The Christian Times recently published an interview with a young urban pastor in which he discusses some of the challenges of urban ministry in China. In this first part of the interview, he focuses on the need for Chinese churches to be more socially engaged, and for more theological reflection.
CCD* Exclusive Interview with a Chinese Young Pastor: How He Thinks of the Development of City Church (1/2)
In recent years, as part of China's urbanization process, we have seen the rise and development of urban churches, not only in top tier cities, but also in second tier cities and provincial capitals. More and more believers have become involved in ministry.
Brother Liu believed in God when he was a graduate student and then studied at a house church theological seminary. He served conservative house churches and reformed churches in several cities successively, and he was recently invited to be a preacher in a new church. He often wrote down his thoughts regarding the development of the church.
In the interview, he stressed the importance of theological innovations of the urban church, reform of church management and interaction with other churches. Furthermore, he talked about common features of young pastors and the styles of church they liked.
Brother Liu frankly admitted the limitations of his thoughts. Nevertheless, his sharing provided us a fresh perspective for thinking about the growth of the urban church.
CCD: The theology of many Chinese churches comes from the west. You also grew up in an urban church and have served for about five years. Based on your experience, what do you think the Chinese church needs, and what is important in theological thinking nowadays?
Liu: I think that nowadays Chinese church theology is not systematic. There is so much to learn from the west in terms of theology. But when it comes to applying theology in the Chinese context, we need more careful consideration. For example, Christianity and Chinese traditional culture share some things in common. But believers need to discover the common grace from God and throw away the dross of the culture, and the church needs to have positive effects on Chinese culture.
I also think the church needs to update its theological thinking regarding social engagement. In the conventional view, a Christian is one who simply focuses on Bible reading and praying. There is little concern for the outside, and the city is even regarded as Sodom or Gomorrah. I think it is important to think theologically about how to love the city and influence society. It's the sins in the city that motivate us to show the gospel of God.
We should find out what the city needs. I think the key is participating in community service, such as giving free haircuts for the elderly and providing medical services in the communities. These services expand the church’s influence and residents will have a more favorable attitude towards the Christian religion. As of yet, we have done very little in the area of community service, let alone affect the ethos of the city.
CCD: Where do you think the difficulty is in the area of community service?
Liu: Firstly, we need to change our misconceptions about community service. Jesus not only saved the souls of people, but also healed the sick and fed the crowd with five loaves and two fish. And above all, we need to go outside rather than be limited to traditional activities.
CCD: In light of this, what role should urban churches play in the cities, in your opinion?
Liu: We should be more involved in philanthropy, because it is not something government can do on its own. Some faith-based NGOs in western countries are doing well in the area of philanthropy. We should learn from them. On the other hand, urban churches can also play an active role in promoting change in education. After all, the church exists to reflect life values and affect the social ethos.
*China Christian Daily
Original article: 【对话】华东一80后牧者：对城市教会发展的一些思考 (Christian Times)
English translation: CCD Exclusive Interview with a Chinese Young Pastor：How He Thinks of the Development of City Church(1/2) (China Christian Daily)
Adapted and reposted with permission.
Image credit: by Michael Garrigues, via Flickr.
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