Nanjing City Wall

by Rob Weingartner

As I prepare to return to the States following two weeks in China, many places linger in my thoughts and many people remain in my prayers. One of the interesting places, or architectural features, I visited is the Nanjing City Wall, one of the key historical and cultural remains of the Ming Dynasty. It is a masterpiece of China's ancient architecture and had an original perimeter of about 22 miles. At more than 600 years old, it is in remarkable shape, in large part because of the care with which it was constructed.

Zhu Yuanzhang, the first Emperor of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), was responsible for building the wall. The bricks that were used, some think as many as 350 million of them, came from many different states and provinces. It was fascinating to see that the bricks are inscribed with the names of officials and workmen who were responsible for the quality of the bricks. The thought was that if problems arose with the wall due to inferior bricks, the Emperor would know whom to hold accountable.

I think, too, of the many students we met at the seminaries, Bible schools and training centers that we visited. We sensed in them a deep love for the Lord, a commitment to the church and a desire to participate more fully in the amazing work that God is doing in China. They are part of that wonderful organic Jesus-project that Paul describes in Ephesians 4:16; “From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” God is using and will use these students to build the church, and regularly in the course of their studies they sign their names to their work.

How do we evaluate our work? How might we reflect upon the lives we live and the service that we render – not to the emperor but to the Lord?

Many years ago I read or heard a sermon (I don’t remember by whom) which included an invitation to think about our ministry in the light of Paul’s words to his spiritual son Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:15: “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved by him, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly explaining the word of truth.”

Three questions arise from Paul’s exhortation. Is the Lord well-pleased? Is the work well-done? Is the word well-used?

In an age in which appearances and acceptance matter so much to so many, it is easy to focus on pleasing those around us instead of discerning what is pleasing to the Lord and doing those things. In these rushed days with our 24-hour news cycle, instantaneous communication, disposable goods and vocational stresses, the temptation is to cut corners and compromise rather than to do good work. In a time of competing authorities and the loss of a coherent, shared Story that holds all of life together, there are strong incentives to rely upon ourselves rather than to turn to God’s word.

Well, I am not making bricks, but I do long to be useful for and usable to the Lord. I long in my life not to be ashamed to sign my name to my work. So, remembering the strength of a city wall and the commitment of Chinese students, I will keep asking those questions. Is the Lord well-pleased? Is the work well-done? Is the word well-used?

Rob Weingartner
Executive Director
The Outreach Foundation