Editor’s note: This July, China Partnership is praying for and sharing content about ministry within Chinese cities. In recent decades, much of Chinese Christian growth has happened within her urban centers. As of 2017, there were 102 Chinese cities of more than one million. The urban Chinese church faces many challenges. Some of these obstacles, such as secularization or financial pressures, are familiar to Western Christians, but other trials, like overt persecution, are not ones encountered by the Western church. Pastor Zhu Min graciously shares about developing a holistic vision to love and bless his city, and about the difficulties the church faces as she carries out her mission in China’s urban contexts.
I want to begin by thanking Christians overseas for their care and prayers for the Chinese church. They help us feel warmth from the Lord in the midst of the cold of this political winter.
I live in Xiamen, a small city [population of about 4 million] on the southeast coast of China. My city faces Taiwan, with the Taiwan Strait separating us. Xiamen is beautiful, and within China is a famous tourist attraction. In 2020, housing prices in Xiamen were the fourth-highest in China, coming in behind Shenzhen, Beijing, and Shanghai.
The majority of people who live here in Xiamen face a lot of pressure due to high housing and consumer prices. Compared to other big cities, salaries here in Xiamen are much lower. At the same time, this city attracts a lot of wealthy people from surrounding areas and even from across the whole country, because Xiamen has such a beautiful environment and the infrastructure is so comprehensive. Similar to other large cities, Xiamen is very secular. All day long, people think only about money and houses. I myself was born and raised here, and I have witnessed Xiamen’s transformation from a forward-thinking yet simple and small city, to the crowded, developed, and famous urban center it is today.
The biggest problem the church faces in my city is the onslaught of secularization. This is seen in the following areas. First, people love to talk about houses and are very focused on money. Second, many people live under a lot of pressure, earning low wages while facing high costs of living. More than ever before, people are looking for opportunities to get rich and change their current status. Third, non-Christians are less and less interested in religious belief. When people have free time, they immerse themselves in mindless entertainment rather than in deep thought or in seeking for answers to the questions of life. So-called Christians are also lukewarm about their faith, considering faith to be an extra encumbrance in addition to the other burdens they bear. Many people merely attend Sunday services and are not truly committed to Christ or the church. Fourth, outside of church attendance, believers generally show little evidence of their faith. In word, in deed, and in thought, the lives of Christians are no different than the lives of non-believers. Fifth and finally, most Christians are desirous of the things of the world, and are afraid to pay the price that is required for their faith. This directly results in the church’s lack of power in the face of political threats and persecution.
Would You Pray With Us Today?
It is true that external persecution of the faith is occurring more and more frequently, but the situation inside the church is actually more worrisome. Many people within the church are not awakened to the deeper spiritual crisis: they are double-minded in their loves. They want both the love of God and the sensual pleasures of the world, but are unable to gain either.
I long for the church to pay attention in more specific ways to groups within our city that are easily neglected: those in the red-light districts; the young generation; the rich and the elite; and government workers and officials, a group that many Christians have given up on. Some of the people in these groups have been doing some deep thinking; some of these people are struggling and lost; some live in fear and in bondage. Some of these people need answers; some of them long to be comforted; and some of them need to be challenged. All of them need Jesus! But many times the church loses sight of the Great Commission. The church loses her evangelistic strength. The church is loose and casual in her view of what the church is, and is not systematic in her teaching and training to answer the practical problems believers face in various areas. In response, believers launch out from the church, seeking wrong answers from the world to the questions they face.
I long for our church to live out a different testimony here within Xiamen: to follow the command of Christ, to live with a missional mindset, to sincerely care for others—for their lives, but most of all for their relationships with God. I long for the lives of believers to be focused not on attaining houses and money. Instead, may we live with true assurance and eternal hope in the midst of the hardships we face. May the gospel be our way of life, and may we view all things with a holistic, biblical worldview. I hope that the sinners of this city will sense the love and acceptance of the church. I hope that the intellectuals of this city will receive the answers for which they long and that they will be challenged by the truth. I hope that people of all ages and all walks of life will receive, in the church, the care and the help they need—and this includes the government workers who are persecuting the church.
Zhu Min (a pseudonym) lives and pastors in his hometown of Xiamen.
FOR PRAYER AND REFLECTION
– Pray for Chinese Christians and churches to live out a testimony of radical acceptance, serious thought, and loving challenge as they make disciples within their cities.
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