The City of God on Earth, Part 5: The Church Is the Biggest City in the World

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Editor’s note: This series is created from a talk given by Wang Yi, a pastor and a leading voice in the house church in China. Wang Yi addressed a group of fellow pastors and church members, challenging them to view the gospel as the coming of the kingdom of God on earth, not just a means of individual salvation. This address was given at a 2014 conference in Hong Kong. Today is the last post in the series; read earlier portions here!

To some extent, people think only major cities matter, or that it is only worthwhile to live in major cities. This is the younger generation’s dream. To a certain extent they are right. But the gospel tells us the church is the biggest city in the world. The church is the real “Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou.” The church is the capital of human souls. The gospel made a group of apostles from the backward province of Galilee into the center of the new world.

The gospel turns on its head the desire Christians feel toward major cities, but it also motivates the Christian commission toward the city. If you live in the gospel, wherever Christ’s church is being built is the capital of the world. You can bring the gospel to the biggest city—a metropolis of tens of millions—or to a small town with only fifty thousand souls, because the Christian’s dream for a greater city has already been fulfilled.

Through Psalm 46, I want to pray for those co-workers among us who serve their churches as part-time ministers. May God raise up more of his servants in this generation to be co-workers and gatekeepers at the entrances of the city gates. Through the gospel, these gatekeepers, these pastors, open the doors to the kingdom of heaven for our cities.

As for myself, Christmas Eve of 2010 was a special night for me to see again my commitment to the city of Chengdu. At 3 p.m. that afternoon, the police captured me in front of my co-workers and the members of my church. It was a busy evening; all the police were on duty in the streets. There was just one policeman and me in the police station. Around 8 p.m., a prostitute was brought into the office. She was captured in the process of a police room-check at a hotel. The police left her and went out again. At 10:30 p.m., a thief from Xinjiang was captured and brought into the room. It was a very peaceful night: a pastor from San-tai, Sichuan, a prostitute from Zigong, and a thief from Xinjiang all gathered together in the city. It was Christmas Eve in Chengdu.

Our churches are becoming crowded with middle class professionals. The gospel needs to enter the city more deeply. It must enter the drains, enter in with the petitioners and the marginalized peoples. 

Dear fellow-workers, maybe you are a part-time minister in your church. Maybe in the past you pursued the Lord’s calling for full-time ministry. Perhaps at one time the city of God motivated your heart. If your church still has no pastors; if there are no pastors in your city, your community, or even your street; if your company has a GM but there is no pastor there; if the university you work for has a Party committee secretary but there is no pastor, then I must ask: do you know the average ratio of prostitutes to pastors in China? Do you know the ratio of thieves to pastors, of corrupt officials to pastors? 

May God bring you back to respond to his calling for you to serve in his house, where he is with his children forever, and to serve in the churches which represent the living and visible body of Jesus Christ. He is calling you to respond to him, to respond to the city of God, to build the city of God in your own city, to be a doorkeeper in his city. Let this become the biggest dream of your life, the calling that God has given you. But know this road will be very hard.

During the Reformation, every time Martin Luther received depressing news, he said, “Let’s sing Psalm 46.” I want to call you through this psalm. In the Lord’s name, I want to ask anyone among you who is willing to fight for God, with the grace of the gospel and the victory of the Lord, to preach his gospel and to build up co-workers and members in his church. If you once received or pursued this calling, but doubted and ran away from it or never dared to take the first step, I ask you to stand up and say, “I have heard God’s calling for me to offer my whole life to be a full-time minister in this era, in each city of China, in the major cities and in the small towns to which I am committed and to which the Lord will send me.” 

I want God himself to talk to you. Hold the church you serve and the church members you serve in your heart. Think even of brothers and sisters you do not yet know who are in a place where the Lord will send you. If you have heard this call, I ask you one more time: respond.

God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
God will help her when morning dawns.
The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice, the earth melts.
The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Come, behold the works of the Lord,
how he has brought desolations on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the chariots with fire.
“Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!”
The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.

- Psalm 46