Last week my wife and I sat in our living room talking with one of the teachers at our seminary. He pastors a Chinese church in the US and volunteers to come and teach once a year. He started doing this for us 2 years ago and I quickly discovered his pastoral experience and manner were a good fit for our class on pastoral care. Two year ago we began working on a book project to translate a book called “The Shepherd Leader” by Tim Witmer which was to be the book used for this class.
After teaching the class last year our friend took the material back home and began using it for his own congregation. Within the last year he began to apply to principles in the book to his congregation including the leaders and he reported to us this time that the results have been striking. Not only has the church begun a much needed shepherding ministry involving all of the church leaders, he himself reported that his attitude and outlook on his ministry has greatly improved. What used to feel like drudgery now feels vibrant and full of life.
What has made the difference? Ultimately, of course, it has been the Lord who has worked in his heart but God used his experience in China to shift his focus and cause him to realize how important his role is as a pastor and how precious his congregation is to God and to him. Seeing the hunger people in China have for the gospel awakens us to the working of the Holy Spirit. The freshness of the people’s faith and the newness of the gospel here are powerful reminders.
This is not to say that the saints here are perfect, far from it. They struggle profoundly with living out the gospel in atheistic, secular society that highly values the material without any thought of the supernatural. Some portrayals of our Chinese brothers and sisters distort the realism of their triumphs by downplaying their failures. They are sinners just like you and I.
The remarkable thing is the newness of the work of the Spirit, the vibrancy of the church and the vitality of believers who are hungry. This is what made the difference in my friends life when he went back home to face his congregation.