He Is Our Peace

Editor’s note: The first week of October, Christians from around southeast Asia and the globe came together for a time of encouragement and fellowship at the Jakarta 2023 conference in Indonesia. Ryan, CP’s translation manager, writes that opportunities to gather with the global church are rare for Chinese Christians — but a strong reminder to all believers of the deep unity we share through Jesus.


A Conference Unlike Others

On the heels of The Gospel Coalition national conference in Indianapolis at the end of September, another Christian conference was about to take place on the other side of the world. Over 2,100 attendees from 19 different nations gathered in Jakarta, Indonesia in the first week of October. There were a half-dozen plenary speakers, plus another 20 workshop speakers from three different continents. Some of them recently spoke at the TGC conference a week prior, some were well-known authors and theologians in the West, but over half of the speakers were unknown to Christians in the West – yet they are at the forefront of some of the most exciting gospel movements in the Asia Pacific region.

Many still took the risk to come, because this would be one of the few times in their lives where they could personally interact with brothers and sisters outside of the Chinese firewall.

The main audience of the conference were brothers and sisters from mainland China and Indonesia. The singing, the talks, and workshops were all conducted in Chinese, English, and Indonesian. Although the goal of the conference was to encourage and support the house church in China, such a conference is not possible in China. In fact, due to security reasons, publicity for this conference was intentionally limited in China. One of the plenary speakers was prevented from leaving China by the government, and in the past, some Chinese brothers and sisters have been harassed and even imprisoned for attending similar conferences. Yet many still took the risk to come, because this would be one of the few times in their lives where they could personally interact with brothers and sisters outside of the Chinese firewall.

A Leveling Effect

One of the words Chinese attendees repeatedly used to describe the conference was “awe,” because this was the first time many of them were able to experience worship in such large magnitude. Everything in China is designed to awe people through the vastness of its scale: the height of skyscrapers, the grandeur of the Party, the might of the People’s Liberation Army displayed in parades, the size of river dams, etc. One may still remember the impressive show of force in the opening ceremony of the 2008 summer Olympics, in which 2,008 performers sang and danced in unison for over an hour. But for Chinese house churches, such experience of unity and magnitude have never been possible because by law, they are not even allowed to gather. Simply the experience of singing hymns in different languages with 2,000 others from around the world was a shock and a boost of confidence for them.

Many speakers also humbly recognized that their fame and popularity mean very little in the midst of a people going through persecution for their faith.

Even famous speakers from the West became more approachable in the conference. For one, they were less known to an Asian audience. Many of them were just glad to have someone greet them and speak to them in English in the midst of a sea of Chinese or Indonesian speakers. They were grateful to have someone guide them through the building and answer their questions about China and Indonesia. But many speakers also humbly recognized that their fame and popularity mean very little in the midst of a people going through persecution for their faith.

There is a leveling effect in a global conference like this, where famous Western speakers are humbled as they stand in the midst of a suffering people, and the marginalized and persecuted become more valued for their perseverance and faithfulness. Although some of their friends and pastors have been imprisoned, although some of them will face unwanted attention from the government for attending this conference, although they are worshiping God under an authoritarian regime, this conference reminded them that they are no less valuable in the eyes of their Heavenly Father, and they are an important member of the body of Christ.

He Himself Is Our Peace

The plenary speakers of the conference preached through Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, where Paul reminded the Ephesians of the mystery that both Jews and Gentiles are fellow heirs with Christ, “members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” There is perhaps no better description of the people in this conference than Paul’s words above.

I took a short trip to China before attending the conference, and there was noticeable tension and even animosity toward the West in the Mainland. Yet this conference shows us the bond of faith is stronger than any geopolitical tension. And it is my hope that, should any military conflicts arise between China and the West, and the peoples of both worlds devolve into prejudice and mutual-suspicion, the church will rise up to testify for the love we have for each other, because the bond that ties us together is not founded on a set of religious practices or life philosophies.

There was noticeable tension and even animosity toward the West in the Mainland. Yet this conference shows us the bond of faith is stronger than any geopolitical tension…’He himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility.’

No, our bond is based on a historical event that happened in the past – the death and resurrection of Jesus – and on a reality still happening today – Christ’s ascended reigns over all nations in heaven. That is our true reality. “He himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility.” That was the message I shared with my friends and family in China when I visited them, and no doubt the message many house church Christians are sharing with their friends and families right now.


Ryan moved from Guangzhou, China, to Ohio at the age of 12. He is the pastor for neighborhood ministries at a PCA church, and also serves as the translation manager for China Partnership. 


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Pray for the peace of Christ to rest on Chinese believers who attended this gospel conference in Jakarta.


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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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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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