Is The True Jesus Church a “Chinese Church”? putting the record straight

It is easy for an outsider to assume that The True Jesus Church is an ethnic Chinese religion, not least because it was founded in China and the vast core of its membership are people of Chinese origin, particularly Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia and their diaspora in English speaking countries (AU/CA/GB/NZ/USA). Despite this, the church’s own presence in Mainland China PRC is limited due to the legacy of Communism.

South Korea and the Philippines stand out amongst the few countries who have converted their own indigenous congregations in meaningful numbers, but the question remains, is it really a Chinese religion? Of course, The True Jesus Church is no more a “Chinese” religion than the LDS church is an “American” religion (although it does claim the USA god’s chosen country), both faiths may be dominated by people of one particular national group of which embeds its operations with specific cultural characteristics, however both essentially deny this because that has never been the point of what Jesus teaches, hence: “And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.” (Matthew 3:9)

While undoubtedly the True Jesus Church has become a glue for Chinese Communities in certain areas, True Jesus Church does not, either directly or indirectly, profess itself in any aspect of its doctrine or teachings to be something exclusively Chinese, but rather professes itself to be the Church of Jesus Christ and manifests its universalist mission to bring it to the whole world. I have seen this by having attended the True Jesus Church in multiple countries. First of all, The True Jesus Church in Korea has exactly the same teachings as their churches anywhere else, even if its operations have a distinctly traditional “Korean” (Confucian) slant to it.

More importantly, The True Jesus Church professes no allegiance or doctrinal “attachment” to China in its faith or doctrine, apart from the utilisation of one verse in revelations which they say points towards its origins “And I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God: and he cried with a loud voice to the four angels, to whom it was given to hurt the earth and the sea” (Rev 7:2). Rather, it is merely in China where the faith has emerged and following the violent purges of Mao Zedong’s cultural revolution in the 1960s, become centred around Hong Kong, Taiwan and overseas Chinese diasporic communities.

However, I do not deny that (outside of South Korea) there is an unintentional ethnic barrier to the church’s expansion due to people’s assumption of it as an “ethnic church.” Hence in the UK, its name sign is writ large in Chinese characters due to the Hong Kong diaspora being its core following. If it were not obvious already, the church has an obvious problem in appealing to white western people due to cultural barriers, as well as the extreme growth of irreligion and liberal ideology in the west. This has not only stopped it from appealing to those in other churches, but also from having a broader appeal in general. It is a hard time for all Christian faiths even not counting cultural/ethnic issues.

So of course that leads to the question as to what a “white western man” such as myself is doing there and was not intimidated by being the only white man in church in any instance? Life simply made it possible and prepared the way for me. First I have vast experience in China and East Asia in general, I lived in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing and later South Korea, I speak Mandarin Chinese and from that, have immediately set out to learn Cantonese to meet the requirements of my community. All of this in turn, was also made possible through my previous experience as a Mormon missionary.

However, I am not the only “ethnic” outsider in the church, there are others further afield I have not yet met, and I hear constantly of a legendary black preacher from London. Of course, that stems from the reality that Black people are in general more open to faith and being devout Christians than white people (the world over) and therefore are more open to the True Jesus Church as a result. I am also aware that the TJC is pushing to expand itself in Muslim countries and on the African continent, and does not seek to be held back or “exclusivist” by this Chinese centric membership.

Obviously, the Chinese element had an additional appeal to me, but I don’t join a faith purely because it is affiliated with one country now do I? There after all, many religions from China, did I become a Confucian, a Daoist or even join the Falun Gong? This isn’t about a cultural fad. Rather, it was the spiritual strength of the True Jesus Church that appealed to me after a decade of spiritual drought and disillusionment in my life and gave me a passion and strength that I had never been felt before. I finally felt I could move on from the setbacks of my own life and find renewed hope and conviction in Jesus Christ again, all of which Mormonism ultimately failed me on despite the overwhelming devotion I once gave that church.

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