Once a month, we share a short reflection from a Chinese pastor on the nature of the gospel. Though we often post longer articles, there is a richness to short and concise thoughts.
Wang Jianguo is the collective pseudonym for a group of Chinese house church pastors thinking and writing about issues related to the spread of Christianity in their nation. They are committed to preaching a grace-centered gospel, developing resources for the church, and loving China’s urban centers.
China is undergoing urbanization, and we know that the Bible refers to the church as the New Jerusalem – which is a city, an alternative city that should replace the city of Babylon. In the past tradition of Chinese Christianity, we believed the gospel was individualistic – if we believe in Jesus, we will go to heaven. Under such circumstances, we lacked the idea of corporate witness. But when the Bible speaks of the gospel, especially in the synoptics, it speaks of the gospel of the kingdom – it is a gospel that reigns, and not merely individualistically. Chinese churches today need to know that corporate witness is very important.
The Bible says that we are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s people, and that we proclaim the excellencies of him who called us out of darkness into his marvelous light. We do not say that after believing in Jesus, we simply personally go to heaven; rather, the kingdom of heaven is here, and the church will be a replacement of the city, living out the glories of the new Jerusalem in the great city of Babylon.
In this sense, we need to consider several points so that the church will preach such a gospel and not just an individualistic gospel. The church should be missional – that is, the existence of the church itself is to preach the gospel. Evangelism is not an activity of the church; rather, it is the testimony of the gospel itself. The golden lampstand is the manifestation of the kingdom of heaven on earth. Thus, we need to let the church imbibe the DNA of the gospel, so that every ministry preaches the gospel. We need to work hard to plant such churches.
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In this way, both the formation and the unity of the church are very important. The church is no longer individualistic, but the manifestation of the kingdom of heaven on earth. As such, it needs governance. Each church is not an individual entity; it is not independent. The churches in the same city or in the same region should be connected – this is how the kingdom of heaven is manifested on earth.
Besides, when Chinese churches speak of evangelism, due to the cultural influence of Buddhism, the emphasis is on otherworldliness. In the waves of urbanization, every brother and sister should proclaim the Lord’s name in their respective spheres. If their faith is to be connected to their vocation and if they are to serve in the marketplace, we need to teach the brothers and sisters so they know that the church is organized and passionate. They need to understand that it is not only when believers are gathered that the church exists, but the church also exists when it is scattered and witnessing unto the Lord.
Translation provided by the China Partnership translation team.
What does it mean that the gospel is for a community, and not just for individuals?