Look Up and See the Vastness of the World

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Editor’s note: This letter to his congregation was written in 2017 by Wang Yi (a Chengdu pastor who was imprisoned in 2018). In this letter, Wang Yi urges the church to understand the age in which they live. He reminds them that suffering for Christ is better than a comfortable yet purposeless existence.

The pastoral letter was recently shared again by his congregation—which remains under intense governmental pressure—in order to exhort members to remain focused on making disciples, planting churches, and intentionally engaging in mission work for the sake of Christ and his church.

This letter has been edited for clarity and length.


This week, I read a report about the status of global Christianity, released by Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. This is an era of big data; I was excited by the statistics about the church around the world.

People don’t usually pay much attention to the suffering or achievements that happen in a distant place. The number of roads built in an African country last year seems to have nothing to do with your life. What does a world of 7 billion people have to do with you?


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Christians are the only people in humanity who truly have an international perspective. If there is no concrete relationship between the world at large and your life, then the meaning of your life is false.

Master of the Whole Universe

If the God you believe in is only the God of Chengdu, then he is a tribal god. As for Lhasa or Cape of Good Hope—places you will never visit—they exist outside the meaning of your life. If the God you believe in is only god of the construction industry, then he is an industry god. Only the construction industry and industries related to it are relevant to you. 

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“Elderly sisters who had rarely visited even the main town in their county were in tears praying for China, for the leaders of China, and for Heilongjiang, Xinjiang, and Tibet. I was shocked. Prayer tied humble and difficult private life in a small mountain village to the well-being of a vast world. 

However, the church does not worship tribal or industry gods, but rather “the fullness of him who fills all in all.” “Do I not fill heaven and earth?” declares the Lord.” 

If your master is master of the whole universe, then the whole universe is related to your life’s meaning. The whole universe is your sphere of operation. Although you live, move, and exist in only one corner of the universe, unless every part is meaningful, your corner can never be meaningful. Colossians 1 says that Christ created all things, holds all things together, and is the head of his body, the church.

Many people who work in multinational corporations like to think that they belong to a corporation with branches all over the world. This gives the whole world a concrete meaning. Although they serve only one city, they know and care about the company’s global performance and trends. 

When I was a child, politics motivated people to care about the country and the world. I loved history and geography. By the time I graduated from elementary school, I knew by heart the famous mountains and rivers, historical figures, and the genealogies of Chinese emperors. By the time I graduated from junior high school, I had memorized the full list of every Communist general. I also memorized every Olympic champion and collected every set of commemorative stamps issued after 1949. I was familiar with every firearm used by the Communist Army, and every model of the ships in the Navy. I even drew my own map, listing every city on the Chinese border, as if it was my duty to guard the border.

But later, all 1.3 billion people in China said “Ugh,” one after another. They turned their heads and lived individualistic lives. In contemporary China, it is not politics but business that drives people to care about distant places and the world at large. Unless economic interests were concerned, why should they care about distant places?

Do Not Pray for a Peaceful Life

Before you came to faith, most of you were deeply influenced by the spirit of this age and were individualistic in regard to life’s meaning and to the world at large. After coming to faith, this individualistic indifference to the kingdom followed with us. Although we praise Jesus as Lord of all things and King of kings, we are so numb to Jesus’s sovereignty—to the global operations of our own “company”—that we still think: “What does this have to do with my life of hard work?

Yet Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” The Great Commission means that the church has been given authority to expand its spiritual “business” throughout the world. 

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“ If we are not excited about the great things Jesus did in distant places and sorrowful about the bondage of our distant and strange relatives, our dreams are no more than a struggle to move to a better ZIP code. Brothers and sisters, I love you and pray for you, not for food, clothing, nor a peaceful life. I pray that none of you fall into the traps of this life and end up more pathetic than those of the world.

In 2004, I went to a large mountain on the border of Hubei and Chongqing to observe an underground house church there. At the 5 a.m. prayer meeting, elderly sisters who had rarely visited even the main town in their own county were in tears praying for China, for the leaders of China, and for Heilongjiang, Xinjiang, and Tibet. I was shocked. Prayer tied humble and difficult private life in a small mountain village to the well-being of a vast world. 

Brothers and sisters, if the gospel of Jesus does not make us look up and see the vastness of the world again, then the Lord’s Great Commission will turn into a “great disobedience” in our daily life. When we think of Jesus’s kingdom, power and glory worldwide, we are conditioned to say that we must bury our fatherssay farewell to our families; and see to our business interests.

If this is the case, our lives are nothing more than bustling about for personal gain. If we are not excited about the great things Jesus did in distant places and sorrowful about the bondage of our distant and strange relatives, our dreams are no more than a struggle to move to a better ZIP code. Brothers and sisters, I love you and pray for you, not for food, clothing, nor a peaceful life. I pray that none of you fall into the traps of this life and end up more pathetic than those of the world. That would be like owning the sky but dying in the mud. We have a Father who rules the universe, but you turn him into a tribal and industry god.

The Worldwide Kingdom of the Lord

Last, I’d like to share two exciting and shocking statistics about the kingdom of the Lord worldwide. The first is that the average number of martyrs per year, worldwide, from 2006 to 2016 is 90,000. This is greater than during the Middle Ages and the Boxer Rebellion. We are in a time of war, not of peace. Just because we happen to live in a relatively safe corner of the world does not mean that animosity toward Christ has disappeared. If we become impatient with Communist rule and the lack of religious freedom, we should not pray that the Lord would send us to America or Canada, but that he would send us to a more dangerous and difficult place to be with the 90,000 brothers and sisters who have died in the streets. 

The second statistic is that the Christian urban population accounts for thirty-eight percent of the global urban population. Yes, that number is also shockingly large to me. If only two percent of the population of our city, Chengdu, is Christian, then I see meaning and purpose in you and I and our offspring continuing to live in this city. Whether by giving birth, by raising children, or by evangelism, the kingdom of the Lord will be expanded in this city—for a hundred years, for two hundred years, until Christ comes again.

A brother who wants to see the vastness of the world with you, 

Wang Yi


Wang Yi is a Chengdu pastor who was arrested on December 9, 2018, as part of a crackdown focused on his church, Early Rain. He was sentenced to nine years in December of 2019, and is currently in prison.

 

FOR PRAYER AND REFLECTION

Pray for Chinese believers to remain focused on the mission of the church—making disciples—in the midst of their own private and corporate difficulties.

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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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ABOUT LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT

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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