Friday Reflections – From Personal to Collective Witness

Twice a month, we 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.

How can we describe this moment in the history of the Chinese house church? What are the greatest challenges facing the church? I think that we can answer these questions in three points. 

The first is for the church to turn from a static intellectual belief to a more dynamic renewal of the gospel – this would greatly impact the church. Though the church has used various means to confess, communicate, and train in order to pass on a whole system of theological thought, it has paid meager attention to human life and personal transformation in Christ. Even though I am a fourth generation Christian, and have received orthodox theological training, I reached a bottleneck when it came to placing Christ at the center and looking at the world from the perspective of redemptive history. As for the church, some might assume that when courses upon courses of theory are provided and completed, they will have succeeded; but in reality, the church is still weak. The greater irony is that after learning a set of theories, lives were not transformed and Christ was not at the center of the faith; rather, pride had crept in. This is because a person may feel that after learning a set of theories and confessions, he can be graded on the course; but this translates into nothing much in terms of true edification for the church. As we move from being merely confessional to placing Christ at the center, we realize that the concern of the church in returning to its corporate nature should be lives transformed by Christ.  

The second point is that in a Christ-centered church, we see a shift from personal witness to collective witness. In the past, the emphasis was on personal testimony and how a person had encountered something marvelous; but to many this seemed distant, since most had not experienced such dramatic transformation. But when the church is centered on Christ, it renews the entire church, and the church witnesses that everybody is pursuing the same goal – the pursuit of Christ.

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Furthermore, in the past, the church may have emphasized one’s personal testimony, one’s own ministry, or the expansion of some ministry; but in the end, the church realized that everybody was tired and burnt out, feeling we had expended so much but were lacking in strength. But when we turned to become Christ-centered, we no longer pursued ministry programs; instead we pursued the change and transformation of our lives by Christ. When a person is captured by the life of Christ, he will then realize that many ministries are carried along [in the transformation]. Whether this concerns evangelism, family ministry, youth ministry – all these have been carried along [in being transformed]; and this gives tremendous inner strength to the church.

The third point is to enable the church to be a place where culture, history, and different generations are able to find the answers to life. Because a church will consist of different communities – professionals, businessmen, educators, and students – their different perspectives require different positioning from the perspective of redemptive history. How is God using me? How can he grasp hold of me? How did God place me in such and such a situation so that I may discern his mission and calling? If we make the church address these as a corporate body, it will be particularly shocking.This is something I cannot fathom – every person seeking God for his will in their lives, how God has called believers in this generation to respond to the voices of the world, and to feel this sense of mission for the gospel. 

Translation provided by the China Partnership translation team.

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