Qingdao: Good Soil for the Gospel

Editor’s note: This April, we are praying for Qingdao. Qingdao is a city of about 9 million, and is a well-known tourist spot and important seaport in northern China. To help us pray for their city, several Qingdao pastors shared some of their thoughts on the people and culture of Qingdao, as well as the needs of the local church.

Responses in this interview have been edited and slightly rearranged for clarity and length. This is the first of a three-part series.


Respect for Religion

China Partnership: How is Qingdao unique among China’s cities?

Thomas Lu: I’m kind of an outsider, as I moved here about 15 years ago. This is one of the few northern cities that is very international. Culturally, Qingdao is pretty open-minded. A lot of people have moved here from different areas, especially from other places in Shandong Province. Because most people are originally from different places, the city has a lot of different cultural flavors.

People here are generally kind and honest. I think they are good soil for the gospel. Most people have a certain respect for religion. If you share the gospel on the street with a random person, most people won’t be rude and refuse to hear. Because they have some respect for all religions, they usually give a hearing to what you want to say. Culturally, the city is fairly traditional. Because Qingdao is in Confucius’s home province, people place a lot of emphasis on respecting and taking care of their parents, and other things like that. Age is a very important factor. If you are older than other people, when you go to a restaurant, you will be seated first. People here place more emphasis on these traditional values.

People here are generally kind and honest. I think they are good soil for the gospel.

Although I grew up in another area of China, I feel comfortable living here. Qingdao has a nice climate, and is cool in the summer – except for August, it’s humid then! Other than that, it is nice all year long. Winter is not very cold, and is fairly comfortable.

The local people are nice and kind, and get along with others. In the church environment, people start to develop close and deep relationships, and are very loving. This is my general impression of the city.

Barnabas Huang: Shandong has a very special position among China’s provinces. In olden times, Shandong was the land of ancient states. We also have the largest peninsula in China. Shandong Province and the northern part of China, is the place where the gospel came the earliest to China. House churches here in Shandong have a special spiritual position in China. When Western missionaries came to China 150 years ago, they first established the church in the north. Qingdao has a long history of Christian churches. The people of Shandong Province have an excellent reputation throughout China, and are respected as an honorable people. They are thought well of in other provinces.

Although Qingdao is not the capital of Shandong, it is the economic powerhouse of the province. Qingdao is forecasted to soon overtake Tianjin as the strongest economic city in northern China. Qingdao is the third biggest and most successful city in the northern part of the country. There is a lot of German history here, as the Germans were here more than a hundred years ago.

Because Qingdao is in Confucius’s home province, people place a lot of emphasis on respecting and taking care of their parents, and other things like that… People here place more emphasis on these traditional values.

Shandong is like the Asia Minor of Paul’s time, and Qingdao is like Ephesus. We can bless the peninsula and surrounding areas. Shandong has a population of more than 100 million, and Qingdao and the surrounding areas have a population of about 10 million. In this position, the city has an important role.


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The people of Qingdao are very special. They live near to the sea, and unlike other Chinese people, Qingdao people tend to accept foreigners and outsiders more easily. They also have prejudices, but fewer prejudices than people in other areas. Qingdao people are tolerant and accepting of others. Even the older people are easy to get along with and get to know.

Gospel Work Has Not Been Easy

CP: How has Qingdao changed over the last five years? How have things changed for your church? What is different about doing ministry now versus five years ago?

Tang Aidong: There have been a lot of changes in the last three years. Because of Covid-Zero, people stayed in their homes and could not go out. People could not gather. This was a big challenge. Most churches used the Internet to come together. Worship and everything existed in these circumstances. When the church cannot come together, many people became weak and regressed. Although they have not necessarily given up their faith, people have fallen away and become more worldly. Even after Covid controls were lifted, many people have not come back to church. Some are weak; others have stepped off the path.

Also during this time, the economy has been bad. Many small stores and businesses have closed down. As businesses have become weak, so have the house churches. Currently, the house churches here in Qingdao are in rebuilding mode. Ministry is hard for many pastors. They are tired, and find the people in their congregation have lost their heart for God. The gospel work has not been very easy in the last five years.

However, I am grateful that, in the last few years, my own church has opened a new site. I am also grateful to have been ministered to by other Chinese believers in this time.

It is difficult, but at the same time, God opened more opportunities for us. He gave us a more flexible ministry.

Thomas Lu: During the pandemic, people developed different ways of ministering to others. Because of the pandemic and also because of government restrictions [aka pressure and persecution], churches now have to meet in smaller group. Things are more scattered. That also makes it a little more flexible: people now know how to use the Internet to link together and have different meetings. Now, many of our meetings are a combination of both offline and online. We meet in-person, but we also open Zoom so those who have difficulty coming to the meeting place can participate. It is a difficult situation, but it also opens doors for us.

At the beginning of the pandemic, everyone had to meet online. We could not meet offline at all. After several months, we started to meet offline. But while we were online, we also had non-believers – relatives and friends of members – join. So because of that, we kept the online meetings for several years.

It is difficult, but at the same time, God opened more opportunities for us. He gave us a more flexible ministry.


All of the names used in this story are pseudonyms to protect the identities of the pastors involved. Thomas Lu is a pastor with a burden to help the house church develop missionaries who can be sent to house churches inside and outside of China. Barnabas Huang is a house church pastor with a ministry among young adults emerging from student ministry. He has been in Qingdao about 20 years. Pastor Tang Aidong has been serving the church for more than 30 years, beginning shortly after he came to faith.

People in Qingdao are often receptive to spiritual conversations. Pray for the Holy Spirit to move and draw these open hearts to himself.

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Further Reading

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Why Should I Love My Enemies?: Give Up Revenge, Love Enemies
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Nanjing: Bringing the Gospel Into Life
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Nanjing: A Welcoming City of Newcomers
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LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT IN CHINA

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.

WILL YOU JOIN US IN PRAYING FOR LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT IN CHINA? PRAY FOR:

  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

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