Interview with a Jiangyin Pastor – Chinese Culture Is About Self-Redemption
Editor’s note: China Partnership has launched a new chapter of its prayer initiative. Over the year we are praying for the church in a new city each month - providing videos, interviews, and prayer requests directly from the churches with whom we work. We hope this helps you better understand the needs of the Chinese church and commit more fervently to stand in prayer with our brothers and sisters.
This month we continue the project with Jiangyin. We’re excited to bring you this interview with a Chinese pastor in the city! We hope you will check out the Jiangyin page for additional content and to sign up to partner with us in prayer.
Pastor: I am [a pastor] in Jiangyin, Jiangsu Province. Jiangyin is a county-level city, but it is consistently ranked one of the top two county-level cities in the nation. For many years, its economic development leads many of its peers.
CP: In this economically developed city, what are the people around you like?
Pastor: Because of the prosperity, mammon becomes the idol of every person who keeps himself busy trying to earn more money. Because all worship mammon, as the Bible says, “The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply” (Psalm 16:4).
Some people end up in bankruptcy. Some become rich, which brings complications to their marriages and leads to many broken families. Many experience spiritual emptiness; they used to have aspirations in life, yet after they became wealthy, they instead became depressed and many developed mental problems.
Therefore these friends with whom we share the gospel, these nonbelievers around us, almost all have various problems.
CP: The wind was blowing pretty hard just now. Could you repeat your answer to that question? In this economically developed city, what are the people around you like?
Pastor: Everyone runs after money in our city. In the process, mammon becomes their idol; they believe that wealth can solve anything; they will gain respect, glory, comfort in life, and a happy family. But the Bible tells us that “the sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply” (Psalm 16:4).
Therefore, as the economy becomes more prosperous, people begin to have more problems. Before many families become rich, the couple strives together; after they become rich, their marriages begin to break apart. This is very common among many families.
Some people lose their hearts to mammon. After they get everything they wanted, they became spiritually empty, and many develop mental problems. This is also very common.
Some people are greedy, and want to earn more money without doing anything specific; so they keep investing in the hope of bigger and bigger returns, and they end up in bankruptcy. This is very common as well.
Some people become rich and give themselves up in sensuality, which results in problems such as sexual immorality and drug addiction.
These are the people around us, friends with whom we share the gospel.
CP: What are their main occupations?
Pastor: All kinds of professions – businessmen, white-collar professionals, civil servants, etc. Because of their common worship of wealth and power, they experience the same spiritual emptiness, which leads to more challenges and temptations of sin, and they become helpless in their sins.
Therefore our ministry reaches all levels of the society, not just a particular people group, but a miniature of the whole society with all levels of people. The gospel is for all sinners, regardless of their social level; all are sinners and we do not limit our ministry to certain groups of people.
I know some churches are known as “Bai Gu Jing” churches, which mainly minister to white-collar workers and social elites. Our church instead reflects the social structure of the city, from man to woman, from the old to the young, with people from all social levels. They are being renewed by the gospel into one body. Therefore we minister to the whole society with all people groups rather than one particular group.
CP: You mentioned that while they come from various social levels and various ages, they all chase after wealth, power, and social status. As you share the gospel with them, what are some of the different reactions?
Pastor: Our church consists of people within various clusters, and the way we share the gospel is through small groups; therefore we have various groups for various clusters of people.
For example, people with higher education will have a group of their own; there may also be a totally different group for migrant workers. There may be another group for new parents who have little kids and share the same concerns for their children's education.
These various groups put people in contact with others who are similar to them and share the same concerns. We help them to see that the gospel is not just a set of religious belief but also a way of life and a system of values. Through living life together in these groups, we initiate fellowship with them and share our faith, and gradually bring them into the church. Therefore, every group has its gospel target, so that the church as a whole ministers to various people groups in society.
People in different groups may have different ways of sharing the gospel. For example, people in the new parents group may share how to educate children, which is necessary for nonbelievers as well. We also established a Christian school, since education is now a crucial issue in China. Chinese education teaches that education brings wealth and good companions. Every family places high values on education, and this pressure can be crushing for the kids. Our Christian school admits children from non-believing families as well; but we do tell them upfront that ours is Christian school, with a different set of educational philosophies.
