Crossing the river by feeling the stones, a popular Chinese idiom, is a fitting way to describe Chinas emerging urban church. Its leaders have no older generation to look up to, and the opportunities and challenges they face are unprecedented in Chinas history. In this article published in the Christian Times, one pastor describes the dangers facing todays urban church leaders. He cautions them to be humble and teachable, as the decisions they make will affect an entire generation.
Since the year 2000, urban churches have appeared and developed rapidly in China. Compared with rural churches, urban churches have characteristics which are more in common with this age, such as openness and diversity. God has raised up a number of pastors in these urban churches and they are shouldering the mission of this generation, to find a pastoral model for Chinese churches. Recently, journalists from the Christian Times website held an exclusive interview with Reverend Zhang Yongsheng of the Beijing Gospel Missionary Church. Reverend Zhang concluded that the urban church in China is on a training ground.
The blind spot of the urban churches of this generation
During the interview, Rev. Zhang said that urban churches today have a blind spot. The older generation passed down to them a precious spirit, namely keeping the faith; however, he pointed out that the older generation did not pass on their experience in providing pastoral care. Therefore, it is necessary for the pastors of this generation to search for the proper models for pastoral care and develop the churches in China.
According to Rev. Zhang, churches today are more than just house churches in regard to their scale and the content. They tend to be urban churches, a fact which conforms to historical trends. This age also provides a training ground for the churches in China.
Pastors of this generation must clearly bear in mind that we are walking on a path that has never be taken before, and our choices will affect the choices of the next generation. The leaders of the urban churches nowadays are all in their 40s, and they do not have teachers to show them how. Without the guidance of the teachers, the students will get lost, which is the biggest blind spot for the shepherds of this generation, said Reverend Zhang.
The pastors in urban churches of this generation need to be humble and honest.
Making up for these blind spots has become a critical mission for the urban churches. Furthermore, Reverend Zhang believes that in order for the pastors of the urban churches to find the right path under the Lords guidance, they need to trust in the Lord more than in themselves.Therefore, it is important for the pastors of this generation to be humble and honest. Without humility and honesty, pastors and their churches will go nowhere. Reverend Zhang emphasized that we need to adhere to the path of building our churches independently while at the same time having an open mind to learn from foreign churches with a history of revival, whose experiences can help us lead our churches. Because of our lack of experience, urban churches in China are now on a training ground. We need to trust in the Lord and take every step in accordance with Gods will.
Reverend Zhang said that it would have been safer for these if they had faced the prospect of persecutions and trials; this would have helped them be purer and simpler and less tempted to take the wrong path. However, the path in front of us is a new one which allows us to have more freedom and enables us to face society with decency in regard to prosperity and reputation.The Israelites wandered in the wilderness for forty years, and all that they needed to do was follow Moses and God who guided Moses. However, when they got into Canaan, they had to face all kinds of temptations and traps. This is the current situation for Chinese churches.
The mission for urban churches of this generation is to find a model of pastoral care that is appropriate for Chinese churches.
According to Pastor Zhang, It is even harder for Chinese churches to develop nowadays than before. In the past, persecution appeared to be an obstacle, but it really wasnt. On the contrary, because of persecution the churches were purer and simpler at that time. The next step for the Chinese churches to take is more challenging. We need to remain faithful and authentic so that the Chinese churches can develop in the right direction. Otherwise, there will be no future. This is a transitional period for Chinese churches, said Rev. Zhang earnestly, and if this generation cannot find a way for the next generation to follow, it will be even more difficult for them.This is a critical period for the Chinese churches. If the urban churches today can help the Lord be glorified in and through us, then we can set a good example for the next generation to follow. Otherwise, they will have to deal with the same problems. This is why it is essential for us to set a good example.
In order to keep faith, the older generation passed on to us a precious spirit, the spirit to struggle and to fight. Today the social environment has changed. It is not as harsh as before, and in this environment the urban churches have come into being. There is no precedent in China to show us how to develop these urban churches and we have no examples to learn from.
Hence, the urban churches of this generation are on a training ground. The leaders need to depend on God to search for the path of developing the urban churches in China.
Image source: by Surfing the Nations, via Flickr
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