Wake Up America! Your Gospel Has Nothing On China! (At Least From This Church)

April 3, 2011

I’m writing this from 3 major standpoints. (1) “Intellectual” circles I’ve ran across assume the Chinese are babies in their theology and oh so need their apologetic prowess, (2) the fact that many of us Americans are comfortable and water down the gospel, and (3) my exciting experience of going to a church in China that beautifully proclaims the gospel. My heart in this is really for God’s gospel to be championed by his church. If/when I come across too abrasive, please keep in mind that this is my real intention.

I went to an “underground” church in China today for the first time. It’s not really “underground” as that term can simply refer to a church gathering outside an “official” church building.

Someone met us and took us to the church. They were extremely friendly and were immediately telling the unbelievers with us about the gospel. They turned to me and asked me (with my wife translating) “are you a good person or are you sinful?” Since the gospel is my biggest passion in the world I gave what I could conger up to be the most Biblical answer (and would say the same thing at gun point), “I’m extremely sinful!”

“Then if Jesus returned tomorrow how would you be saved?” they asked next. I answered, “I’d be clothed with the righteousness of Christ”. She was silent to my answer, probably either thinking I’m giving an intellectual answer (rather then answering from the heart) or was glad that God’s gospel has already gripped me. Then we arrived to the church where immediately 2 testimonies were given and then the Pastor gave his teaching.

Things were said like, “I’m nervous to give my testimony it’s temping to hide and not be honest about my heart”, “can you eat and eat and eat and never poop? Of course not. If we only talk about good things about ourselves then we’re hiding who we really are”, “the truth isn’t always attractive. If it were only attractive then you’d never know the truth of your heart”, “I try to control my family. I never want to listen to what they say. I only want to correct them and not be corrected”, “I thought I was right all the time and that I was a good person, but the gospel has revealed my true heart to me”.

“If you’re new here and everyone greats you just because you’re new, then we’re telling you you need flattery. If we don’t great you then you’ll get mad that you’re not flattered”, “if you need compliments all the time then you’re not honest with who you really are”, “who you are on the surface is not who you really are. You can control that. Who you really are is who you are in your heart.”, “we praise ourselves for doing good things, but we never keep track of ourselves being jealous over and over and over”, “we think if we have some good actions then we’re good people, but Jesus says if you’re heart is evil, then you’re evil”, “Buddhism teaches you to be a good person. That’s not Christianity. Christianity is that you are a bad person and that you need a new heart”, “How do we know if we’re evil? God’s law tells us. The law is a mirror of our heart. It reflects the evil in our heart”, “we are sinful from birth”, “if you don’t agree that you’re an evil person then you’re not being true to your own heart”, “those who admit they need help will be saved. Those who don’t will be in hell”, “Jesus is Yahweh. Only he can save you because he died for our sin”, etc.

Are you guilty yet? You’ll never know the real gospel, thus the real Jesus Christ, until you admit you are totally lost. It doesn’t mean we only focus on the bad news, but it means we’re not afraid to admit our sin because we also know we have a great Savior in Jesus Christ.

There we were in the underground church being hammered these truths over and over. Not for 45 minutes, not 2 hours, but 3 hours on a Sunday morning! Nobody was tired. No one was anxious to put a check mark on their church box so they could hurry home and take their Sunday nap. There were young and old and they were alive, attentive, and fulfilling the Chinese stereotype of being loud and giving correction, only this time for Jesus. The Chinese here don’t save face when it comes to Jesus. They lose face, which is really gaining it. They lose it by cherishing the taboo gospel and by smiling in the process.

Unbelieving Chinese think Christianity is the West’s version of Buddhism. They think the Bible simply teaches to be a good person. These Chinese Christians are combating that lie with full force. They make sure you realize that you’re not a good person. Jesus never said all people are to be good, but that all people are dead and evil and can only come to life and live for him because of him. Christianity teaches we must be good in God’s eyes since he’s where the standard of “good” comes from. Our default inclination is to compare ourselves to others, instead of Jesus. When we compare ourselves to others, we’re not that sinful. When we compare ourselves to Jesus, we’re the worst people on the planet.

Unbelievers who don’t really know the Bible expect Christianity to flatter them and reinforce their piety like all other religions. Really the gospel shines a flood-light on their heart, sends them into shock, and then seeks to bring them to life. It’s supposed to hurt so good, not just feel so good. Most Chinese have never heard the gospel, have huge misconceptions of it, and shun it all-together. I had become so used to this attitude from them. Therefore, I couldn’t help but stare at the believing Chinese in this room and think, “so these are what Chinese people look like when they love Jesus. They actually do exist!” It was so great to finally be around some.

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. These Chinese knew the gospel, and they knew it and proclaimed it more then most American “evangelicals” would today. They didn’t just admit they were “sinful”. They talked about specific sins. They talked about small sins and put them under the magnifying glass of God’s holiness to turn them into huge sins. They challenged themselves to admit their sin even more – with help of the gospel. You have no choice but to cling to Jesus after that kind of teaching.

