From Atheist to Church Planter

Editor’s note: This is the transcript and video of a recent interview with a house church pastor who was raised an atheist in a predominantly Muslim area of China, but came to faith in college. He has served as a pastor for about a decade, and hopes to be sent out as a missionary in the near future. We hope his story will give you a personal look at how God is moving in the real lives of Chinese, and how their stories bring him glory.


“I Detested Religion”

I think my journey from conversion to serving the Lord has been a process of God continuously helping me understand what the kingdom of God is.

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“My journey from conversion to serving the Lord has been a process of God continuously helping me understand what the kingdom of God is.

I was born in Xinjiang. I was surrounded by many Muslims, but had never seen a Christian before. Muslims did not have good behaviors, so I detested religion and gradually grew to be a strong atheist.

I went to college inland. In my third year of college, I heard the gospel, started to read the Bible, and joined a Bible study group on campus. I began to seriously and earnestly think about whether there is a God in this world, whether men are sinners, whether Jesus really is the Son of God, whether he really died on the cross for the sins of men and rose from the dead again. After almost a year of reading and thinking, I decided to accept Jesus as my personal Savior. Then I was baptized and became a Christian.

“Healthy Mission Requires a Healthy Church”

After I came to faith, God gave me much joy and grace. It was also in here that God led me to understand what the Church is. The Church is the body of Christ, the visible manifestation of the kingdom of God on this earth, the people of God. Going to church is not about what I can get, but about worshipping God.


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God also built up my life through the church by involving me in ministry. I was leading small groups, and doing the ministry of the Word. Later on, I slowly became the leader of this young gathering place.

As we prayed together to seek God’s plan for us, God gave us a word from Psalm 8:2. It says, “Out of the mouth of babies and infants, you have established strength because of your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger.” By this, we knew that though we were all young and few in number, just like babies and infants, God would use us to testify to his own glory.

Later, through God’s leading, I left my job in 2010. I wanted to become a missionary at that time. As I read and studied the Bible more, I saw that God’s heart was for the nations. When I realized that there were so many nations and people in this world who had never heard the gospel or seen a Christian in their lives, I was fervent in spirit.

I hoped that the name of God would be exalted in those places. I also deeply sensed that the Chinese church had received much grace and countless blessings. Many missionaries came to China in the past one or two hundred years to preach the gospel and planted churches in China. We should share the grace of God. That’s why I went to Korea to attend seminary to equip myself.

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“Psalm 8:2 says, ‘Out of the mouth of babies and infants, you have established strength because of your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger.’
We knew that though we were all young and few in number, just like babies and infants, God would use us to testify to his own glory.

However, when I graduated at the beginning of 2014 and was ready to go to the mission field, God gave me a word: “Healthy mission requires a healthy church.” I realized that our church was not healthy and I needed to go back to serve the church and build it into a healthy church.

Then I obeyed God’s leading and returned to serve the student gathering place where I used to serve. In fact, at that time, I didn’t even know what a healthy church looked like.

After ten years of ministry, by God’s grace, this student gathering place has gradually grew into an independent, institutionalized, healthy church. We have also planted two other churches in and around Beijing. We have planted two churches, and out of our church have come more than twenty brothers and sisters who are now serving God full time in other churches, church organizations and mission fields. During these ten years of ministry, God has also led me to know his heavenly kingdom and this earthly kingdom in a very practical way.

“The Kingdom of God Will Prevail”

I remember in 2014, we rented a place. We finally had a regular place to meet. We held two evangelistic meetings during Christmas time. A lot of students and young adults joined us. Probably over 400 people attended the two meetings. On the night of Christmas Eve, the local police chief arrived with many police officers to threaten us. They wanted to shut down the venue and prevent us from having a meeting the next day.

That was the first time I was officially confronted with the government’s persecution. At first I was so scared that I was too afraid to even enter the church building, so I kept praying around the church. Thank the Lord, in prayer I seemed to see Jesus Christ crucified for me. The Lord helped me make a decision: since the Lord had died for me, I would go and worship him, and I  would worship him until death.

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“Satan is persecuting the kingdom of God in all kinds of ways with this earthly regime, culture, economy, etc. Yet the kingdom of God will prevail, because Christ has won the victory.

I began not to feel too afraid any more. I said to my wife, “I may not be able to come home tomorrow. Don’t be afraid, but rely on the Lord!”

The next day, on Christmas evening, we continued the meeting as planned. As our co-workers served in the front, I was praying with some other co-workers earnestly in the back. Thank the Lord that the police did not show up that night. However, one of the pastors whom I was praying with had an accident on his way home and his car was totally wrecked, but he was not hurt. This showed me how real spiritual warfare is. Satan is persecuting the kingdom of God in all kinds of ways with this earthly regime, culture, economy, etc. Yet the kingdom of God will prevail, because Christ has won the victory.

The experience of the past has confirmed the vision that God has given us, which is declared in Psalm 8:1-2, “You have set your glory above the heavens. Out of the mouth of babies and infants, you have established strength because of your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger.”

This is my tenth year of doing ministry, and my church is praying to send me to the mission field at the end of the year, because we know that the kingdom of God is not only in China, but also in all the world. He will call his people to worship him, and his glorious name will be heard in all the earth.

Thank you, God! I am grateful for the opportunity to share our testimonies with you. God bless you!


Huang Shengli is a pseudonym for a house church pastor in Beijing. He was raised in Xinjiang as a staunch atheist, and came to know Christ in college.

 

FOR PRAYER AND REFLECTION

Pray for healthy churches in China that are able to send out missionaries to the far corners of the world.

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Further Reading

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

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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

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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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