After introducing them to our educational philosophies, we tell them that while we do not require you to be Christian, your children will have to accept and receive our Christian education. You have to accept our educational philosophies and you have to join our parenting classes, because we believe that a child's education falls primarily on the parents. So, when the children come the parents will come to our parenting classes, and gradually they also come to faith in Christ.
CP: You have talked about education. Let’s extend this to the entire Chinese culture. From the perspective of the gospel, we may find something similar to what we have found in education. Various aspects of the Chinese culture have their differences from the gospel and need to be transformed. Could you elaborate on how the gospel has helped you to renew your views and posture toward Chinese culture? How does it help you to look at your own nation?
Pastor: The Chinese concept of education is that it brings wealth and good companions. We live with a concept of self-redemption. We believe that one man’s success elevates all of his family and friends; we all want our kids to succeed; we all desire to climb the social ladder through our own efforts to achieve high social status, and we think this will bring us a sense of security. Therefore, we as Chinese are all restless.
From the beginning, children must not lose. From a very young age, they receive early childhood education and tutoring in hope of self-redemption through education and gaining high social status. Businessmen desire bigger and bigger deals so that they can be recognized and accepted by the society, and this will bring them a sense of security. Therefore our Chinese culture is about self-redemption; not for the religious people, but also for the atheists. Religious people do so through their good behavior; atheists seek security through wealth, power, and high-paying jobs.
In reality, nobody feels safe. Since man was expelled from the Garden of Eden, human beings have been trying to find a way back to heaven by themselves. This is what we want to tell our compatriots. We want to tell them the good news that Jesus Christ has done the work of redemption. Because of our sin, regardless of our efforts, we can never fulfill God’s requirement for righteousness. We are sinful deep inside us; whatever we do we do for our own benefit, and that is sin.
Therefore, no matter how hard we try, it is selfish; no matter how hard we try, we cannot meet God’s standard. That's why even though we Chinese have become wealthy, even though materially everything is first-class, our hearts are still empty.
We will tell them that Jesus Christ, Son of God, came into this world, and in obedience to God the Father, he died on the cross for our sin and gained our redemption. Therefore Jesus says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest”(Matthew 11:28). Therefore, when we believe in Jesus Christ, our burden becomes his, and his righteousness is credited to us. We can have rest; we are reconciled with God, and we can go to heaven. Therefore Jesus says, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).
Therefore we have to share this good news with them, that we can go to heaven through faith in Jesus. This is such good news that we have to tell everyone around us.
CP: That is to say, through the gospel we can uncover the lie that the world can give us all the good things.
Thank you for sharing today. We will share this interview with our American brothers and sisters to let them know about the current situation of the churches in China and the faith of the Chinese Christians so that they could support and pray for us. Do you a brief message for our American brothers and sisters?
Pastor: I believe that the revival of the Chinese church today must be credited to the efforts and sacrifices of the foreign missionaries in China. Their seeds have been sprouting, growing, and producing more seeds. Therefore first we are especially grateful for the sacrifices that the foreign missionaries made for China.
The faith of the Chinese as a whole has to be passed down from the universal church. In the past, the Chinese church lacked training in all aspects of theology. Therefore we are especially grateful that, through the theological teaching and training by teachers from American churches, we have gained a clearer understanding of the gospel.
Without such clear understanding of the gospel, we are likely to make mistakes when we share the gospel; because we came to understand the gospel through a Chinese traditional perspective, which is often influenced by Buddhism, Taoism, or Confucianism, thus leading to a wrong understanding of the gospel.
I am especially grateful for the theological training through the Grace to City movement, which brought us a clearer understanding of the gospel. With this clarity, we have a deeper sense of love and joy, and also a higher obligation for lost souls.
I am especially grateful for this and sincerely hope that American churches could provide more training in this category. In the past, the training would focus on how to share the gospel, how to do evangelism, how to bring people to Christ. Now I think the methodology for evangelism has been shifted. I hope there will be more training for Chinese pastors and evangelists, so that with a clearer understanding of the gospel, we can establish healthy churches and bring more people to Christ.