Editor’s note: Over the past year we have been praying for the Chinese church in a new city each month – providing videos, interviews, and prayer requests directly from the churches with whom we work. We hope this helps you better understand the needs of the Chinese church and commit more fervently to stand in prayer with our brothers and sisters.
This month we continue the project with Qingdao. We’re excited to bring you this interview with a Chinese pastor in the city! We hope you will check out the Qingdao page for additional content and to sign up to partner with us in prayer.
CP: Can you briefly introduce your city?
Pastor: I come from Qingdao, Shandong.
Qingdao is where the Shanghai Cooperation Organization Summit just took place, and it probably instantly became known to the world after the 2008 Olympics. It is also a tourist destination. Its architectural landscape and culture are overall more modern compared to other cities, with only about 100 years of history. And it was the Germans who developed Qingdao’s architecture when they came and gave it its unique style. These “red roof tiles and green trees” set against “the turquoise seas and blue sky,” which gave the city of Qingdao its well-known beauty, were really built by the Germans when they were here.
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CP: Qingdao is really a very beautiful city. I think of places like the newly developed area of Wusi Plaza, as well as Bada Guan. The people of Qingdao are very blessed. Can you describe the target audience of your church’s gospel missions?
Pastor: Since the time of China’s economic reform and opening up, the house churches in Qingdao have been quite conservative, having been influenced by Watchman Nee and his “Local Church” movement, as well as “Jesus Family” in Shandong. Therefore, Qingdao churches are generally more conservative, basically being run as rural churches in the context of a city. A 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 these churches are conservative?
Pastor: Since the Local Churches experienced persecution right from the start and all they were able to do was read the Bible at home, they knew the Bible particularly well and their gatherings also tended to be small. As they continued to develop, they basically concluded that they must gather at home and that the number must be few. To put it more clearly, while the gospel and the number of Christians are exploding today, these churches believe 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, and they do not accept just any theological traditions or churches.
CP: With such a legacy and having such a faith tradition, how does your church approach the current rapid growth in numbers?
Pastor: I believe it is no longer up to us to decide whether or not to think about this question because this kind of “gospel surplus” or gospel growth is already an inevitable trend for churches across the nation. Even if you would like to keep your church small and conservative, you would still find on average congregations of over a hundred people already established at the older churches. Therefore, the 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. The more conservative churches may have to face what the society is currently facing — the problem of aging. This is a severe issue. Some of those newer churches with younger members no doubt will also deal with similar issues of aging and passing the baton in 10 years’ time if they fail to truly and faithfully engage in evangelism and discipleship today. If we do not think seriously about these things now, it will be too late to think about them 10 years from now.
CP: What then is your ministry approach? How do you retain the younger generation of believers or newcomers?
Pastor: I focus the most on the seekers. Our ministry leaders are mindful of creating opportunities for seekers to get acquainted with our faith. I also feel that in the process of leading we have to show people we are on the same journey — that we are moving forward together. Therefore, I am very thankful for gospel-centered trainings and conferences, and our church always encourages our brothers and sisters to attend those whenever possible. We even offer financial support as well as support in other areas to those who are willing to be trained. My thought is that when we are renewed by the gospel, then the whole church — from our ministry culture to our ministry direction — will become united, and things will be easier. I cannot do it all by myself. I believe this is no longer a generation in which it is 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: We have our ministry team participate in various discipleship workshops, after which they organize into these small life groups to share with one another what they have learned each time. Those who did not have a chance to attend these classes would be invited to join in as well. Together they form these life-on-life discipleship groups; these are not just groups that discuss theology.
CP: What changes have you witnessed in your church from these efforts?
Pastor: Our brothers and sisters have been very active in learning, and they also show a willingness to serve out of the passion of their faith. Being renewed by the gospel brings about this active energy; it is not passive, that we would have to phone them every day to get them to do anything. They are very willing to come to church, to serve, and to learn. I think this is our current state.
CP: Moving forward, who would your church especially like to outreach with the gospel?
Pastor: Our members are mostly a younger crowd, and so our missions focus are our parents and our children. In terms of discipleship, I would like to equip our brothers and sisters so that they are able to communicate the gospel to their parents faithfully as well as nurture their children as kingdom citizens, in a gospel-centered way. This is a clear target group of our gospel ministry: our family members come first.
CP: Can you give an example of the challenges you or another member of your church faces as you share the gospel with your family members? How do you overcome these challenges?
Pastor: My co-workers at church have all tried to share the gospel with their parents and they face very similar challenges. One of my co-workers’ parents are atheists. Through our church camp, the Christmas rally, and some gospel events, we want them to come to know that we are Christians, but not just Christians who merely worship on Sundays. I connect with them outside of the context of church. This co-worker visits his parents’ home every Sunday after church and patiently shares with them all that he has experienced and heard at church that day. Then he goes to his grandparents’ place nearby and does the same. So now, after about a year, his parents have also joined our worship and small groups. They are even involved in our ministry, helping with the preparation of our fellowship meals.
CP: That is great to hear, praise God! Thank you for your time.
Translation provided by Amy and the China Partnership translation team.