Interview with a Beijing Pastor - Every Disciple Is an Individual Case
Editor’s note: China Partnership is launching a new chapter of its prayer initiative. Over the coming year we will pray 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 with Beijing and we’re excited to bring you this interview with a Chinese pastor in the city. We hope you will check out the Beijing page for additional content and to sign up to partner with us in prayer.
CP: What is Beijing like as a city?
Pastor: Beijing is a multicultural city with many young people moving into the city, but the population fluctuates greatly.
CP: In a populous city like Beijing, with so many people from all over China moving into the city, Beijing must be representative of a lot of cultures. Our interview is about discipleship, so I want to hear from you, what are the biggest challenges to discipleship training in China?
Pastor: One of the biggest challenges to discipleship training in China is being too formulaic. We could easily assume that we are done with discipleship training once we’ve completed some classes. But discipleship is far from being done.
The second challenge is that out of all the people from all over the country, those who stay in Beijing are so well educated that they might be resistant to more formal education at the church.
The third challenge is the large amount of time needed for training disciples, and it’s extremely strenuous for the pastor to devote so much of his energy to it. But it is a very important matter that cannot be neglected, so sometimes it is very tiresome.
CP: As you have mentioned before, training disciples is not formulaic. In your opinion, what should it look like?
Pastor: As for me, I have made many adjustments in the last three years. For instance, the first adjustment I made was in the format. I still use some teaching materials; but in my opinion, in adult education, we should not stop with an information transfer. Mentoring is most needed.
I was influenced by [a large discipleship ministry]. I personally grew with [that organization] for about ten years. I am deeply convinced that mentoring is a very important process. For almost every month for the past three years, I’ve spent time with our ministry workers, or many of our full time workers spent a lot of time together. Sometimes we’ve spent the entire day together. Other than having a meal and sharing with each other, I talk about a discipleship topic and its application for real life. I listen to their feedback and present them with the biblical views on these topics.
In this way, we do not just stop at information transfer. Especially when we can integrate information with real life application, it can be a great benefit to them. I’ve noticed their growth after three years. We've discovered that whether it is in theology, or in applying the truth, or in their commitment to the church, they have grown tremendously.
On the other hand, I’m also making breakthroughs in the traditional ways of shepherding. Basically, I spend two lunches at workplaces every week, visiting the disciples at their workplaces to have lunch with them. I hear about their challenges at work and respond to their questions. Oftentimes, their questions also include their family and heart-felt personal matters. Gradually, this has developed into a routine and a great resource for real life application that can be integrated into my preaching. These are first hand experiences that can help them solve problems of immediate concern.
Third, every disciple is an individual case with individual stories in real life. I intentionally do not present them with quick answers, but bring them into real experiences in order to search for the answer. For example, one of our disciples is single, well paid, and enjoying life without many burdens or pressures. In the course of discipleship training, he asked me how he can be used by God. I gradually helped him to see God’s calling and mission for him as a “head hunter.” He responded well, which is to be a head hunter for the heavenly kingdom. Not only does he bring talent from one company to another, he now focuses on bringing people into the gospel and the church. He finds this to be meaningful work that leads to true joy and hope.
One other brother owns a business and focuses on finding talent in other companies with the intention of bringing them into his own. Discipleship transformed not only his beliefs but also his business practices. One time he found an excellent candidate and wanted to bring him into his own company. The candidate passed all the evaluations and met all the qualifications. Then our brother found out that this candidate had been working in Beijing for eleven years, leaving his wife and child in his hometown. For this reason our brother rejected the candidate, who was shocked by this decision and asked for a reason. Our brother said: “You do not genuinely love your family. If you do not love your family, I don't believe you will do well in my business.”
The candidate was surprised by his words and asked: “How do you come up with such an idea? I’ve never heard of it.” Our brother told him that it came from the teaching of the church. To everyone’s surprise, this candidate came to church that Sunday, came to faith in Christ, claimed Jesus as his Lord and Savior, and then returned to his hometown to be with his wife and child. He settled down with a much smaller paycheck for a less significant position, but he was willing to start to live together with his family again. Whenever I read testimonies like this, I know genuine discipleship brings people into life full of Christ and gospel mission. And these are my thoughts on discipleship.
CP: These testimonies are wonderful. I can see how the gospel is entering the discipleship process, the values of the brothers and sisters in your church, and their worldviews. Could you talk more specifically on how the core of the gospel influences you?
Pastor: How does the core of the gospel influence our church’s discipleship ministry?
First, we must recognize that the gospel is not a doctrinal concept. It’s also not a systematic information transfer. It’s actually the living witness of Christ’s life in the heart of each believer. This allows me to focus not on the number of people I’m discipling, nor how many people attend certain courses. Instead, my focus is to bring a person from a vague understanding of the faith into a relationship with God, and build a life with a community of believers. Another focus of mine is how they are living out their mission in their everyday lives as Christians. I can see that the power of the gospel is beyond our imagination.
For example, we have a couple, they had great jobs and awesome careers. When they were pregnant with their second child, they discovered that their child had many health issues and illnesses. Several times, they wanted to get an abortion. But we continued to walk with them, encourage them, and pray for them. Through the process, they finally decided to obey the teaching of the Bible, and they were willing to experience the wonderful works of God. In the end, when the child was born, except for the stomach, every organ had problems in every part of the body, including the brain. In a short period of two years, we walked with this family through some very hard times. Our deepest impression was their continual obedience to God’s will through faith in the gospel. Because of the gospel, they were willing to accept two years of suffering.
We didn’t think that we must beg God to heal them; our focus was on how the gospel truly blesses us and how we can be thankful for it if we receive it and accept it. Through this process, we saw the love of all the brothers and sisters in our church for this one family, and their care for them. Miraculously, after two years, on the second birthday of the child, they brought the child for a check-up and discovered that the child no longer had any problems.
It’s a miracle, we never thought it would happen; we saw the mighty work of the gospel. Not only did their faith grow through this process, we also witnessed the testimonies of their lives.