GLEN ALLEN, Va. (BP) – When pastor Michael Wu first arrived at the SBC of Virginia Annual Homecoming last November, he felt alone.
Wu is the bi-vocational pastor of Roanoke Chinese Fellowship. Although he knew a couple of fellow Chinese pastors around the state, he said he had struggled to connect with Chinese pastors since planting the church in 2008.
Wu said it was also hard for him to connect with other Chinese pastors at the 2021 SBC Annual Meeting because it was such a large event. He wondered if he would have the same feeling a couple months later at the SBCV homecoming.
Initially, he thought he might be the only Chinese pastor at the homecoming, but that quickly changed.
Just a few minutes after Wu and his wife walked into the doors at the annual homecoming, another Chinese pastor, Dexu “Andrew” Yuan overheard the couple speaking Mandarin and introduced himself.
Yuan is the pastor and church planter of Agape Chinese Christian Church in Fairfax Station, Va. The pair spent the rest of the day talking and attending breakout sessions.
“It was by God’s grace that all this happened right as we arrived,” Wu said.
Matt Gregory, people groups strategist for the SBCV, saw the two talking and wanted to find a way to connect them beyond the week of homecoming.
The three held a zoom meeting in January, where they talked about how to better connect and minster to Chinese pastors and churches around the SBCV. The group decided to start a monthly zoom call for times of prayer and encouragement.
Wu and Yuan began inviting a couple of ministers to join the meetings, and Gregory invited even more pastors neither of them knew.
Currently there are close to 15 different Chinese-majority congregations represented on the zoom calls.
Though it took some time, Gregory says the meetings are now times of great community and encouragement.
“I told them I ‘want this to be your fellowship,’” he told Baptist Press. “We want them to become a family inside of the SBCV family.
“They have unique and similar issues that they face as Chinese pastors, and it great for them to share ideas and encouragement. There has gradually been this warmness and comfortableness that has developed among them.”
Although there is not an official title or name for this fellowship of Chinese ministers, Gregory said there could be something more official down the line as the group grows.
The SBCV hosted an in-person gathering in July for some of the Chinese pastors and their wives at the SBCV headquarters in Glen Allen, Va.
It was the first time many of the pastors had met each other in-person, and the SBCV covered much of their costs for the visit.
SBC Executive Director Brian Autry joined a portion of the meeting, and expressed his gratitude for the ministry of the pastors.
“We are excited to see how the Lord is building a sense of fellowship among Chinese churches and pastors, as well as seeing an expanding level of partnership with these churches and the SBCV family of churches,” Autry told Baptist Press.
“We are seeing churches recognize they are not alone and seize the opportunity to advance the Gospel together to reach neighbors, the nations, and the nations that are our neighbors.”
In the meeting the pastors shared their struggles, and times of encouragement and prayer. The gathering, just as with the monthly zoom meetings, took place mostly in their heart-language of Mandarin.
The group decided to try to hold three in-person gatherings a year at different Chinese churches, in addition to the monthly zoom meetings. They’re also planning to host a break-out session during this year’s SBCV Annual Homecoming.
Two of the pastors who met during the July meeting decided they would like to try to plant a church together in the near future. One will be the church planter, while the other and his church will serve as the sending church.
“In our next zoom meeting during the first week of August, it felt like a different vibe because we got to meet in-person and we knew each other a lot better,” Wu said. “It was like we picked up right where we left off in July.
“It is very encouraging to me personally that we have this time where we can help each other. It’s really helpful that this group is an outlet to talk about our difficulties and understand each other.”
Gregory said helping different churches and pastors connect is one of the main goals of cooperation within the SBC.
“I think this sort of is the role that the Southern Baptist Convention, both nationally at the state level, can have,” Gregory said. “We can’t replace the work of local churches, but we can help connect them together and aid in partnership. I think that’s what we saw happen here. It did my heart good to just watch this.
“The challenge I see among different ethnic groups in the SBC is how great the need is, and that’s just from me looking at the SBCV perspective. One of the things I am praying and thinking about is how to reach these different people groups, and part of it may be empowering the people within these ethnic groups to do just that.”