Memories of a Chinese Church Planting Retreat and Resulting Practices
Editor’s note: The following letter comes from a young Chinese pastor reflecting on the spiritual growth he experienced during and after attending a retreat for church planters.
Time flies. It has been twenty days since I came back from the retreat. Looking back on it, I feel like it happened just yesterday. For me so many moments are still so vivid - Pastor P sincerely sharing his testimony, especially the part about his father’s dream and prayer that led me to tears, and the end when we were praying hand in hand with tears; Pastor C and Pastor L sharing brilliantly their experience of church planting; the pastor’s wife sharing about the role of a pastor’s wife; the sharing of church planters; and the delicious rice noodles, happy times playing table tennis, and even my snoring roommate. Everything was so genuine and joyful.
Once I arrived home, I shared with my wife what I learned and experienced at the retreat. She loved what the pastor’s wife shared about the requirements for a pastor’s wife, and I told her that I would hope for her according to what God hopes for her in the Bible.
I then reevaluated my life and God’s will for me in a few aspects. What do the people I pastor want me to do? What does the church want me to do? What does God want me to do? What do I want myself to do?
Previously I always talked about the type of ministries I wanted to do to demonstrate that God was using me; that I wanted to be what the believers wanted me to be, becoming a model for the church. Through this retreat and the opportunity to learn, God’s word shined upon me – first, I shall love God and be holy in front of him; then, can I proceed to do ministry. At the beginning of my church planting, I believed that without many ministries there would be no church planting; thus, I made such ministries the first priority. This retreat changed my priorities back to reconciliation with God.
Believers will not follow a charismatic leader; they will however, follow and worship alongside one who follows God faithfully and pursues a holy life. We shall not boast about ourselves, not delight in our ministries, not seek satisfaction and glory through our ministries, but love God and delight in our reconciliation with God, which will drive us to closeness with God and establish an intimate relationship with him.
Therefore, in the twenty days after I came back from the retreat, every morning I have led my wife and I through reading New Morning Mercies, and we pray and worship with our child. We also have made many plans. In these twenty days, we have visited eight families, shared the gospel with two of them that have not turned to Christ, and revisited one of them.
We have established a prayer meeting in our home, and at six o’clock every morning one brother comes and prays with my wife and I. Pastor P said that he persisted in accompanying his children one hour every day, which I too will follow, in Christ. I started to spend time with my older son in scripture reading and prayer, introducing him to redemptive history and reading him An Authentic Life, the biography of Francis Schaeffer. The discipleship program at Grace Church deeply inspired me to do discipleship training; recently I bought The Christ Centered Life and plan to invite brothers and sister to study it after I have done so.
My wife and I plan to go into every family and walk with them in life. We will open our home to them and invite them to eat with us and exercise with us. I plan to cut down my theological study this semester and try to spend more time with our brothers and sisters. Studying the church planting process has further helped me understand how to collaborate with fellow ministry team members at our church as a servant leader, how to lead the team back to the way of building up the church and sharing the gospel as the Bible has revealed, and how to live a Christ-centered personal life, family life, group life, and church life.
Praise God for such a learning opportunity that helped me get back from my weakness to the source of salvation that renewed my strength. In the past twenty days I have been living life fully.
After hearing the testimony of church planting, I am no longer worried. I had wanted to build Rome in one day; but now I rely on Christ, facing each day’s hardship one day at a time; to live a day [at a time] and be faithful each day. Daily seeking God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness. I hope that soon we will be able to have such a learning opportunity for couples to attend together.
May God be with every one of us – the pastors, the elders, and the church planters.