We Belong Together!
As we settle into 2023 and look forward to welcoming the lunar new year, we pray for God’s blessing on the entire body of Christ, asking especially that he will show us new ways of working together in unity.
“For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others” (Romans 12:4-5 NIV).
I am privileged to be part of a men’s life group at our church called “A Place at His Table” and am amazed at how close we’ve become since our first meeting only last September. Three times a month we meet together for dinner, time in God’s word, life sharing, and prayer. We represent quite a variety of ages, life stages, and ethnicities. It is a safe place and there is a blessed transparency and high level of trust. Our co-leaders honor and complement each other and provide timely teaching and nurture. We have our blind spots and there’s plenty of room to grow, but we’re very grateful for each other.
In the short time we have been meeting together, there have been many emergencies, losses, health crises, and radical changes in the trajectory of several lives. Whenever there is an urgent matter, the group encircles whoever is in need, invoking the Holy Spirit, and Jesus meets us in powerful and transformational ways. In the natural realm, there is no good explanation for this because we are very different personalities. One distinguishing feature stands out: Everyone in the group has no doubt he belongs.
In Romans 12:1-2 Paul describes how the life of Christ is lived out through living sacrifices. Since we now belong to Jesus, we also belong to one another as members of Christ’s body, with a part to play and gifts of grace to offer. The first example Paul gives to living sacrifices and worshippers of God, is to use our spiritual gifts to love and serve one another.
Entering 2023 we know we need each other as much as ever, and that each of us belongs to one another in Christ. I am also impressed that we are facing unprecedented opportunities to hear from, learn and serve together with the church in China and the global church; in short, to live out our belonging in Jesus. Despite significant restrictions, there are still open doors before us.
In her article, “Chinese Pastors Can Teach You What John Calvin Can’t,” Hannah Nation writes:
This week, the average urban pastor in China will write his sermon on a laptop, taking breaks to check messages on his phone. He engages social media, finding it both a quagmire of evil and an evangelistic opportunity. In his congregation, the temptations of money and workaholism loom large. He struggles to keep the second generation in church in the face of cultural marginalization, and he watches the young in his cities fall prey to pornography, video game addictions, eating disorders, abuse, and confusion over sexual identity. Living in a secular society, he struggles to overcome apathy about life’s biggest questions.
In our interconnected, rapidly changing, and urbanized world, there’s no global city that isn’t wrestling with the same issues we do. But the good news is that, today, expressions of the church, along with indigenously theologizing leadership, can be found in every context. This means we don’t have to walk through our struggles alone.
Because of the interconnectedness Hannah Nation references, we belong to the global church more than ever before and there are growing opportunities to serve as well as learn and grow together. Joann Pittman, ChinaSource Vice-President of Partnerships and China Engagement, puts it this way:
Despite what is going on between our nations, we in the church must not allow those issues and concerns to override our commitment to reach out to Chinese (whether in their country or ours) with Christian love. We cannot let political ideas and debates become a barrier to the gospel. We will, in humility, serve alongside our Chinese brothers and sisters and be willing to learn from them. In fact, it is part of our mission to facilitate this learning by providing a platform for our brothers and sisters to speak to us.
Our life group has grown from six to eleven friends now, and we will likely have to make some good, hard decisions to multiply and grow. Major decisions lie ahead for those of us serving and learning from our brothers and sisters in China and the diaspora as well. Along the way, it is so good to know we’re all one body, all one in Jesus Christ, that we belong, and do our best work, together.
Ways to Pray
- Join with us in praising the Lord for his loving provision of funds to ChinaSource at year’s end! From October 1-December 31, the ChinaSource community of friends provided $249,239.71, which is over 99% of the $250,000 goal we were led to set for the last quarter of the year. To everyone who participated through prayer, giving, and kind introductions to others, thank you for your support of projects that continue to advance the kingdom of God in China and through the Chinese people globally.
- Please pray for the ChinaSource board of directors, staff and network of volunteers, that we will listen to and follow the Holy Spirit as he charts our course in 2023. We are praising the Triune God of Grace for the joy and privilege of partnering with you for his glory in the days ahead!
News and Notes
As part of our ongoing joint lecture series with the US-China Catholic Association (USCCA) and China Academic Consortium (CAC), USCCA will host the next lecture on Wednesday, January 25 at Fordham University, Lincoln Center Campus in New York City. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Ian Johnson will present the lecture, titled “China’s New Civil Religion: A Challenge and Opportunity for Engagement.” The lecture is open to the public and will also be streamed online.
Find more details and register to attend on the USCCA website.
ChinaSource Team News
- Joann will be speaking in an adult Sunday School program at Salem Covenant Church in New Brighton, MN for three Sundays in January.
In Case You Missed It
A selection of recently published items:
- Thoughts in Response to the End of the “Golden Age”, ChinaSource Blog, January 16.
- Sharing Eternal Truth on Shortwave Radio, ChinaSource Blog, January 13.
- Dazzled by Our Lord’s Provision, ChinaSource Blog, January 11.
- Being Chinese, Staying Christian in Europe, ChinaSource Blog, January 09.
- Top 10 ZGBriefs Links for 2022, ChinaSource Blog, January 06.
- China’s New Civil Religion, ChinaSource Blog, January 04.
- Opening the Eyes of My Heart, ChinaSource Blog (CCV), January 03.
- Revisiting My Favorite Posts from 2022, ChinaSource Blog, January 02.
- Happy New Year—2023!, ChinaSource Blog, December 30.
- God and His People at Work in China, ChinaSource Blog, December 28.
- An Interview with a Missions Leader in China (3), ChinaSource Blog, December 26.
- This Changes Everything, ChinaSource Blog, December 23.
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