Many attendees of Reformation 500 were new not only to Grace to City, but to China as well. The following reflection comes from Mark Moser, pastor of New Life Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Glenside, PA.
Why did you come to this conference?
I am a pastor near Westminster Theological Seminary, located in the Philadelphia region of Pennsylvania. As you might expect, some of the seminary students worship at our church, and they are oftentimes citizens of other nations. Recently we have had the privilege of getting to know a number of students from Asia, and particularly China.
A couple of these Chinese students, who are training to be pastors, asked us to visit and teach at their churches in mainland China. "But first," they said, "you need to go to the Reformation 500 conference in Hong Kong. It is a great opportunity for you to learn about China and the house church movement." Specifically, we wanted to learn about the encouraging work being done through Grace to City and China Partnership.
What did you learn about the Chinese church at this conference?
After the conference I read an interview with Wang Yi, one of the impressive and inspiring house church leaders in China. (Oh that his words were easier to translate into English that I might have understood more!) He believes the current Chinese house church moment does not require American evangelistic activity. After 200 years of Protestant missions, that time is over, but he appealed to Americans for a different kind of assistance because the Chinese church is young, and many churches and budding Christian institutions need help reaching maturity.
Wang Yi didn't spell out what specifically he had in mind, but perhaps we Americans can communicate 'lessons learned' (good and bad!) and help them to understand their context by contrasting it with our own. And let us not miss the fact that the benefits will run both ways! For in fellowship and partnership with these 'young' Chinese churches, we will inevitably become revived and infected by the vibrancy of youth! So truly we have opportunity to experience what Paul spoke of in the first chapter of Romans, that we might be "mutually encouraged by each other's faith" (1:12).
I think Wang Yi's comments helped refine my thoughts after the conference. I heard godly American speakers conveying decades of acquired learning and wisdom, and the Chinese audience receiving it gladly. But I also 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.
What did you learn about God from this conference?
Obviously God continues to be on the move in China! It is exciting.
What will you take back to the US with you from this conference?
The growth of and opportunities for the gospel in China are enormous. Then again, the needs are also staggering. There are so many people in China! When one considers all the challenges discussed by the Chinese pastors on the various panels, as well as things we learned from discussions, it is clear that we need to pray the petition specifically commanded by Jesus: "Pray that the Lord of the harvest would send workers into his harvest field" (Matt 9:38).
I'm grateful for conferences like this, and organizations like Grace to City and China Partnership. May they serve as a catalyst for more than we can imagine!