Editor’s note: This month, we are focusing on and praying for partnership between Chinese and global Christians. Today, a U.S. pastor writes of how a recent conversation with a Chinese friend ignited his heart anew with love for Christ and reminded him of how worthwhile following the Lord is.
Transformative conversations don’t happen every day. But a recent conversation with a Chinese pastor friend reinflamed my heart with love for Christ and for gathered worship. To protect the identity of my friend laboring in the underground church, I will refer to him as John.
John reached out to me, seemingly out of the blue, wanting to catch up via Zoom. I hadn’t heard from John in a couple of years since he moved his family back to China to plant a church. I was delighted that he wanted to connect with me, but I didn’t anticipate it being one of the most important ministerial conversations of my life.
Passionate Prayer that Doesn’t Take Worship for Granted
After sharing about our respective families, things shifted towards his church plant. I asked him what Sunday worship looks like, and he shared some things I wasn’t expecting. Before worship each Sunday, they gather as volunteers and staff and pray for the service at hand. Getting more specific, he explained that each Sunday they ask God to give them one more Sunday. One more Sunday to share the good news of Jesus; one more Sunday to worship the triune God; one more Sunday to baptize new believers; one more Sunday to extend the balm of Christ to sinners and sufferers alike. One more Sunday. Every. Single. Week. What’s the fruit of that kind of urgency in prayer and worship? Renewal.
As I’ve reflected, it’s dawned on me just how much I take Sunday for granted as a pastor in America. Though the pandemic has provided some minor bumps in the road, our corporate worship has never been threatened by police shutting our church down or imprisoning a pastor. Behind the prayer for one more Sunday is a fervor and urgency to declare the good news of Christ, such that each pastor and church member risks their safety, their freedom, and their livelihood every Sunday in order to gather to worship the One True God.
Would You Pray With Us Today?
Sure, we had to move online for a while in the beginning of the pandemic. Yes, we had outdoor services for many months, some of them chillier than I liked. But these restrictions have mostly been self-imposed. But throughout and certainly before the pandemic the urgency of one more Sunday was nowhere to be found, either in my heart or on my lips. As I survey the American evangelical landscape, the urgency of one more Sunday is not what marks most of our churches, and it shows. The fruit of this lack of urgency is not renewal.
The Holy Spirit spoke to my heart through my brother to help me see that each time we gather for worship, we are presented with a precious gift. We are presented with a sacred space to share in and enjoy the good news of Jesus Christ and to adore our triune God as his beloved people.
What might happen in our churches if we prayed this way? Throughout church history, corporate renewal movements have always been accompanied by prevailing corporate prayer. It’s no mystery then that pervasive renewal is happening in China in the churches underground, but is seemingly absent here, in the churches above ground. Lord, have mercy.
Re-igniting the Global Church
But that wasn’t the only impression John–and really Jesus–made on me that night. In God’s providence, prior to our Zoom meeting I had to reignite the pilot light in my hot water heater. We had moved into a new house days earlier, and were getting tired of cold showers. I consulted my friend Youtube to learn how to reignite the pilot light that had gone dark. As John was sharing, the Lord gave me a picture of the Chinese church being a pilot light for the global Church. When we go dark–when our affections for Jesus have moved from hot to tepid–we can look to our faithful brothers and sisters in China to ignite again our love for Jesus and his people. When I consider the imprisonments, beatings, and worse that many have endured for the sake of the gospel, it compels me to press on to know and love Christ and to treasure gathered worship anew.
The final moment I’ll share is John’s answer to my question, “If you had a microphone where every preacher in America could hear you, what would you say?” Was that a dramatic question? I’ll own it, but just go with me. He took a few seconds to consider, then said, “The way of Jesus is suffering, not comfort. Choose the way of suffering.” Mic drop.
Love that Leads to Repentance
Here’s the other thing I want you to know: at no point in our conversation did John have a hint of self-righteousness. He didn’t make me feel ashamed of all I had taken for granted. He didn’t make me out to be a comfort junkie. Not at all. Instead, like Jesus, he spoke with kindness. And that’s what has led me to repentance.
One more Sunday.
Pray with urgency when we gather to worship.
God uses our Chinese brothers and sisters like a pilot light for the global Church.
The way of Jesus is uncomfortable. Choose suffering, not comfort.
Jesus is alive and well, even–and maybe especially–in the darkest of places.
Jesus is kind, even to tepid Christians. But he loves us too much to leave us that way.
Who knew, besides Jesus, that I needed yet another Zoom call in the midst of this pandemic? Perhaps you did, too.
Soli Deo Gloria,
Rev. Andrew Kerhoulas
Andrew Kerhoulas is a pastor near Asheville, NC, where he lives with his wife and twin daughters.
FOR PRAYER AND REFLECTION
Pray that the global church will look to and be revived by the experiences of the Chinese house church.