My jaw was dropped the entire time as my wife was translating. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I didn’t expect this at all. There I was on the second row with my ear next to her face shaking my head up and down in acknowledgment. The Chinese always gaze at foreigners because they’re curious about them. I could feel people’s looks, probably wondering if my nods where out of politeness, or in agreement to these hard truths. They were absolutely in awe-struck agreement! I had to hold back my tears about 5 times because the Holy Spirit was revealing his goodness to me and it was over-whelming.

Also, the unbelievers who were with us were hearing the gospel for the first time. Luckily they heard it here of all places because it was 0% watered-down. They knew it and wrestled with it walking out of there, and I promise you they still are.

Then we took communion at the end and guess what the Pastor said before communion. That’s right! He actually Biblically told the congregation NOT to partake unless they have a new heart in Christ, and that if they do they’re crucifying Christ and sinning against him (1 Cor 11:27-29). I couldn’t believe it. I’ve always wondered why churches in America never attached that Biblical warning to communion. I went to a church called ‘The Vine’ once and it was the only one ever out of hundreds of churches I’ve been to, and good one’s at that.

I wanted to stand up, clap, cheer, and do a back flip all at the same time. Which I couldn’t so it probably just all turned into me holding back my tears again. I respectfully noticed that the unbelievers who attended the service refrained from partaking, and heeded the sober warning. It’s not for our sake that they don’t partake. Biblically, it’s for their own sake!

All you American obnoxious arm-chair wanna-be apologetic theology police out there who think the Chinese are just infants about their Bibles and need your superior theological insights, guess again. It’s YOU who need the wake up call, just as I’ve gotten. Perhaps we need Chinese Christians to teach us how to proclaim the gospel and how to live it. The Chinese have such great patience. They work harder than us, get little pay, have a much lower standard of living, deal with more annoying customers, perform great at their jobs, and don’t complain (at least they save face if they complain). Unbelieving Chinese have a lot of patience, so just imagine how Christ-like the believers actually are. I’m not saying they’re pious or better, but I’m saying they’re a fresh example.

I’ve been around “Christianity” my entire life in America. I am proud of the West’s rich Christian heritage and contributions. But frankly Christianity in the West, which I’m sure you’re already aware of, is choosing the wide road to destruction. Don’t you think there seems to be a connection between persecution and faithfulness to the gospel? I think I see that more clearly now. Chinese Christians aren’t persecuted near as much as they have been in the past, however, they are still riding on the wake of it. So what should we do? What should American churches do? What’s a peon like me suggesting on this thread? I’m simply hoping we all become lunatics for the gospel, like Luther. That is after all the title and purpose of this blog! Grace to you.




  1. Woow, woow, woow, I really like your words, it made me think more, thank you!

  2. Really cool, Cameron. I’ve read a little bit about the church in China and have always wanted to experience it like you have. I seriously think we in America need missionaries from China. Thanks for the post. I’m going to share your post on twitter. Do you plan on continuing to attend this church while you are there?

  3. Oh, also, you gotta get your hands on the book called “Radical” Taking back your faith from the American Dream. Right up your alley. It rocked my world.

  4. Thanks Jesse. I’ll add that to my list of books. Yes, I definitely plan on attending the church every week while I’m still here. I want to try and see if I can teach there sometime and have my wife translate (of course – my Chinese is still very basic). But that would be an awesome experience.

    Cathy is also really excited to hear the gospel like this in her native language too. I can tell it’s already motivated her. Now we’re trying to share the gospel to her family. Please pray for their conversion.

    We’ve also let the Pastor and the lady who took us there know that we want to get together and talk during the week sometime. I have lots of questions for them, and I hope we can build a long relationship with them. I’m going covert for Jesus. I’m so excited!

    Usually the Chinese don’t look you in the eye. They think it’s rude. The Chinese Christians will look you in the eye and smile. Even though I can only talk to them through my wife, we still see Jesus in each other.

  5. What a great place to see God moving in the lives of the Chinese. No question that many Americans are ‘lazy’ in their faith and often don’t have any passion for sharing the Gospel.

    Thanks for the wakeup call!

  6. I have said, and will continue to say, that Americans need to leave the country for at least 3-6 months and experience life in another country working with a Church there. Not only for the edification of that Church, but for the massive perspective change that comes from striving with fellow believers in a foreign culture. I know it changed me.

    “Chinese Christians aren’t persecuted near as much as they have been in the past…” This is partly true but it varies from locality to locality.

  7. defectivebit,

    Amen. I fully agree.

    “This is partly true but it varies from locality to locality.”

    I would say it’s very true compared to the Cultural Revolution. People can have churches in many places in China which are self maintained, and if they know the higher ups so they wont get harassed. But I agree is depends on the location. When churches here say things against the government or get too big, then they get in trouble also.

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