Interview with a Chengdu Pastor - A Church Built on the Prayer of the Saints
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 Chengdu. We’re excited to bring you this interview with a Chinese pastor in the city! We hope you will check out the Chengdu page for additional content and to sign up to partner with us in prayer.
CP: Can you briefly describe the city of Chengdu?
Pastor: Chengdu is the largest city in western China. It is an ancient city with a history of three to four thousand years, arguably the oldest among all the cities in the world with a population of more than a million. It has a unique culture different from that of other Chinese cities. People there enjoy a relaxed lifestyle; they live rather comfortably. The weather is not particularly great. People believe heaven is closer to them, so they rarely look to faith for help.
CP: Let us talk about prayer. Why is prayer crucial to the Chinese church?
Pastor: I think prayer is equally important to all churches and all Christians because God gives us prayer as a way to communicate with him. It is the most important way in which our eyes are drawn away from the visible world to the invisible kingdom of God. It is also the most important way in which we turn from seeking our own will in our actions and endeavors to seeking God’s will.
But prayer is especially important to the Chinese church because we are spiritual infants. The shorter the history of the church and the more complicated circumstances the church faces, the more rudimentary our relationship with God and our understanding of his word, the more we need the spiritual and supernatural guidance and promises that God grants us through prayer.
The main thing is that the Chinese church does not have a long history; both our grasp of God’s word and our spiritual maturity are at an elementary level. So, we especially need prayer. And the greater the difficulties we face from our social environment, the greater need we have to pray.
CP: It is true that we need to go before God every moment. Have you experienced the Chinese church coming together to pray?
Pastor: There have been many such occasions: it has happened within a [single] church and there are also times when different churches gather together in a city.
Perhaps as society changes, today church leaders from different areas have more opportunities to meet up in various occasions. These opportunities are especially precious to us; they are especially cherished – perhaps unlike how it is with western churches – because it is not easy for us to be together.
When it happens, we see a kind of prayer that is of one heart and one mind.
CP: Can you describe how your feel when you experience prayer on such a large scale?
Pastor: Two things – first, through praying with others, I experience more deeply that God is present among his people and not only present with me. Second, serving the Lord can be hard at times, especially in China. When one faces some difficult, complicated social situations, it is easy to have Elijah’s attitude, feeling very alone, wondering, “Am I the only one here who is fighting for the Lord?”
When people gather to pray, God takes away those feelings of loneliness and tragic heroism. He binds you with his grace through his church, the visible body of Christ – this is also the process of our being healed and forgiven.
CP: We are indeed very grateful to God that we have not only seen brothers and sisters of the Chinese church gather together to pray, but we also know that there are many brothers and sisters praying for us where we do not see. When you hear that American brothers and sisters are also praying for the Chinese church, what are your feelings?
Pastor: Once I met an official from the Bureau of Religious Affairs, who said to me that the Chinese church had been growing too fast, whereas the society and its policies changed slowly. “You should be patient,” he advised. I replied that we were able to be patient because our church had been in existence for over two thousand years, while their government had only been around for a little more than half a century. So I said to him, “We can be patient – we can wait another thousand years.”
My church has a short history of merely eleven years. But when I know that Christians in America, in other countries, and in every part of the world are praying for us, I know that we belong to a two-thousand-year-old church, a church that reaches the ends of the earth. I know God is not only God of his people, of this nation, but that he is God from the rising of the sun to the place where it sets. This gives us great comfort and encouragement.
CP: God is amazing. He gives us fellowship on earth that we may encourage and stir up one another. Do you have any suggestions regarding how we as Chinese believers can pray for our own nation? What should we pray for?
Pastor: We can pray for the church in China. There are many things to pray for, but two come to mind as the most important. First, the question of whether the Chinese church can continue to develop and grow (this seems now to be a reality, since our church has been growing very fast. God has worked in amazing ways). Second, the question of whether the Chinese church can remain conservative and evangelical, fully trusting the authority of the Bible as it grows, facing the kind of monumental changes that God has orchestrated in the Chinese society, facing contemporary culture, and with the church’s continuous taking in of theological and Bible knowledge from the West. My utmost concern is whether as the church grows, she can remain steadfast on the path of the cross, a characteristic of the theology of the persecuted church. Not only does the Chinese church have to develop and grow, but she also needs to be faithful to the inerrant word of God.
CP: We need God to grant us the ability to bear this burden of the gospel, generation after generation. Now we ask you to give a message to the American church, inviting them to pray for the church in China.
Pastor: Greetings to the church of America, our brothers and sisters in Christ. We are part of you in the body of Christ, just as you are part of us. Though we are of different ethnicities, cultural backgrounds, and at different stages of spiritual growth, the gospel levels and unites us. Thus, we long for your prayers for the church of China. But it is not just for China. It is for Christ and his kingdom that you pray for us.
We deeply desire that you join the Chinese church, in pleading to our God, coming alongside us in crying out to Yahweh from the land of suffering, because we are like Israel suffering under the bondage of Egypt.
We also covet your prayers for the revival of the church, for you know that the Chinese church is growing at a very rapid pace. We are not facing issues of monetary need. Rather, we are short of laborers in the field. We lack a firm foundation in the Bible.
Very rarely do we have children from second-, third-, or fifth-generation Christian families. We do not have churches that are fifty, one hundred, or two hundred years old. If you are part of a church with a long tradition, or if you were born into a Christian family, we covet your prayers for our churches, which are like infants in the Lord, for as you pray, you are standing with your forefathers in the inheritance of their faith, given to the church through God’s guidance. We hope that your long tradition of faith also becomes ours, and that your prayers help our churches and families become a part of Christ’s kingdom.
Please hold us up with your prayers, as Christianity is still facing resistance and Christ’s church is still being persecuted in this vast land, even as we commemorate the two hundredth year of Christianity in China.
As you pray for such a church, you become those persecuted for righteousness. As you pray for those persecuted for righteousness in this generation, we will be united in Christ in his kingdom. In this generation, though we may never meet, and you may never know me or the brothers and sisters in our church, your petitions for and with us, your service to our mighty God and our wonderful Savior for our sake, are fully sufficient for us.
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.