Hong Kong, known as the Pearl of the East, has a history of Christianity for 175 years. It is reported that after the Opium War, Christianity came to Hong Kong from Macao. In 1842, a pastor called Rev. J.L. Shuck from the Baptist Church of the United States and Luo Xiaoquan set foot on the land of Hong Kong. They established the first Christian Protestant Church in Hong Kong named Queen's Road Baptist Church.
Afterwards, missions from London and other places also went to Hong Kong to establish the church. Until 1883, Hong Kong already had 13 Christian organizations from different factions and 18 church schools. The rise of Christianity had a great influence on Hong Kong society at that time.
However, there wasn't any unified Christian leading institution in Hong Kong. According to a report of Ta Kung Wang in 2013 (Da Gong Wang is an authoritative media in Hong Kong), only a few co-organizations were set up to coordinate the activities and exchanges among the churches in Hong Kong.
Recently, Christian Times, an online Christian newspaper in the Mainland China, has interviewed Rev. Yiming, a pastor of the Baptist Church in Hong Kong. He shared a lot of his observations and reflections regarding the church of Hong Kong. He also mentioned the recent developments and the remaining problems of the church in Hong Kong in recent years.
Christian Times: In your opinion, what are the changes experienced by the Baptist Church in Hong Kong during recent years?
Pastor Yiming: Hong Kong has a lot of sects. For example, every sect of the Baptist Church has an independent hall. We also set up a federation instead of a general assembly. Every church sent a person to work as the director and vote in the federation.
The federation will deal with some of the problems faced by the Baptist Church. There were also some universities, secondary schools, primary schools and camps associated with the federation. They are all independent and affiliated with the Federation.
In terms of cooperation, we have a common faith -- we all hold the opinion that the Baptist Theological Seminary is our sect's theological school. All the pastors receive theological education there.
Baptist Church is a sect connected with each other. It is based on the Bible and teaches the truth. We work together to spread the Gospel. We support ourselves so that local governments, federations and other churches cannot intervene in our activities.
There are more than 1,300 churches in Hong Kong with more than 200 are Baptist Churches. At the beginning, the Baptist Church developed fast. Now, it is gradually aging. Young believers slowly emerge while the old believers still remain. There is a generation gap between them.
At present, the Baptist Church of Hong Kong has encountered three major problems:
1. The Generation Gap. The number of young believers continues to increase. The old believers still serve in their original positions. There exists some friction between the two generations.
2. The Pattern of Church. The aim of our church is to teach truth. However, some churches are influenced by charismatics, which is a totally different pattern from us.
The Baptist Church is partly young and partly traditional. Young pastors and believers like modern ways of gathering. Traditional churches, presided over by the elderly, pay more attention to preaching the Gospel and teaching the truth.
3. Evangelism is still relatively slow. We have too many internal problems to deal with. We have no time to preach the Gospel. Only a few pastors could settle down in the church. The circulation of staff in the church is too fast. For example, pastors from our headquarters were assigned to the Baptist Churches; and they were fired by church congregations later on.
Christian Times: How does your church respond to the future challenges in overall development?
Pastor Yiming: Now, the prospects of the church in Hong Kong are bleak. We can not foresee much hope in the church. The church in Hong Kong is torn into two parts due to the friction between the younger and older generation. Most believers in Hong Kong still focus on their own life in the secular world.
The people in Hong Kong are very realistic. So, the church is also very realistic. The whole cultural atmosphere in the church is secular. The church should play a role as a lighthouse in our society and point out the direction for the people. However, now, the church itself has no direction; because we are suffering from the problem of secularization too.
Secondly, the church currently can not attract believers with the Holy Spirit. If we believe that God can bring about believers and overcome everything, we should pray. When we have a good relationship with God, nothing is impossible.
The church in Hong Kong used to have spiritual leaders thirty years ago. Now, these old pastors have retired or died. We have no leader. Some new pastors in Hong Kong are good at making speeches. However, none of them can claim himself as the leader of the church in Hong Kong.
