"If you want to win a Chinese to be a Christian, the friendship is the most important," Peter Leong, president of the Chinese Baptist Fellowship, said during the group's June 19 meeting in New Orleans in conjunction with the Southern Baptist Convention's annual meeting.
"When we're talking about a friendship," Leong also noted, "eating is the most important."
Leong, from the Houston-area Grace Chinese Baptist Church, makes an effort in his area to connect with other Chinese outside the church walls by opening his home for a meal once a month, which usually is followed by fellowship and some Bible study.
Jeremy Sin, national coordinator of church mobilization for the North American Mission Board, encouraged pastors and church planters to meet Chinese people where they are and not to just find a building, start a worship service and wait for people to come.
Ted Lam, church planting ambassador for the fellowship from Oklahoma City, suggested that bodies of believers could reach out and minister to owners and workers in Chinese restaurants.
"The biggest group we have not reached is the people who cook the food for us," Lam said.
Leong echoed this sentiment and encouraged pastors to reach out to Chinese restaurant workers. He explained that the church service might look different or be held at a different time to work around the cooks' and servers' schedules.
"You have to go out of the way to start a church for them," Sin said. "When they come to church their clothes are greasy, smelly. They don't want to make other people uncomfortable so they say, 'I prefer to stay out of here,' and that's why you need to bring the church to them."
The Chinese Baptist Fellowship has 277 member churches in the United States and Canada, Leong said, and is working toward a goal of 800 churches by 2020. The fellowship added 17 churches since last year's meeting.
"There's a lot of people, especially of the Chinese, still out of the gate of the church, and God sent us here to be a minister and evangelist. We want to continue the ministry God has given to us," Leong said.
To support, encourage and teach Chinese pastors and church planters, the Chinese Baptist Fellowship holds conferences and seminars throughout the year. The fellowship also will hold its 17th biennial conference in Los Angeles Sept. 18-20.
Whitney Jones is a writer with Baptist Press. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).
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