Sunday, August 28, 2011

Today in Church 8/28/2011

Well, this is my first Sunday back in China and I was able to attend church. Two of my former students who often went with me last year came with me this morning also.

Before I talk about today's service, I will give you some general information. I have attended church in Zhenjiang, Wuxi, Shanghai, and here in the city where I currently live, and the services are pretty much the same as far as order goes. So, this is how it generally goes:

The service begins by reading a few chapters of the bible. I believe they are reading through selected books. When I left, they were in Isaiah and the last reading was 59-60. Today, we read Matthew 21-22. We should pick up in chapter 23 next week.

The next thing, and I find this kind of interesting, is that they do a practice run through of the hymns. What I find most interesting is that the hymnal, instead of having the standard musical notations has the corresponding numbers to the Do Ri Mi scale. So, for the first run through they teach the tune using that scale, then they go back and do a practice run through using the words. Ha ha, I still can't sing.

After that, the service is ready to begin. One of the elders will pray. Sometimes it is a long prayer, sometimes it is short. I did not ask about today's prayer (what was said), but they usually pray for the church and the people.

Then we sing the first of 3 hymns. Today's first hymn was written by Yi Fan Shen and is titled "Help Me to Pray, O Lord"

Help me to Pray, O Lord, Calm thou my fret and fear
Fervently wait before my Lord, for Thou art ever near
Fervantly wait before my Lord, for Thou art ever near.

Then we pray again. Until I can understand Chinese, I will use this time to pray for the pastor and the day's service.

After the prayer, a responsive reading of a selected psalm is read. I need to pay more attention, because I am not sure if this a type of reading where the elder reads one part, and then the church reads the next line, or if the elder reads and then the congregation repeats. Either way, today's Psalm was a good one (aren't they all good ones!) We read Psalm 111. Here is a little taste for those of you who may not have been to church yet:

Praise the Lord!

With all my heart I will thank the Lord
in the assembly of his people.
2 How wonderful are the things the Lord does!
All who are delighted with them want to understand them.
3 All he does is full of honor and majesty;
his righteousness is eternal.

After the Psalm is read, the we sing the second song. The second song is "Follow On"
by William O Cushing.

Follow On

Down in the valley with my Savior I would go,
Where the flowers are blooming and the sweet waters flow;
Everywhere He leads me I would follow, follow on,
Walking in His footsteps till the crown be won.


Follow! follow! I would follow Jesus!
Anywhere, everywhere, I would follow on!
Follow! follow! I would follow Jesus!
Everywhere He leads me I would follow on!

Down in the valley with my Savior I would go,
Where the storms are sweeping and the dark waters flow;
With His hand to lead me I will never, never fear,
Danger cannot fright me if my Lord is near.


Down in the valley, or upon the mountain steep,
Close beside my Savior would my soul ever keep;
He will lead me safely in the path that He has trod,
Up to where they gather on the hills of God.


After this song, the choir will sing a special song. These songs are usually from a separate hymnal, and today I forgot to ask the name of song.

Ok, now it is time for the message. Today's message came from James 1:5-12, and from what I can gather from my students, the speaker did a good job of teaching these verses. I asked her to write the notes from the PPT in Chinese, and then after the service we stayed while she translated them into English. Mind you these were just bullet points, but I believe they were a good foundation for teaching.

After the message, we sing the third song. Today's third song was "More Love to Thee, O Christ" written by Elizabeth Payson Prentiss in 1869. It was really quite a beautiful melody, and now that I have read the words in English, I find it more beautiful.

More Love to Thee, O Christ

More love to Thee, O Christ, more love to Thee!
Hear Thou the prayer I make on bended knee.
This is my earnest plea: More love, O Christ, to Thee;
More love to Thee, more love to Thee!

Once earthly joy I craved, sought peace and rest;
Now Thee alone I seek, give what is best.
This all my prayer shall be: More love, O Christ to Thee;
More love to Thee, more love to Thee!

Let sorrow do its work, come grief or pain;
Sweet are Thy messengers, sweet their refrain,
When they can sing with me: More love, O Christ, to Thee
More love to Thee, more love to Thee!

Then shall my latest breath whisper Thy praise;
This be the parting cry my heart shall raise;
This still its prayer shall be: More love, O Christ to Thee;
More love to Thee, more love to Thee!

I have the complete Chinese hymnal in pinyin (alphabetized Chinese) who a dear friend lovingly and painstakingly translated from Chinese characters into pinyin for me. So, I am able to sing with my Chinese brothers and sisters in Christ. Many times, we sing songs I that I am very familiar with from back home.

After this song, the pastor will give a blessing to the congregation. Then we will say the Lord's Prayer from Matthew, and then the doxology

"Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow"

Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

So, there you have it, the order of service of the official Chinese church. I imagine it is a little different from what you expected or may have been told. As you can see, from the verses and the songs, Christ is preached. It may not be this way in all churches, but for the ones I have been attending for the last four years, it has been this way, and I know for a fact that people are coming to a saving relationship with Christ in these churches.

So, before I close, let me provide a little more background and information. The official name of the Church is the 3 Self Patriotic Movement Church. This church is protestant in nature. They also have a Catholic Church as well.

I choose to come to this church because as a guest worker in China I feel I should obey the laws they have set forth. I also know that when I extend an invitation to my students, I am not asking them to break any laws. In this way, they can learn about God, ask me questions, and I have someone who can help me understand what is being said.

In addition to the Sunday service (which begins at 7:30 a.m. and goes to about 10:30 a.m)they have meetings during the week for various age groups and they also have prayer meetings. I have not had time to attend any here as of yet, but back in Zhenjiang, I attended a youth meeting (ha ha their youth is 25-30 years old) and heard some powerful testimonies of Christ's changing power.

The attendance for today by my best estimate was a little over 600 people There are four rows with 19 pews in each row. In each row there is about 7 people. 4*19*7=532 When those fill up, they put little stools down the aisles, and there is another little room behind the main auditorium that holds maybe another 50 people

Well, if you have any questions about what I have written, or the pictures I have posted, feel free to ask, and I will do my best to answer them. In the meantime, I ask you to pray for me, and pray for the Church. For my friends and family back home, I believe you know what to pray for as we partner together in this endeavor.

Until the next time...

Romans 8:28


  1. Is the PinYin hymnal handwritten, or is it typed in electronic format?

  2. Hey Becky, thanks for asking, and sorry I've taken so long to respond.

    A friend of mine typed out the entire Chinese hymnal as a Word Document. It has both the pinyin and the Chinese Characters, with the pinyin typed just below the corresponding Chinese character.

    It was truly a wonderful gift and a labor of love that I am very grateful to have.

  3. Would you be willing to share that typed Word document with pinyin and Chinese characters by email? knittingrunnerATyahooDOTcom

  4. Becky, I have sent it you the song book in two files. The second is rather large, so the download may take a little time. Enjoy!


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