Is there coaching that we [the western church] can receive from the Chinese church that can tell us how can we actually avoid creating some kind of inappropriate dependency on us, but actually help the church become the church, without us harming it? We would love to learn and over some period of time, we would love to receive such coaching.
When you have a focus on the gospel, its power itself is transforming. Whenever we hear the gospel, whenever you taste the sweetness of the real, true gospel – the resurrection, the cross, the ascension – you are looking for the eternal rest [that comes] after his return. Once you taste that, you cannot return. You reach a point where you can never return. That sweetness will always attract you in that direction.
I don’t think persecution is the main difficulty for the Chinese churches. The more persecution, the more revival for the Chinese churches. Sometimes we are expecting persecution from the government. When pastors are arrested revival comes to the church. Most of the time, the pastor is the stumbling block of the revival.
In many, many ages God has raised up different people — Martin Luther, Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, Tim Keller — and it’s God’s heart to have those people. They are not perfect. In God’s eyes, they are all sinners, but they are faithful servants of God. They are sinners justified by God’s blood. They are just like a match; he is bringing the torch. Without the match the torch is there, but it never burns. They are just the match. We want to be the matches, to burn the torch.
More and more churches where there is the traditional way of doing church [feel that] there is no solution, there is no way out. But we cannot isolate ourselves anymore. We have to watch out for what is going on, instead of being unaware of what God was doing. A lot of times we just want to fulfill our own hearts by using religion or the gospel.
People ask, ‘How can we build our church? How can we grow the numbers? What is trending?’ But the gospel has to drive our vision, not practice. Practice is the result of gospel vision. It can’t happen in reverse. When you think about the East Asian cultures with a strong Confucian work ethic — Japanese, Korean, and Chinese primarily — their thought patterns are ‘Let’s be efficient, let’s get things done and do it in a speedy manner and be diligent and hardworking.’
For me, there has to be certain, non-negotiable, core values in place when I decide whether I’m going to be a part of something. The first is the gospel — is it gospel-centric? The second is cities, and the third would probably be leadership development.
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.