Word4Asia Consulting International Founder: Building Bridges for Understanding Between the West and the East

Dr. Gene Wood, founder and president of Word4Asia Consulting International, and his team visited the Beijing Gangwashi Church on March 21, 2024.
1/2Dr. Gene Wood, founder and president of Word4Asia Consulting International, and his team visited the Beijing Gangwashi Church on March 21, 2024.
Dr. Gene Wood
2/2Dr. Gene Wood
By Katherine Guo, Karen LuoMay 7th, 2024

After his first trip to China last year since the pandemic, Dr. Gene Wood, founder and president of Word4Asia Consulting International, embarked on a long trip to China in March, from Shanghai to Beijing, Nanjing, Kunming, and then back to Shanghai. The trip was coordinated and hosted by the National CCC. In an exclusive interview with China Christian Daily, Dr. Wood recounted the highlights of his trip, his observations about churches in China, and his future plans.

Invited by the China Christian Council, Dr. Wood led a delegation of evangelical leaders from the United States on a visit to China. They renewed relationships with old friends throughout these locations, feeling immense warmth and receptivity.

One focal point of Dr. Wood's attention during his visit was to gain a better understanding of the concept of “Sinicization" (see the previous interview here), since the topic is pervasive everywhere and at every level, from the city to the provincial, national in CCC&TSPM and the United Front. Everyone whom he and his team visited admits to being involved in the process of deciding what Sinicization is going to look like and what it will mean in China. As a consulting company, Word4Asia’s current primary role is helping groups, mostly in the U.S., understand the Sinicization process that China is going through.

Back home in the USA Word4Asia has studied written documents including the changes in religious policy as well as the Shorter Catechism (or Yao Dao Wen Da《要道问答》) . Recently, their team reviewed the new edition and the older edition. This study shows the China Christian Council is adhering to their traditional faith, doctrine, and tenets of scripture. Compared with the older version there are few substantive changes. The additional 20 statements is an attempt to deal with the sinicization emphasis. However, for a thorough understanding of the policy's implementation, he needs to visit China to listen and learn from those responsible for alterations and implementation.

During the trip, Dr. Wood and his delegation were thrilled to hear the innovative approaches adopted by Chinese churches in response to the emphasis on sinicization, viewing it as an opportunity to share the gospel with the community.

Dr. Wood mentioned the museum he visited in Kunming; the charts and timeline on the wall show the history of China and gospel history in Yunnan in a parallel way. Also in the sinicization room in Kunming, they observed the integration of Chinese art and music into church life, alongside unique presentations of the comparison of the Beatitudes with a traditional Chinese tea service.

Concerning the sinicization of Christianity, one major concern of the West revolves around whether the churches in China will alter their Bible and fundamental beliefs. Dr. Wood received encouraging responses from his friend: “We have no intention of changing the fundamentals of our faith.” They acknowledged the possibility of introducing a new Chinese Study Bible. If the aim is to present the Chinese script in a language accessible and understandable to young people instead of the old Chinese Union Version Bible, Dr. Wood expressed his openness to such developments.

Likewise, reflecting on visits to newly constructed museums in Beijing, Dr. Wood said, “It's educational because it shows us the perspective of the government on the development of China.”

Regarding the needs of churches in China, Dr. Wood reiterated their historic W4A policy:  “We are not to help but to serve churches in China; only Chinese churches can help themselves,” as he told CCD in the last interview. “When you wish to hear our opinion, ask. If you have a need and wish us to help, ask. We wish to be good guests. You do not enter another person’s home and take over. You appreciate whatever hospitality is offered and the do as you are requested.”

As expected from their name, "Word4Asia," Dr. Wood emphasized the importance of Bibles. He believes there is still a need for Bibles, which he saw as a testament to the continued growth of the church. While viewing Bibles as central for all Christian churches world-wide, there are many other needs.  Churches face the challenge of raising funds for the construction of church buildings, even when the government provides land to pastors congregations must still raise the money for construction. Also, finding money for staff salaries so they do not need to work a second job is difficult for all churches.

Another noteworthy shift, Dr. Wood observes is that pastors are increasingly prioritizing the deepening of believers' faith and understanding over merely increasing numbers. So from the national level down to the grassroots, churches have a great deal of work to be done in discipleship and leadership training.

An integral part of their visit involved interactions with non-governmental organizations in China and the United States.

significant meeting with Ai Ping, Vice President of the Chinese Association for International Understanding (CAFIU), and leaders from the China NGO Network for International Exchanges and the Amity Foundation centered on enhancing Sino-American relations through people-to-people exchanges. The focus of their conversation was the fifth "Amity Cup" International Table Tennis Philanthropic Tournament, scheduled for October 19-20 in Nanjing. Word4Asia was invited to co-chair the event. Liping Martinez, executive director of Word4Asia Consulting International, was appointed as the general secretary.

This event is a focal point of Word4Asia for the year. They aim to attract over 1,000 players. "As one of the first international tournaments we are confident we will have a great response. I believe this will open some relationships in a way that could be quite unique even historic." Dr. Wood believes “music and sports are things that all of us can just enjoy—the camaraderie and the competition.” He envisioned the event's success paving the way for similar gatherings in other cities. People to people and cultural exchanges are important for building bridges of understanding.

Word4Asia aspires to serve as a bridge between the West and the East, a mission exemplified by partnering with Amity Foundation for this diplomacy event.

During his visit to Nanjing, Reverend Kong, the senior pastor of Saint Paul’s church graciously invited his old friend, Dr. Wood to preach on Palm Sunday. “There's a common misconception among those who have never seen a Chinese church that believers in registered churches lack a genuine love for God and interest in the Bible. Well, that's not what I see. I see people that are responsive, visibly touched when God's word is preached.”

Word4Asia has previously showcased images of thousands of believers gathering in registered churches to worship God on their website. The impact of these visuals has been profound, often leaving readers amazed and prompting them to reconsider their thoughts and uninformed perceptions.

In addition to the church visits, Dr. Wood engaged in open dialogue with leaders of the State Administration for Religious Affairs (SARA) during his last trip, clarifying that his delegation was comprised of evangelical leaders. He clarified that being “evangelical” doesn't imply any intention to be sneaky or cause problems for China but rather is a term used by Christians who believe all of God’s Word is accurate and trustworthy and are convicted Jesus is the pathway to heaven.

“Sometimes we fear what we don't understand,” remarked Dr. Wood, and Word4Asia endeavors to bridge the gap of misinformation and foster understanding.

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