Reformation 500 Conference Voices: Yang Mingdao

Yang Mingdao is the collective pseudonym for Chinese staff within China Partnership.

Over the next couple of months, we will be posting reflections on our Reformation 500 conference in Hong Kong by several attendees. Our third reflection comes from Yang Mingdao, a seminary student who volunteered at and was a first-time participant in the conference.

This was my first Grace to City conference, and the trip reminds me of nothing so much as my own version of Lord of the Rings. I went to the conference and was cast into an entirely different world. Like the hobbits, before entering this new world, I was content with my life in Boston. I felt it was enough to focus on my home church, until my friend came and informed me of a much greater “battle” that is going on. And so, I joined the “fellowship of Grace to City,” not expecting much. By the end of the trip, my perspective had changed. I felt as though I had been through a great battle, and returned to Boston a different person. I had three main takeaways from my time at the conference: my perspective on the Chinese church expanded, I better understood the vision of Grace to City, and I was personally challenged by my own involvement in this story.

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I saw a revived and lively Chinese church, with its own voice in theological debates, and a passion for the gospel I don’t usually see in the West.

First, the Chinese church humbles me. It was awe-inspiring to see the depth and breadth of a uniquely Chinese theology. I was educated in a Western seminary and, up to this point in my life, believed the West defined evangelical positions across the world. However, at this conference I heard broad and deep theological messages from Chinese speakers on the spirit of the Reformation and its implications for the church today. I saw a revived and lively Chinese church, with its own voice in theological debates, and a passion for the gospel I don’t usually see in the West. I saw a church under direct pressure of persecution taking stances based on the conviction of Scripture. The conference kindled in me a greater fervor for the gospel, and allowed me to experience for myself a fervor that I had previously only heard about in lectures on the Reformation.

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I believed ministry should be as low-key as possible, and felt that it was enough to preach and minister with the Word. But movement? A word so grand and glorious felt more related to human ego and individual glory than the cause itself.

Second, after the conference I have a better understanding of the vision of Grace to City. Before, I had reservations regarding the “movement” aspect of many of today’s church planting networks. I echo their calls to return to the gospel and focus on the city, yet was concerned by the call to movement. I believed ministry should be as low-key as possible, and felt that it was enough to preach and minister with the Word. But movement? A word so grand and glorious felt more related to human ego and individual glory than the cause itself. As I participated in the conference, I realized I had misunderstood the meaning of movement in Grace to City. The point is not movement for its own sake, but rather movement for the sake of missions. Grace to City’s goal is to rekindle the fire for the gospel that Chinese churches had in many ways lost. In light of this we ask a simple, but profound question: how can the church in China reaffirm the gospel’s theological depth and Scriptural foundation, while maintaining relevance to today’s culture and society? The answer: understand grace in the context of modern cities.

Third, in the beginning of the Lord of the Rings, hobbits were the least useful of creatures: they were small, docile and unable to fight. But as the story progressed, they realized they could contribute uniquely to the battle. Similarly, as I worked with the conference team in Hong Kong, the way I saw myself changed. The team did not just preach the gospel, but practiced the gospel in their lives. Through their lens of grace, I saw how God had shaped and led me, and that I could also make a unique contribution. The team at Grace to City and China Partnership worked very hard during the week to make the conference happen. It was a high-pressure atmosphere, but through the process the team kept debriefing about repentance and how we could better practice grace in our work. As a result I think everyone, myself included, became less (not perfectly of course) self-conscious about our personal failings and mistakes, focusing instead on how we could each contribute to make the conference better with our own unique roles and gifts.

Now the conference is over and I’ve returned back to my home in Boston. I pray that the fire that was kindled within me at the conference will go on, and shine its small light and warmth here in Boston, and perhaps beyond. Thank God for this wonderfully gospel-centered conference and the team at Grace to City.

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The conference kindled in me a greater fervor for the gospel, and allowed me to experience for myself a fervor that I had previously only heard about in lectures on the Reformation.

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Further Reading

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Nanjing: Love Under Pressure
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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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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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