Chinese Pastor Roundtable: We Cannot Isolate Ourselves Anymore

Editor’s note: This is the first part of a series that provides a listening ear on an intimate conversation between China Partnership staff, the Chinese pastors they work with, and various American church partners. Many people sat around the table for the conversation, but to protect the identities of those present, we have chosen to use the following pseudonyms to represent the three perspectives involved. We hope you check back weekly throughout the month of October for the rest of the series!
Part 2
Part 3

明道 Yang Mingdao is the collective pseudonym for Chinese staff within China Partnership. 
王建国 Wang Jianguo is the collective pseudonym for a group of Chinese pastors in the unregistered church participating in a grace-centered gospel movement.
春笋 Chunsun is the collective pseudonym for American individuals, churches, and foundations ministering to Chinese people.

Yang Mingdao: Let me say a brief prayer so we can start. 

Father, thank you for tonight. We are here to celebrate, not CP switching gears, but to celebrate your gospel. We celebrate how you’ve used us to expound your gospel. May your Son be known in all our hearts so we can follow you. We thank you for our time together, to worship you through our fellowship. Bless us, Lord. In your name we pray, Amen.

I think I will just give time to you guys for any questions you want to ask or clarify, as this is just a friendly talk. These are very honest guys, they are not hiding anything. If you have any stories to share, just say anything.

Chunsun: I don’t mind starting.

I think the underlying theme of some of the questions I’ve been having about [the movement] is that it’s been a few years now and it seems like there is so much happening, so many great things happening, and I’d love to just get your thoughts and reflections on where the movement is headed, and what some of the things are that we, as resource partners, can be looking forward to in the next few years for the urban church in China.

Wang Jianguo: One of the significant differences between now and before in our harvest is understanding what a church is. 

We were in a very strong Chinese tradition, or church culture, which was very individualistic. Personal piety was the goal. A Christian [was understood] by himself; there was no understanding of the church, there was no kind of community. It was very severe. There was a case where one person became a Christian, a believer, but his entire family was not affected by this. This is because [Chinese Christians] are always tending to make themselves only a moral role model for their family members. 

Through [this church] movement, the goal is to transform the heart and to establish churches so that we can bless the city. One of the major goals is to help Christians have a healthy doctrine of the church, of how we can serve properly. This doctrine of the church and how to serve the Lord is based on the foundation of the gospel. 


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After several years of ministry, a lot of churches have committed to this philosophy. More and more churches where there is the traditional way of doing church [feel that] there is no solution, there is no way out. But we cannot isolate ourselves anymore. We have to watch out for what is going on, instead of being unaware of what God was doing. A lot of times we just want to fulfill our own hearts by using religion or the gospel. But we hope in the coming twenty years, more churches will commit to this movement, and that they would have this kingdom view instead of remaining tribal churches. Through lives transformed by the gospel, they can bless their families, their communities, and even the city. 

After the Reformation of the 16th century, there was a great revival in the Protestant camp. And then, after awhile, we got into a kind of piety. The Chinese church was really influenced by this pietistic tradition of the Protestants. The two hundred years of church history in China was really influenced by this piety. 

But in the past three years of [this movement], the church grew from several churches to more than several hundred. For almost all these churches there has been a great transition from the previous, more legalistic, type to gospel-centered, grace-focused churches. This great change shows there is a great need among a lot of Chinese churches in the future. Another trend is that house churches are changing from being previously more in-grown and self-focused, mystical kinds of churches to now being more outgoing and influencing the community. 

But now, even though we are more outgoing and we are more focused on society or the community, we are not in fear of getting into another extreme [version of] social gospel. The reason we don’t fear swinging to the other extreme with the social gospel is because we are so firmly grasping the gospel, the gracious God’s gospel. Because of the life transformation of the churches, everything is changing – personal transformation, family transformation, influencing society.

Yang Mingdao: You know before the Sichuan earthquake in 2008, most of the churches were independent churches and they were very isolated. Because of the earthquake, the churches started to collaborate, to cooperate. But years after that, those partnerships no longer exist. My observation is that many church partnerships in China are only based on mission or personal relationship. But when the mission finishes, when the second generation comes out, those collaborations stop. But [our trainings] become a very solid foundation for the unity of the churches. [The core of the gospel] everlasting. Even in Shanghai I can see many churches, even though they are from different denominational views, come together on the big foundation of the gospel-centered church. That makes a real, true unity among the churches. In Shanghai we don’t have mega-churches that can do a lot, so this unity makes some ministries become possible. We are starting to plant churches together. 

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Further Reading

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The Internal Cross: A Pastoral Letter
Read More
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The External Cross: A Pastoral Letter
Read More
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Qingdao: How to Pray
Read More

LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT IN CHINA

With rising pressure and persecution in China, there are two challenges imperative for church leaders. The first challenge is for current leaders to love Christ above all else, and not to stray into legalism or love of the world. The second challenge is to raise up the next generation of leaders, who will humbly model Jesus even if current leaders are arrested.

WILL YOU JOIN US IN PRAYING FOR LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT IN CHINA? PRAY FOR:

  1. Current leaders to grow in their daily walks with Christ
  2. Current leaders to shepherd and raise up new leaders
  3. New leaders who love Christ and will model him to the world
  4. New leaders to love and care for the church

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ABOUT LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT

About Shenyang

Shenyang is a city located in northeastern China and is the capital of Liaoning Province. It is known for its rich history and cultural heritage, including the Shenyang Imperial Palace, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Shenyang is also a hub for China’s heavy industry, with companies such as the China First Automobile Group and the Shenyang Aircraft Corporation having their headquarters in the city.

