It has been reported in the last two years that the younger generation in the US has been less religious and fewer adolescents have believed in Christ and even left the church. In fact, Christianity in China faces an unprecedented belief crisis --- it's harder and harder for the new generation to maintain their religious faith.Some people may ask what religious faith can bring them and what its value and meaning lie in.
It seems that "religious beliefs" has been an outmoded noun in this era full of various trends.
Six Christians who are born in the 1980s or 1990s share their views about Christian faith. They are a preacher, a fellowship leader, a pastoral staff, a pastor's wife, and a layperson.
Preacher Chen: Faith gives me life direction, strength, and life values.
I was born into a Christian family. Influenced by my mother, I became a Christian when I was at an early age. We were a host family that received various kinds of Christians. I was curious about the spiritual world like demon possession, disease healed after prayer, and spiritual dreams. My mother was asked to mediate in the quarrel between family members, so my feeling was that Christianity played a big part in the real world. The villagers held respect for Christian faith, so Christians were not persecuted. Christianity was a normal faith in my eyes and had nothing to do with sufferings.Until now, faith has taught me to be grateful, fearful, and courageous. In my childhood, I was in poor health and nearly died of illness. My mother told me that her continuous prayer saved my life, so I'm thankful that I have survived.
When I studied in a theological seminary, the school taught cluttered things that were irrelevant to the cores of Christianity. New teachers came and went, who were first fundamentalists, later Pentecostalists, then from the Reformed church.Hearing conflicting opinions, I, confused, started to seek the real "faith" and gradually established my understanding of faith under this condition. Discovering selfishness and vanity hidden in church leaders, it was more clear that a Christian should walk his pilgrimage with fear. My faith also gives me courage and strength to face everything in weal and woe.
In addition to these, my faith shows me life direction and values and strengthens me with power.
Brother Liang: faith equips people with right concepts, deeds, and thoughts.
As a second-generation Christian, I didn't know the real meaning of faith in my early life. When I grew up, I experienced God's power and many miracles. Out of curiosity, I began to discuss religion with other believers. After having had some discussions, I started to feel like faith was endless - men should not spend too much time and energy on theory - so I had come to pay attention to deeds. The deeds of a real Christian are consistent with his words. People's concepts, deeds, and thoughts form a faith that helps us transcend death. Faith gives people freedom and forgiveness and teaches to live out Christ's standards.
Sister Zhang, a full-time church worker: faith gives me right values, truth, peace, and joy.
Following my elder sister's convictions, I became a Christian.She was a member of a church choir and "encouraged" me to go to church on weekends. I went to the church and accepted the gospel, but my mind focused on the worldly pleasure. Although my body was in the church, my heart fled out of the church, thinking about where to have fun and meeting friends.
However, I tried to pray that I would sincerely believe in God if he would help me get through the unemployment crisis due to my fault at work. Indeed, I survived the crisis. I believed it was God's guidance, so I fulfilled my commitment -- "offering up my heart to believe in Him".
It has been ten years since that. Now faith that was once my spiritual back gives me right values, truth, as well as hope and strength even in difficult conditions.
Mrs. Wang, a fourth-generation Christian and pastor's wife: a rock-solid faith is not accomplished in an action, but results from God's guidance and daily accumulations.
My family's faith started from my mother's grandfather who was one of the first Chinese Christians reached by the earliest American missionaries to China. Afterward, my grandparents inherited his faith and my mother naturally followed Christ. When I was a little girl, I followed my mother to sing hymns and dance in the church. The faith was not special to me. On Sundays, my family went to attend services. Although my mother made me go to church together, I resisted this kind of "forced" faith.My real faith started when I attended school. At that time, I gradually came to understand Christian faith and wanted to know it myself.
Actually, my heart was sorrowful and I lived in complaints and bitterness when I was still young. I often questioned God why I was born into a quarreling Christian family and even thought of suicide to end my pain. But the church said that Christians couldn't kill themselves, so I kept struggling in being the punching bag owing to my parents' unhappy marriage. I spent a dark childhood, but faith brought hope to my desperate life.
Once I was painful for my parents' marriage, but I experienced the fullness of the Holy Spirit in a prayer. Feeling that my heart was touched by God, I burst into tears and released all the bitterness out. My church pastor told me the experience was the healing from God and my heart opened after the cry. I really thank God for His guidance that forged my solid faith. No matter how the external environment changes, my trust in God will never change.
Brother Lv, a fellowship leader: faith is the momentum forward rather than illusory comfort.
As a second-generation Christian, I went to church with my mother from childhood. I had doubt and was lost during the faith journey. I believed in God as I believed in fairy tales and even doubted the existence of God. It was until I entered college that I realized being a Christian was not alone. Many peer Christians also share the same faith as mine. What was more, I started to read church history books, listened to lectures given by renowned pastors and scholars, and had transcendental experiences. Eventually, I was confirmed that Jehovah is a living and true God and Jesus Christ is the savior who died and resurrected for me. Faith is the momentum forward rather than illusory comfort. I can't deny the real existence of God.
Sister Li: Faith let me not fear difficulties and troubles and give me joy and peace.
My mother and grandmother are both Christians. When I was little, they often took me to the church. Not understanding the meaning of faith, I regarded the church as a place to have fun with peers. As I grew older, I was filled with uncertainty and confusion coupled with emptiness and fear, deeply feeling the need to be saved.
I became serious in my faith. The more I understand it, the more I take it as the light of my life. It gives me hope and fuel to the extent that I rejoice in any environment. My greatest transformation is that I become optimistic because I know that we can feel life and experience God's presence under different circumstances. Particularly, I frequently meditate on the pain Jesus endured as a person when adversity strikes. Then I calm down and stop grumbling for the setbacks I encounter.
- Translated by Karen Luo