Editor’s note: This article was originally published, in its entirety, in the September 2020 issue of the Church China magazine, not long after COVID-19 began to wreak havoc across Wuhan and then the world. As the global church has wrestled with how it ought to respond to the pandemic, the Chinese church has often seen it as an opportunity to share their faith with a scared and hurting world. This excerpt explains how Chinese believers boldly moved forward to share their faith in a time of special difficulty and distress.
Even as we look back to the start of the pandemic in early 2020, the Omicron variant is currently spreading across the world. China and other “zero COVID” countries, which have managed to avoid widespread contagion within their own borders to this point, are especially threatened by the highly contagious variant.
This selection has been lightly edited for clarity and length. The first selection from this essay can be found here.
The Vision: Everyone Shares the Gospel
The church has been entrusted with the mission of the gospel. The first church where God’s word increased and the number of disciples multiplied was the church in Jerusalem. When the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost, 3,000 people repented. Acts 2:47 says, “And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”
But when Peter returned from preaching the gospel to Cornelius, a Gentile, the Jewish disciples confronted him, saying, “You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them.” This problem [fellowship between Jews and Gentiles] prompted the apostles and elders to defend the gospel and unity of the church. Because of this, a true confession of faith was confirmed. The church was strengthened, and began to preach the gospel to Greeks as well as Jews. When there was famine in Jerusalem, the church at Antioch went to help. They prayed, fasted, obeyed the leading of the Holy Spirit, and sent their best workers to carry out the Great Commission.
Would You Pray With Us Today?
The Philippian church was also built upon a good foundation. Paul commended them, speaking of their “partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.” The entire church partnered in the gospel, which can only be accomplished through remaining faithful to the mission of Christ.
The church must be faithful to the mission of the gospel. In 2010, our church received a mission from God: everyone would share the gospel. We were deeply moved by the idea that our city would be stirred up by the gospel. When Paul and his co-workers went to a city to preach the gospel, in a very short time they agitated the city to the point that the enemy looked at them as if they were the plague. I dare not presume to ask for Paul’s gifts, but I do pray for his faithfulness.
We have only one vision: that Christ’s gospel will be preached. We ask God for faithfulness to this God-given task. We focus on the whole church’s participation in evangelism. We have a phrase for this; we call members to “open your mouth and preach the gospel.” By this we mean that everyone in the church is called, not just to hand out tracts, but to speak to others about the salvation of the cross. Training brothers and sisters in this way has given them thick skin. When they encounter different responses from the world and are hurt or humiliated, they have learned to remain faithful. In our church, everyone truly does share the gospel.
Chinese churches today tend to emphasize preaching the gospel to relatives and friends, and are somewhat indifferent to strangers. Every day, we pass by people who will perish, and we react the same way Jewish disciples did in the early days of the church. 2 Peter 1:5-8 says: “For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” If our heart is to show love to all people, then we must preach the gospel to all people.
The impulses of the early days of salvation is to preach the gospel to those who are close to you! After I believed in Jesus, I once met a friend while I was waiting for a red light to change. Even though I was in my car, I hastily said to him, “Believe in Jesus! Believe in Jesus! Hurry up and believe in Jesus!” Because I had been given a treasure, I told everyone I knew about it. I did not tell only my acquaintances; I asked God to lead me, and, as I could not stop preaching the gospel, I went out and shared with strangers.
There are now nearly 1.4 billion people in China. In the 40 years since the end of the Cultural Revolution, how many have been saved? The church in China has been “kept back by idleness”! God has given us this unreached ground. We can be missional and go to the minority peoples, but we need to understand that there are more than a billion lost souls, most of them right before our eyes in the cities! Do urban churches see this path that must be followed?
The Blessing: How Everyone Sharing the Gospel Blesses the Church
Over the last decade, there has been both internal conflict and external pressure. We have weathered many storms, but God has turned our danger into safety, increasing our faith with each blow. Although some individuals departed in weakness, the faith of our body grew stronger. We have encountered attacks from heretics; persecution from the government; our own weakness; and resistance, humiliation, and being trampled by society. The culture regards us as the “scum of the world,” but because we have true salvation and remember the humiliation our Lord suffered for us on the cross, everything we have experienced is turned to joy and gladness. Evangelism is not just about adding numbers to our own church, but about sowing the seeds of the gospel. Not all of those we share with come to our own church, but many of the people we have preached to join other churches. We are very thankful for that. Some have told us that, when they invite friends to church, about half of them have already heard the gospel through our “everyone shares the gospel” movement.
Will evangelism hinder other church ministries? Of course not! Our church highly values all aspects of spiritual discipline, such as worship, Bible reading, and prayer. Before the pandemic, we had spent three years establishing Bible study groups. God used the outbreak to add more than 2,000 people to these groups. Not all of those people are saved, but they are being shepherded and challenged on an ongoing basis. God has led us through this ministry.
When brothers and sisters in our church share the gospel with others, they themselves absorb God’s truth more fully. Although they are not theologically trained, through preaching the gospel of Christ alone and salvation by his crucifixion alone, they learn to practically guard against heresy.
Because we are of one heart and mind in sharing the gospel, our church has never divided. Since 2010, we have grown to reach the wonderful momentum of this year. Jesus said, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.” No matter whether a person has theological training or experience, everyone has the mission of preaching the gospel, in season and out. This is the vision of the church.
The Great Commission says: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” The Lord promises and takes pleasure in being with us as we accomplish this mission. His presence with us is the reward we receive after being saved. If we only teach believers and do not motivate them to preach the gospel, the promise of his presence will be lacking. God gives us an “open door” and promises that, if we have a small commitment to seek the lost, they will be reached.
FOR PRAYER AND REFLECTION
Pray for urban Chinese churches to lift up their eyes and see the fields white for the harvest in their own cities.