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Stories from Shenyang

About Qingdao

Qingdao is a city located in eastern China and is famous for its beaches, beer, and seafood. The city is home to several landmarks, including the Zhanqiao Pier and the Badaguan Scenic Area. Qingdao is also a major port and has a thriving economy, with industries such as electronics, petrochemicals, and machinery.

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Stories from Qingdao

About Xiamen

Xiamen is a city located in southeastern China and is a popular tourist destination known for its beautiful coastal scenery, including Gulangyu Island, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The city is also a hub for China’s high-tech industry, with companies such as Huawei and ZTE having research and development centers in Xiamen.

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Stories from Xiamen

About Chongqing

Chongqing is a city located in southwestern China and is a major economic center in the region. The city is known for its spicy cuisine, especially its hot pot dishes, and is also famous for the Three Gorges Dam, the world’s largest hydroelectric dam. Chongqing is also home to several historic sites, including the Dazu Rock Carvings, which are UNESCO World Heritage sites.

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Stories from Chongqing

About Nanjing

Nanjing is a city located in eastern China and is the capital of Jiangsu Province. It is one of China’s ancient capitals and has a rich cultural history, including the Ming Xiaoling Mausoleum, the Nanjing City Wall, and the Confucius Temple. Nanjing is also a modern city with a thriving economy and is home to several universities, including Nanjing University and Southeast University.

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Stories from Nanjing

About Changchun

Changchun is a city located in northeastern China and is the capital of Jilin Province. It is known for its rich cultural heritage and is home to several historical landmarks such as the Puppet Emperor’s Palace and the Jingyuetan National Forest Park. Changchun is also a hub for China’s automotive industry, with several major automobile manufacturers having their headquarters in the city.

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Stories from Changchun

About Guangzhou

Guangzhou, also known as Canton, is a city located in southern China and is the capital of Guangdong Province. It is one of the country’s largest and most prosperous cities, serving as a major transportation and trading hub for the region. Guangzhou is renowned for its modern architecture, including the Canton Tower and the Guangzhou Opera House, as well as its Cantonese cuisine, which is famous for its variety and bold flavors. The city also has a rich history, with landmarks such as the Chen Clan Ancestral Hall, the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, and the Temple of the Six Banyan Trees. Additionally, Guangzhou hosts the annual Canton Fair, the largest trade fair in China.

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Stories from Guangzhou

About Kunming

Kunming is a city located in southwest China and is the capital of Yunnan Province. Known as the “City of Eternal Spring” for its mild climate, Kunming is a popular tourist destination due to its natural beauty and cultural diversity. The city is home to several scenic spots, including the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Stone Forest, Dian Lake, and the Western Hills. Kunming is also famous for its unique cuisine, which features a mix of Han, Yi, and Bai ethnic flavors. The city has a rich cultural history, with ancient temples and shrines like the Yuantong Temple and the Golden Temple, and it’s also a hub for Yunnan’s ethnic minority cultures, such as the Yi and Bai peoples.

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Stories from Kunming

About Shenzhen

Shenzhen is a city located in southeastern China and is one of the country’s fastest-growing metropolises. The city is renowned for its thriving tech industry, with companies such as Huawei, Tencent, and DJI having their headquarters in Shenzhen. The city also has a vibrant cultural scene, with numerous museums, art galleries, and parks. Shenzhen is also known for its modern architecture, such as the Ping An Finance Center and the Shenzhen Bay Sports Center. Despite its modernization, Shenzhen also has a rich history and cultural heritage, with landmarks such as the Dapeng Fortress and the Chiwan Tin Hau Temple.

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Stories from Shenzhen

About Chengdu

Chengdu is a city located in the southwestern region of China, and the capital of Sichuan province. It has a population of over 18 million people, and it is famous for its spicy Sichuan cuisine, laid-back lifestyle, and its cute and cuddly residents – the giant pandas. Chengdu is home to the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, where visitors can observe these adorable creatures in their natural habitat. The city also boasts a rich cultural heritage, with numerous temples, museums, and historical sites scattered throughout its boundaries. Chengdu is a city of contrasts, with ancient traditions coexisting alongside modern developments, making it an intriguing and fascinating destination for visitors to China. 

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Stories from Chengdu

About Beijing

Beijing is the capital city of China and one of the most populous cities in the world, with a population of over 21 million people. The city has a rich history that spans over 3,000 years, and it has served as the capital of various dynasties throughout China’s history. Beijing is home to some of the most iconic landmarks in China, including the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, and the Temple of Heaven. The city is also a hub for political, cultural, and educational activities, with numerous universities and research institutions located within its boundaries. Beijing is renowned for its traditional architecture, rich cuisine, and vibrant cultural scene, making it a must-visit destination for travelers to China.

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Stories from Beijing

About Shanghai

Shanghai is a vibrant and dynamic city located on the eastern coast of China. It is the largest city in China and one of the most populous cities in the world, with a population of over 24 million people. Shanghai is a global financial hub and a major center for international trade, with a rich history and culture that spans over 1,000 years. The city is famous for its iconic skyline, which features towering skyscrapers such as the Oriental Pearl Tower and the Shanghai Tower. Shanghai is also home to a diverse culinary scene, world-class museums and art galleries, and numerous shopping districts. It is a city that is constantly evolving and reinventing itself, making it a fascinating destination for visitors from around the world.

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Stories from Shanghai

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