Interview with a Shanghai Pastor – Thoughts on Traditional Chinese Culture and Human Sin

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Editor’s note: China Partnership is launching a new chapter of its prayer initiative. Over the coming year we will pray for the church in a new city each month, providing videos, interviews, and prayer requests directly from the churches with whom we work. We hope this helps you better understand the needs of the Chinese church and commit more fervently to stand in prayer with our brothers and sisters.

This month we kick things off with Shanghai and we’re excited to bring you this interview with a Chinese pastor in the city. We hope you will check out the Shanghai page for additional content, and to sign up to partner with us in prayer.

Pastor: I am interested in culture, and used to read a lot about art, history, and philosophy. I loved these when I was younger. Therefore, I have some of my own thoughts and ideas about culture. But based on my age, everyone should understand the types of cultural influence on me at the time. After I believed in Christ more than ten years ago, my understanding of culture has undergone some major changes.   

CP: Which city did you come from?

Pastor: I’m from Shanghai. The word “home” in the name [of our church] refers to our fundamental mission to share the gospel through family ministry, which means to make Jesus known to more family members.

CP: You just mentioned that the gospel changed your view on culture. I am curious how the gospel renewed your view of culture, including your view of China.


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Pastor: Because of the traditional education I received, the things I pursued were influenced by the content of my education. When I came to know Jesus about ten years ago, this discovery completely overturned my world view. My previous education was a traditional Chinese education, which included content on ancient cultures and some contemporary cultures. But now, I think my understanding of culture includes one more aspect, that of the kingdom. My values and understanding of culture are totally different from what they used to be.

CP: What do you think is the biggest influence traditional education had on your values?

Pastor: Traditional Confucianism teaches benevolence. I did a lot good things and charity work for others before I was a Christian. But now I think that while those deeds were not bad, what man needs the most is the gospel, the salvation of the soul.

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They said, “You are so different from who you were; you are not the Tang Bo Hu you used to be.” I said, “Praise the Lord. It is Jesus who changed me.”

— A Pastor in Shanghai

CP: I think all of us are good at finding our own merit out of our own imperfections. I would like to know how your understanding of yourself has changed from seeing yourself as a good person to a sinner.

Pastor: After I put my faith in the Lord, it was still a long process to really come to know salvation through the cross and genuinely connect my life to Jesus. I am not saying that my life was renewed the day I was baptized. No. I came to faith in 2004, was baptized in 2005, and the renewal of my life came after 2007, especially after I started to pastor a church. I cannot pinpoint the exact moment my life was renewed, but when I came to understand my former relationship with Jesus, and the fact that Jesus really died on the cross for my sins, I was renewed and transformed inside out. Because there is direct relationship between me and Jesus, this renewal completely transformed my former views and ideas on culture.

CP: What do you think are some of the problems in the previous culture?

Pastor: The previous culture was humanistic. Men didn’t really understand themselves; they only wanted to be a good person, but they didn’t understand the essence of the human heart, not to mention admitting themselves to be sinners. They didn’t get it at all. The traditional culture knew nothing about human sin. Therefore, if one does not know he is a sinner, he certainly cannot be blameless.

CP: So for China and the Chinese people, what do you think are some of the biggest clashes between Chinese culture and the gospel?

Pastor: The clash between traditional Chinese culture and the gospel, right?

CP: Yes, the traditional Chinese culture in your opinion.

Pastor: In fact, traditional Chinese culture is all about benevolence, but it is a huge obstacle for one to genuinely understand himself as a sinner. This means your traditional culture could never lead one to see himself as a sinner; and if one cannot see his own sin, he cannot really know himself, and can never really understand the gospel.

CP: When you were transformed, how did you interact with those around you who had been with you in the past?

Pastor: First, I love them; I genuinely love them. I would interact with them and pray for them. More importantly, I hope that as I live in Christ, I bear the aroma of Christ among them. A while ago I ran into some friends from years ago. They said, “You are so different from who you were; you are not the Tang Bo Hu you used to be.” I said, “Praise the Lord. It is Jesus who changed me.”

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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
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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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