God's calling and timing
Editor's note: In June 2022, Pastor Zuxing Chen came to Blessings Cultural Mission Fellowship to serve as the director of pastoral care and training. President Grant Chen interviewed him in April to talk about the process of God's leading to him, which was made into a film and published here: https://youtu.be/jKIn3FgDSUY.
This article is written by Pastor Zuxing based on this interview to show how God has led and called him.
Blessings Cultural Mission Fellowship was established in 1994 and began offering scholarships for seminary students in 1996. In 2001, when Pastor Zuxing was still studying at Logos Theological Seminary, he accepted an Blessings Cultural Mission Fellowship scholarship and join the spiritual family of Blessings Cultural Mission Fellowship. After graduating in 2003, he went on to serve at Fort Bend Community Church in Houston as a full-time minister until May 2022.
Time flies, I have been a member of the Blessings Cultural Mission Fellowship family for almost 21 years. Over these years, God has blessed me greatly and deeply. Let me recount these blessings from three aspects.
What Blessings Cultural Mission Fellowship means to me
1. A sense of belonging in the Blessings Cultural Mission Fellowship family
The Blessings Cultural Mission Fellowship Scholarship supported me financially for nearly two years until I finished my Master of Divinity. May the Lord remember and reward the donors generously for their investment of eternal value. More importantly, Blessings Cultural Mission Fellowship gave me a warm sense of family and belonging. But it didn't happen overnight.
Just like an adopted child, although I attended the Blessings Cultural Mission Fellowship Family Retreat every year in the first few years, to be honest, I was very passive and kept a distance from these board members to see whether they truly treated me as family member and would not abandon me as they said. Gradually, I was warmed up and won over by the president, his wife, and the board members as they showed me the love that transcended kinship, and geographical, political, and theological differences.
As I recounted, in the past 21 years, I have only been absent from the Blessings Cultural Mission Fellowship family retreat three times. Twice due to my short mission trip to China, and once because of a special situation at home. I don't know when it started, but I sincerely regard myself as a member of this big family. I am proud of every family member of Blessings Cultural Mission Fellowship, and I am proud of being part of this family.
How blessed I am to have close contact with more than a dozen board members who are successful in their careers, love God and others, value cultural missions, and are willing to give generously to invest in eternity! How blessed I am to meet more than 50 outstanding seminary students and graduates Blessings Cultural Mission Fellowship has supported! Although our political opinions and theological positions may be very different, and our personalities may be diverse, we have the same Father, Savior, Holy Spirit, and faith (Ephesians 4:5). We are all precious children in the eyes of God! We are a family in the Lord!
2. Strong support in prayer
From my early years of theological training to my full-time pastoral vocation, I have encountered countless difficulties and challenges. I thank the Lord for reminding me that I have a spiritual home - Blessings Cultural Mission Fellowship, with an intercession team that believes in the power of prayer and really prays. Whenever I have a heavy burden, I usually share it with Pastor Grant Chen and his wife and invite them and their office staff to pray for me.
How many times when there seemed to be no way out, thanks to the Lord, a new horizon emerged due to the intercession of the co-workers. I am indebted to Blessings Cultural Mission Fellowship's co-workers for their laboring and interceding for us before the throne of God.
3. Shaping my ministry philosophy
He who is spiritual discerns all things (1 Co 2:15). Pastor Chen and his wife told me several years ago that I should not just belong to a local church, but should serve the churches on a broader platform. This provides guidance for me to further seek God's will in the future.
In the summer of 2016, Pastor Chen and his wife officially invited me to join Blessings Cultural Mission Fellowship and told me that Blessings Cultural Mission Fellowship did not have any specific ministry for me to do. They only want to provide me with a platform for me to do whatever God wanted me to do. After praying for half a year, I did not feel the clear guidance of God, so I declined their invitation by the end of the year. But the trust of Pastor Grant the president and his wife in me and their dedication to supporting seminary graduates deeply moving and unforgettable.
The call to serve fellow travelers
1. The beginning of the burden of caring for fellow pastors
Shortly after the Wenchuan earthquake in 2008, our family was sent by the church to the disaster area to participate in the relief work, which lasted for three months. During this time, God showed us the needs of this special group of pastors in terms of their physical and mental health and created a deep burden in me.
As soon as the earthquake broke out, many Christians, with a large number of church pastors, gathered from all over the country and around the world to the disaster area. I was fortunate to be in close contact with them and served the victims with them. They were not afraid of hardship and fatigue, full of sacrificial spirit, willing to take the risk of plague and aftershocks to love God and people.
However, conflicts arose among Christians over time. If it was not properly controlled, it would lead to serious disunity within the team, damage to the spiritual life of God’s children, and staining of God’s name. This will seriously deviate from the purpose of glorifying God and loving people held by the Christian volunteers. The reason for these conflicts is that the spiritual life of the people who came here to help was not healthy - including ourselves!
We were surprised to find that pastors also need care, and caregivers themselves needed care!
How to care for these pastors? Through interviews, we were told: they did not lack theological resources, they did not need preaching. What they needed is company! At that time, my wife and I naively thought: their requirements were not high, we could do it!
As soon as we returned to the United States, we acted aggressively. We planned to give up our service in the United States before June 1, 2009, and return to the disaster area again to accompany this special group of pastors for an extended period of time. Our hearts are sincere and resolute.
In early December 2008, we were invited to San Francisco for the grand "The Other Side" conference. During this period, we actively sought foster families for our two young children. We didn’t want to take them to China with us, mainly due to their age. If they went to the local public school, they would not be able to keep up with the Chinese language; but if they went to an international school, the cost would be too high. After many struggles in our hearts, we would rather endure the pain of being separated from our two daughters and go back to walking the narrow path with the young pastors in China! (Matt. 7:13) The best solution we could think of at the time was to find foster homes for our two children.
