The Objects of God’s Affection – What We Need for Sustainability in Ministry

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Editor’s note: Urban Farmer is the pseudonym for an American living in China assisting with the support and strengthening of the Chinese house church. This post is drawn from a series of talks at a China Partnership gathering. It has been edited from transcriptions of the original talk.

I have listened to others talk about what life has been like for them as pastors in the church—how serving the Lord, working harder, and demanding more of the people around them results in a lot of inner turmoil. This inner turmoil is the result of finding your identity in ministry and not in Christ. 

As I have listened to others, tears have welled up in my eyes. Why? That experience is my experience, too.

When I began full-time ministry twenty years ago, I had a heart and a passion to reach the Chinese people, but I was riddled with doubt, and did not see a lot of fruit. Even before I was serving full-time, I had started to do this ministry. In the beginning, I had a lot of joy in my heart. But as soon as I started to work in full-time ministry, the joy seemed to disappear. I worked really hard to learn the Chinese language; I worked hard to learn Chinese culture. I studied theology very hard. And yet, even with all this, I did not see a lot of fruit. 

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I realized that I, too, have begun to make ministry my idol. 

Twenty years after that beginning, God called me and my family to move to China and to begin serving in a new context. Almost immediately, things began to happen. Ministry exploded. We were able to start a seminary. We saw amazing fruit, and it is a wonderful testimony of God’s faithfulness. But recently I realized that I, too, have begun to make ministry my idol. 

The challenge is to keep our rootedness in Christ. When we have success, it is so easy to find our identity in ministry. When we see ministry fruit, when we see God use us to do things, we become proud and invest even more time in our ministry. Because our identity is not firmly rooted in Christ, we even neglect our families. This does not just happen to pastors or people in full-time ministry, but to everyone. When we do not see success, we get discouraged and become downcast because our identity was not firmly rooted in Christ. Whether we have success or not, the challenge is to find our identity in Christ.


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We enter our Christian lives with joy and simple happiness, but over the years, we find that joy is waning. We begin to lose our first love, that feeling of passion and understanding about who God is. This applies to all of us.

Over the past thirty to forty years, we have seen different waves of revival in China. The first wave was the revival in the countryside. The second wave of revival was in the cities as we began to see churches pop up in the city centers. Now we are seeing a great revival within the church. 

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It is not about ministry success or failure, but rather coming to realize that we ourselves are objects of God’s affection.

Pastors are beginning to realize that it is about God’s grace and finding our identity in Christ. It is not about ministry success or failure, but rather coming to realize that we ourselves are objects of God’s affection. When we realize we are the objects of God’s affection and the church is the apple of his eye, we turn that realization outward and begin to love other people the way he has loved us.

China Partnership exists to be a bridge—a bridge whose foundation is the grace of God and the gospel of Christ. This gospel bridges the culture and the nation of China and that of the United States. No matter who you are—if you are interacting with Chinese in the United States, or if you are interacting with Chinese in China—you can walk across the bridge of the gospel and cross that gap. You can extend yourself and love others who are not like you. God loved you first, so you can love others.

My prayer is that we will find and understand that our identity is in Christ, and that China Partnership will be about loving those who are in the kingdom, and calling those who are outside of the kingdom into the kingdom. May the Lord bless this ministry and his church.

 


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Further Reading

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Qingdao: How to Pray
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Qingdao: Locals and Outsiders
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Qingdao: Good Soil for the Gospel
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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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