The website Xuanjiao Zhongguo (Missions China) recently ran a post written by a university student in China, sharing his/her reflections on faith in modern China.
A significant feature of China's Church in recent decades has been the number of young people in the congregations. However some Christians, like this university student, question whether this trend will continue. In contrast to university fellowships and the internet, which attract young people to the faith, many churches are not doing a good job either of bringing young people in or of keeping them in the fold. Disillusioned with shallow sermons, ill-equipped pastors, or the church's unwillingness to deal with sensitive issues, these once enthusiastic believers may leave churches which they feel are stuck in the past and unable to meet the needs of the current generation.
The full translation:
I don't know if any of you, in the midst of your daily Bible reading, prayer, or devotions has worried about the present day church. Every time we go home for a holiday, we see the older generation of our church getting older and older, and sometimes we find an empty seat which we know will never be filled by a certain elderly person ever again. Have you ever wondered why old faces disappear from our churches more quickly than new faces appear? Where have the church's young people gone?
Many of us college students have attended Sunday School since we were little, and we truly understand what we believe. We learn from our university fellowships, college summer camps, or the Internet. But it is the new believers who meet Christ, repent, and become Christians while in college, who make up the majority of young people in churches. Why are university fellowships, summer camps, and the Internet so influential, but our lives are seldom changed by the content of a sermon delivered by a pastor in church? Many of us don't even like to listen to sermons. God's Word should be incomparably abundant and beautiful. Why do we find most of what pastors preach so empty? Just like going to class, the content doesn't draw us in. It is clear that some pastors lack knowledge, so it is impossible for them to express God's word very thoroughly. The same sermon, preached in years past, may have seemed very precious and drawn people in, but it may not have the same effect today.
We must reflect on this: why is the traditional church unable to attract groups such as highly educated college students and lead them to Christ? In my opinion, it is because traditional churches don't emphasize knowledge; instead they just remember that "knowledge puffs up." So, we stand still and do nothing, inexplicably afraid of science and knowledge. We may even be afraid to bring up topics such as evolution. It is exactly this attitude that has made our traditional churches ones of empty dogmatism. If we say that Christian faith is the soul, and knowledge is the body, no wonder our incomplete bodies scare so many people away.
In the days of Hudson Taylor and Timothy Richard, most of the common people were uneducated, and many were even illiterate. Intellectuals were rare. More importantly, intellectuals represented the bureaucratic class. There already existed deep prejudices between the bureaucracy and the people. So, I think Timothy Richard wasn't going to have an easy time, regardless. On the other hand, Hudson Taylor's context showed more immediate success and was a slightly easier one. But in the end, it was God who raised up Hudson Taylor, all in His own timing, affirming Hudson Taylor's huge contribution.
When such a huge majority of believers are peasants, the content of our sermons will naturally be more superficial and easy to understand, adding a little humor. At first this was by necessity, but with the passage of time, as the percentage of intellectuals slowly increased, pastors didn't notice the drawbacks of preaching these types of sermons. They continued to copy the old model, bringing about our present humiliating situation. In todays China, Hudson Taylor's ways of doing things may actually be a bit powerless.
Although the times are changing, Jehovah is still king. He will raise up whom He wills. This is not something we can control, but we must do our part. When we see the needs of these times, we must first study hard. If our thinking is still shallow, how can we fight the good fight we proclaim?
But I worry about something else, too. If we are unwilling to change our traditional ideas, even though many people have grown up in the church, will they leave the church for personal reasons?
A college student in a university fellowship once told me that he'd believed in Jesus for a long time, but he still couldn't feel His love. I told him what I'd been taught to say, that Jesus died on the cross for him, etc. After I finished talking, he simply said he still felt really empty. Although I'm very sure of my beliefs, if I think about it, I also feel a bit empty, but I can't explain why. Later I saw a status update a friend posted on QQ saying, "Lord, do you really love me?" I wondered why he would ask that, because he greets people every Sunday with a continual stream of "Jesus loves you." Why? What are we missing? Will they give up what they believe if they remain like this for a long period of time?
Maybe it is because, for our entire lives we've emphasized God's special revelation, and forgotten his general revelation. Jesus said, the sun rises on you good people and you evil people, and the rain falls on the righteous and the unrighteous. Jesus tells us this is God's fairness and His love! He also tells us to experience more of this God's natural creation. Nature is also a miracle, it's just that we've gotten too used to seeing this miracle. Only through this can we get to know God better.
Pay attention to these words! We, this generation of young Christians, must work harder to equip ourselves, or else we will be unable to share what we believe with people who are more highly educated or who have had more life experience than we have!
Original Article: (translated and posted by permission)
Image credit: Graduation Day, by Kevin Dooley, via Flickr
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