Interview with a Changchun Pastor – The Struggles of the Chinese Christian Professional
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 Changchun. We’re excited to bring you this interview with a Chinese pastor in the city! We hope you will check out the Changchun page for additional content and to sign up to partner with us in prayer.
Pastor: I am from Changchun in northeast China. I have been in ministry for almost 20 years.
CP: Can you describe the people around you? Who is the primary audience of your gospel ministry?
Pastor: At the beginning of my ministry, I mainly served college students. But in recent years God has called me to serve professionals. It is a critical ministry. Now I minister mainly to this group of people. They are close to my heart since I worked in business before I became a full-time minister. This group includes young professionals, people from the middle class, and workers from other cities.
CP: What are some characteristics of this group of people?
Pastor: They struggle both with their work and their faith. While each faces unique challenges, the difficulties that this group of people experience are similar in nature. They are bound by these unspoken rules in Chinese society, and the tension between faith and work is huge. This tension is what marks the life of Christian professionals. The relief they feel at church on Sundays is short-lived; as soon as they return to work on Mondays the same struggle begins again. They face tremendous pressure from society.
CP: Can you give examples of their struggles?
Pastor: One example is the issue of bribery. Another one is being required to work on the Lord’s Day. Some encounter work situations where they act against their conscience. Others struggle with unemployment.
Also, recently, northeast China has been experiencing an economic slump, which has caused financial strain for many. This is another example of the kinds of struggles that professionals face.
CP: What are some seekers’ reactions when they learn of the challenges that faith poses to the way a believer conducts business?
Pastor: Most of the time a non-believer finds [our actions] strange and difficult to understand. However, as a person becomes acquainted with our fellowship and sees our joy—that we would rather lose a business deal than do something unethical or illegal, and that even so we are still able to remain in business and that God still cares for us and blesses us—they envy what we have.
A lot of non-believers are attracted to our fellowship. The truth is, in a society like ours, people need to be in a fellowship. They need to be part of a community or an organization. If they will not join the church, they are likely to join some other group, so we get to meet a lot of non-believers, and they are very interested in our fellowship.
CP: What differences do you notice between the younger entrepreneurs and the older, more successful businessmen or businesswomen?
Pastor: Young business people are at a stage where they are building their career; they need to find and establish their place. Being new to the marketplace, they need to be humble since there are things they still need to learn. What one learns in school or at church is entirely different from what one learns in society. Young people need to get adjusted, and that is probably the main source of stress for them.
Other issues that young professionals face are related to dating and marriage, for example, the struggle to find love, conflicts in a love relationship, etc. The gospel needs to speak into these problems.
The issues that face the more senior or more established professionals are largely family- and children- related. Depression among them is quite common. I have met a great many middle class professionals who struggle with depression. Some are having marital problems; others are troubled because things are going wrong with their children’s education. They want their children to receive the best education, or they wish to be able to better provide for their families so that they can live more comfortably. Yet despite their increased wealth and elevated lifestyle, they still do not find [what they desire]. Society does not offer [what they want]. Then our church gets to show them how they can enjoy God, delight in God, and glorify God through the gospel. What we offer is very different.
CP: You mentioned depression. Can you talk about the common causes of depression?
Pastor: I am not an expert on this, but from what I understand, depression has much to do with self-centeredness. It comes from us being overly concerned with ourselves. The rich tends to care a great deal about themselves.
When we help turn their focus on to God and when they begin to serve others more through the gospel, often times their worries become relieved and they begin to be able to enter into God’s word.
But a lot of times there might still be an underlying works righteousness—of wanting to earn God’s favor through their service or wanting to prove themselves. This is an idol for many professionals. When they do something well, they look for others’ approval in order to find their place in society. They may appear to be very successful on the outside, but when you chat with them you find that they still often feel very insecure and they feel like they have failed in many ways, so you have to help them destroy this kind of idolatry through steering them toward the gospel, so that they may look to Christ. This is what my ministry is mainly about. I keep them company in their journey of faith.
CP: This is amazing. We all need the gospel. Do you have any parting words for the church in America?
Pastor: I need a lot of help from brothers and sisters for the ministry that I do. In particular, I need resources on the topic of how to balance work and faith. At this point China does not have adequate teaching on this area, particularly teaching that is centered on the gospel, rather than teaching that lacks theological depth, like the prosperity gospel, which we do not need. We hope to have a gospel-centered view of life and of work, to learn how to integrate our faith with life.
We also need prayer for our family and youth ministries. Family is a huge concern for professionals; when we minister to their needs in this area, it often leads to transformation for the whole family.
I look forward to our joint service to the church!
English translation provided by Amy and the China Partnership translation team.