When we don’t pray we depend on ourselves. [We live] by our own strength. We can feel like we are doing something great, but the effect is not so powerful because human beings cannot do God’s work unless we depend on his power and his mighty hand to do his work.
With so many items on our prayer list, why should we pray for churches and Christians in other countries? For one, they are members of the same body (1 Corinthians 12). The whole body of God is infinitely impoverished if believers from another country are weakened. Conversely, the whole body of God will benefit if believers in another country thrive.
As we work with churches in China, they continually ask for prayer because they have seen the power of prayer in their ministry and lives. So why wouldn’t we in the West want to join them in prayer when that is what they are asking for? At China Partnership, we want to raise up a great cloud of witnesses to pray – people from different time zones lifting up prayers throughout each day, all praying in unison over the same needs, requests, and praises.
As I reflected on the church, I realized that she is our mother, and a healthy church must be balanced. The preaching of the word, the practice of sacraments, and the enforcement of church discipline: all three have to be there. Some say that faith is a personal matter, and that salvation has nothing to do with being part of a church. However, it is only through being part of a church community that people can examine whether they actually have genuine love. Only the church has the authority to carry out discipline measures, to warn us against our sinful natures, and hold us accountable for sinful acts.
I had always heard how vibrant the church in China was, but had never had the opportunity to see it up close. So when I arrived in Hong Kong for Reformation 500, I was looking forward to rubbing shoulders with these hearty saints. I don’t want to idealize them as we are all sinners being saved by grace together. Yet the astounding growth of the church against such large odds is certainly one of the great events of church history. Reformation 500 did not disappoint.
I heard godly American speakers conveying decades of acquired learning and wisdom, and the Chinese audience receiving it gladly. But meanwhile I saw Americans and other foreigners being refreshed and re-centered by the vitality of our Chinese brothers and sisters. In fact, I did not merely see this, I felt it.
The church in China can bless us through their testimony of God’s faithfulness to them and the sharing of their response to persecution. I believe that their example of sacrifice and courage will encourage many in our country to step out of their comfort zone to serve the Lord.
Before [going to the conference] I was content with my life in Boston. I felt it was enough to focus on my home church, until my friend came and informed me of a much greater “battle” that is going on. And so, I joined the “fellowship of Grace to City,” not expecting much. By the end of the trip, my perspective had changed.
I cried out before God, and turned to him in repentance. I told God that I could not live out the gospel. Then God responded to me: I should not try to live up to the gospel, but to embrace the gospel.
It is my belief that the Chinese church is mature and is finding its dependence on Christ, and does not require the assistance once provided by the church in America. The church in America needs to recognize the strengths and maturity of the Chinese church—the church in America needs to step back and release the Chinese church to be the church and serve without unneeded dependence on the American church.