The Meaning of Shouwang
TOWARD THE END OF HIS LIFE, Peter Drucker famously said, "The most significant sociological phenomenon of the first half of the 20th century was the rise of the corporation. The most significant sociological phenomenon of the second half of the 20th Century has been the development of the mega-church. It is the only organization that is actually working in our society."
When Drucker, often called “the father of the modern management”, made that observation at the turn of the century, his eyes were on the United States. A little more than ten years later, those same phenomena Drucker highlighted are increasingly - and perhaps surprisingly - evident in the world’s second-largest economy.
Since the late 1970s when China initiated the reform and opening-up policy, private and state-owned corporations have become one of the most significant components of the Chinese society. They touch many people’s lives and have contribute profoundly to China's rise.
The private sector is even more notable, since it now accounts for most of China’s economy. However, in the early stage of the reform and opening-up era, private businesses were still not universally recognized. In fact, China’s government had banned private firms since the People’s Republic of China was founded in 1949. To conduct a private enterprise in that era was to put one's very life at risk.
If the spectacular growth of private companies in China was beyond everyone's expectation, the development of large pastoral churches came as a much bigger surprise. Private companies were once viewed by China’s government officials as relevant only to “capitalism” or “the Western capitalist countries”. Now, China's leaders regard the private economy as a pillar of the socialist market economy.
As alien to China's culture and history as private businesses might seem, large pastoral churches are even moreso. Could they really be growing in popularity? The answer is a resounding yes.
Beginning in April 2011, Shouwang Church, a large pastoral church in Beijing has risen to become thy symbol of this social revolution. Even major international media - including the likes of Reuters, The New York Times, Agence France-Press, and even China's official communist paper the People's Daily - have begun following events at the church.
Over the past few years, a few analysts had already noticed the rise of Christianity in China. A classic is Jesus in Beijing: How Christianity is Transforming China and Changing the Global Balance of Power. Writing in 2003, its author David Aikman, a former Beijing Bureau Chief of Time magazine, said that “the number of Christian believers in China, both Catholic and Protestant, may be closer to 80 million than the official combined Catholic-Protestant figure of 21 million.”
In a stunning contrast, some estimates show that there were only about 800-thousand Christians in China in 1949 and some two million in the late 1970s.