Qingdao: Managing Rapid Growth

Editor’s note: This April, we are praying for the city of Qingdao, a major Chinese seaport and important cultural center just across the Yellow Sea from South Korea. The city, in eastern Shandong Province, is a popular tourist destination. This interview with a Qingdao pastor was originally published in 2019. Pastor Zhu shares about how his congregation is attempting to raise up and disciple the young people in his church.


China Partnership: Can you briefly introduce your city?

Pastor Zhu: Qingdao probably became instantly known to the world after the 2008 Olympics. [Qingdao hosted sailing competitions in 2008.] It is also a tourist destination. Its architectural landscape and culture are more modern than other cities; Qingdao has only about a hundred years of history. When the Germans came, they developed Qingdao’s architecture and gave it its unique style. Qingdao is known for its “red roof tiles and green trees” set against the “turquoise seas and blue sky.” These things were all built by the Germans when they were here.

CP: Qingdao is a beautiful city, and the people of Qingdao are very blessed. Can you describe the target audience of your church’s gospel missions?

Pastor Zhu: Since China’s economic reform and opening, house churches in Qingdao have been quite conservative. Churches here were influenced by Watchman Nee’s “Local Church” movement, as well as by the “Jesus Family” in Shandong. Qingdao churches are generally more conservative. Although they are in a city, they are basically run as rural churches. One feature that stands out is that the same faith is being kept now in the city as in the past, with a very conservative religious outlook.

CP: Can you explain what the Local Church movement is? Or, to what extent are these churches conservative?

Pastor Zhu: Since the Local Churches experienced persecution right from the start, all they were able to do was read the Bible at home. Because of that, they knew the Bible particularly well. Their gatherings tended to be small. As they continued to develop, they concluded that they must gather at home, and that the number must be few.

Questions of how to govern the church and how to pass on our faith to the next generation are urgent matters that every church now faces… If we do not think seriously about these things now, it will be too late in 10 more years.

While the gospel and the number of Christians are exploding today, Local Churches Bottom of Formbelieve it is inadequate to experience or live out one’s faith. They have high expectations toward the younger generation of believers, and hold them to high theological standards. They do not accept just any theological traditions or churches.

CP: With such a legacy and faith tradition, how does your church approach the current rapid growth in numbers?

Pastor Zhu: It is no longer up to us to decide whether or not to think about this question. This kind of gospel growth is already an inevitable trend for churches across the nation. Even if you would like to keep your church small and conservative, on average, you still find congregations of more than a hundred people already established at the older churches.


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Because of this, questions of how to govern the church and how to pass on our faith to the next generation are urgent matters that every church now faces. More conservative churches may have to face the same issue society is currently facing: the problem of aging. This is a severe issue. If churches do not faithfully engage in evangelism and discipleship today, in 10 years, churches that are new now and have younger members will have to deal with similar issues regarding aging and passing the baton. If we do not think seriously about these things now, it will be too late in 10 more years.

I cannot do it all alone… We need to move forward as a community.

CP: So, what is your ministry approach? How do you retain newcomers and the younger generation of believers?

Pastor Zhu: I focus the most on seekers. Our ministry leaders are mindful to create opportunities for seekers to get acquainted with our faith. In the process of leading, we have to show people we are moving forward together and are on the same journey. I am thankful for gospel-centered trainings and conferences, and our church encourages people to attend those whenever possible. We even offer financial and other means of support to those who are willing to be trained.

When we are renewed by the gospel, then the whole church – in ministry culture and direction – will be united, and things will be easier. I cannot do it all alone. I believe that, in this generation, it is no longer possible for one person to lead or influence the church of an entire region. We need to move forward as a community.

CP: How does your church do discipleship?

Pastor Zhu: Our ministry team participates in various discipleship workshops, and then organizes into small life groups to share what they have learned with one another. Those who did not attend can join in these groups. Together, they form life-on-life discipleship groups; these are not just groups that discuss theology.

CP: What changes have you witnessed in your church?

Pastor Zhu: Our brothers and sisters have been active in learning, and are willing to serve out of the passion of their faith. Being renewed by the gospel brings about this active energy; it is not passive, where we have to phone them every day to get them to do anything. They are willing to come to church, serve, and learn.

I would like to equip brothers and sisters so they can faithfully communicate the gospel to their parents, as well as nurture their children to become gospel-centered kingdom citizens. This is a clear target: our family members come first.

CP: Moving forward, who would your church like to reach out to with the gospel?

Pastor Zhu: Our members are mostly young, so our missions focus are parents and children. I would like to equip brothers and sisters so they can faithfully communicate the gospel to their parents, as well as nurture their children to become gospel-centered kingdom citizens. This is a clear target: our family members come first.

CP: Can you share an example of challenges you or another church member face as you share the gospel with family members? How do you overcome these challenges?

Pastor Zhu: My church co-workers have all tried to share the gospel with their parents. They face very similar challenges. One co-worker’s parents are atheists. Through our church camp, the Christmas rally, and some gospel events, we want these parents to know we are not just Christians who merely worship on Sundays. I connect with them outside the church context.

This co-worker visits his parents each Sunday after church, and patiently explains all he has experienced and heard at church that day. Then he goes to his grandparents’ nearby home and does the same. Now, after about a year, his parents have joined our worship and small groups. They are even involved in our ministry, helping prepare fellowship meals.


Pastor Zhu is a pseudonym for a pastor serving the urban Chinese house church in Qingdao.

Pray that the Lord will allow the gospel to penetrate deeper into the church in Qingdao and spread more widely among the people.

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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

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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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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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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

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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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