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The take-home gospel

HONG KONG (SE): “Remember that the most important gift you can bring home to your family at the New Year is the gospel,” pastors in urban Churches in China have been telling their parishioners, something they say that is especially important for the young and unmarried.

As China geared up for the biggest holiday season of the year and braced itself for what is listed as the largest migration of people in the world, as millions make the arduous journey back to their ancestral homes, Christians often brace themselves to face situations where their faith can rub  against cultural expectations.

The ChinaSource Team says on its website, “In a society where Christianity often runs counter-cultural, Chinese New Year is a particularly concentrated moment of trials.”

It cites an article published in the Christian Times as calling it a time of stark reminders of what is important to Christians from the city when they return to their places of origin.

“In those moments, House Church pastors exhort their Christian brothers and sisters that the most important thing to bring back home for Chinese New Year is the gospel,” the Christian Times says.

The publication quotes a pastor from Beijing as saying that it can be particularly challenging for younger people who embraced the Christian faith in an urban atmosphere, as when they go home they are subject to many parental pressures over not being married, not earning enough money or not measuring up to others from the same area.

However, they also point to signs of hope in the experience of their congregations, as people often report that their parents and families speak about society as being in a time of moral decay.

People often sigh with regret, saying that what is desperately needed in this day and age is faith.

The Christian Times cites one pastor as saying, “In that moment what Christians need to know is that faith is needed, but faith alone will not do. Rather, Christians have the responsibility to tell them about the gospel so that they can know and understand.”

The publication says that only the gospel can keep them from becoming slaves to such interests as money, status and relationships.

It notes that the tide of people returning home for the New Year is the most obvious manifestation of the intense urbanisation the country has experienced over the past couple of decades.

Rural pastors say that this massive migration to the cities has sucked much of the life out of their communities, but at the same time has been a great gift to their cousins in the city.

Although many rural Churches are facing the problem of large buildings with empty seats, at the New Year the place will be humming again, a sign that the communities are by no means dead.

City pastors appreciate this too, as they say when people come back after the holiday period they are often full of new insights that they picked up during their few days in the countryside.

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