Without a center, the church just scattered in different directions. Different churches focus on different jobs. We will follow the example of some good churches. However, we don't have a leading church. All in all, we have not taken full advantage of the power of Gospel. We don't have enough spiritual power or authority.
How can we deal with this problem? The most effective way is to pray and read the Bible. The believers should also stand up. The church needs to repent. Church leaders should lead the revival of the church. Only a united church can meet social challenges.
Christian Times: What is the greatest challenge you have ever met in shepherding? How did you respond to those challenges?
Pastor Yiming: The biggest challenge is teamwork and consistence. Obedience, consistence and faith are critical factors in the development of the church. Consistence is the most difficult.
The biggest problem of the church in Hong Kong is disagreement. When a certain believer does a better job, others will be jealous. However, when a believer does a wrong job, he will receive much criticism. Don't forget, Satan's greatest power is to make the church split.
Christian Times: You mentioned the generation gap in the church. However, how can the church deal with the friction?
Pastor Yiming: Over the past five years, many chief pastors in Hong Kong have retired. However, we lack young talents to take charge of the church. To find successors of the church in Hong Kong is currently its biggest problem.
The church should give the young people more space and trust. We should provide them chances to try their best. Fellow workers in our church have different ages. Some of them are youngsters in their 20s. Some of them are over 60 years old. We also need to deal with problems between young people and the elderly. We are faced with many challenges.
The elderly should hold a more open heart while young people should be more obedient and humble. If the church is full of the elderly, it will be hard for a single young person to be integrated into the church. So the elderly should retire and let more young pastors take over the church.
Young people don't want to follow the previous example. They want to express themselves. So some thoughtful and ambitious young pastors would give up working in the traditional church and open their own new hall.
Of course, this is not necessarily a bad thing. They have power and are willing to sacrifice for their dream. However, what should the traditional churches do? I am always thinking about the problem.
Old pastors stay in the church while youngsters seldom come in. Young pastors are rare and they don't want to shepherd old people. In fact, the two generations just have different ideas and behavior.
Christian Times: How should the church in Hong Kong work with the church in Mainland China?
Pastor Yiming: People used to think that Hong Kong was more liberal. The Christians in Hong Kong are rich, well educated and trained so, when they go to Mainland China, they would feel superior to others. However, the idea is totally wrong. I hope it won't happen again.
In fact, the churches in Mainland China devote more efforts than we did for our own church. The believers in Mainland China are willing to learn a lot of things just for their faith and service of the church. We should learn from them.
The church of Hong Kong was just a bridge for believers. In 1949, many believers and pastors from Mainland China left their hometown and continued their Christian life in Hong Kong. However, they went to the USA, Italy and Australia afterwards.
So the church in Hong Kong was never a family for pastors to serve in the rest of their life. It is just a bridge. Believers won't devote much to a bridge connecting them to different periods of life. Nobody wants to build a house on the bridge.
For so many years, the church in Hong Kong hasn't made much progress. We need to find our own direction. The churches in Mainland China also develop in two opposite directions. In the future, they will also have difficulty in development due to the differences in developing.
The church in Hong Kong should develop in its own way. We should learn from the church in Mainland China.
We have no difference in the eyes of God. We are all together. We develop in different ways due to different geographical environments and histories, which is quite natural.
In our age, the most important thing for believers is to leave Hong Kong. They wanted to settle down in the United States and Canada. A few of them would come back. Nowadays, some church leaders still think it is better for believers to return to China after living abroad. I don't believe this mindset and I don't want the church in Mainland China to learn this. Some Christians in Mainland China think it better to stay overseas. When they come back, they would feel honored. This kind of idea is not advisable.
Whether the three self-church or the house church is made up of God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, we Christians are always together. However, we do different things in different places to conduct the same belief to cater to our culture and tradition. Despite this difference, we should regard every believer as our brother or sister.
Translated by Emma Ma