Editor’s note: At this year’s CP conference, we were honored to host a number of Mainland Chinese pastors who spoke on God’s work in their country. The following was taken from one pastor’s testimony of the ways God opened his eyes to the beauty of scripture and truth of God’s grace in ministry. If you did not have the opportunity to attend the conference, check out our attendee interviews and testimonies from other speakers.
I am the youngest of the three. Of course, my experience is not as extensive as theirs. So my sharing will be more personal and shorter.
I was born in a Chinese intellectual family. So my parents being college professors, they always hoped that I would have the highest grades in the class. And I did that. But in college I became a Christian and I had high demands for myself. I wanted to be the best in my fellowship. I wanted to be the one that evangelized the most. I wanted to know the Bible the best. And I did all that.
When I graduated from college, I went to a traditional Chinese church and that church was very moralistic, very legalistic. You can imagine that I fit right in. But I felt very tired. So every week I would only do it for one day – Sunday. In my heart I had a lot of tension. From Monday through Friday I was one kind of person; the boss in the company I worked for was truly my boss. But on Saturday I was my own boss. And on Sunday God was my boss. For a long time, I was very conflicted about this.
Now just a long story short, in 2012 God used a very interesting way to call me to be a full time servant. I was actually working for US Major League Baseball in China for seven years. So when I started becoming a full time servant in church, I sensed that everything was so easy. In the past I sold baseball; now I would sell the gospel. So I used a lot of skills from my profession. And to a certain point, it was a success.
But one day I realized that I didn’t really love my brothers and sisters. I saw them just as my customers. I was only offering them a product. And I didn’t really care about the product itself. And I was very tired. That church was a very traditional church. The senior pastor of that church had high demands for me. I had to be the first one at church. I had to be the last one to leave. So of course, there was a lot of bitterness for my wife and my daughter. So within me I had a lot of tension.
Then I heard about a church-planting network on the Internet and I wanted to learn some methods. Back then I still had some savings, so I didn’t even tell the church. I just bought a ticket to Hong Kong. My first thought was that these guys said it was about church planting, but these guys were only teaching about preaching. And they didn’t really teach how to preach, they just taught how to exegete the scripture. So for the first half day, I was very disappointed.
But the last two days really shook me. Not by the speaker, not by the passionate attendees that surrounded me, but I was shaken and touched by the word of God. I really felt like even though I had been serving the Lord for a long time, that day I was truly regenerated. I rediscovered the sweetness of the gospel. I discovered how sinful I was, yet how great God is. And how grand is the love of Christ.
On the last day of that conference, when the pastor was preaching at the podium, I was crying the whole time. I said, “God I am going to live now solely for your gospel. Because I finally see how beautiful you and your word are.” My prayer also brought out a sense of repentance. I made a decision then. “Now, in all preaching I do, I will focus on exegeting the text. I will always point to how Christ and his cross are drawn from this text. I will not just tell the congregants what they should do.” Because, people, you know what you should do. But the gospel challenges us about whether we are willing to do it. So now every time I pray for a sermon, I always pray, “Lord, may your word touch my heart.”
Once when I preached, I heard someone read the same text and I sense that God had heard my prayer, so even though I was about to go up to preach, I started crying. After that time preaching, I didn't have an [altar] call, but afterwards five people came up to me and said, “I am willing to submit to Christ.” And I cried again. I said, “God, you let me see how powerful your words are. It is not me, it is you who did this. You used someone as unworthy as I am and you did the impossible. I give thanks to you.”
Of course, not every time is a happy ending, because the elders of my church realized that I wasn’t using their methods to preach anymore. They will ask me, “Why don’t you tell them more about what you do? Why don’t you share more of your personal testimony?” This kind of tension lasted for a while and they sensed that I didn’t change. One day, they told me, “You don’t know what you should preach any more.” Of course, I was struggling a lot. I was so hurt that I started to question if God had really called me to serve him.
At that time, I was invited to a training retreat for two days. So I prayed during those two days and I knew that only the gospel could solve this problem. After those two days, I sensed that God hadn’t solved this problem, but God had changed my heart. I realized that whether Christ loves me or not isn’t based on how good I am in his ministry. He has already loved us fully and completely on the cross. He won’t take away his love just because I didn’t do well in the ministry. When I realized that is the gospel, I had peace. So I stopped worrying about how the church sees me, because my identity is built solely on Christ and his cross.
I returned to [my city] and I joined the [same] preaching training. That was the first time they had a training in my city. So I brought our preachers to have a dinner. Now when the speaker talked to me, he found out that I have a sincere sense of calling from the Lord. The speaker at the training asked, “Are you willing to come to the US to attend seminary and to be molded in my church, to come and serve with us? So as you finish your training here, you can more effectively serve the church in China.” I gave praise to the Lord that he had opened a door for me. First he changed my heart and then he opened a miraculous road for me. So last September, our whole family went to Boston.
Now as you know, it’s not cheap to study theology in the US. But I felt sure this was the path God wanted me to walk, so I trust that God would provide. So when I started to have a budget, in one week I had received eighty percent [of my financial needs]. That showed me how powerful it is to be faithful to the gospel. The brothers and sisters told me, “We are willing to use a grateful heart to support you in the US.” So I give thanks to the Lord that God used these brothers and sisters through his grace to support us.
I ask that next time you remember me. Please pray for me that hopefully my identity is not just a seminarian, that hopefully good grades are no longer my idol, because our identity is solely based on our Lord Jesus Christ and his cross and the gospel. [How we are] in a seminary, in a church - when we return to China we still be like that. May the gospel give all of us humbleness and courage. Thank you.