We Are Determined To Press On, Part 2
Editor’s note: Yang Mingdao is the collective pseudonym for Chinese voices within China Partnership. This series is drawn from an update given by a Chinese theological teacher at a recent gathering. It has been edited from transcriptions of the original talk.
This series focuses on the current state of the Chinese house church as it reassesses its identity in the midst of increased pressure on religious practice across the nation. Still, believers are determined to press on, and remain focused on God’s grace even in the midst of pressure. Make sure you check back for the second half of the series next week.
China is under pressure.
There are two narratives. One says China is a nation in transition. The big question the country faces is how to save China. This has motivated the people for 170 years. In the face of Western invasion and the Opium Wars, intellectuals and nationalists asked this same question. “Saving China” has been the Chinese Communist Party’s mandate from the earliest days. Eventually this transitioned to a belief that making people rich was the way to save China. Now, this mandate may mean losing power, transitioning to something else in order to save China. Xi Jinping says it is a new era: China has grown rich and wealthy, now China wants to be strong. It wants to be a strong voice in the city of the world. This “new era” is a struggle over China’s identity.
The second narrative China faces is one of soul seeking. “Who are we?” In the midst of many transitions, China is becoming something we do not know. China has lost its national ideology of 1,500 years, which was Confucianism. Previously the countryside was the stronghold of civil society and cultural power. That has been entirely devastated. It’s gone. People are now in urban centers. They sense that there is no civil society and there is a moral crisis in China. Last fall, a bus full of people in Chongqing died after a woman missed her stop and attacked the driver. Eventually, the whole bus dropped from a bridge into the river. Fifteen people died. That kind of moral corruption is stressful. There is no soul rest in China.
I believe the only hope is the gospel. The only hope is a loving God who will save us.
As we reflect on what is going on in China, we are determined to press on. The internal challenge is more important than the external pressure. The key is the extent to which we hold to the true gospel, the extent to which we live in the gospel, the extent to which we stay true to our calling of prayer, evangelism, discipleship and church planting. We press forward.
Looking back over the past years, we are so happy and so glad. We deeply believe God has been using and preparing us for this moment. When I travel in China, I hear, different leaders saying again and again, “Gospel renewal and all the things we have learned in the past several years have prepared us to deal with this pressure and to stay true to the gospel of our calling.” This is not just a moment we need to survive. God is defining the churches in this moment in order to prepare for the next five, ten, and twenty years to come.
As I have prayed and asked God what we should do, he has given me two passages. One day, when I was praying in study, Acts 20:22-24 jumped into my head. Paul, talking to leaders, says:
“And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.”
Paul says that we do not make decisions according to trends. We make decisions by the grace of God. Our calling is to testify to the gospel of the grace of God, to finish our course, and to finish what we have received from Christ.
The next Sunday, when I walked into my church, the passage was John 12:23-26. It says:
“And Jesus answered them, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.”
That was the hour for Christ to be glorified, and we believe now it is the hour for us to be glorified. God will honor us if we follow Christ.
Persecution is a tool God is using to shape China and the church. Persecution is not new to the Chinese people; it is not new to the church. The history of the Chinese church is that many persecutions have happened, but after every persecution there has been great revival. We believe God is blessing us through this process. In the face of uncertainty, we are determined to press on. We know the cost. But Christ has already paid the biggest cost. It is our honor to bear the cross with Christ in this age.
Brothers and sisters, I plead with you: pray for us. We are weak. When I was taken to a police station some months ago, I had a fighting spirit. Not just a fighting spirit, I also had a fighting attitude. My attitude toward the police officer was not good. My attitude toward the religious bureau officials was not good. Recently, I have been praying, “Father, prepare me for the next time, the next encounter. I pray for those officials who are going to come into my life. I pray that I will be able to fight for their lives, because they do not know what they live for.”
I plead for you to be with us, to pray with us, and to fight this spiritual war with us.