
be supporting English teaching?” That question is a familiar one
to Mennonite Church Canada Witness workers whose job it is to teach English
in various locations around the world, including Philip and Julie Bender.
The Benders, Mennonite Church Canada Witness/Mennonite Mission network
workers who teach English to students and teachers at Chongqing Medical
University in China through Mennonite Partners in China (MPC), offered
a four-point response in a recent prayer letter.
- Teaching English is one of the
few ways to credibly and legally work in China with a Christian organization. In China, Christians are not permitted to engage in traditional evangelism,
Bible teaching and church planting, but they can answer questions of
faith addressed to them. Bender attributes the prohibition on proselytizing
to Communist ideology, but he acknowledges that it also has historic
roots in the 19th century legacy of Western economic and military imperialism
- Doing good work and giving others what they
need provides witness to Christ. Philip Bender referred to Matt: 7, where Jesus speaks
of good trees being known by their fruit and his followers by their
deeds. Chinese universities have invited MPC to provide English teachers,
who through their professionalism, diligence, concern for students
and cooperation with Chinese colleagues, give positive witness to Christ.
Chinese church leaders have also affirmed that placing Christian English
teachers in university settings is one of the best ways to serve the
church in China.
- Building relationships contributes to God’s reconciling
work in the world. As Christian English teachers develop friendships with
people of their host culture and demonstrate a servant attitude through
studying the language and culture, they break down barriers and allow
God’s reconciling love to flow.
- The New Testament affirms and
validates the indirect, humble “mission strategies” of
seed and leaven. Overt proclamation and nurture is not the only way to do
mission, the Benders wrote. In areas where traditional mission work is
not an option, the power of humble, indirect witness to Christ becomes
evident. Jesus likens God’s kingdom to seeds growing silently and
leaven working invisibly (Lk. 13:18ff). Peter, addressing believers in
an alien culture (like China), speaks of the provocative power of good
deeds and Christian character in pointing onlookers to Christ (1 Pet.
In addition, the Benders point out that most of their students
have never been to a church and realistically, might never attend. “It
is sobering to realize that, through our deeds and occasional words,
our teaching and our friendships, we are Christ to them.”