First Generation Hang-Ups

We’ve had a good weekend. Still a couple weeks before registration for the next semester, so just about everyone is still out of town. But most of our native people, along with quite a few visitors from some other local churches, showed up last night, so we had a decent crowd. I was exceptionally excited because my Chinese was ‘on’ last night. Only retreated to English a handful of times – probably more than 90% was Chinese, though I made a good number of mistakes. Especially now that our crowd is mostly Christians, I preach for a longer time since I’m pretty sure that they can handle it and even want it – about 40-45 minutes. We’re doing a quick series now on “Servant-leadership” because we really need to set a certain attitude among these who will be the more-established Christians in the next semester.  

A girl and her boyfriend came to our service last night for the first time. She has just finished a two-month internship in Turkey and is now looking for a job in Beijing, where she also went to college. This is a pretty big deal and a big cause for stress for students – where am I going to get a job? A lot of them end up with jobs not relating to their majors (this girl’s majors were automation and astrophysics – I don’t even know where you look for a job for that!) or continue their studies in the hopes that more credentials and a future job market will offer them better opportunities. This girl was a Christian – has been for almost a year – and her questions for me (she fired them off one right after another for the better part of an hour until the friends she came with dragged her out the door) really revealed a couple thoughts to me about first generation Christians.  

First of all, first generation Christians are confused by cultural Christianity. On her internship, there were five “Christians” and one Muslim living together in one room in Istanbul. The Muslim friends she made outside of her work tried to convince her to become a Muslim. The Muslim intern girl asked her why all the other Christian interns (Europeans) could apparently live commandment-breaking lifestyles and still call themselves Christians. Easy. They were “born Christians” or they’re Christians “because their parents are Christians.” This girl’s questions for me last night had a lot to do with why some Christians aren’t that interested in Christ-honoring. It’s because Christianity is their culture not their creed! Maybe we’re used to seeing things like that in the States, but when someone becomes a Christian here, they’re expecting it to make some kind of change in their life. 

Also, first generation Christians (though expecting this kind of change) are unsure to what extent these changes should occur. For example, one of her questions last night was, “How do you separate your spiritual life and your professional life?” Because they’ve never seen Christian business practices modeled, and because almost any other faith never crosses over the bounds of devotional life, it’s hard for them to imagine what a Christian businessman looks like. But the teachings of Christ so blatantly demand change in our whole lives – new Christians can’t help but feel that there ought to be some kind of difference in their professional life as well.  

To give you another example of how these kinds of thoughts affect ministry here, St. told me that there’s just one other person in his dorm right now – they’re the only two back from holiday – and he’s already shared the Gospel with him. The guy liked what he heard, but he had a problem. “I cheat on my tests to pass. If I become a Christian, then I’m not supposed to cheat, and I won’t be able to pass.” Dumb reason to go to Hell (aren’t they all), but wonderful that he recognizes a difference in the way a Christian should live.

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