Unexpectedly, not long after we returned to Houston from this conference, my wife and I experienced physical and mental burnout, to the extent that it was almost impossible for us to continue serving in the local church. As a result, this wishful plan of returning and serving in China came to a dead end. In doubt and frustration, we stayed in the United States.
Later, when I looked back to this outcome, I realized that it was really the mercy of the Lord. Our spiritual life at that time was far from healthy and mature, if we went back according to our own plan, it would be a matter of time before we "die in the battle". God intervened to stop us, for which we are greatly grateful!
2. God's special calling
Just when we were extremely weak in body and mind, a good friend contacted me and encouraged me to see an American pastor, asked her to pray for me, and arranged a meeting time for me. But that day, my wife was concerned and did not support me to see the pastor; for unity with my wife, I chose to call and cancel the meeting and asked this pastor to forgive me. She showed understanding and said she would still pray for us.
Frankly, I thought it was just her polite remarks, but the next day I got an email from my good friend. He told me that although I didn't show up for my appointment, the pastor still prayed for me and received some messages from God regarding me, which my friend copied word by word and sent to me.
The message is long, with a powerful opening. The pastor said that she saw God called me to nurture, shepherd, and equip pastors in China! (I saw God call Pastor Zuxing to raise pastors for God in China. Zuxing is called to pastor pastors. God has called him to equip them.)
The pastor returned to heaven home shortly after, and I never saw her on earth. However, she left behind a vision of God’s calling for me to be the pastor of pastors!
3. My understanding of calling
When this prophetic message came to me, at first, I was instinctively in denial and unbelief. My first reaction was: Who am I? I am a first-generation Christian and a first-generation pastor. My life is so plain and weak. What qualifications do I have to cultivate, shepherd, and equip pastors? I thought all I could do was join and walk with them. As for cultivating, shepherding, and equipping them, who am I to be worthy of such a calling?
But to my own surprise, I didn't throw this message out of my mind. Within a few days, some thoughts started to pop into my head. I asked myself three important questions, and I answered them—
Question: Are you a pastor because you are worthy or qualified?
Answer: Of course, I was not worthy, it is entirely out of the grace of God!
Question: Does God have the power, wisdom, and ability to call some first-generation pastors to be the pastor of pastors?
Answer: Of course, God has the power, wisdom, and ability to do such a thing!
Q: If one day you were to actually become a pastor's pastor, what kind of training should you receive?
Answer: All pastoral skills, plus misunderstanding, conflict, frustration, hurt, shame, weakness, failure, brokenness, disease, and inadequacy...
This kind of self-questioning and self-answering brought me a renewal of thinking and deep healing—the sense of shame and failure immediately left me, and I was “resurrected”.
Since I felt the burden for the pastors in 2008, and the American pastor I had never met clearly told me that God called me to serve the pastors, thirteen years have passed. Yet this burden has never disappeared from my heart. My wife and I were certain about this calling in our hearts, but we just didn't know how to act on it.
God's time has come
On a day in late January of this year, I suddenly received an email from the President of Blessings Cultural Mission Fellowship and his wife, inviting me to join Blessings Cultural Mission Fellowship and participate in the ministry of caring for young pastors. I was pleasantly surprised.
I was surprised because this invitation was beyond my expectations for three reasons. First, the President of Blessings Cultural Mission Fellowship and his wife know all my weaknesses, but they still trusted me. Second, I rejected Blessings Cultural Mission Fellowship’s invitation a few years ago. Normally, in worldly organizations, no second offer would be issued if they are rejected once. But Blessings Cultural Mission Fellowship was willing to give me the second offer after the initial rejection. The third is that Blessings Cultural Mission Fellowship’s invitation is neither in the middle of the year nor at the end of the year, but in late January, which is definitely not during Blessings Cultural Mission Fellowship’s annual plan. The various ministries I participated in the church went really well and I was not seeking to join any other ministries.
I was pleasantly surprised because I vaguely feel that this invitation is directly related to the burden in my heart and God's calling to me! Just like a jigsaw puzzle, when the last piece is put in, the whole pattern is clearly revealed, making me greatly enlightened! Could it be that Blessings Cultural Mission Fellowship's invitation is the last crucial piece in my personal calling puzzle? I was excited, but still dared not speculate too much.
The next day, after a video call with the president of Blessings Cultural Mission Fellowship and his wife, I immediately went to communicate with my senior pastor and asked him to seek God’s will with me. Thank the Lord, the senior pastor is broad-minded. A few days later, he called and told me that, after prayer, he felt that Blessings Cultural Mission Fellowship's invitation was the most suitable for me among the several invitations I had received over the past few years, and he wanted me to seriously consider it. He also comforted me by telling me that I don’t need to worry about the sheep I shepherd in the church, if God wills, He will make good arrangements. Needless to say, this has brought me great relief and comfort!
I also shared this calling with many of my intercessor co-workers, asking them to pray urgently. Of course, I myself have been earnestly seeking God’s will. After many prayers and confirmations, I finally determined that this was the calling from God.
The time has come. Despite all the difficulties, I am willing to offer myself as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1), to come to the altar again, and to respond to God’s calling with my life.
I realized that the number of pastors is huge, and it requires the cooperation of many people to care for them! I hope that more and more brothers and sisters and churches will see the importance of pastors' health and are willing to invest time, energy, and even money to form a strong support network for them. May God bless the pastors who are fighting on the front line in China with the necessary support and care, and help them to become healthy and joyful servants who are filled with the Holy Spirit, serve the church, spread the gospel, make disciples, and glorify the name of God! Amen!
The author is currently the Director of Pastoral Care and Training of Blessings Cultural Mission Fellowship