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from the President
2022 has been a difficult year in many ways. Increasingly unsettled geopolitical situations, combined with personal loss and ministry hardship, has often left me despairing. And yet, the Lord is gracious and merciful: at a low point this summer, he allowed me to see the flowers blooming once again. Suddenly, even in the midst of so much bad news, I received many encouraging reports from the church in China.
Testimonies of Gospel Change
One of those reports, for example, was from a church in east-central China. During an online meeting with their leaders, I was surprised to see how crowded the room was. “Are these all leaders who have committed to the work of the gospel?” I asked. They told me yes. I was amazed to see how large the group had grown, despite the mounting government pressure against these house churches!
Another example was a report I heard from a church planter in Shanghai. His congregation is full of wealthy professionals, and recently they have been studying a biblical approach to money. As a result, one sister shared about how she had long been a collector of Prada handbags, simply for the status. She would purchase the bags for photos and then leave them in her closet. But thanks to the renewed vision of the kingdom of God, she decided to sell all her handbags and give the money to the cause of the gospel and for helping the poor in Shanghai.
But perhaps the most encouraging has been the fruit we have seen from our new Leadership Institute. This fall, the first cohort of leaders will graduate. Yet they have been so moved by the experience that they have committed to continuing to hold each other accountable. Just last week, they said, “We need to change the entire way we approach the ministry. Our way has traditionally been to use our own methods to try to force transformation. We use power, persuasion, and manipulation. We want to see the result, and this has distorted our pastoral process. Instead, we need to be willing to walk alongside people, watching the Spirit move, even slowly. We need to learn that the ministry process is a process of dying to ourselves. In our death we lead. That is the only way.”
Tasting the Heavenly Kingdom
How can there be these good reports while, at the same time, government pressure is growing rapidly worse? Head-knowledge cannot accomplish this. It is only through truly tasting the goodness of Christ, true communion in the Spirit, and dying to oneself that we can see this kind of flourishing in the wilderness. The taste of heavenly kingdom is setting people free.
Can we also experience the same? How might we taste the goodness of Christ? How might we die to ourselves daily, picking up our cross and following after him…not through self-righteous asceticism, but through the grace-empowered life in the Spirit? Who has he put before our eyes to serve?
In all likelihood, the difficult and discouraging times are not over. 2023 will most likely be worse. However, I am hopeful that the Lord is preparing the Chinese churches for the second half of this story. It is my earnest prayer that you will continue walking with us as it unfolds. Your encouragement is greatly needed as we walk deeper into the wilderness, and I long for all these spiritual blessings that are being poured out onto the church in China to be poured out onto you as well.
May we continue to walk side by side, tasting the wonders of Christ together, as we step out into the unknown.
President of China Partnership
August 12, 2022
Big Highlights from 2022 to-date