In the series of interviews on “The viewpoints of overseas Chinese pastors towards Beijing Olympics”, The Gospel Herald invited Rev. Boli Zhang, senior pastor of Harvest Chinese Christian Church, to share his thoughts.
Q: Beijing Olympics has stirred much negative reports from overseas media on the issue of religious freedom in China. How do you look at the situation of China’s religious freedom?
Zhang: There have been significant improvements in China’s religious freedom comparing to the past. There are of course still many problems, but the advancements can be easily seen. In the past, China’s government views Chinese’s religious freedom as an internal affairs, but they are beginning to realize certain religious principles; faith is a longing deep inside the spirit. It surpasses the boundaries of countries, ethnic identity, skin-color, and political parties. I am very optimistic. As China develops more, its room for freedom will become wider. As the leadership becomes younger, intellectualized and professionalized, then religious freedom will naturally have a wider space.
Q: Regarding the opportunities to share the gospel during the Beijing Olympics, do you share the similar hopes as so many others? Are you also deciding to prepare or participate?
Zhang: Why do we only preach the gospel during the Olympics? The proclamation of the gospel is something that Christians should do everyday. The Bible says to “preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction. (2 Timothy 4:2)
Not everything should be tied together with the Beijing Olympics, because this will cause the pure gospel, cultural mandate and mission visions become politicized. Pro-Tibetan groups or Tibetan Independent activists tied together its complaints with Beijing Olympics is not a wise thing to do, in particular, the method of violence is something that Christians cannot accept.
First, this method does not comply with the Bible’s teaching - Jesus Christ is the prince of peace; besides that, it will stir up negative resentments in the Chinese people. You can’t blame the Chinese people for having a strong nationalistic pride. Which country’s citizen do not treasure or value his ethnic identity and the dignity of his country? However, the youngsters who lost their senses in fighting with the pro-Tibetans brought upon the same effects and that is bringing shame to the Chinese people.
Whether that Christians are preaching the gospel or doing trainings, they should have this heart of peace, try to lower the colors of the Olympics, because the Olympics will eventually pass, but the gospel will always be there. What we should improve is initiating the churches in mainland and overseas to pray for the blessing of Beijing Olympics! Pray for Beijing Olympics!
The Bible says, “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior (1 Timothy 2:1-3) God’s word is a lamp unto our feet, light unto the path, allowing us to walk straight on this path without turning left or right.
Regarding Beijing Olympics, the brothers and sisters in the Harvest Chinese Christian church and I will address with a peaceful heart, without any special activities, but we do have weekly prayers for the Beijing Olympics. At the church were I am ministering at, 95% of the members are Chinese intellectual from mainland studying abroad in United States. Their reliance upon the Lord and the passion towards their home country do not conflict.
We know that the Lord works for the good of those who love him. Through the numerous waves of the Beijing Olympics, the differences between Christian civilization and the cultures of Islam and Buddhism are all revealed. In recent years, after communism beliefs are destroyed, the remaining conditions of spiritual emptiness, which religious civilization is the most suitable for the Chinese? As the dominant global civilization, Christian cultures, in particular Protestant Ethics plays the role of regulating politics, economics, and culture. Without at doubt, it is the best selection.
Rev. Boli Zhang's background
He is a sinner saved by amazing grace. He was a reporter, author, Beijing University student, warranted criminal, fugitive; he was a visiting scholar at Princeton University and a dying patient at United States Taiwan Kidney Hospital. It was the salvation of Lord Jesus Christ that brought him out from death and made him into a new creation. After getting equipped at Wheaton University in Chicago and Logos Evangelical Seminary in Los Angeles, he received his Masters of Divinity and continued his studying until receiving his doctorate degree at the Singapore Seminary. In 2003, he pioneered Harvest Chinese Christian church located near Washington D.C. and began traveling around the world for the Lord’s name.
[Editor's note: reporter Wei Quan contributed to this report.]