On one of my earliest days in China, I spent a day at a local tourist trap with a new Chinese friend. I bought a black-and-white painting of peasants gathering for hotpot in a corner restaurant, and lugged it back on the long walk through crowded streets that smelled strongly of fried dough and stinky tofu. I think we got a bit lost, although I didn’t quite understand what was happening – both my friend and I were new to town, and my Chinese language skills were nonexistent.
The hotpot painting now hangs on my wall in America, a reminder of a different time. Many of us who care about China perhaps imagined we would spend our lives there. Yet most foreigners have now left the country, and for Chinese believers, the future is uncertain. These are tenuous times for the entire country, and believers can easily feel isolated and alone.
How can we pray for the church and her ministry in China? How do we even know what to pray, when it seems things are murkier than they have been in many decades?
I am no expert, but here are three areas that I have been praying for, based on what I am hearing right now from Chinese Christians:
I am praying that the church will continue in her course of following Christ. Especially when things feel turbulent, may the church press on, driven by confidence of who they are in Jesus.
Would You Pray With Us Today?
I am praying for pastors and church leaders to shepherd their flocks with an alert love that is aware of the pressures believers face, and helps equip them to face those stressors. In a reflection on Psalm 134, Guan Lufei wrote, “May God give the pastors, elders, and preachers of this generation a heart to watch for the church. May he raise up a group of watchmen who are willing to watch for his flock.”
This month, a group of pastors shared with us their concerns about leading their churches through the twin troubles of pandemic and persecution. How can they help believers focus on building the kingdom, when they are worried their own lives might crumble? Chinese churches must have a firm confidence that what they hope for is true. To hold fast, they must remember: “The eternal kingdom cuts through the shadows of reality…By faith, we see the golden shore we will one day reach.”
Love One Another
I am also praying for Chinese churches to remember, encourage, and cling to one another. I am praying that they will show the world they are Jesus’s disciples by the way they love one another. A Christian attorney who represents many churches and church leaders when they experience persecution wrote that the ministry of love is a powerful testament to the strength of the gospel. When one church reaches out in compassion to another, suffering church, it encourages both bodies.
The attorney wrote, “When one church was punished, another church came to support them. When, in turn, that supporting church was penalized, other churches to their aid. Churches like this are very reassuring. Churches who act in such a manner speak for the gospel.”
Believers that are facing trials of faith often struggle. They need love, compassion, and care from their brothers and sisters in the faith. I am praying Chinese churches will become experts in this ministry of mutual love and caregiving.
Know and Share God’s Love
Finally, I am praying for Chinese churches to remain focused on their own love relationships with their Father. Out of that intimate relationship, I pray they will continue to share Christ with the many Chinese who do not know him and have not heard of his love.
Muzi, a Chinese believer who went to detention not long after she became a believer, said that difficulties can strengthen faith. She wrote, “Saints who have experienced the salvation of the cross have a strong and sincere confession of faith. These saints know the purpose of both their life and their death is to preach Christ, and to proclaim how he brought us from death into life.” Another Chinese sister encouraged a brother preparing for a meeting with officials to pray and share the good news with them. She said, “Cut to the gospel – this is a time of epidemic and death.”
Knowing Christ and making him known is at the heart of our faith. May Chinese believers continue to do this with every opportunity they have.
E.F. Gregory is a mom of three young children. She lives in the San Gabriel Valley on the border of East Los Angeles, where her husband is a P.C.A. church planter.
FOR PRAYER AND REFLECTION
Pray for Chinese churches to hold steadfast to their faith, to love one another, and to know Christ and make him known.