Nanjing: Love Under Pressure

Editor’s note: This June, we are praying for Nanjing.

In this portion of our interview, the pastors shared about the stress and pressure they sense within Nanjing, and how people struggle to find hope. They also talked about how they desire to shepherd their churches, and raise up people who are passionate about loving, not using, their city. They especially asked for prayer for unity.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. Parts one and two are linked here.


Hopelessness and Anxiety

China Partnership: As you minister to people in your city, what are the common challenges, fears, and struggles you encounter?

Liang Mai: Most people in Nanjing are immigrants to the city. It is very rare to find a third-generation Nanjing person. The spiritual atmosphere is that of a welcoming and accepting immigrant city.

A lot of locations, like the emperor’s tomb or the Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall, have memories of tombs and of death. That history is related to the spiritual environment of the city.

People here are hopeless. If you talk with people – anyone, young and old – people feel pretty down. They are upset with the economy, politics, and their lives. I think it is preparation for the gospel.

Buddhism is quite popular in Nanjing. There are two examples: sarira[1] are the ashes of Buddha, the leftovers of cremated dead bodies. In Buddhism, sarira are very holy. Some people built a temple here for sarira. The other example is regular people who become “small Buddhas.” These people study Buddhism, and many of them walk through and pray for and bless the city. This has gone on for years. Some people in Nanjing are really involved with Buddhism; it’s in the culture.

Du Liwei: People here are hopeless. If you talk with people – anyone, young and old – people feel pretty down. They are upset with the economy, politics, and their lives.

I think it is preparation for the gospel. When people talk about their marriage, their relationship with their kids, or work, they feel a lot of pressure. We can have sympathy for them and show empathy. We can get to know them, and prepare their hearts for the gospel.

Hu Jiang: Now people, especially young people, are pretty depressed. This is also true for young people in the church. It is hard for young people to continue pursuing faith. They are influenced by the atmosphere of the city, and pressured by their work and the state of the economy. Among the young people in my church, very few really hunger and thirst to grow spiritually. They feel like life is already full of anxiety, and it is hard for them to focus on spiritual things.


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Zhang Ming: We don’t know why, but LGBT rates in Nanjing are much higher than other big cities in China.

Hu Jiang: Because of the atmosphere, some people give up. They lack money, so they just continue with their daily life and are satisfied with that. They don’t have a goal in their lives, they just do whatever.

Liang Mai: There are two kinds of people in Nanjing.  The first is local people. These people may already have their own homes and feel satisfied with their lives. They don’t feel they want to pursue more. We need to wake these people up and make them see: what you think is stable may not really be stable.

The second group is one we already mentioned, the many people who are coming into Nanjing as new immigrants. For these people, we need to help them release their tension and anxiety. We need to be connected to and supportive of them. That is a good challenge, and a chance to get to know and support them.

It is hard for young people to continue pursuing faith. They are influenced by the atmosphere of the city, and pressured by their work and the state of the economy.

How to Pray

CP: How can we be praying for your city and for Christians in your city? How can we be praying for your churches and families?

Liang Mai: Pray for Nanjing believers to have a mindset that, even when they are under pressure and experiencing anxiety, they do not just see the city and the resources. Pray they also see God’s mercy and love to bless the city, instead of just using the city to get what they want. This mindset is the number one way you can pray for us.

Also pray for us pastors to have patience to accompany believers as they grow mature. Help us to help them build their church life, family, and parenthood, so they will be a shining example for friends and relatives. On the pastoral level, pray we can be more patient and raise our people to be different.

Many churches we know are doing life-on-life discipleship together. We want to build discipleship training among different churches in the city, so we can all grow at the same time, hand-in-hand.

Hu Jiang: Within our own church, brothers and sisters lack a vision for spiritual warfare. Pray people will realize and pray for this.

Outside of that, I personally am practicing kingdom prayer. Pray this will help me see the gospel more clearly and deepen my understanding of the gospel.

Du Liwei: There are three areas for prayer. First, the unity of churches in Nanjing. A lot of denominations are divided, and also Chinese family churches have really big teams. Unity is quite a problem for them. Some churches in Nanjing are smaller, like ours. These are all different types of churches; we hope they can be more connected with and bless each other.

Second, student ministry is declining. Because of persecution, this ministry is hard. Pray for God to still raise people who can do this ministry. A lot of those ministries are becoming regular churches instead of campus-focused churches.

Third, pray for our own church. How can we connect the gospel to the world? How can we connect our church to the community?

In Nanjing, the key words are “gospel” and “unite.” We want to see the church here united as one.

Fourth, pray to push forward the whole church. Pray God will use our marriage and our own stories to shepherd our church members. They really want to hear about our daily lives and how we use the gospel! Pray that God will not only raise up a family ministry, but that he will use our real lives and our real marriage to be an example in raising this up. In my own marriage, pray for me to more deeply experience repentance.

Zhang Ming: In Nanjing, the key words are “gospel” and “unite.” We want to see the church here united as one. Another key word is “leaders.” We hope new leaders could be seen in this city. We want gospel movement, and hope to see that in the future.

For our church, pray for disciple-making and for prayer.

Personally, pray for my health, and for the health of pastors in Nanjing.

Bo Fangfang: We have a gathering of pastors’ wives in this city, and we are very energetic and are growing. I think we have very close relationships. We all love our husbands, love God, and love the gospel. We see each other as very good friends. Pray our relationships with one another will be protected.

All of us are leading discipleship groups and have kids. Pray we will be bold and passionate toward the gospel, toward our husbands, and toward our disciples. Pray we will raise more disciples.

We want to influence other pastors’ wives in other cities to do the same as we are doing, because we really enjoy our gatherings.

 

[1] Sarira are pearl-like objects found in the ashes of monks or holy Buddhists. Only extremely holy people can be expected to leave behind sarira. The temple mentioned here  was built after a 2008 discovery in Nanjing of a reliquary which supposedly held the skull bone of Buddha.

 


Liang Mai, Du Liwei, Hu Jiang, and Zhang Ming are pseudonyms for house church pastors in Nanjing. Bo Fangfang is a pseudonym for a pastor’s wife who is active in discipleship and caring for other women in ministry.

Pray for Nanjing believers to love and serve their city, instead of having a selfish attitude of looking to get what ever they can out of the city.

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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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