Chinese Pastor Roundtable: A Big Crisis Will Be the Next Generation


Editor’s note: This is the third part of a 2017 round table discussion between China Partnership staff, the Chinese pastors they work with, and various American church partners. Since this conversation, persecution has greatly increased in China. We have used pseudonyms to protect the identities of those involved in the discussion. You can also catch up on Part 1 and Part 2 of the series.

Chunsun: Can you talk a little bit about leader development? Given the context within their churches and their networks [in the Chinese house church]… do they feel that the current models and methods of leader development are adequate for the church?

Yang Mingdao: Are we talking about theological education or general leadership?

Chunsun: General leadership.

Wang Jianguo: Because I teach in a seminary, I have a voice. 

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In the seminaries in the States, they have more than 100,000 books in the library. So they want students to write papers, stay in the library, read a lot, and finish their papers. They want to see the paper because it’s real. It’s not your thoughts, but you got this from somewhere, you read a lot, and discuss what you want to talk about. 

But in our seminaries, we have 20,000 books. When I am teaching, I also ask them to write papers and I ask them to read. It’s very personal and they write down their thoughts. It’s very difficult. There is no way around it, because we are short on books; short of Chinese books. If we can translate English books into Chinese, this will take a lot of time. The Korean churches have done a lot. I have met many Koreans here who have studied in American seminaries, but they write in Korean because they have enough Korean theological books and they keep translating English books into Korean. 

Previously we have not had an emphasis on theological training, and sometimes we saw seminary as a spiritual retreat or place of revival. When I go to other seminaries in China, I encourage them to sit together to discuss. I give them time to read, and read, and digest the books, but they just sit there. I ask them, why? They say, “Teacher, we love to listen. We don’t want to read!”  This is a problem. 

When we use [the gospel’s movement’s materials] to do a training, we have the same problem. Many ministers don’t like to think. They just prefer to be told [what to do]. “You just tell me what to say so that I can just do it in my church.” The education model in China is just teach and then we study for the exam. For thousands of years!

For thousands of years, Confucianism emphasized social structure and different hierarchies. They call that li, different forms; you are not encouraged to [think critically], you are more encouraged to obey or be submissive to your superiors. That’s the way you can climb the social ladder. So critical thinking is not encouraged within the culture.

Today, many books written by Tim Keller have been translated. Through our trainings, we encourage the ministers to read, think actively, and not just follow what people say. 

I don’t think persecution is the main difficulty for the Chinese churches. The more persecution, the more revival for the Chinese churches. Sometimes we are expecting persecution from the government. When pastors are arrested revival comes to the church. Most of the time, the pastor is the stumbling block of the revival. A key feature of this movement is the focus on the gospel that is the core of our ministry. So even though it is going to take a longer time for personal growth, for church growth, for family growth, it is only a matter of time. 

I think a big crisis will be the next generation. Because [the younger] generation has never experienced persecution as the previous generation did and they never had the spiritual battles; they are very greatly influenced by secularism. We observe that the next generation – our kids and children – when they are in public education, not only are they taught against our faith and ideology, but the focus of education – their character and the way they think about things – does great harm to their faith. Because of that, we started our own school. A large number of our congregants have sent their kids to our school. 

Doing school is very new for us. Even though we have experience with the church for twenty or thirty years, doing school is very new to us. There are a great number of seminaries in China, but very few schools and institutes can generate Christian educators or Christian teachers for us. I know there are at least one hundred or two hundred churches starting their own Christian schools and programs in the schools, but the work will be a very long haul. We are very short of teaching faculty. It’s very likely [that] a lot of Christian schools in China will fail, or have some detours in the coming years, because we are just trying by ourselves. Because the failure of a school can hurt the churches, we pray the Lord will have mercy on us through the schools and churches. 

杨明道 Yang Mingdao is the collective pseudonym for Chinese staff within China Partnership.

王建国 Wang Jianguo is the collective pseudonym for a group of Chinese pastors in the unregistered church participating in a grace-centered gospel movement.

春笋 Chunsun is the collective pseudonym for American individuals, churches, and foundations ministering to Chinese people.



Since the time of this interview, persecution has increased greatly in China. Pray for the younger generation of leaders as they experience real pressure for the first time, that they may hold firmly to Christ and that his gospel may be rooted deep in their hearts.

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Further Reading

Nanjing: Bringing the Gospel Into Life
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Nanjing: A Welcoming City of Newcomers
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Nanjing: A Relational Gospel
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With rising pressure and persecution in China, there are two challenges imperative for church leaders. The first challenge is for current leaders to love Christ above all else, and not to stray into legalism or love of the world. The second challenge is to raise up the next generation of leaders, who will humbly model Jesus even if current leaders are arrested.


  1. Current leaders to grow in their daily walks with Christ
  2. Current leaders to shepherd and raise up new leaders
  3. New leaders who love Christ and will model him to the world
  4. New leaders to love and care for the church



About Shenyang

Shenyang is a city located in northeastern China and is the capital of Liaoning Province. It is known for its rich history and cultural heritage, including the Shenyang Imperial Palace, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Shenyang is also a hub for China’s heavy industry, with companies such as the China First Automobile Group and the Shenyang Aircraft Corporation having their headquarters in the city.


