For this post, we have translated a sermon given by Pastor Wang Yi, of Early Rain Reformed Church, one of the prominent house churches in Chengdu, Sichuan Province. In it, Pastor Wang reflects on what it means to build a church. The sermon was posted to the church’s public account on WeChat (Weixin), China’s popular social media app. The name on the account is 秋雨微刊.
Brothers and sisters covered by the Lord's special grace, peace be with you.
We dedicate the church today, not to dedicate a building, but to dedicate ourselves; not to donate money, but to sacrifice ourselves. Because you, that is, those who are God's chosen in Christ and those members who worship in the church, are the true immovable property in the history of mankind.
Over the past six months, I have read a lot of books about building the church. And, I have prayed constantly about this, asking the Lord for direction on today's house churches, church buildings, and pastoring urban churches. Throughout history, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the local churches accumulated and passed on many blessings in terms of building new churches. But in the places that we can see, contextualized role models and ideals still seem to be lacking. Honestly, this has been the biggest personal dilemma in my ministry since last August. I have asked the Lord to shatter this; that I may experience a moment of breakthrough and refinement in my life of insufficient devotion, inadequate faith, and lack of wisdom. Often when I wake up early in the morning, I ask the Lord, "Is this the day you will revive me, your humble servant?"
The word of the Lord jumps out to me from the Bible as if it is saying, "Hey, you in Chengdu. Why are you standing there gazing up into heaven?" This is a gentle encouragement, bitter satire, and an alarming warning.
In Shenzhen, the slogan of a luxurious Northwest-style restaurant suddenly struck me. It said, "We use the most foolish way to cook." I think "foolish" is honest and meticulous; "foolish" is undivided and devoted; "foolish" is God-centered and based on the Lord; "foolish" reveres tradition and refuses the secular; "foolish" is not afraid of being of out of date or old-fashioned.
Although there are many models and methods one could study, once again, I'm convinced of the traditions held by the Puritans. The three marks of the true church from beginning to end are to build a Christian community on the rock of ages, that ancient and endless road of grace. The apostles personally witnessed this, and we also must once more spread it over the earth. The early church fathers were personally instructed in this, and we also must teach it in this generation. The Reformers personally touched upon this, and we too must reach every corner of China today with this.
Therefore, I am also ready to say, "We use the most foolish ways to build the church." That is, by devout resolution, by passing on the tradition without distorting it, and by living out in today's China the three marks of the true church:
- Honestly preach the Bible;
- Reverently administer the sacraments;
- Earnestly carry out church discipline;
People in China love to say, "the greatest of China is the greatest of the world." We already live in the Incarnated Christ, so we have even more confidence to say: the greatest of the gospel is the greatest of China; the greatest of Christ is the greatest of the culture; the greatest of the local church is the greatest of the universal church.
So the church can use the following slogan to express different levels of a holistic Christian faith as doctrine and church, hearing and doing of the word, receiving and serving, faith and life:
"All-equipping gospel, Reformed church, holy ministry."
In fact, "foolish" has another meaning—to commit oneself emotionally in continual investment to constantly be sanctified. Because in this world, when a person loves very deeply, people will often say, "You are foolish." That is because in this life, superficial and cunning love is the smart and safe form of love.
One time the Timothy Fellowship Group shared on this from Acts 20:31:
Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears.
Here, Paul's love is over the top, as is often the case with foolish people. He preached to the extent of not holding back against the elders. He dedicated himself to a group of brothers and sisters to the point of leaving no margin for error. He expressed truth to the point of losing face.
This verse is a description of the most foolish way. It is also what I want to seek for myself and what I want to seek for you. In the discussion that night, I highlighted the five most foolish methods from this verse:
- The construction of the church is a positional relationship (me—every one of you);
- The construction of the church is a long-term commitment (three years);
- The construction of the church is open to emotion (tears);
- The construction of the church is presence in life (day and night);
- The construction of the church is passing on the truth (admonition)
On one occasion, [my wife] Jiang Rong said to me that seeing the young co-workers share on the stage gave her a new feeling like seeing her own kids. My heart was touched and said, “yes, we have already reached the age when we should pass on our work to the younger generation. “
Over the past year, I have had many failures in my ministry, many setbacks and problems. But my greatest gain is the fellowship with you that gave birth to a brotherhood in Christ and to the hearts of two parents. I know that on this earth there will be no greater reward than this, no greater consolation and encouragement.
Thank you to each one of you, beloved members, because this year I obtained more from you than I can give.
Your fellow brother covered in grace, Wang Yi.
Correction: An earlier version of this article referred to Early Rain Reformed Church as Autumn Rain Church.
Are you enjoying a cup of good coffee or fragrant tea while reading the latest ChinaSource post? Consider donating the cost of that “cuppa” to support our content so we can continue to serve you with the latest on Christianity in China.