BUKIT TIMAH, Singapore – 26-year-old Zhang Xinyu comes from Jianyang, Fujian Province and is presently pursuing a Masters of Theology degree at Trinity Theological College in Singapore. Looking at this fresh-faced young man, it may come as a surprise that he has several years of experience in entrepreneurship under his belt.
Stepping Out and Growing Strong
Being a child of preachers, Xinyu’s childhood was steeped in Christian doctrine and surrounded by love in a Christian community. However, this sheltered environment changed when he gained admission into the Business Administration Faculty in Shanghai Finance University to major in Marketing. He had to leave his hometown and move into the cosmopolitan and sophisticated city of Shanghai in pursuit of higher education.
In a predominantly secular social environment and exposed to the academic rigour of higher learning, Xinyu was confronted with different worldviews and methods of inquiry. This opened up his mind and challenged him to think about his Christian faith in greater depth, something he had not done before when he was younger. Although it was sometimes unsettling, God used moments when he questioned some Christian teachings to clarify his convictions and strengthen his faith.
Serving and Getting to Know the World Around Him
To enrich his learning experience, he and some fellow undergraduates periodically took part in marketing competitions. One particular competition was focused on community service and social outreach. With corporate funding, they organised a trip to the World Expo 2010 in Shanghai for financially needy Primary School students. Through this project, God gave him experience in serving others especially the less fortunate. This began his awareness of the needs of his people.
His personal ambition was to be an entrepreneur. In pursuit of this dream, he obtained a 3-month internship upon graduation in the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade, a convention for free trade zone in China. This exposure to the world of commerce also brought him into like-minded company. After completing his internship, he started an event planning business with some of these friends. The company specialized in organizing corporate events like annual company parties, creating corporate videos and designing corporate brochures. Business was brisk and within the first year, the company became a profit-making entity.
This business not only made good money, it was also a good platform for Christian witness. Despite the fact that all his business partners were non-believers, Xinyu never kept his faith a secret. He lived out his Christian convictions in the ordinary course of life and work.
“My colleagues and partners are all very open-minded and respectful of my faith. In fact, most young people in China are like that nowadays. They may even be interested to ask questions and find out more.”
Xinyu went on to relate an amazing incident that led his associates to acknowledge God’s presence in their business. “We were setting up the venue for a company’s Family Day the night before the event. During the night, a machine caught fire and we only found out when we came back on the actual day of the event. Fortunately the fire did not spread and only a door was damaged because we had not laid the carpet yet. It would have been devastating otherwise because there was a gas pipe nearby. In relief, my colleagues asked me to give thanks to God on their behalf.”
Making a Radical Choice
Early success in business did not go to his head. Instead, it made him consider some serious questions. Xinyu shared, “About 2 years into the business, God put a question from the Bible in my head. What would it profit a man if he gained the whole world but lost his soul? I thought about what the meaning of life was, how I should deal with relationships and what my mission in life was.”
The result of this inner inquiry was that Xinyu decided studying theology would help him understand God’s will for his life better. He wrote his father a letter sharing his desire. “It was 2013 and my father’s birthday was just round the corner. I suddenly had a strong urge to write him a letter.” Not surprisingly, his father was rather taken aback. After all, that was a radical decision which involved giving up the successful and lucrative company he had set up.
God confirmed His calling for Xinyu through a sermon at Muen Church in Shanghai. The pastor shared that there were 24 million people living in Shanghai but there was only 1 seminary student from Shanghai being trained in Huadong Seminary. “I felt burdened that there are so many people who need the Lord but so few shepherds to minister to them.”
Xinyu’s aspiration is to serve as a theological educator. “Many intellectual young people both in Universities and in the work force are interested in faith, religion and philosophy. They have questions to ask about Christianity and want to find out more. Online University courses are readily available for many secular disciplines and subjects but there is no such equivalent access to theological information in China. That should not be the case.” God willing, Xinyu hopes to contribute in future towards improving the methodology of theological training in China.
May God raise more young leaders like Xinyu to reach their peers for Christ.
Story: Angela Teo
Edited: Cynthia Oh
Photo: Zhang Xinyu
2017 © United Bible Societies China Partnership