Nanjing’s Union Theological Seminary (NJUTS) is China’s highest and only theological seminary at the national level. Representatives from the United Bible Societies (UBS) brought gifts for the students: the Greek New Testament and Hebrew Old Testament.
We met four young Bible students. Their names are Sun Yu, Gao Xiangye, Xue Jing and Chai Dan (see photo: from left to right). All of them pledged to serve the Church in China upon completion of their theological studies in a few years time.
The four young students come from differing social and economic backgrounds. It costs each of them 5000 RMB per year to study at NJUTS. For several of them this sum is a tad too hefty on their families’ finances. Therefore, many of them are supported by their local churches. Those like Chai Dan will return to her church as a preacher when she has completed her studies, then in due time, she could be ordained as a pastor. “I enjoy preaching,” she says, “and I always do that when I return to my local congregation.” These students think that it is important to engage the Bible at a profound level and are convinced that studying the original languages of the Bible will help them to do just that.
On Chinese Christians and their Bibles
“The faith you find among Chinese Christians is simple, pure and innocent,” says one of the students.
“For Chinese Christians, the Bible is the most important part of their journey. We love the Bible. In the countryside where the church is particularly strong, many of them can’t read the Bible on their own. That’s why these country folks appreciate long services and it is through strong pulpit teaching that their faith is strengthened,” the 4 students echo this sentiment.
“I love the Bible in the same way as other believers”, says Yu. “We are privileged to be taught in an academic setting. The theological studies expand and strengthen our faith. I believe the Bible is the Word of God. Yes, I know that there are different authors in the Bible, but for me, this is God’s Word to me.
“My studies gave me a more holistic understanding of the Bible. I’m grateful for the chance to be here,” adds another one of the students.
On Church and Prayer
The students explained to us why we rarely find men in the congregation. Men are the main breadwinners in the family. “They are the ones who provide for their family. They spend more time in the fields or factory and less (or hardly any) time in the church. You rarely find a young Chinese man in the church. As a result, it is a great sacrifice for a man and his family if he were to serve in the church as he would face a great financial struggle especially if he is responsible for a large family.”
“The Chinese women, on the other hand, are very serious about their faith and about their families. They are the ones who pray for the family.”
“Prayer is very important to us. The churches in China gather for prayers; often at around 5 o’clock in the morning. This is a practice for the rural and city churches alike”, says Chai Dan. She adds that in her congregation there are 8-10 people who will meet every morning. They come to pray and to encourage one another.
It is common to find roommates, tutorial mates banding together to pray in Jinling Seminary. Praying strengthens their lives as Christians and their friendship. The students explain that this very evening they will gather to pray for the people who were affected by the recent earthquake here in China.
On Spread of Christianity in China
When we commented that Christianity is growing at a rapid rate in China in the recent two decades, the students explained,”It is because we have increasing religious freedom.” Another reason they all agreed on was that there is more manifestation of signs and wonders in the churches. More people come to believe in Jesus when they are healed from all kinds of illness. Friends and family members who witnessed the healing also embraced the faith.
Christianity is popular with the highly educated people, especially amongst the young intellectuals. A large number of students have become Christians through studying abroad as well. The challenge now for the Church in China is how best to cater to the needs of the growing number of young educated Christians.
Written by the Norwegian Bible Society
Edited by Pamela Choo