Our Hand Grasps Yours: A Letter of Encouragement

Editor’s note: This year, China Partnership is praying for the church in China to hold fast. In the fall of 2022, we spoke with Chinese house church leaders and asked them how the global church can pray for and support them in 2023. They specifically asked that we pray that they would hold fast to Christ and to his promises in the midst of pressure, persecution, and uncertainty.

They also asked for encouragement. In 2023, we will be periodically publishing letters of encouragement to the church in China from the global church. We hope these letters will remind Chinese Christians that they are not alone or forgotten, but that around the world, their brothers and sisters in Christ care and pray for them regularly. We invite you to join us as we labor in love and prayer for the church in China.

 

Perfect Unity in Christ

I stand in awe at this opportunity to address you directly, as I never imagined such a thing could happen on this side of eternity. I write with deep admiration for your faith, for your creativity in challenging circumstances. I also write to honor our shared desire to see today’s global body of Christ reconnect to awareness of our oneness in him, as we live and move around the world today.

There is a global awakening to long-neglected parts of Christ’s body. I thank our God for your candor, and for this Spirit-driven dialogue.

Many of us are reading your pastoral writings with humility and curiosity. We recognize that there is a global awakening to long-neglected parts of Christ’s body. I thank our God for your candor, and for this Spirit-driven dialogue. I even thank our God for our imperfections, because have One in whom we are perfected together: our Lord Jesus Christ. I thank our God for our perfect unity in him. There is no other earthly relationship that is so close as we are with each other!

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

1 Corinthians 12:12-13

We Are Being Stirred

For purposes known only to our Savior, he has at various times allowed more religious freedom to some in this world than the historic Church typically has known. Some have historically handled this responsibility well to proclaim Christ’s kingdom; others have faltered, stumbled, and not finished well. In our case, it seems our Christian privilege has made many of us soft and apathetic, captured by many distractions and great infighting. Our comfort has lulled us to sleep, with our heads resting on the rough pillowcases of the sufferings of the invisible church. Our slumber has made us numb, unable to feel the blows against Christ’s global body, made one in him.

It seems our Christian privilege has made many of us soft and apathetic, captured by many distractions and great infighting. Our comfort has lulled us to sleep… But now, we are being stirred and awakened with every cultural blow we ourselves experience.

But now, we are being stirred and awakened with every cultural blow we ourselves experience. The earthly cultures that surround us show growing hostility, with a spectrum of emotions toward Christianity’s truths: ranging from apathy and indifference, to resentment and open hostility. And so, biblical Christians are being pushed to remember our union in Christ. No longer can we say to the global suffering church, “I have no need of you”:

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.


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1 Corinthians 12:21-26

Indeed, we need each other. The conversations you have initiated feel vitally important, and even historical as we await Jesus’s return with upturned faces. They are helpful to each of our own cultural moments, educating and edifying. Of course, our conversation does not add to the biblical canon, but one feels the weight and significance of the Church speaking to herself across geographic and linguistic lines at this historical inflection point – the time to remember our oneness is here.

Pray Also for Us

I pray you will continue speaking with us, and with the rest of the church across God’s creation. Satan has blanketed our age with a global deception about the nature of God and man, of personhood, of male and female, so much that many question reality itself. With each passing hour, a New Testament reality of the church under hostility grows for the church everywhere. We need each other’s wisdom and strengthening encouragement that we are not alone, that we are made one in Christ, and that our unity is tangible, eternal, and indivisible.

Many in our corner of the world are learning the painful lesson that there is no salvation in politics. There is no salvation in cultures, or earthly tribes, temporal relationships, or in any of the world systems in which we mistakenly place our trust. Christ is our only salvation, and our sole sufficiency in a world hostile to his mission and his people.

Many in our corner of the world are learning the painful lesson that there is no salvation in politics. There is no salvation in cultures, or earthly tribes, temporal relationships, or in any of the world systems in which we mistakenly place our trust. Christ is our only salvation.

As you remember the churches scattered across the world, pray for us. Pray that we become more like him, and that we grow to behave as the set-apart culture that Christ loves. Pray that we not merely serve as a counterculture, but as an ‘other culture’ altogether – one body, who moves differently from all other cultures around us, reflecting the One True Kingdom culture that invites as it indicts.

I pray that by the Spirit, you can feel our hands grasp yours – to strengthen, comfort, enrich, and endure this global season as the one body that we are. Pray, as we pray for you, that we all may stand strong in the days of our own challenges, and love those who hate Christ and his people – even unto our own death – until the day we are perfected, harmonized and gathered in Christ.

For indeed, we  are promised to see each other soon.

K.A. Ellis

Director, The Edmiston Center at Reformed Theological Seminary in Atlanta, Georgia

 

K. A. Ellis is passionate about preparing the next generations to live faithfully under anti-Christian hostility. Her research areas include Bible, theology, ethics, human rights, and global religious freedom, and she has spoken and written often on Christian endurance under persecution. She is director of the Edmiston Center at Reformed Theological Seminary in Atlanta, Georgia, and the Robert Cannada Fellow in World Christianity at Reformed Theological Seminary.

 

Pray for Chinese Christians to feel united, through the Spirit, to the global body of Christ. Pray they will know they are not alone, but that others walk with them in prayer.

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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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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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