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Chinese Christians Must Be Cautious about Overseas Theological Education, Preaching, Says Pastor

Chinese Christians Must Be Cautious about Overseas Theological Education, Preaching, Says Pastor

Elder Shi Aijun gave a sermon in a fall harvest thanksgiving service at Lvhua Street Church in Anshan, Liaoning, on Octover 24, 2021. Elder Shi Aijun gave a sermon in a fall harvest thanksgiving service at Lvhua Street Church in Anshan, Liaoning, on Octover 24, 2021.(Lvhua Street Church)
ByLi Shiguang September 15, 2022
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Chinese church leaders claim that under the current circumstances that the Chinese church has achieved great growth and that Chinese Christians should be cautious about overseas theological education and preaching.

For a long time, for many reasons, Chinese Christians were in a serious shortage of spiritual supplies and theological equipping. With China’s Reform and Opening-up, many overseas Christian resources have gradually entered mainland China through various means, which have played an important role in the Chinese church's growth. However, everything has its advantages and disadvantages, which also apply to foreign Christian resources.

A female pastor H, who has worked in a church in East China for many years, has extensive pastoral experience. She believes that the influence of many overseas spiritual resources on the Chinese church and believers has already been "doing more harm than good." Such a point of view is likely to cause much controversy in the church, but she still insists on her own opinion, believing it is correct.

"As to theological education, it will be a big problem if we always rely on foreign resources. First of all, the faculty of these overseas seminaries is a big problem, since many teachers there have never lived and struggled in the same situation as Chinese Christians, which they have never experienced our entire environment, customs, culture, and atmosphere," she said.

She explained, "Then they teach in some seminaries outside China, raising Chinese believers. It's hard for this kind of training method to go deep. Why? Because those teachers who equip them don't understand the situation of these Chinese students at all. As a result, the training purpose is only half served, which means they have finished the training which is an ineffective solution, being difficult or impossible for these Chinese students to get a truly all-round education. How can people living elsewhere actually raise a group of believers living in China? This isn’t very practical."

H continued, "Many Chinese Christians like to listen to the sermons preached by some famous overseas pastors. Are the sermons good? Yes. I have heard them too. To be honest, they are really good. But, at the same time, we also need to be acutely aware that this kind of 'good' is also problematic. Even though the sermons of those overseas pastors are good, the pastors do not share the same living environment with believers, as if the shepherd and the flock are not in the same world, not in the same pasture, but merely connected by remote control. Therefore, we can see that the pastors abroad do not really understand the real situation of Chinese believers, so they can only 'act in their own ways' according to their understanding."

"When they express gratitude, Chinese believers feel grateful. When they criticize, Chinese believers criticize together with them... It is a big problem that pastors who do not live under the same circumstances as believers are impossible to really understand the situation of Chinese believers. When Protestant Christianity arrived in China, the missionaries actually landed in China, even having changed their clothes, learned Chinese culture, and merged themselves into Chinese people by eating and living together. This was how they came to preach the gospel to the Chinese and then pastored them," she added. 

In recent years, every year there have been some mission conferences and special conferences, in which many Chinese Christians have participated. But according to H’s observation, participants didn't get any real benefits or real help in their lives, but just left with something to show off to believers who didn't participate afterward. They said that Pastor So-and-So had preached really well, in comparison, our level was too low. Or that Pastor So-and-so had a great gift, which could make a person with short leg syndrome recover in an instant. It was possible that what they said was true, but H found that the only effect of what they said was the destruction and division between the church and the believers. Later no one would listen to the pastor who speaks the pure truth, because some believers feel that the speech is not good, ‘has nothing new at all, and there is no grace'. Thus, H thinks this kind of destructive power is quite significant.

H said that as a believer, you must unite well with your church and respect the pastors of the church. Pastors of the local church have been nurtured in the local area for a long time, for which they know the local situation very well, so they are clear about making progress in whatever way and with whatever strength. As overseas pastors do not understand our circumstances, their teachings may not often match reality.

The development of the Internet has broken many regional barriers and blockades, such problems have become very serious in recent years. But meanwhile, the Internet is also a double-edged sword, with advantages and disadvantages.

At the end of the interview, H said, "Many believers are still keen to follow overseas pastors, thinking that they are more mature and skilled. They blindly admire the world outside China, always thinking about how good it is. But in fact, after so many years of development, a good number of excellent local pastors have grown up. We can no longer 'worship and have blind faith in foreign things'. While keeping communicating and studying with overseas pastors, we should also be more rooted in China, striving to take root downwards and achieve results upwards.”

- Translated by Shuya Wang

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