One issue for younger Christians in China is where to turn for good teaching on issues related to relationships and marriage. Because there are fewer Christians in the generation that preceded them, there are few role models. Therefore, the need for resources and training for the Chinese church in this area is great.
One man who is speaking to this need is Yuan Datong (Andrew Yuan), a Christian marriage counselor who conducts marriage workshops in churches all over the country. He has also authored a number of books on the subject, including Marriage: A Covenant for Life. Here is the author bio from the book page at ZDLBooks:
Mr. Andrew Yuan is a marriage and parenting expert, popular speaker and author in China. He is often referred to as "the Watchman for Chinese Families."
Mr. Yuan began studying marriage, family and parenting in the 1990's [sic]. He is a certified trainer with Family Life, having attended training in both 1999 and 2004. In 1999, he began writing the parenting educational column, The Communication of the Hearts, for the magazine What Parents Need to Know. For the past 10 years, Andrew has been on speaking tours around China and has traveled to more than 20 provinces and municipalities. He covers topics such as dating, marriage, family, parenting and character building.
In August, the mainland site Christian Times published an excerpt from his book Marriage: A Covenant for Life. Below is a translation of that excerpt:
From Yuan Datong’s Site: A Life that Belongs in Heaven
As opposed to all earthly lives, which are self-centered and bottom-up, a life that belongs to heaven is a gospel-centered and top-down life. Jesus took on flesh, descended to earth, was hung on the cross, took on our sin, and shed his precious blood to cleanse our dirty and filthy souls. He granted truth that we might receive genuine freedom and peace, and promises to receive us into eternity to enjoy the incomparable beauty of heaven.
God calls on Christians to not be conformed to this world, but to examine and abide by God's will, to live out a rich life that belongs to heaven. We know that Maslow's "earthly" theory emphasizes continuous acquiring or "getting." But a life that belongs to heaven is exactly the opposite. At the center is "renouncing," just like Jesus. He had everything but he gave up heavenly glory to humble himself and dwell in our midst in order to save us from the power of death.
When we try to follow the example of Christ, many people will say, "How can I give things up before I get things? After I get what I need first, I will give things up." We are carrying a lot of things inside of us. Christ has things that he wants to give us, but our hearts are already so full that there is no room.
So, in order to receive what Jesus wants to give us, we must first throw away whatever we are carrying, just like it is recorded in a story from the gospel of Mark. Once, many people followed Jesus into the wilderness, but there was nothing to eat. Jesus asked his disciples what they had to eat. The disciples said, "We only have five loaves and two fish." Jesus said, "Bring them to me." Please remember those words "bring them to me." If they did not give the five loaves and two fish they possessed to Jesus, then how could he possibly feed five thousand people? If you said, "All I have is this little bit to eat. It's not enough even for me to eat, how I can give it to you?" If you held the five loaves and two fish tightly to your chest, how could Jesus use it to perform a miracle?
We stress that to have a gift or to have an ability is not enough. Instead, when we give everything to Jesus he will transform rottenness into a miracle and give you an unimaginably delightful surprise.
Take myself, for example. When I first began doing marriage counseling I thought I first needed to be well equipped with a wealth of theological knowledge to be able to serve God. I said to my instructor at the time, "I first need to study theology. If I don't go to seminary, how can I do this work?" The instructor said, "Theology is the study of God; it's knowledge. Knowledge cannot change life. Only life can change lives. In my opinion, people who have a degree in theology do not necessarily have a godly life. In my experience, the more prestigious seminary training a person has, the more difficult it is for a person to be humble. I think that if you go to study theology it will be very difficult for you to come back to do this work. You would have a lot of knowledge and you would have bigger intentions. Maybe you would rather go lead a big church, or a big organization. But you wouldn't want to engage in this kind of service."
My instructor's remarks were a big reminder to me. Later in the process of ministry, God bit by bit guided me and fed me. He had me walk a completely different path from seminary training. Paul said, "For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man's gospel. For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ." (Gal. 1:11-12)
I am very grateful that, in the over ten years of marriage counseling work, God himself has led me to experience many things. He made me learn from and wake up from all the rough times in my life and to learn a great deal of truth. When I read the Bible, there were many things I couldn’t completely accept. But when I personally experienced unbearable setbacks and suffering, sorrow and devastation, I urgently sought Jesus and those Scripture passages and stories were suddenly open to me. Like a beam of light, a burst of insight breaks through the murkiness and suddenly everything opens up with clarity in my heart. I know it is God speaking to me. He was looking after me the whole time.
I have absolutely no intent here to belittle the seminary system and the importance and necessity of theological education (because if later on there is a good opportunity to study, I too would absolutely not let it go). Rather, I hope those brothers and sisters who, like me, have no chance to study theology do not become discouraged and believe they have no qualifications to serve God. We only need first to unreservedly hand over our "five loaves and two fish" to Christ. He will use it to satisfy the needs of thousands of people.
Excerpt from Marriage: A Covenant for Life, Nanfang Publishing Company
Original article: 【袁大同婚姻加油站】属天的生命 (Christian Times)
Image credit: A Private Heaven by Byron Lippencott via Flickr.
The book Marriage: A Covenant for Life can be purchased in China the Taobao store of ZDLBooks.
Yuan Datong’s public account on WeChat is yuandatongpeixun.
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