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About Qingdao

Qingdao is a city located in eastern China and is famous for its beaches, beer, and seafood. The city is home to several landmarks, including the Zhanqiao Pier and the Badaguan Scenic Area. Qingdao is also a major port and has a thriving economy, with industries such as electronics, petrochemicals, and machinery.


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About Xiamen

Xiamen is a city located in southeastern China and is a popular tourist destination known for its beautiful coastal scenery, including Gulangyu Island, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The city is also a hub for China’s high-tech industry, with companies such as Huawei and ZTE having research and development centers in Xiamen.


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About Chongqing

Chongqing is a city located in southwestern China and is a major economic center in the region. The city is known for its spicy cuisine, especially its hot pot dishes, and is also famous for the Three Gorges Dam, the world’s largest hydroelectric dam. Chongqing is also home to several historic sites, including the Dazu Rock Carvings, which are UNESCO World Heritage sites.


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About Nanjing

Nanjing is a city located in eastern China and is the capital of Jiangsu Province. It is one of China’s ancient capitals and has a rich cultural history, including the Ming Xiaoling Mausoleum, the Nanjing City Wall, and the Confucius Temple. Nanjing is also a modern city with a thriving economy and is home to several universities, including Nanjing University and Southeast University.


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About Changchun

Changchun is a city located in northeastern China and is the capital of Jilin Province. It is known for its rich cultural heritage and is home to several historical landmarks such as the Puppet Emperor’s Palace and the Jingyuetan National Forest Park. Changchun is also a hub for China’s automotive industry, with several major automobile manufacturers having their headquarters in the city.


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About Guangzhou

Guangzhou, also known as Canton, is a city located in southern China and is the capital of Guangdong Province. It is one of the country’s largest and most prosperous cities, serving as a major transportation and trading hub for the region. Guangzhou is renowned for its modern architecture, including the Canton Tower and the Guangzhou Opera House, as well as its Cantonese cuisine, which is famous for its variety and bold flavors. The city also has a rich history, with landmarks such as the Chen Clan Ancestral Hall, the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, and the Temple of the Six Banyan Trees. Additionally, Guangzhou hosts the annual Canton Fair, the largest trade fair in China.


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About Kunming

Kunming is a city located in southwest China and is the capital of Yunnan Province. Known as the “City of Eternal Spring” for its mild climate, Kunming is a popular tourist destination due to its natural beauty and cultural diversity. The city is home to several scenic spots, including the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Stone Forest, Dian Lake, and the Western Hills. Kunming is also famous for its unique cuisine, which features a mix of Han, Yi, and Bai ethnic flavors. The city has a rich cultural history, with ancient temples and shrines like the Yuantong Temple and the Golden Temple, and it’s also a hub for Yunnan’s ethnic minority cultures, such as the Yi and Bai peoples.


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About Shenzhen

Shenzhen is a city located in southeastern China and is one of the country’s fastest-growing metropolises. The city is renowned for its thriving tech industry, with companies such as Huawei, Tencent, and DJI having their headquarters in Shenzhen. The city also has a vibrant cultural scene, with numerous museums, art galleries, and parks. Shenzhen is also known for its modern architecture, such as the Ping An Finance Center and the Shenzhen Bay Sports Center. Despite its modernization, Shenzhen also has a rich history and cultural heritage, with landmarks such as the Dapeng Fortress and the Chiwan Tin Hau Temple.


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About Chengdu

Chengdu is a city located in the southwestern region of China, and the capital of Sichuan province. It has a population of over 18 million people, and it is famous for its spicy Sichuan cuisine, laid-back lifestyle, and its cute and cuddly residents – the giant pandas. Chengdu is home to the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, where visitors can observe these adorable creatures in their natural habitat. The city also boasts a rich cultural heritage, with numerous temples, museums, and historical sites scattered throughout its boundaries. Chengdu is a city of contrasts, with ancient traditions coexisting alongside modern developments, making it an intriguing and fascinating destination for visitors to China. 


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About Beijing

Beijing is the capital city of China and one of the most populous cities in the world, with a population of over 21 million people. The city has a rich history that spans over 3,000 years, and it has served as the capital of various dynasties throughout China’s history. Beijing is home to some of the most iconic landmarks in China, including the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, and the Temple of Heaven. The city is also a hub for political, cultural, and educational activities, with numerous universities and research institutions located within its boundaries. Beijing is renowned for its traditional architecture, rich cuisine, and vibrant cultural scene, making it a must-visit destination for travelers to China.


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About Shanghai

Shanghai is a vibrant and dynamic city located on the eastern coast of China. It is the largest city in China and one of the most populous cities in the world, with a population of over 24 million people. Shanghai is a global financial hub and a major center for international trade, with a rich history and culture that spans over 1,000 years. The city is famous for its iconic skyline, which features towering skyscrapers such as the Oriental Pearl Tower and the Shanghai Tower. Shanghai is also home to a diverse culinary scene, world-class museums and art galleries, and numerous shopping districts. It is a city that is constantly evolving and reinventing itself, making it a fascinating destination for visitors from around the world.


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