New Wine and Old Skin, Part III: Pastoral Preaching in Transient Communities

Editor’s note: This article is the last in a three-part series by a Chinese house church pastor in response to a preaching workshop conducted in Shanghai by a prominent American pastor. The workshop focused on how to preach the gospel, and in particular Christ, through the book of Genesis. The China Partnership is thankful to this pastor for assistance with developing a curriculum on gospel-centered preaching. Check out Part 1 and Part 2 to complete the series. The writer discussed the current context of the Chinese church and how it needs to be addressed with redemptive historical preaching in the series’ previous posts. In this article, he picks back up with a third and fourth point from the Shanghai training.

The third point addressed during the training is that only Christocentric preaching can teach believers and unbelievers at the same time, and present the full gospel in a transient population. For quite a long time, becoming a believer [in the Chinese context] has meant becoming a follower of a set of religious norms. Christian moral rules are admirable; however, conversion to such a religion requires a different mentality. Preaching moralistic teaching causes believers to despise unbelievers on the one hand, and on the other hand, it lays an unbearable burden on both believers and unbelievers.

But Christ-centered preaching enables us to escape the trap of moralistic teaching in scripture. In the process of drawing a passage to Christ, we must deal with the overlap between biblical themes and common human imperfection. We can call it a “fallen focus” according to Genesis 3 and admit the reality of man’s sins and broken relationships as we all hope for a solution to the problem of sin. In the story of Cain and Abel in Genesis 4, we notice that everyone expects others to approve of his values and when others threaten our own values, we threaten them back. Many of us experience such kinds of real hurt in our relationships. As in the misfortune of Sodom in Genesis 18 and 19, every one of us desires to be a “righteous man,” but we also have fear of judgment for our moral defections and our insufficient abilities and characters.

When we thus find the fallen focus in Old Testament passages, we can preach to both believers and unbelievers about Christ’s work of redemption and transformation. We surely need to explain to the unbelievers what is commonly understood by believers in order to ensure the messages we convey make sense.

An urbanized society has a high population turnover rate. A transient population, made of both believers and unbelievers, does not likely receive teaching in one particular church. The church’s responsibility towards them in every possible meeting they can attend is to teach a gospel-centered message instead of segmental moral topics or theological doctrine. Therefore, redemptive historical and Christ-centered preaching can present a full gospel message to these flowing crowds, leading them to know Christ’s salvation and transformation.

[The American pastor’s] fourth point addressed a solution to bringing out the pastoral message in a sermon. Following what has been said above, when we lead a passage into the redemptive historical framework, we must find the common imperfection of man that is revealed in the scripture. These issues addressed by a fallen focus in preaching are exactly the problems among our audiences that need to be solved and put into counseling sessions. A lot of these problems are related to idol worship, such as the desire to manipulate others, the desire to be recognized, or the desire to want power and hedonism. For example, we see that the problem that needs to be fixed in Genesis 3 is our desire for power and the problem in Genesis 4 is our desire to be recognized.

In closing, preaching is not only a spiritual and mystical task for the preacher, but also a technical one which can be practiced, mastered, and taught. When we train preachers in this way, we can help to raise dedicated church workers who are loyal to Biblical truth. In this particular historic period which has its emphases on preaching the truth and reviving the pulpit, there should be measurable standards of faithfulness and professional ability for Chinese churches that are buidling their foundations. Reliable workers can only be raised generation after generation when churches keep this quality of faithfulness to the truth and steady professional ability in mind.

For a church, the most precious thing lies in the transformation of the pulpit. Our aim should be:

– A pulpit that keeps preaching Christ, yet is not boring.

– A pulpit that refutes moralistic teaching.


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– A pulpit that preaches to unbelievers.

– A pulpit that displays pastoral and counseling characteristics.

– A pulpit that is missional and keeps preaching “Jesus is Christ” to a transient population.

Only the gospel can face all the problems of any generation. Only a group of people who keep preaching the gospel and establish gospel-centered churches can respond to the various challenges of this age. Only when the gospel is preached with an unprecedented intensity and strength, can God’s power truly change human hearts. And only changed lives can establish contemporary urban churches that are confessional and constitutional with grace and truth.

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Further Reading

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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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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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Stories from Shenyang

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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Stories from Changchun

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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