This is the last in a series of three blog posts based on an interview with “Tim,” an international student from Zimbabwe in China.
Your passion to share the gospel with your fellow international students is inspiring, and you’ve explained why Chinese is an essential language for this. Can you describe your involvement with the local international fellowship? How has that grown or encouraged you?
The local international church has helped me know how to read the Bible by myself and with friends through the various training opportunities they provide.
What sort of training was that?
At one point we did Uncover which was a way of knowing how to read the Bible side by side with a friend and ask the right questions as you read along. Also, trainings like the recent one we had on Luke’s gospel helped us understand how to read a certain book and how to read it using the COMA method (context, observation, meaning, application). Since coming to China, how I read the Bible has changed greatly. When I came, I didn’t know about COMA. I thought you had to decode the Bible, like there was a hidden meaning you had to find. But thankfully it’s much more straightforward than that!
What about other training?
The small groups that we have provide a good opportunity to study the Bible more deeply and also an opportunity to get to know each other and pray together. Through the recently held Christianity Explored course I had a good opportunity to invite my non-Christian friends to hear the gospel as we studied the book of Mark. I grew in my understanding of what the gospel really is. And learned a lot about how to lead a discussion group by actually doing it! The summer ministry internship was also great.
I didn’t know international fellowships actually ran ministry internships for international students! Can you tell me about your experience?
Sure! It was a valuable two months to work on specific goals and grow under the supervision of a coach. A specific goal I had for the internship was to learn how to share the gospel in Chinese with other international students and also how to encourage other international students to do the same.
Why would you use Chinese to share the gospel with international students?
Because so many of them don’t have a good grasp of English, or it’s just that Chinese is more convenient.
What else did you learn?
I also grew in understanding as to what the gospel really is. I had to write the gospel in one sentence, one paragraph, and one page. I knew the gospel from my childhood, but I didn’t know how to write it and define it. This process expanded my understanding of why it really is good news.
You said earlier that many or most Christian international students don’t actually share the gospel. What would you recommend to international fellowships to change that culture?
To encourage other Christian international students to try and focus on sharing the gospel. If people are more aware of the need to share, and also have tools to share, then they will be more willing to share. Some of my friends were at first resistant, but as time went on, they saw me sharing, and as they saw how I’m doing it, they became more interested and asked “How do you do that? I think I want to know more how to share.” For example, I had a friend who said you had to have the gifts, and then his friend asked him about the gospel and he didn’t know how to share. He came back to me and said, “I want to learn how to share.” So when someone experiences that, they know they need to know how. Once you see that opportunity you think “I need those tools.”
You’ve mentioned factors that discourage Christian international students from sharing the gospel: the need to have the gift of evangelism, fear of the security situation, lack of tools, difficulty of bringing the gospel into conversation, the language barrier, and not seeing the need. But do they know the gospel?
I think some students don’t understand the gospel. Someone was asked what the gospel really is, but he didn’t know how to explain it. He didn’t really understand what the gospel is. How can you share something you don’t understand? So, there is a need to help them understand what it really is.
So if every one of them is clear on what the gospel is, will that solve the problem?
Even if they know the gospel, there are other factors, like fear. They will still have other reasons not to share. Fear of engaging with other students. Yes, that’s mostly it. They might think “What if I become shy?” But if they really understand the gospel it solves part of the problem.
So, what’s the role of international fellowships in China?
International fellowships in China have an essential role. They must challenge Christian international students about the need, help them understand the gospel clearly, and equip them with tools to share the gospel.
From this chat with Tim, it is clear that international students in China who are grounded in the gospel are well-positioned to share Christ with fellow international students. Will this be you coming to China or sending students in your church to China to reach the nations here?
For many international students, Chinese is the primary language for ministry. If you're fluent in Chinese, will you use your gift to connect with them?
If you're in an international fellowship in China keep doing this strategic work of discipling and training the international students among you. Through China God is reaching the nations!
Phil Jones (pseudonym) and his wife have been working amongst international students for over twelve years, both in their home country and for three years in China. They are becoming aware of the opportunities to reach the nations who have come to China. To contact Phil, email firstname.lastname@example.org. View Full Bio
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