The gospel of “grace alone” brings church leaders to think hard about true grace: Jesus Christ has accepted who we are, even while we were sinning against him. We do not need to earn our salvation; we do not need to earn our sanctification. We already have them in Christ. For church leaders, this is the source of power to imitate our Lord and serve the local church. Change in the lives of leaders brings about change in local churches. The culture of “saving face” can be replaced by the culture of grace. All fake dragons are exposed by the light of the gospel, and the Real Dragon, Jesus Christ, reigns in the ancient land of the dragon. He will set his people free!
In one sense, the history of the church of Christ in China is only about two hundred years, but in a spiritual sense our history can be traced back to the history of the New and Old Testaments. The Chinese church should receive the blessings of the Holy Spirit in history, not start over as a completely new reformation. We can build on the great Reformation of the 16th century. The Reformed confessions are the common heritage of the whole church among all nations, including the Chinese church.
These stories help highlight why CP exists and why we pray the Reformation 500 convention has an impact. We desire to equip pastors and church leaders in order for the Chinese church to be renewed in the historic gospel of grace, because through such gospel renewal, churches become better able to engage and love their neighbors, opening their doors to those seeking answers in Christ.
In this case, I think that the value of the Reformation for the Chinese house church lies in this – a conscious identity with the true meaning of the traditions of the holy universal church in theology, ministry, governing systems, etc., brought about by the rediscovery of the gospel. Apart from anti-institutionalism, I think the traditions of the Chinese house church are much in agreement with the spirit of the Reformation, but it lacks a self-identity. This self-identity can come either from an intellectually-led social identity or from the rediscovery of the gospel.
Later in my study of doctrine such experiences increasingly made me feel deeply about this question: why was the impact of the gospel was so powerful at the beginning of the Reformation, but the same doctrine passed down to us today makes no similar impact on the church? At the time of the Reformation, every doctrine was clear and lively expressed in the lives and ministry of the people. However, in today's church, the doctrines are often abstract and not easy to accept and grasp. We spend a lot of time teaching the content of the doctrines, but believers only get abstract knowledge, and in real life their intuitive focus is still on what to do and how to do it. They are very earnest in doing things and learn a lot of knowledge, but what is reflected in their behavior is not the vigorous response brought about by studying the doctrines. The doctrines do not genuinely shape their lives. So why? I think maybe it is because they do not really understand these doctrines. Those who teach Christian doctrine may give a complete presentation of theology, but it is still alien to how the doctrines are actively applied in practical life. Our teaching of doctrine is merely intellectual recitation, and so naturally people’s responses are not the intended transformation.
We have few works originating from Chinese church leaders. There are some possible reasons – persecution, lack of a reading culture, busy ministry, low education, etc. Yet we can see an enormous benefit from the pastors who wrote during the Reformation. We know about the Reformers through their numerous writings.
In the period of time it has taken me to write this short piece, I have been monitoring the chatter on our network (denomination) chat group. The pastor of the church under investigation has never before experienced this level of harassment, but other pastors in the chat group have extensive experience with being harassed and even arrested. The outpouring of concern has been very encouraging. Pastors offering support to other pastors, in the form of advice, prayer, encouragement, and admonishment – these are all things that every church, every pastor and every congregant needs.
By God’s grace, through retrospection and discussion, we may rediscover the invaluable inheritance of the Reformation. Let dust-laden history shine once more and speak to today’s church. Let the same God, same Christ, same gospel that once moved the reformers of the past move us today through the Holy Spirit. Let us see how the gospel of the Lord that once inspired them can also motivate us to change, hold fast, and proclaim, just as our resurrected Lord directed his disciples through the Great Commission
These questions were key not only to the Reformation, but for all of world Christianity. This is why we want to celebrate it. We do not simply want to celebrate a historical event. We want to celebrate God’s gospel. We celebrate history today because we are blessed by God in Christ through the gospel that was renewed in the Reformation. This movement, the Christ-centered or gospel-centered movement goes back to the same gospel discovered in the age of the Reformation. This gospel is the same gospel you can see so clearly in Acts and the early church. We celebrate because we want this gospel to show up and work. We want to let people see that the gospel movement that we are doing in China is not something new. It is only new in that Christ is always new. But it is the same gospel as in the past. It is the same gospel as in the Bible and today we want to go back to it again.
