Friday Reflection – Leaving Behind Pragmatism


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.

Similar to the historic struggles of the Western churches, the church in China today also faces the bondage of pragmatism. This sprang forth from our unique church-state relationship: we are always considering how the church is going to survive for the sake of its advancement. We are still using the same pragmatic model to approach our problems. What is the church? Who are its ministers? How do we administer the sacraments? What communication should there be between churches? We are not considering these questions from a biblical perspective, but rather from the perspective of church survival and progress. Thus, I think we are merely trapped in the bondage of pragmatism, even though the church-state relationship is entirely different from the one the Western church has experienced. 

The idea of scripture alone serves as a tremendous guide for the Chinese church. Scripture alone, grace alone, faith alone, Christ alone, the glory of God alone – all of these can guide us in establishing the church and categorizing church ministries. This is very helpful for our views on the church. 

The Chinese church has been deeply influenced by two dominant thought patterns – Confucianism, which especially emphasizes moral behavior, and the Great Awakening, or the idea that when a person prays the sinner’s prayer, he is henceforth a Christian. When these two influences are placed upon the Christian, it will bring about two extremes. On one hand, we will place heavy moral requirements on a believer who barely knows anything. We hope that he will live up to a high moral standard, which wastes our time and contributes to our despair. On the other hand, we may go to the other extreme of putting huge expectations on the new believer, and the believer himself will despair.  

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Thus, the relationship between the law and the gospel is very important for a pastor, and we need to think of them as being in a dynamic relationship. We cannot simply fit a fixed model on each and every believer, but we need to hear the cry of every soul and find out where their joy is. I think as pastors this is where we need to listen with our heart. 

Repentance means that the law has made sin known to us. When we know our sin and see our need for the gospel, we then cling to the salvation of Jesus Christ. We also humbly acknowledge that we are sinners. This salvation gives us the strong motivation of gratitude, so that we desire to live out the holiness that the law requires. Then, it will be manifested to different degrees and at different times in each and every believer.

Translation provided by the China Partnership translation team.

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