Take His Yoke and Find Rest

Over my 30 years of ministry with Chinese I have heard good and bad gospel presentations. Trying to link Chinese characters or the concept of tian (heaven) with the Christian gospel generally fall short. I recently asked a Chinese sister in Christ what she thought of such presentations. She replied that they do not really reflect accurately what the culture believes about these things not do they adequately connect seekers to the truth.
So how should we present the gospel in Chinese culture. I just finished teaching a night class at our local seminary. Roughly 50 students, all from local house churches, attended 5 evenings of class on the subject of Missions and Evangelism. In the class we watched a message from Tim Keller delivered at our 2014 Grace to City event in Hong Kong on the subject of contextualization.  
Rev Keller teaches that proper contextualization should both affirm and challenge any culture’s values so as to articulate how the gospel answers the questions and the longings of every culture. Proper contextualization preserves the essence and truth of the gospel and avoids compromise. Keller proposed the idea that traditional and modern elements in Chinese culture have combined to make the modern Chinese soul very weary. Both Confucian ideals and modern capitalistic pursuits in Chinese culture have left millions of Chinese in deep need of rest. People are tired and they need rest but they look for it in many illegitimate ways.
I live in a city in China known for having a culture of leisure but I see very little true rest. Playing mah jiang, visiting tea houses, getting foot massages, or just enjoying food and drink are popular ways folks blow off steam but they can not provide lasting rest. 
Our local church leaders have begun to model that rest by taking sabbaticals and showing their congregations that rest is not a sign of laziness but a biblical mandate. In the past I found that taking a day off for distraction free prayer, meditation, scripture reading and reflective writing were immensely helpful to my ministry and spiritually refreshing for my personal well-being.  
Now I am working with these pastors to see how together we can model a biblical culture of rest through a proper theological understanding of the sabbath on a weekly basis as well as more extended sabbath rests.
Weekly sabbath is very important but so also is an annual extended rest time and seasonal sabbaths (every several years) where we take several weeks or months away from ministry for spiritual nourishment and rest. One way we do this with our missionaries is by having an annual retreat and focusing our time on spiritual nourishment, prayer, biblical preaching and time in fellowship, sharing our ministries with one another.
Both Chinese and Westerners have much to learn about rest; that our ultimate rest is in Christ. In Matthew 11:28-30 Jesus says

[28] Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. [29] Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. [30] For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” …
The peace and joy that come from resting in Christ is a message that Chinese can connect with because it is a personal need. Some may need convincing. There are both practical and biblcal reasons for rest that we need to convince them of. At that the same time it is something western missionaries need to practice and learn to model, not just for the sake of those they minister to but for their own sake.


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