A true leader is humble, helps the poor and needy, and aims to keep the unity. This is what Dr Chan Kim Kwong taught at the Chinese Leadership and Revival Seminar in June.
The moment he received Jesus Christ as his personal lord and saviour in 1975, a thought was planted in Rev Dr Chan Kim Kwong’s heart: Are there churches in Hong Kong? How can I forget my fellow Chinese in mainland China and Hong Kong?
This thought led him to travel halfway across the world back to China in 1979 and 40 years later, today, Chan continues his journeys across China, studying the development of Christianity in the mainland and its territories.
Chan is the executive secretary of the Hong Kong Christian Council. His job, he tells City News in an interview, requires him to visit different counties of China to do liaison work with the councils there. “If they invite me, I’ll teach; if not, I will just befriend and build relationships with them. You can say that I am the PR (public relations) guy,” he says, with a laugh.
The academic scholar also conducts studies on the development of Christianity in China. “I will ask questions wherever I am, to get a sense of what is going on there,” he says, explaining his simple method. His recent work includes studies on the status of the Christian development in China and comparing it with the development of other religions such as Buddhism and Taoism. He is also writing an academic paper on the missionaries that are coming out of China.
“It’s the start of a wave, that’s why I’m studying it,” he explains. “I’ve noticed that some churches are beginning to send missionaries out to different parts of the world as it becomes easier for the Chinese to travel overseas.”
THE QUALITIES OF A LEADER IN THE KINGDOM OF GOD
A key speaker at the recent Chinese Leadership and Revival Seminar organized by City Harvest Church last month, Chan shared a message on Jun 20 with some 200 Chinese Christian leaders from mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macau.
In Matthew 18:1, the disciples asked Jesus: “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Using Jesus’ response to them in the following verses (Matthew 18:2-14), Chan highlighted the qualities of a leader in the Kingdom of God.
1. The Value Of Humility
Matthew 18:4 says, “Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Humility is recognizing God as the sovereign God, who chooses the servants He would use to serve His purpose.
“It could be you today and someone else tomorrow. The hardest thing to do is to see a person that you feel superior to rise up to a leadership position,” he noted. “Are you willing to let go of your own opinions and accept that it is all in God’s sovereignty? Humility is that ability to accept.”
2. The Responsibility Of Helping The Weak
In Matthew 18:10, Jesus tells the disciples to “Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven.” Chan defines the “little ones” as those who are in need. Jesus here says that there are angels in heaven watching the children of God and their behavior towards the poor and needy. They will report to God accordingly.
“The heart of God is with these people,” he added. The person who recognized God’s heart for the poor and needy is Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Chan said that she would start her day praying for four hours, after which she would go into the streets to cleanse and feed those who are dying. She would then stay with them until they pass away.
In an interview, Mother Teresa said that when she held those dying people in her arms, she felt like she was holding Jesus. If you were holding Jesus, wouldn’t you want to wash Him clean? she asked.
“It’s easy for us to say that we love Jesus, but it’s not so easy to look at the people around us and love them,” said Chan candidly. “Personally, I cannot imagine doing what she did. It takes the grace of God and revelation, which is why she prayed for four hours before she began her work every day – she needed to see these people through the eyes of God.”
Chan reminded the leaders that the more successful a person is, the more they have the tendency to despise the poor. He encouraged them to always remember to bless the poor.
3. The Aim Of Becoming United
Jesus went on to say in Matthew 18:12, “What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine and go to the mountains to seek the one that is straying?”
Chan explained, “In normal circumstances, the shepherd won’t leave 99 sheep to look for one lost sheep because it does not make any business sense. The only reason why the shepherd would leave 99 sheep to look for one is because of the relationship he has with that sheep.”
God is concerned with the relationships among His children, Chan continued. He reminded the congregation that a church leader’s success in growing his church is never in proportion with the hard work he puts in. Growing a church is the work of God and by the power of the Holy Spirit. What a leader ought to do is thus to learn to build good relationships with his sheep and his peers. Unity is thus the most important thing to achieve, not just as an individual church, but also with the other churches in the body of Christ.
In this interview with City News, Chan shared some of the insights he gained while doing his work in China.
City News: You said that the message you shared today (Jun 20) was a reflection of your experience. How did you come to this revelation?
Chan: I encountered many Christians in China. Very often, I thought that I knew something (more) because of my academic training in theology. But once I encountered them, I realized that I actually learned a lot from them. Although some of them may not be very highly educated, but their hearts, dedication and commitment to Christ is so amazing that it impresses me each time. I am very humbled to be with them.
This is when I realized that in the Kingdom of God, spiritual development is a life-long experience. Theology is just the foundation for the mind; it’s the heart and the continuous pursuit to have a closer relationship with God and relationship with other Christians that are life-long lessons that I am learning.
It is not difficult to understand this but it may be hard to teach it to church members. Do you have any advice for leaders?
I look at this spiritually, our relationship with God and how it transforms our lives. These things are not taught, but lived out. In other words, I constantly look at others—their lives challenge me—and I try to live out what I teach. Eventually, it may influence the people that I’m pastoring, so they look not just at my teaching, but how I live it out.
Just like the example of Mother Teresa: she didn’t teach much. Her message was very simple: just love. Yet the way she demonstrated it was extremely powerful. I don’t have to listen to her talks, but when I was in Calcutta and I looked at the environment—it was stinky, smelly—I couldn’t imagine how to do what she did. I looked at her sisters (nuns) coming out to clean the people. They do it very naturally, not reluctantly. It is something very ordinary to them, but very extraordinary to me. I know that it’s impossible (for me to do it), so I see the grace of God in them. That’s how I learn, from looking at them.
You have been studying China. Can you tell us your observation of the spiritual atmosphere there? How has God been moving these few years?
Firstly, there are many more Christians now than before (when I first visited China in 1979). I can see that Christianity is visible in many places. In almost every county I went to, there would be at least one church there. In most of the cities, people are much more open to Christianity, Christian music, and even Christmas. They may not know the origin (of Christmas) but it has become almost like a culture festival. More people are attending churches—they can just walk into a church now and buy a Bible. In the past, the Bible wasn’t even available. All this makes it easier to believe in the Christian faith and more people are beginning to believe. Many universities even have courses on religion as an academic subject. That means undergraduates can talk openly about it, compare different religions and so on. China is gradually becoming more open to Christianity than before.
During your seminar session, you challenged the Chinese leaders to build a church larger than CHC. What do you hope to see in China churches in future?
I’m seeing that they look upon CHC as a model and a source of inspiration and spiritual support. My challenge to them is to stand on their own, to grow up, to be an adult and do their own things. Maybe one day, they will do greater things than their parents did. Eventually, they will need to stand on their own and become who God wants them to be.
Do you think now is the time time for them to stand on their own?
That depends on the group. But what I want for them is to at least have the concept. Once they have the mindset that they don’t always want to be under their father’s shadow but one day do something different, they will do it.