What I Have Learned from China About Loving My City

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Like most Americans, the last year and a half has left my soul disheartened. As a mother, I worry for the state of the world my small children will inherit. As a citizen, I am concerned with the dissension of society. As a person from the rural Deep South who now lives outside of Los Angeles, I despair at the mutual polarization and lack of recognition of our common humanity.

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“God’s ways are higher than man’s. He has not forgotten his people or plan. I am convinced of this because I see it in Scripture, but also because I work with the Chinese house church…I can think of no better reminder of what loving God and one’s neighbor looks like than their example.

Yet God’s ways are higher than man’s. He has not forgotten his people or plan. I am convinced of this because I see it in Scripture, but also because I work with the Chinese house church. Every day, I am reminded that God will triumph. This month, members and leaders of urban Chinese churches have shared with us about how they live in and love their cities—even when some of these very believers have been thrown in jail for doing so.

I can think of no better reminder of what loving God and one’s neighbor looks like than their example. I hope you can join me in learning from them how to love our cities, even when it is hard. (And while doing so, we must keep in mind an important caveat: Chinese Christians are human and sinful. They fall into their own traps, but their experiences can still be a leading light Westerners can follow.)

1. Pray!

Those I look up to in China bathe all they do in prayer. He Kewang,* a prayer leader in her southern Chinese city, wrote this month that true power comes through talking with God, not through halls of influence. “We may not have earthly power, but through prayer, we can bring the needs of the city to God,” she said.


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Another woman, who works in the red-light districts of China, reminds me that God can do what we cannot. She said, “The work done on our knees petitioning our Mighty Father can powerfully change the things we don’t see—yes, even in seemingly dark places.”

Chinese Christians not only pray for their own cities—they also ask us to pray for them. Zhu Min, a Xiamen pastor, said that the prayers of overseas Christians display to him and his church the warmth of God’s love in the midst of the political difficulties they are currently experiencing.

2. In order to reach their city, Christians must love and live in those cities.

A Shanghai urban church planter wrote that he cannot reach his city by judging it from the outside. “We cannot point out cultural idols and preach a gospel which can be understood and believed if we do not enter into and understand the culture,” he said. As his church understands the specific pressures people face, they have begun ministries targeted to those needs. “We help brothers and sisters to face the cultural situation of Shanghai,” he said.

3. The most destructive pressures come from within the church’s own walls.

Globally, the pressures that Christians living in cities face remain much the same, although the nations differ: exorbitant housing prices and high costs of living, for example, result in overwhelming pressure. In China, many churches also experience overt persecution. But pastors say temptation to love the things of the world is actually their biggest problem. “It is true that external persecution is occurring more frequently, but the situation inside the church is actually more worrisome,” Pastor Zhu, the Xiamen pastor, wrote. “Many people are not awakened to the deeper spiritual crisis: they are double-minded in their loves.”

It is easy to point fingers at outside threats, but I ought to begin by examining the idols within my own heart and my local church.

4. Seek ways to love and bless our enemies.

Finally, Chinese Christians fervently seek out ways to serve and bless their physical and ideological enemies. Pastor Zhu reminds me that his church exists to bring the gospel to all people, including government workers who want his church to die.

Sister He has spent more than a month in jail because of her faith. Even so, she has organized prayer for her city throughout the pandemic, cares for migrant teens in trouble, and even visited jail to explicitly share the gospel with a former mayor now imprisoned for corruption. She continues to vigorously seek justice, but also loves with patience and perseverance. “The world does not believe in love that has no explainable cause,” she wrote. “Amid all kinds of hardship and conflicts, God delights for his children to grow in knowledge and to overflow in love.”

I don’t have to sort out all the problems of the world. Instead, I can be assured of my Father’s abundant love, and then go love all he puts in my path.

*All names of Chinese leaders are pseudonyms.


E.F. Gregory is a mom of three young children. She lives in the San Gabriel Valley on the border of East Los Angeles, where her husband is a P.C.A. church planter.

FOR PRAYER AND REFLECTION

Pray that Western believers will have open hearts that are eager to learn from the lives and experiences of their Chinese brothers and sisters.

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Further Reading

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Nanjing: Loving People Through Prayer
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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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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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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 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 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

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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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