Back to the Basics

“Revival Preaching and the Indigenization of Christianity in Republican China,” by Gloria S. Tseng. International Bulletin of Missionary Research, Vol. 38, No. 4, October, 2014, 177-182. (Read our Global China Center review.)

Several important lessons can and should be learned from Gloria Tseng’s article on Wang Mingdao and John Song (Song Shangjie).

First, the traditional biblical gospel message of repentance, faith in Christ, and following the way of the Cross in the hope of eternal life can speak to Chinese in all walks of life. Even though many recoil at first when they hear the Chinese word “sin” –zui – which literally means “crime” – when the biblical definition of “sin” is clarified, its meaning is clear enough for the average Chinese person to grasp.

As the immensely influential ministries of Song and Wang, both in their own time and through their writings today, demonstrate, clear proclamation of the gospel, with specific application to daily life, will be used by the Holy Spirit to evoke repentance, faith, and a zeal to serve God.

That doesn’t mean that we should ignore important questions of the religious and cultural context of Chinese people, of course. As I try to show in the chapters on “Points of Contact” in Reaching Chinese Worldwide, we can speak to both Chinese concepts and cultural conditions to connect with hearers and address the Word to their minds and hearts.

The second lesson is that the Bible must be central to our proclamation. It was their relentless exposition of the Scriptures that lent power to the preaching of Wang and Song. Quotations from Confucius, Laozi, or even popular modern cultural icons may be of use, but the Bible alone carries the spiritual persuasive energy to transform lives.

Third, as the questionable exegesis of John Song demonstrates, anyone who wants to share the gospel message must be trained in proper methods of interpreting the Scriptures. You don’t have to go to an academic seminary, but you should know the basic principles of understanding the Bible; this is especially true for preachers and teachers.

Finally, the radical discipleship of Song and Wang challenge us to give up our comfortable lives and expend ourselves in the service of the gospel and the kingdom of God. That doesn’t mean we should neglect our families, as Song did (and later regretted), but it does involve self-sacrifice of all sorts.

Despite their human flaws, Wang Mingdao and John Song provide us with inspiring models of devotion, faith, and love.

-G. Wright Doyle