The Lantern

Toward a Flourishing Society

Last month ChinaSource co-sponsored The Intellectual and Ethical Foundations of the Flourishing Society, a conference hosted by Acton Institute in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

More than two dozen pastors, scholars and professionals from China joined US Christian leaders from the educational, business, non-profit, and ministry fields for a wide ranging discussion around living out one’s faith in all spheres of life.

The goal of the conference was to explore with Christian leaders from China ways to harness the rich intellectual and cultural resources available within the church in order to bless their society. The topic of “public theology” was front and center as an urgent concern of the church in China. Participants discussed how to live and think as Christians in some of the principal spheres of life, including Christian engagement with government, Christian think tanks and NGOs, living an integrated Christian life, business as mission in China, Christian education in China, and China’s new urban church context.

The conference setting of Grand Rapids fit prominently into the discussions. Promise Hsu, a journalist from Beijing, presented a fascinating look at the city’s Christian heritage, with its rich Dutch Reformed traditions, and applied his reflections to Christians living in China’s cities. Many of the speakers and panelists came from nearby Calvin College and Calvin Theological Seminary, as well as area businesses and Christian schools. An evening banquet brought together pastors from around the city for fellowship with the Chinese delegates.

Tragedy and Hope

While hope of renewal through the gospel was a recurring theme, the gathering was, unfortunately, also marked by tragedy. One of the conferees, Xu Guoyong, sustained serious brain injury when he was struck by a car on the second evening of the event. Xu, a Christian publisher and member of Beijing’s Shouwang Church, passed away two days later.

As the co-founder of Oak Tree Press, Xu had been instrumental in making a number of significant Christian classics available to readers in China. Xu came to Christ while in university and became an early member of Shouwang Church. Both he and his wife were detained during the church’s “outdoor worship,” which began in 2009. During their detention, their first daughter, who had been left in the care of relatives, was tragically killed when she fell from an upper story window. Xu’s reflections on his imprisonment and on his daughter’s life have been translated and are available on Chinese Church Voices. Xu is survived by his wife, Yinjuan, and their one-year-old daughter, Leyi.

The message of hope thus tinged by a sense of tragic loss, conference participants drew together to comfort one another. Those not from China saw the Chinese church in a new light as several Chinese participants reflected on Xu’s life. Ran Yunfei, a prominent “public intellectual” and new convert to Christianity, shared with the group that, for the first time, he understood the meaning of Christ’s words in Matthew 10:29-30: “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.”

In the end, the meaning of the conference went far beyond an intellectual exploration of faith and culture. The tangible experience of Christ’s love amidst tragedy was a poignant reminder that the church’s greatest contribution to a flourishing society is this love, lived out in Christian community.

News and Notes

  • Hannah Lau spoke at a local Christian women’s conference held January 23-24 in Southern China. Her talk, “A Purposeful Life as a Single,” encouraged local women regarding the meaning and hope they can have in life. 
  • An interview with Brent Fulton was broadcast February 8 on the Faith Radio Network.
  • On Saturday, February 13, Joann Pittman (seen below) spoke at the China Outreach Ministries Friendship Dinner in Minneapolis. The title of her talk was “A Blessed Year of the Monkey,” and was based on her blog post “Happy New Year”, posted on February 8.
  • Joann also helped lead a summit of leaders from Minneapolis-based China student ministries focused on helping new believers prepare for returning to China.
  • Brent Fulton was interviewed for articles in The Wall Street Journal and The Economist.
  • Brent Fulton spoke on “China’s Urban Church: A Shifting Battleground” at the Acton China Seminary (see above) and participated in a panel at the annual meeting of the China Partnership in San Diego, California.
  • Hannah Lau recently launched her first book, Wherever You Go. Based on her own journey in China and beyond, the book challenges the next generation to a deeper, God-centered life. For more information or to purchase the book go to GraceWorks Store. (Note: this website is based in Singapore and prices are in Singapore Dollars.)

Ways to Pray

  1. Pray for Yinjuan and Leyi, and for members of Shouwang Church as they care for them.
  2. Pray for fruitful outcomes of the Acton China Seminar, that Chinese Christians in all walks of life will be empowered to live out their faith.
  3. Believers from two Chinese cities who work with the socially marginalized are gathering this month for an extended spiritual formation retreat sponsored by ChinaSource. Pray for the Spirit’s work in their lives and ministries.
  4. Pastor Joseph Gu, a provincial Christian leader whose church in Hangzhou had been the largest Chinese congregation in the world, was detained last month. It is widely believed that his detention is due to his criticism of the provincial government’s removal of crosses from more than a thousand church buildings. Pray for his safety, as well as that of others who have also been detained. 
Image credit: Lanterns by Bowen Chin via Flickr.
Brent Fulton

Brent Fulton

Brent Fulton is the founder of ChinaSource. Dr. Fulton served as the first president of ChinaSource until 2019. Prior to his service with ChinaSource, he served from 1995 to 2000 as the managing director of the Institute for Chinese Studies at Wheaton College. From 1987 to 1995 he served as founding …View Full Bio

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