How I Prayed: Hold Fast to Community

“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him – a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”  Eccl. 4:9-12

““Chinese believers are different ages, different ethnicities, different sexes, and hail from different socio-economic groups…Yet no matter their differences, who they are in Jesus is more important than anything else about them.”

The hardest seasons of my life have been times I felt alone. When facing life’s turmoil, already difficult things seem more challenging if I don’t have others to help remind me who I am and what is true. The Bible is clear: God does not intend us to walk through life alone. Following Christ must happen in community with others.

God’s word describes community as what happens when people who believe in him come together with a common purpose of praying together, learning, and fellowship. (Acts 2:42-47) This month, we have been praying for Chinese Christians to hold fast to community because they truly need one another.

When the spiritual powers of darkness attack, they seek to sow doubt, division, and dissension among believers. Yet God is always with his people, keeping and caring for them. Usually, Christians are reminded he is still with them by worshiping and obeying together, alongside others. Here are a few ways I am praying this May for Chinese Christians to experience community.

An Identity Rooted in Jesus

Chinese believers are different ages, different ethnicities, different sexes, and hail from different socio-economic groups. Some are rural, uneducated grandmothers who remained faithful through years of trial; others are urbane intellectuals. Some Chinese believers trust in Jesus because they experienced physical healing over disease; others began to trust when disillusioned with the norms of their own society. Yet no matter their differences, who they are in Jesus is more important than anything else about them.

The number of Christians in China has increased greatly in recent decades, but Christians are still a minority in society. They need others who are defined by their identity in Christ, not their salary or the size of their apartment (to pick a few status symbols).

““None of the Christian life is supposed to happen alone! Christians desperately need each other, and they need to experience life alongside others who are running (or have already finished) the long marathon of following Jesus.”

In Hebrews, just after the author says “let us hold fast,” he immediately ties this to community, telling the church they must not neglect to meet together, but should encourage one another. Just a few chapters later, Hebrews again urges Christians to persevere, to “run with endurance the race that is set before us.” Believers can keep running that long race because they are “surrounded by so great a crowd of witnesses.” None of the Christian life is supposed to happen alone! Christians desperately need each other, and they need to experience life alongside others who are running (or have already finished) the long marathon of following Jesus.

Closer Than A Brother

Chinese believers are one family, children of the same God. They need family in Christ. They need “a friend who sticks closer than a brother”; other Christians who will love them, take care of them, and gently correct and direct them.

A few days ago, my children and I were praying for some Chinese Christians experiencing hard times. One child asked, “Why do you always call them ‘Brother So-and-So’?” Although our Presbyterian church is not very formal, we do not normally refer to other believers as “Brother” or “Sister.” I explained that many Christians use these titles because we are all children of God the Father, and since other believers are also his children, that makes us siblings. (I am not sure why these titles are rarely used in my circles, but I remember, in childhood, that Baptist friends in the South often used “Sister” and “Brother” to greet one another.)


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Most Chinese Christians I know regularly use these familial titles for other believers. I am praying that these are more than just words: that the relationships behind these family words are real, encouraging, and thick as blood. Chinese Christians need to know they are part of a family that will not abandon them, and will walk with them through the fire.

““Chinese Christians need to know they are part of a family that will not abandon them, and will walk with them through the fire.”

They particularly need those type of sibling relationships with others around them. But they also need to know that we, their brothers and sisters around the globe, have not forgotten them. Although we are in different nations and many of our challenges are different, the Lord who unites us is much more powerful than what differentiates us: “in Christ Jesus [we] are all sons of God, through faith.”

We can pray for them, remember them, and reach out and encourage them. Prayer is not just meaningless words. Prayer matters. When we pray for and with Chinese Christians, we join in their struggles. I am praying Chinese Christians will know the sweetness of the fellowship of the saints, both in their own cities — and even around the world.


E.F. Gregory is a mom of three. She lives in the San Gabriel Valley on the border of East Los Angeles, where her husband is a P.C.A. church planter. 

 

FOR PRAYER AND REFLECTION

Pray for Chinese Christians to hold fast to fellowship with other believers.

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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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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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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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