What I Learned: God Used the Chinese to Shape Me

Editor’s note: This month, a former missionary to China shared how his time working with the Chinese church challenged, encouraged him, and has continued to impact him in the years since he returned to the U.S.


It has been six years since I returned to the States from my time in China. Though it feels like it was a different lifetime ago, the time I spent there has profoundly impacted me in ways that affect the way I pastor the church today. When I went to China in 2007, my focus was on doing God’s kingdom work. Little did I realize just how much God would use the Chinese to shape and influence me over the nine years I spent there. Here are a few ways I was profoundly moved and shaped in my life and ministry.

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“Though barely starting off in the faith, they were immediately impacted by the gospel to the point they wanted to share it as fruitfully as they could with the people they loved.

The believers in China modeled a deep love for learning and sacrificial service.

I provided theological and pastoral ministry training, but they showed me the heart of ministry. My work involved traveling through different parts of China to various house church networks, often in semi-rural parts where there was little access to formal training. I witnessed young and old believers alike sacrificing significant portions of their time, including weeks at a time, and evenings and weekends so that they could learn more of the Bible and how to minister effectively to others. Many of these people had full-time jobs and families to raise. Yet despite their exhaustion, they eagerly came to the various trainings to grow and learn more. They were hungry for God’s word and passionate to see God’s kingdom advanced in their regions.

This was true not just for the spiritual leaders but also for new believers. The new church I was able to serve in my city drew many young people – college students, graduate students, and young professionals. One of the most common questions asked by the young people who had just come to faith in Christ was how they could effectively witness to their faith, especially among their family members. Though barely starting off in the faith, they were immediately impacted by the gospel to the point they wanted to share it as fruitfully as they could with the people they loved. This is not always true for new believers here in the States. Here, there is sometimes a fear of evangelizing, or a lack of urgency and zeal to share the faith. But this was not the case in China. They immediately understood their responsibility to witness right away, and were eager to do so.

The believers in China also modeled sincere worship.

The leaders in China valued theology and teaching from the West. They recognized and deeply appreciated teachers and professors who were well-trained theologically. While we brought theological and missiological experience and training, I saw a more sincere and fervent heart of worship from the Chinese. When they sang hymns, there was such a sincere and deep love for God in the simple worship of their voices that it often brought me to tears. This, to me, was more far more powerful than a professional band of extremely talented musicians seeking to stir a crowd to worship.


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They may not have had professional stage skills and musicianship, but they had far more: a simple but deep love for God that showed in the way they worshiped God. Churches in the States value skill and talent. Churches in China value heart and service.

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“There was a sincere and deep love for God in the simple worship of their voices…This, to me, was more far more powerful than a professional band of extremely talented musicians seeking to stir a crowd to worship.

Finally, I saw how the power of the gospel can fuel a renewal and missional movement.

I witnessed how the simple message of the gospel has the power to continue renewing believers and church leaders alike. High-level house church leaders rediscovered the power of the gospel and found new joy and love for Christ. Walls of division between leaders were broken down. Older believers discovered fresh joy as they repented of moralism. Church leaders found a core sense of identity in Christ alone, rather than in ministry performance and results. A new humility among the believers was taking shape through the gospel working its way down in the heart. In return, churches found fresh new vision for church planting and missions.

I will be forever grateful for my time in China and how the Lord used this time to shape me as both a disciple of Christ and pastor for his people. I have learned what it means to keep serving God in trust that he is doing his work, to worship him wholeheartedly, and to keep putting my own trust in the gospel for my identity and for the power for ministry.


David and his family live in the Los Angeles area, where he is planting a church and serving as a church planting catalyst.

 

FOR PRAYER AND REFLECTION

Pray for Chinese Christians to persevere in love and service for God’s kingdom, in heartfelt worship, and to be continually renewed by the gospel.

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Further Reading

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Chengdu: Discipleship in Difficult Times
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Moses in the Wilderness 2: A Reflection of Christ
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Chengdu: Opportunities and Challenges
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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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Stories from Shenyang

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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Stories from Xiamen

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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Stories from Chongqing

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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Stories from Nanjing

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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Stories from Changchun

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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Stories from Kunming

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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Stories from Chengdu

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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