Unlike the last generation Christians who often suffered political pressure and poverty, today's urban Christians in China are in a new battlefield: fighting against materialism, secularism, moral decay, and even the pressure to get married. Despite the challenges in the workplace and life, urban Christians get closer to God and live out the Christian faith, forming a new power in the Christian community.
A large percentage of urban Christians are second or third-generation Christians who follow their parents to go to church in their childhood but fail to have the right knowledge of "faith". Many of them stop going to church due to the busy studying in middle or high school. During college, some are "re-found" by campus fellowships where they gradually understand the essence of Christianity.
"When I was little, I followed my family to the church. Every week I attended services and Sunday school, but for me, a church was just a place to play with other children. Since I never had a deep understanding of faith, I quit going to church little by little. However, after joining in a campus fellowship, I had a stable faith life and participated in services every week. Thenceforth, I started to know what I believed and what the baptism into Jesus Christ meant," said Sister J who runs a bubble tea shop in Jiangsu. Now she supports her husband who is a full-time preacher and a months-old son.
After graduation from college, she worked as a sales and made some profits. Later she planned to start her own business and took over a boba shop. Shortly afterward, she opened up another shop and entrusted it to someone she hired. However, the poor performance and other problems caused the second shop to be closed. She thought that God would definitely bless her business that supported her husband's sacred work.
But the reality struck her who was depressed for a while. Later she realized that many things happened not because of God, but because people didn't think it through. In this case, she opened the shop before making any specific plan. God always gave opportunities to everyone, but it didn't mean that people needn't make any effort. She learned a lesson that a Christian shouldn't just wait for the grace that descends from heaven or see the service as a trade. Indeed, service was a choice of a willing heart rather than a trade.
Different from her, Sister Xu was from an atheist family and contacted Christianity in her college life.
Xu said that there was a deep ditch of emptiness in her heart before knowing Jesus, but God filled it with His love. Born in a family with four children, she had two older sisters and one younger brother. As the third child, she was often ignored by her family. Over time, indignation grew inside her and she was often beaten by her parents, contributing to her stubborn character.
However, God's love comforted her wounded heart. She became considerate of her parents – after all, it was not easy to raise four children and almost impossible to attend to all of them well. God erased the harm caused by her family. She started to pray for her family and share the gospel with them. At last, her elder sisters and parents miraculously converted to Christianity.
Now Xu works in an educational institution. "I don't hide my faith in the workplace. I help the children in difficulty or in need in my class as much as possible." She tells short Christian stories to children on special occasions like Christmas and Thanksgiving Day so that they might know the history of these holidays. Although her salary is not commensurate with her efforts, she works dutifully. "However, I know that I don't work for people or my boss, but God," said Xu. She has never complained about the busy work, winning the trust from her boss and praise from her students' parents.
Nonetheless, her body was crushed with a heavy workload and various diseases like insomnia hit her. Problems then appeared in her faith and work in succession. Her spirituality hit rock bottom: she started to fall away from the church, seldom attending services or coming near to God... After some time, she had to surrender to the reality and solely depended on God to get through the tough time.
Mentioning the dark days, Xu expressed her gratitude and joy instead of grumbling and bitterness: God showed her her own weakness and limits, leading her to think and reflect on herself.
The Shanghainese Daniel Bian went to the church for the first time at the age of seven in the late 1970s when the church in Shanghai was just restored. Influenced by his devout Christian neighbors, he wanted to decide to be a Christian at 18. His grandparents were opposed to his future conversion due to the patriarchal values, but his parents still supported him. Later God gave him the wisdom to persuade his grandparents, but he gave up receiving baptism at 18, who regarded himself far away from being a qualified Christian.
Later his father suggested him study in a seminary, but he refused. Bian explained, "Because I don't want to be a pastor. If I keep telling people not to make mistakes like a surgeon ceaselessly sterilizing patients in my future life, that is too boring. I'm very curious about the sinful world, it has an irresistible attraction for me."
God still asked him whether he wanted to be His child when he was 20 and 30 years old. But his answer was always no. In hesitation, Daniel Bian missed over 30 years, but the word of God was rooted in his heart and laid his values.
He had a great success in the workplace. Despite graduating from a normal college, he obtained the position of director of human resources at a Fortune 500 company from a migrant worker who washed dishes. He became "the first person of Chinese professional consultant."
Bian added, "Since I was a child, I asked God to give me courage, wisdom, and confidence under stress – the three elements gave me great motivational force... but I didn't give glory to God. I glorified myself because I deserved the fruit of my intelligence, competence, bravery, and pains. I even believed that I should use more worldly means to maintain my success."
In the winter of 2007, he was wakened up from the sinful life through blows to his family, relationship, and health, starting to see the meaninglessness of the world and nature of life. His father died of cerebral hemorrhage and his mother who worshiped him as an idol wanted to commit suicide. His fiancee's parents raised harsh prerequisites for their marriage, wishing to use him as a tool of making money, which conflicted his Christian value of a loving family. Jealous of his fame, some human resource seniors attacked him, even by posting insulting words. What was worse, he was diagnosed with thyroid cancer... Sunk in hatred 24 hrs, Bian finally walked into the church at 40. Hearing the sermon of Exodus, he prayed the sinners' prayer on that day.
A few years ago, he founded a fund for caring for AIDS patients of Shanghai Charity Foundation, the only Christian fund in Shanghai. In the past "Christian" was a symbol of progressiveness that led the world, he urged Christians to be pioneers in philanthropy, who should be the gold lampstands of society. "We need to unite Christian ministers in the church to show the power of a gold lampstand because the leading roles of social philanthropy must return to the hands of Christians and we are the motive force of philanthropy."