Once 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.
Our generation is not one that lacks theology, but a generation that lacks a theology that drives and gives momentum – that is, a theology that is tied to a theological vision, the gospel that remains unchanged in history. But how does that theology respond to the challenges of each era, continuing to lead from one generation to the next?
In the church, there are frequently two groups of people – one emphasizes the precision of theology, thus spending a lot of time on theological details, like the scribes. The other group speaks of abandoning theology for the sake of unity – and so for the sake of missions we do not speak of the differences in theology, nor do we speak of denominations, but only of the love of Christ. Both of these have issues – the second is livelier, but they are not orthodox; the first is orthodox, but lacks liveliness. Thus, a theological vision helps us build a lively and motivated orthodoxy – that is, if you understand that this orthodoxy concerns life and death, and if you understand its preciousness, it will become the driving force in your life.
If our understanding of the gospel does not emerge from a theological vision, the gospel will merely be the content of our preaching or the solution to some personal problems. When you place the gospel within a theological vision, you have to start thinking about how it generates a driving force, and how the gospel should drive people in personal repentance and salvation. Placed within a theological vision, it becomes the impetus for building gospel communities – the extension of God’s kingdom upon this earth. It concerns how the gospel responds to the problems of the entire human race, and the problems of our generation. Even when we engage with society, our emotions, and so forth – all of these should bear the gospel.
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In recent years, I’ve been thinking about how this has deeply influenced me as a pastor. I’m constantly thinking about this question: in any given situation, what does this theology of the gospel mean?
This spirit of discernment is the spirit of the gospel and is to be applied throughout our public life. Why is it that the gospel is able to respond to the challenges of our culture and our faith? Because the gospel concerns the authority in heaven and on earth which has been given to our Lord Jesus Christ. It is not just on paper. It is not doing theology for the sake of doing theology. It is the instrument of God to help us listen deeply to the gospel that he revealed in scripture through his Son, Jesus Christ.
Does our theology impact our attempts to address the problems of humanity? How?
Translation provided by the China Partnership translation team.