Day 4: Jinan in the Shandong Province
Wednesday of our Heritage Discovery Tour saw us again on a fast train. Our destination was Jinan, the capital city of Shandong Province just north of Jiangsu Province. Jinan, like Nanjing, is a large city with a population of 7,000,000 (do they make small cities in China?). It is famous for some springs which we will see tomorrow, but our purpose was to visit the Shandong Provincial Christian Council and the Shandong Theological Seminary with which The Outreach Foundation has had a partnership for more than a decade. The 300 km/hr train got us to Jinan in time for lunch. Our marvelous travel agency had so timed our arrival as to be within minutes of the arrival of the last two members of our traveling team. The Rev. Todd Leach and his wife, Linda, arrived from Beijing just after our train arrived from Nanjing. Todd is Associate Pastor for Mission at the Shadyside Presbyterian Church. Linda’s presence was welcomed as she doubled the number of women on our trip!
After check-in and lunch, we went to the Shandong Theological Seminary which is also the headquarters of the Shandong Provincial Christian Council. We were greeted by the Rev. Gao Ming, the leader of the Church in Shandong Province. He has been in his position only two years, but has cast an amazing vision for the church in that province and has brought considerable positive change at the seminary as well.
In yesterday’s blog we spoke of a dream cast by the Rev. Bao in 2001 for what became the mini-library project. Today we will hear another dream that is in the process of being realized in this province—unleashing business men and women for God’s kingdom purposes. As a local church pastor in Jining, a city about 2 ½ hours from Jinan, Pastor Gao started a fellowship of Christian business men and women to enable them to live as Christians in the marketplace. One of the persons in that fellowship caught the vision. Now he is on staff of the Shandong Provincial Christian Council and is nurturing the establishment of similar "Business as Mission" fellowships in other cities of Shandong Province.
In the past six years, these fellowships have encouraged the men and women who are part of them so much that some have started “meeting points”—new groups reading the Bible, worshiping, and praying—in their businesses. Some have even organized choirs within their businesses. And they are being encouraged by the Provincial Christian Council and their local pastors to engage in charitable work in their communities. Our team happened to arrive in Jinan when over 100 of these businesspeople, men and women, had gathered for a time of inspiration and encouragement. They had brought their choirs to sing. They heard lectures on such topics as better management practices, psychological pressures in the market place, and faith foundations for business. Each group of business leaders was accompanied by one pastor from their city as a kind of chaplain to the group.
In wider China there are many Christian business men and women serving God through their businesses, but this was the first time we saw the church taking the lead to cast a vision and to come alongside these Christian laypersons to nurture and encourage the movement. Shandong Province has 100,000,000 people with a Christian population that is less than 2% of the total. Through a visionary new leader, the Church in Shandong Province is mobilizing a vital emerging sector of China, business entrepreneurs, to share the good news in their spheres of influence. Thanks be to God!
Blessings from the 2014 China Heritage Team