Today we must note that here there wasn’t an emphasis on the individual's calling; rather, God’s call was to all twelve tribes of Israel, Ephraim, Manessah, Beersheba, etc. All must return. Whether you are in a mainstream denomination or not, all are called to enter his sanctuary together. You must notice that here there is not a most important tribe.
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.’
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.
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.