Chinese Pastor Roundtable: We Have Been Missing a Part of Our Faith

Editor’s note: This is the second 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. Catch up on the first part of the series with Chinese Pastor Roundtable: We Cannot Isolate Ourselves Anymore and check back weekly throughout the month of October for the rest of the series!
Part 1

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.

Chunsun: So as you think about years down the road and [this movement] really just catching fire in new, urban areas, what do you foresee as some of the challenges standing in your way from continuing to grow?

Wang Jianguo: The political situation nowadays in China is not that great. The government, especially the central government, is really against Christianity and see it as a danger in the future for control of the country, so this could be a very big problem in the future. 

Additionally, like [my colleague has] already said, tradition is very strong. Even though people start to change, some people will drag them away so that they are dragged back [to the old way]. When they reflect back they think, “Wait a minute, for a long time – for thirty, forty, even hundreds of years – we have been in this tradition. But there has been only three years of [this new] movement…” So they may turn back. For example, we have three full-time workers. One has a very, very strong foundation and background in the tradition [of the pietistic Chinese church]. So he is already turning back! He is thinking, “Well, maybe…” He is struggling, he is confused. 

The pressure from the government is because the government does not understand us. The key word, “movement,” is very sensitive. The government is scared and sensitive about this, because we have many, many movements [in China]. The government worries that the movement will cause social turmoil. We are thinking about how to use which words. If we are going to use this word, “movement,” then we worry about causing misunderstanding, but we cannot find any word better than that. This word has no problem for Americans, but it is [a problem] in China. 

But if we use the [name of the movement] we will be targeted by the government. Then the government [would visit] us from Beijing [and said]: “We heard about [this] movement, are you involved in that?” Yeah, I’m involved in that, I’m one of the leaders of this movement! They scared us! So I wanted to give him some of the curriculum for [our trainings], but at that time I didn’t have any copies on me. He gave me a mail address and I mailed a copy to him. One week later, I sent a text message to him. He said, “Thank you, we received the package, and we studied it. It’s not what we expected of a ‘movement.’ You are building partnering churches.” And he just let it go. 

Once the government knows what we are really doing, [the main thing they] worry about is that we are using church as a means to offend the government. There are many heresies in China, so the government puts significant effort into dealing with them. But when they realize we are orthodox, they will stop.

But the tension between tradition and fundamentalism is the biggest problem inside the [Chinese] church. Maybe it will take ten years to go through the process to change. It’s very hard for us to rapidly change the church. For example, I am in a big church. It’s very hard to change the church. They will remove me! Replace me. God used [the movement] to plant a seed in my heart that then grew. So, change is happening in my church.

Chunsun: A hundred years ago there were missionaries and there was Christianity in China, and then in 1949 it all stopped and there was persecution. But that was a different flavor of Christianity back then. So if persecution begins again, which it might, what would this look like on the other side?

Wang Jianguo: I really respect that you’re so familiar with the history of the Chinese church. We study this when we study our church history. A hundred years ago when the missionaries came to China, the most activity they did in China was social services. They served the poor, they provided medical services and education. Most of the missionaries were laity. They didn’t focus much on the churches. But the church played a role in mentoring believers. After 1949 when the Communist Party took over China, they worried that the contribution of the missionaries was bigger than the contribution of the Communist Party. This was the first problem.

Another problem was who the United States kept supporting. So they kicked out the missionaries. The foundation of the church at that time was very weak. Because of the power of the government, the hearts of the Christians were very scared and they gave up their faith. During that time, the gospel brought them many benefits in their daily life. Today many people are chasing these benefits, which is a misunderstanding of the gospel and is not the core of the gospel. 


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In the last thirty years, we have had a revival in the Chinese church. We have to admit that it’s the seed of God that remained in China. So when the missionaries came back to China, they found those seeds; the seed for revival. That is why we have experienced revival. 

When we really think about what we believe, before 1949 and [over] the last thirty years, we recognize that we lost the core of the gospel. Before 1949, we were very focused on the social gospel. The next thirty years we were very focused on personal piety. The result is that the core of the gospel is neither social services nor personal piety. We have been missing a part of our faith. 

In many, many ages God has raised up different people — Martin Luther, Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, Tim Keller — and it’s God’s heart to have those people. They are not perfect. In God’s eyes, they are all sinners, but they are faithful servants of God. They are sinners justified by God’s blood. They are just like a match; he is bringing the torch. Without the match the torch is there, but it never burns. They are just the match. We want to be the matches, to burn the torch.

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Further Reading

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The External Cross: A Pastoral Letter
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Qingdao: How to Pray
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Qingdao: Locals and Outsiders
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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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