“Our church was established recently and our congregation was small. As we hope for more members to come and join us, scriptural materials for preaching, teaching and referencing were lacking…”
“In the midst of our desperation for more Christian resources, we cry out to God, our Jehovah Jireh. In the Old Testament, Abraham’s experiences helped me to understand that God is indeed a God who provides all our needs…”
Such were the cries of the Chinese Christians for more scriptural resources to meet their spiritual hunger. The drive to provide Christian church members with more spiritual materials led to the printing and distribution of small scripture booklets such as The Good News of Christmas, Merry Christmas and Blessed New Year.
Instead of distributing whole Bibles, the idea was to hand out as gifts, compact and digestible, books of the Bible in the form of small booklets during the celebrative seasons of Christmas and New Year. The Merry Christmas booklet consists of the Gospel of John in Chinese; the Good News of Christmas is a Chinese-English version of the Gospel of Luke; and the Blessed New Year features the books of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes in Chinese.
These booklets are published and distributed by the Christian Council/TSPM with the support of the United Bible Societies.
Gifts for the Seasons
During the Chinese New Year period, many Chinese will take long vacations from work to return to their hometowns for family reunion celebrations. It will be a time of sharing of news and blessings in the form of love gifts. The distribution of these booklets at the local churches prior to family gatherings would then give Christian church members an opportunity to share them with their non-Christian kinsmen.
Christmas is a time where people, especially the youths, are more receptive to visiting churches and joining in the celebration of Christ’s birth. It is thus timely for the local churches to give out these booklets as “Christmas gifts” for believers and non-believers alike. More people, especially amongst the younger generation, became believers after reading the booklets distributed during this season. “We see an increase in the number of younger believers in our church. Previously, our church congregation was mainly made up of elderly folks and there were no young members. Now, our congregation comprises many younger people. They have indeed brought much vitality to our church. Each time we thank God for giving us such exquisite materials,” Liu Longxiang, in Da Gang Church, Jiangsu Province.
Du Fangxia from Tong Xinqu Church, Shaanxi Province said that they had been praying and asking, waiting and hoping for a while for more Christian resources. “Such booklets came at the right time to meet our needs, far beyond our expectations,” he added.
“Scriptural materials are lacking. In the midst of our desperation, these booklets were brought to us at the right time. We felt like dry land, but these booklets brought rain to water and nourish our souls,” said Lei Wenshi from Tong Xinqu Church, Shaanxi Province.
Besides being timely, the benefits of these booklets are manifold:
Easy to Read
By taking out and printing only a book or two of the Bible, e.g. the Gospel books, pre-believers will not be daunted by their size and volume. They serve as preludes to the entire Bible, while containing the main essence of the Good News.
“These booklets are extremely useful for many of us who cannot understand many things in the whole Bible. Through them we are able to know the fundamentals and understand the Bible better,” praised Lei Wenshi. He later added: “As it is said in the Bible, we are to keep God’s Word in our hearts so as to keep us from sin. Thus, by having these booklets with us, they keep us on the right path.”
Zheng Qiaohuan agrees with his church mate Lei that the booklets have also helped in his understanding of the Word of God. Previously, he felt that studying the whole Bible had been quite a challenge. “Upon receiving these booklets as gifts, our dry souls have been watered and we are being filled up and nourished. Our emptiness is gone,” replied a grateful Zheng.
Easy to Carry Around
The booklets are also handy to carry around to be read at one’s convenience. “As the Bible is thick and big, it is not easy to carry around with me when I go out. I often have to copy passages to a smaller book so I can carry with me for studying the scriptures. When I did not have enough time, I could not copy and bring along God’s Word with me. Then I’ll feel uneasy throughout the day without reading the Word. Thank God for you for giving us this great gift. We can now use these two booklets whenever and wherever we go,” Du Fangxia remarked.
The younger believers are especially appreciative of its pocket-size. “We also thank you for them and how it has started the work of God among the younger ones. Such booklets will be greatly used for the spreading of the Gospel,” added Liu Longxiang from Jiangsu.
Another way the booklets have helped is in its reach to believers in all of life’s stages. Previously, there used to be a huge age gap amongst the believers in the rural churches. As the church believers were mainly elderly farmers with a lower educational level than the younger generation believers, ministering to each other in church was a challenge. Zheng therefore gave thanks to God for these booklets as they “have helped people at various stages of life”.
At No Cost
Since the booklets are distributed to the Christians at no cost to the recipients, they can be given away again when one is done reading them. Many have written feedback that it was a good idea to present a Gospel book of the Bible in this form, and that they would like more of them to pass on to other pre-believers in the villages.
Thanks and Praise
In their own words, the Chinese Christian recipients of the above booklets gave thanks and praise for rolling out these booklets:
“Our brothers and sisters here are very hungry and thirsty for God’s Word. We are treasuring these booklets like water flowing into a desert or like rain on a dry land, nourishing our souls. Give thanks to our Heavenly Father and to you. You have indeed brought living water to quench our thirst and power to ignite the fire within us,” said a sister-in-Christ Zhang Shanlin of Yu Lin Church, Shaanxi Province.
“These booklets have not only brought along the truth of Christ, but also your love. We pray that you will be blessed and that God will provide you abundantly. Then you will be able to provide more booklets to others. We pray that through your work and labor, many thousands will come into his Kingdom,” said Du Fangxia of Tong Chuan Xinqu Church, Shaanxi Province.
“I wrote this letter with a grateful heart. You have not forgotten us, a small and faraway church. Your love has crossed over cultures and languages. We can indeed understand the love of God from you,” said Lei Wenshi, Tong Chuan Xinqu Church.
Merry Christmas, The Good News of Christmas and Blessed New Year are just three of the many small scripture booklets published and distributed in China. What sets them apart from the other booklets is that they are “seasonal booklets”, printed and distributed during the Christmas and Chinese New Year periods. Other booklets that have been rolled out leverages on the Chinese’ love for sports and attention-grabbing international events held in China such as the Women’s World Cup 2007 and the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. The success of packaging scriptural books in digestible booklet form has spurred the production of more of these tools for Christian growth in China.
Ms Pamela Choo
for United Bible Societies, China Partnership