Friday Reflection – A Story of Renewal

Friday Reflections is a new series on the China Partnership blog. Twice a month, we will share a short reflection from a Chinese pastor on the nature of the gospel. Though we often post longer articles, there is a richness to short and concise thoughts. 

Wang Jianguo is the collective pseudonym for a group of Chinese house church pastors thinking and writing about issues related to the spread of Christianity in their nation. They are committed to preaching a grace-centered gospel, developing resources for the church, and loving China’s urban centers.

In the past, our churches were oriented towards different ministries. We felt that through our various ministries, our churches would be revived. We learned how to preach evangelistically; we learned how to do discipleship; we learned all kinds of ministry strategies. We hoped to revive the church with such ministries. 

All of the tinkering I had been doing in the church did not bring much fruit. In 2012, I first attended a training in gospel theology, and through that training I realized that the problem was not that the church was slouching in its ministry, but that there is something wrong with the DNA of what we believed. When we wished to revive the church through various ministries, we were still treading in legalism, humanism, and self-redemption. I realized that gospel theology was a way out for the church, and so I preached diligently on the renewal of the gospel. 

In the following years, the church started to be renewed. In these few years all of our ministries have stemmed from the gospel and have been renewed by grace. It is not according to our own diligence to accomplish something; rather, when we preach the gospel unceasingly, we know that we will be filled with grace such that it will overflow. When this happens, the church will slowly be renewed. The first to be renewed are individuals, like a sour grape after it has been grafted into a tree. Only by persisting onwards will the church then be renewed by grace. When everybody enjoys the peace and joy that is in the gospel, we will all slowly be renewed. 

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It is important to consider homiletics. I teach this course in seminary, and in the past when I taught, my emphasis was more on the text itself, not on being Christ- and gospel-centered. After learning about Christ-centered preaching, it has brought nothing short of a revolution to my sermons. As I have preached in the seminary, many students have wanted to take this course and have been renewed by it. And when they return to their churches, their churches subsequently experience renewal.

Recently, a student found me and told me that when he returned back to his home church after the homiletics course last semester, the entire church experienced renewal. His team members said that his preaching indeed was different from the past. In our church, there have also been many changes, and this is something I did not expect. 

The first mark of a healthy church is good expository preaching. If every church has gospel-centered, Christ-centered preaching, the church will inevitably change. I am very thankful that participating in the course on Christ-centered preaching has brought so many blessings to other churches. 

The gospel is the power of God, to save everyone who believes; therefore, it must be replicable. After my personal renewal by the gospel, we have established a training center in my own church. In the past, our training centers seemed to be without a core when we were teaching theology. But now we are gospel-centered, and Christ-centered in our theological education, and so when other ministry partners come to be trained, we especially give this theology of the gospel to them. When they return back to their churches, they are bringing this renewal of the gospel in their own church. Other than our church, the regional churches are also experiencing the renewal of the gospel, and I believe that this is completely replicable. 

Translation provided by the China Partnership translation team.

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