I was running around during the conference, but knew I needed to take the time to enjoy some of the sessions as an attendee myself. During one time of worship, I had that experience of realizing just how amazing this event was. As I looked around and heard people worshiping in Chinese, led by a Chinese worship team, and surrounded by Chinese Christians from over one hundred cities, my eyes filled with tears and I felt immense joy. We were giving these leaders an opportunity to freely worship together, and to focus their minds and hearts on the gospel. Seeing their joy and their celebration was more than enough for me.
I can describe myself as always having believed there is an ultimate God, an ultimate existence, being. But I am not sure what it is. Actually, honestly, if I said this in China people would think I was weird. It’s true. They think all religious people are weird. So I want to know how Christians touch God. Even though I am not very sure about what God is, I want to learn how Christians touch God. So this is my personal reason. I want to look at God from the Christian perspective.
This week, pray for environmental issues in China. As the media frequently highlights, China’s rapid industrialization has brought with it difficult and extensive environmental concerns. With issues ranging from air pollution to species loss, many are trying to stem the tide of damage, but efforts often seem small and ineffective. The government grows increasingly concerned as citizens grow increasingly frustrated by the situation. As with the process of industrialization in the West, the balance in China between progress, human life, and environmental sustainability is immensely complex. China needs men and women with integrity who are firmly rooted in a Biblical view of stewardship to have influence in these issues.
I think the saddest time happened after my graduation from graduate school. My first job was working as a civil servant in government. But soon I discovered it was a very boring job and because I worked in a confidential department, my freedom was limited. I was restrained from traveling abroad and from traveling to other provinces. So I decided to quite very quickly and it was really a war to quite. Both of my parents and all of my relatives rejected my decision. But I still insisted on quitting.
This week we continue praying through China’s major cities with Beijing. Home to the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, China’s national government, and so much more, this ancient capital almost encompasses too much to properly introduce. Claiming national importance for at least eight centuries, Beijing is not only China’s most significant city, but a major global force.
This is one of China's four most celebrated folklores. Like the other great love stories, it contains humor, separation, longing, heartbreak, death, and of course, unrelenting love. We cherish these stories with plays, films, and music because our souls are helplessly stirred by their yearning. They echo the great cosmic love story that we live in, which also contains humor, separation, longing, heartbreak, death, and unrelenting love. In all of these stories, our souls are not satisfied until the lovers are united. So too with the cosmic love story in which we live; our hearts are restless until we are united with the God who pursues us with his relentless love.
With the arrival of Valentine’s Day, pray this week for the issues of marriage, singleness, and divorce in China. As Chinese society changes and develops, issues surrounding marriage weigh heavily on many people’s minds. Pray for the church to be a powerful, loving, and encouraging voice in the midst of a society looking for guidance on the topic.
Both Chinese and Westerners have much to learn about rest; that our ultimate rest is in Christ. In Matthew 11:28-30 Jesus says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”The peace and joy that come from resting in Christ is a message that Chinese can connect with. At that the same time it is something Western missionaries need to practice and learn to model, not just for the sake of those they minister to, but for their own sake.
Pray this week for evangelism in China and among Chinese expats. As Chinese society continues to change, so too does evangelism with each successive generation. Many pastors and foreign workers are finding that what were once impactful strategies for sharing the gospel no longer have quite the same effect. Many pastors believe this is not only the result of China’s changing realities, but also of the church's growing presence in China. Whereas a decade ago many urban Chinese still had never encountered a Christian or the gospel, these days it is far more common for young urban Chinese to have preconceived opinions about faith when engaged by evangelists.