People Seeking the Truth, Part 4: “I Saw Revival”

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Editor’s note: Grace transforms. In recent decades, millions of Chinese people have met Jesus and had their lives turned inside out. Their hopes, dreams, families, leisure, and (in some cases) occupations have changed because of Christ. This is the fourth of a five-part interview series with “Tim,” a Chinese ministry leader. In this series, Tim shares his story of faith.Our hope is that these interviews challenge and encourage Western believers to examine their own faith and remind them to pray for their brothers and sisters in China.

In the mid-90s you joined an international Christian organization. You were one of the first Chinese staff members.

I was the first mainland Chinese staff in my province. The year before me, a few other Chinese had begun to do full-time ministry, although many of these people didn’t remain with the group long. Slowly, we began to see Chinese staff.

When I was leading my local ministry in the late 90s, Jen [my wife] brought a mission team from overseas, around Christmastime. We did ministry together.

Did sparks fly immediately?


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Jen: Yeah, kind of. 

Tim: Jen and another sister were singing. Her voice is beautiful… so beautiful! So yeah, we started dating at that time.

Then Jen returned overseas? How did you talk?

Jen: There was something called NetTALK. We spent half the time saying, “Can you hear me, can you hear me?” 

Tim: We only talked about once a month. It was very expensive. After a few years she moved back to China, and a few months after that we got married.

What was this period of your life like? You got married, and went from not knowing any Christians to working for a Christian organization. You were one of very few Chinese staff and were a leader in the group. These are huge life changes.

I got married seven years after becoming a Christian. The first few years I was a Christian, I hardly ever saw anyone come to Christ. After that I saw revival, with more and more people coming to Christ. I also started connecting to other believers from the house churches and even the government churches. 

Why do you think that, all of a sudden in the mid-90s, more and more people started to become Christians?

The [Tiananmen Square] incident was in 1989. For the next couple of years, people were silent. They were all thinking about money at that time, about making their fortune. Then they realized, “This doesn’t satisfy.” 

I think people were seeking the truth. After that, students and intellectuals were looking for truth. I think the Tiananmen Square incident gave that generation of Chinese people a way to turn around, to really look for the truth, and to find the Christian faith.

Why intellectuals, especially? 

Before, intellectual people were still deeply impacted by socialism. After the Tiananmen incident, they gave up. They didn’t believe in anything.

It sounds like the growth of Christianity in China has in many ways mirrored your own process of accepting Christianity?

In the late 70s the Chinese government allowed the government churches to reopen. Then there was a revival of house churches in northern China. In the mid-80s, they were persecuted. Many of them fled their hometowns and ran away to southern China. There, they became missionaries. They used part of their time to work, and part of their time to reach out to neighbors in nearby house churches. 

Even in the mid-70s, house churches existed. Some of those people came from the countryside and were not highly educated. But they were very devoted, and impacted the new generation of Christians. I didn’t know all this at the time, but it seems God was preparing everything. 

Then you went overseas for theological study?

Tim: I received a Master of Divinity in missions, and Jen got a Master of Arts in Spiritual Formation.

Jen: Spiritual formation is about the growth of the whole person, their spiritual relationship with God, and also their psychological growth. It includes studies about your heart and motivation, and also studies history and tradition. 

It’s practical. How a person changes, the process of transformation.

Why were you attracted to these degrees?

Tim: I believe Chinese Christians are going to be the next missionaries, so I wanted to study the concept of missions. 

Jen: For me, it was mostly out of my own struggle. I had been in full-time ministry for almost ten years and was ready to give up, because I felt my spiritual life could not support my ministry. I had been struggling for quite a few years. I couldn’t make myself better, so I questioned whether it was time for me to quit.

When I arrived, the title of the first seminar I went to was, “Why do I know so much, yet still sin so much?” That was a title that grabbed me, so I went to the lecture and thought, “This is the question I am struggling with.”

How did your time of studying affect you? 

Tim: Study was hard. We had a young child, but it was refreshing many times. The Chinese church we were involved in gave us a lot of help. 

Jen: For me it was a watershed, a turning point in my Christian life. It was the first time I experienced God’s grace for a prolonged period. Also, I looked deeply into my own heart. It was a time of tearing down old foundations and rebuilding new foundations. I asked and answered lots of questions: “Is God really good? Does he really like me, or just tolerate me? Does he have to save me? How does grace operate in daily life?”

I was wrestling with some of the deep issues in my heart concerning my relationship with God. Before that, I always kind of distrusted him, although I wouldn’t admit it. But that’s why I had struggled so much. I realized through the classes that this was a deep work God was doing. After that, my heart was convinced God loved me: it was a moving of knowledge from head to heart.

I also realized that many other ministry workers had similar struggles. In the middle of my studies, I went back to China and did a seminar for a few days with full-time workers. A lot of people came and said, “Wow, I didn’t know a lot of those things, and I’m going through the same process. I’m burned out with ministry, I feel a lack of motivation, distance from God, self-condemnation, all of that.”

I was convinced the Lord led me to that major so I could come back and contribute to the spiritual growth of other full-time workers – to give them hope, to walk with them as they went through tough times. That was definitely the turning point of my whole Christian life.

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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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