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Xinyu and his dream for the Chinese Church

Author: James Howard-Smith, 25 May 2023

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‘What benefit is it for a person to gain the whole world yet forfeit his life?’ Jesus’ challenge in Mark 8.36 is more than just Bible student Xinyu’s favourite verse. It’s the reason he is where he is, studying theology at Tyndale House in Cambridge so he can serve the Chinese Church.

Before coming to Britain, where he’s completing his studies with the support of Bible Society, Xinyu Zhang (张信宇) had a transformational experience in Singapore. ‘I had a personal encounter with God,’ he says. ‘I experienced things I couldn’t explain, supernatural things that I thought didn’t happen in real life. I would’ve said that’s all in the mind.’

This encounter has reinforced Xinyu’s belief in the Bible. First-hand experience now undergirds his Old Testament studies. ‘I have really witnessed the Bible change people’s lives. I’ve also witnessed my own life changed by God’s word. Now I know it can change your mind and your life totally.’

Xinyu grew up in church and had always been curious about Scripture. He had questions he couldn’t find answers to at his local church in Fujian. ‘Some of the leaders and teachers just told me a “correct” answer,’ he says. ‘I could say I believed that, but I wasn’t convinced.’ His father suggested studying theology in Singapore.

‘It was a good start for me to go deeper into the faith,’ he says, not to mention a bridge between East and West. Xinyu never meant to go too far from his own culture. As much as he’s enjoying his six months in Cambridge, Xinyu has no ambition to enter the ministry here. He’s determined to take his learning back to China and to serve Christians in his home country.

‘I’m eager to promote a Chinese understanding of the Old Testament and its importance to us as Christians,’ he says – something that’s missing in the Chinese Church. ‘The gospel is not just the New Testament. Our faith is built on the Old Testament. Jesus read the Old Testament. But there’s a gap in our generation. To understand our faith, we need to go back and learn more about the Old Testament.’

Xinyu wants to empower believers to do their own learning. He hopes to inspire the building of stronger small groups in China’s churches so Christians can go beyond understanding the Bible and actually live it out. He’s getting lots of ideas over here, visiting as many different churches as he can. In Singapore he knew of Anglicanism, for example, as a fixed thing, but even just in Cambridge he sees the Anglican tradition growing in a range of different directions.  

Once he’s back in China, Xinyu is determined to fully reacquaint himself with the Chinese Church. He says it won’t be a case of importing Western methods. ‘I’m not just learning from Singapore and England, and taking all these things back to China. The Chinese Church needs to find its own way. 

‘Tyndale House has been a great place for my research, and I’ve had access to materials I couldn’t find in Singapore. I could write some articles in a scholarly way and try to impact the Church that way, but the more important thing is to teach people to understand the biblical text so they can grow by themselves and not be influenced by different opinions. What they need to know is how to use the Bible in their lives.’

Find out more about Bible mission in China and ways you can get involved.

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