Editor’s note: At the end of January 2020, believers from around the world gathered at KL2020, a gospel conference in Malaysia. God’s presence was tangibly experienced through his protection of and encouragement to oppressed believers at the conference.
As Chinese believers continue to experience increasing levels of persecution, the conference focused on building the body of Christ on earth. In the face of suffering, a deep understanding of the Christian’s heavenly citizenship is necessary. The gospel speaks directly to oppressed and suffering believers, showing them the way to live and act in a culture that is increasingly hostile to the gospel. When believers understand their ultimate belonging is “with Christ in the heavenly places,” the way they interact with the world necessarily changes.
We are pleased to share on our blog the voice of Chinese sisters who spoke at KL2020. Here “Leah,” a church planter’s wife, shares about her family’s experiences planting a house church in China.
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Moderator: What are the greatest needs of church planting ministry in China?
Leah: The greatest need for church planting anywhere is the mission of the gospel and a passion for ministry. When we truly know God and the gospel and the mission that comes with it, a passion will be kindled in us through the love we receive. This passion will create desire for more people to know God, for more people to have the opportunity to worship where there are no such opportunities. This naturally develops into a church-planting ministry. The first great need is truly knowing what the gospel is.
The second need, which is also important, is boldness and courage in the gospel. Church planting is a pioneering type of work that requires us to have a vision from God in order to take that first, little step. This courage is based on an acknowledgement of our own sinfulness, knowing that we will be fearful and will meet terrifying struggles and obstacles, but also knowing that God will keep us and sustain us through all of the problems. This kind of courage is based on trusting the promises of an almighty God and having faith in him.
The third great need is unity within the church itself. Church planting is not simply the work of one pastor or one visionary, but is one church giving birth to another. The unity of the church is essential.
The fourth important need is unity within the kingdom. There are two aspects to this. The first need for kingdom unity involves unity among churches within a gospel and church planting movement. Church planting is not one individual church’s business, but is kingdom work over which God reigns supreme. One church can contribute resources and involve itself in church planting efforts, but other churches in the area also need to support these efforts and work in partnership with this church. The second aspect regarding unity within the kingdom is mutual support and care among church planters and leaders themselves.
Moderator: What are the struggles of church planters, both the pastors and their families?
Leah: The struggles of a church planter often have to do with knowing his own weaknesses. It becomes very difficult when he recognizes how weak he is, because church planting is not an easy task. There are a few aspects to this. The first is the church planter’s awareness of his own spiritual weakness. The second is the church planter’s realization of his lack of perseverance and diligence. When the church planter realizes that he is lacking in spiritual health or vitality, this is also when he realizes that he needs to be completely dependent on God. When the planter realizes his lack of perseverance, he must be willing to hold out his hand and ask others for help. He needs to learn to forgo his ego and rely on a larger community or team of people. He also needs to place himself in an accountability system.
When it comes to family, the issue lies in whether the church planter has a strong marriage and a healthy relationship with his family. The issue is also whether he and his family have oneness of vision, which means that the church planting vision does not belong to the church planter alone, but is also shared by his family members, so that his wife and his children are an active part of the ministry. Only when these are settled will the church planter be able to deal with the other challenges and pressures—physical, mental, and financial—that come with the work.
Moderator: How are you able to come alongside your husband in his ministry?
Leah: I once asked a pastor and his wife the same question during a pastoral forum. I could not help but cry when I heard his response. The answer to this question is something that I know, but do not have the ability to do. It is simple. The way to come alongside my husband is to support him during his times of weakness instead of criticizing him. It is being willing to lift him up instead of tearing him down during his times of need. During the times when I feel that I don’t have any love to give, I need to be a little more sacrificial. This is clear from the Bible and from other evidence, but it is not easy to do. This is the greatest support a wife can give to her husband—any husband, not just church planters.