Interview with a Foshan Pastor – A Gospel Vacuum
Editor’s note: Over the past year we have been praying for the Chinese 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 Foshan. We’re excited to bring you this interview with a Chinese pastor in the city! We hope you will check out the Foshan page for additional content and to sign up to partner with us in prayer.
CP: Can you briefly describe Foshan [of Guangdong] as a city?
Pastor: Located next to Guangzhou, Foshan is a fairly big city with 8 million people. Idol worship is rampant, with Foshan being the only Chinese city named with the word “Buddha.” The central district is even called “Zen” City. The city is full of idol worship, as well as the worship of money.
CP: What are the major professions in Foshan?
Pastor: People are in all kinds of professions, but a large proportion of the population is in business. Of the 8 million people here, we estimate that no more than 10,000 are believers, and there are very few house churches.
CP: Facing such a gospel vacuum, is there a people group with whom you are particularly burdened to share the good news?
Pastor: Two years ago, my family moved to Foshan from Beijing with the intention to proclaim the gospel in this city where we had never lived before. From what we learned in our research about the city, we wanted to begin a gospel ministry here.
In particular we wanted to start by ministering to family issues in the city’s densely populated areas (for example, parent-child relationships, marriage relationships, the building up of a family, etc.) in order to connect with those who have never heard the gospel, so as to proclaim the name of Christ. Most residents here have never heard of Jesus’ name.
CP: Why begin your gospel ministry by first approaching families?
Pastor: From the very beginning of our full-time ministry we have been sharing with churches about how to build up families according to biblical principles. Therefore, we have a relatively elaborate curriculum, one that includes topics like the parent-child relationship and marriage, etc.
Second, the current Chinese society is facing very serious family crises. Families continue to disintegrate. Some of the huge challenges that trouble ordinary people are family problems.
CP: What special importance does the family hold in God’s eyes? Why is the family so important?
Pastor: The Lord first instituted the family. He created Adam and Eve and instituted marriage. Having a good relationship with God also means having good relationships with others, beginning with our marriage relationship, and then our relationship with our parents, and then our children.
It is within the family that sin is the most obvious, as human depravity and sin’s damage to our relationships are plainest to see in the most intimate relationships, hence redemption also begins in how we relate to those closest to us. Because of the gospel, our closest relationships can be renewed.
CP: In this family-focused gospel ministry, what are the biggest challenges you have encountered?
Pastor: It is perhaps relatively difficult to share the gospel with family members, as they know our past and who we are, and they may not believe that we can change in any significant way. From this perspective evangelism within the family is very difficult. However, from another perspective, gospel transformation is not outward change but rather inner renewal.
Therefore, when someone has been renewed and is born again by the gospel, when there is new life within, external changes must follow.
From this perspective, it is easier for our family to see our transformation, to notice the work of the gospel on us through the Holy Spirit more than other people. Therefore, it can actually be easier for our family to turn to Christ. Besides, if we have been born again, and yet our family sees no real changes in our lives, our faith will then be challenged.
CP: Earlier you mentioned idol worship. Does idol worship affect or hinder your family ministry in any way?
Pastor: As long as one is a sinner and does not know God, one has to turn some perishable, created things into idols. There are many layers of idolatry in China, the first of which is the worship of this nation. I am Chinese. Before I believed in Christ it was as if I had to establish my personhood on this nation, this culture, this tradition, and this people; only then could I define myself.
Therefore, the Chinese people first worship their nation. We hope in a strong and prosperous country, and then a life full of blessings. We also hope to have a good ruler, a good king that will give us a better life.
The second idol for the Chinese people is family. Chinese tend to care only about our own. We place great importance on our own family. For Chinese, our happiness comes from and is dependent upon our family being together and upon the love shared by family members. Yet, reality proves that even our loved ones cannot give us the contentment we desire. This is the second layer [of our idolatry].
The third layer of idolatry for the Chinese is commonly money. A person might believe that after disappointment with his country, his society, and his family, he can find fulfillment in wealth. Quite to the contrary, however, wealth has now become a big obstacle in family relationships. Many family issues stem from the father being absent from home, out there chasing after money and success, neglecting family relationships.
The presence of these layers of idolatry naturally hinders the gospel from taking root in people’s hearts.
CP: As someone ingrained in Chinese culture, how has the gospel renewed your view and attitude toward your culture and your country?
Pastor: First, the gospel has helped me see the reason for our nation’s predicament over the past few thousand years. This country has gone through so much – like being on a roller coaster. Following every seemingly peaceful period, there was a plunge into another abyss. People do not know where the future is. As if bound to a machine, they go up and down with it, separating and reuniting, never knowing the path of peace, hearts drifting, not knowing what hope is.
The gospel shows me the reason: no culture, no king, no institution can save this country. Like economic prosperity, these are all temporary, and they will all pass away.
The gospel shows me that we have suffered so because we are a group of people who, out of our fear of death, live our whole lives enslaved by sin. We cannot pull ourselves out of the mire of sin and death.
The gospel shows me that only Jesus is the one King with whom God is pleased. He is the one Prophet that proclaims the truth, the one Priest who offered himself up as the sacrifice for sin. He alone is the Way, the Truth, and the Life; he is our hope.
Second, the gospel has helped me understand that the purpose of this good news is not to save China or to realize the Chinese dream. It is prepared for everyone who is willing to repent and trust in Jesus. Therefore, because of my love for every lost soul in this country (and I was such in the past), I will pray for them and for this country.
Third, the gospel helps me better understand the mission God has for us in this nation as Chinese people.
I mentioned that the situation of Foshan is a miniature of that of the whole nation. All cities are similar; hearts are cold with little love, hope, or peace. The gospel mission for us is to live out this inner life, full of grace and truth, that others may see a community of people with hope for the future and peace, repentant and able to humbly serve the world.
The verse in the Bible that touches me the most is John 12:24, “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” I consider this the one truth in the universe created by God. But no sinner is willing to die for others; they all want others to die for them.
The hope Jesus gives us is that by our faith in him, through his strength, we can love others, we can love this nation, and we can love our neighbors and serve them even unto death. The gospel will then transform this nation.
English translation provided by Amy and the China Partnership translation team. Please refer to our reposting guidelines for permission to share on your blog or website.