Many of you know we attend an international fellowship in the city. Though a typical Sunday follows a similar format to our churches back home, that’s really where the similarities end. We don’t have a sound system that makes our worship leaders sound like they’re playing a concert. We don’t have a full-time pastor who teaches every week. We don’t have our own building. In fact, we currently meet in a restaurant, and we usually arrange our bulletins right across from the bar. Really there’s not much about it that resembles church at home, but more and more, we’re growing to love it and feel at home with the community of believers.
Today, we launched an Alpha course to reach out to the expat community of Beijing. Since we’re in China, only foreigners can attend our fellowship due to local government regulations. So, we can’t host an Alpha course for locals. However, with somewhere between 200,000-300,000 foreigners living in Beijing, it isn’t like there aren’t potential participants. Anyway, with today being launch day, we had lots of new visitors at our fellowship, and during the course of the morning, I realized some of the things I love most about this group of believers.
One is the beautiful diversity — it uniquely reflects the Kingdom unlike any place we’ve worshipped. At our table were a few Americans, a Cambodian, a woman from Botswana and another from Thailand (the Cambodian and Thai were both Buddhist). We have a large Singaporean group, and quite a few people from various countries in Africa. We have Portuguese, French, British, and Australian. Our main worship band features a Filipino, an American, a French guy, an Ethiopian woman, and a Jamaican man. Let’s just say they sound unique — but good! I’m sure I’m forgetting some countries… Back home, our churches were always people of similar backgrounds and experiences, so being a part of this community has widened my eyes to see how diverse the kingdom is. I love it.
Another awesome thing is that the church is incredibly communal and welcoming — something about all being foreigners in a strange land makes people more ready to invest in meaningful relationships. It isn’t a large group, so you can’t stay a stranger for long. And then there’s the fact that in order for us to have the Sunday fellowship, everyone has to kick in and help make it happen. We don’t have full-time worship pastors or teaching pastors. People take turns leading and serving.
Another interesting thing is that since you don’t have a lot of choices about what church you want to attend (govt. limits the number of foreign fellowships), everyone has to learn to get along! This has been an amazing thing to see for me and Jacob, because we come from a hometown of about 20,000 people and probably close to 100 churches. In our fellowship here in Beijing, people come not only a large number of cultures, but from a wide variety of denominations as well. But, if you get mad over how they collect offering or whether or not they use hymnals or a projection screen, you don’t have a whole lot of other options. Church-hopping is quite limited, so we all have to learn to compromise and get along. Sometimes its over silly things, and other times its over more serious matters, but in the end, isn’t learning to live in community together what Christian fellowship all about?
So, all that to say… it’s caused us to grow and think about the church differently. We’re thankful to have the chance to participate in this fellowship… we’re learning it isn’t about what we get, it’s about what we give, and in the process, we get something beautiful.