SHANDONG, China - Ms Pan Jinju, 40, is a small group leader in her church in Feicheng city, Shandong province. “My life has been transformed by the Lord. Now, my greatest desire is to help others experience God via small groups just as I was helped two years ago.”
Though she had grown up in a Christian family, Pan did not have a close or personal relationship with God. "I attended church services whenever I wanted to. I was just a Christian in name, following along blindly," shared Pan frankly.
The turning point for Pan came at the onset of Covid-19 in 2020, when she discovered that her 14-year-old son was addicted to gaming on his mobile phone. The boy became rebellious and violent to the extent of smashing things around the house when he did not get his way. Pan felt completely helpless and was often in tears. She questioned God’s love and asked why the Lord had given her such a difficult son.
During this period, Ms Zhen Shasha, a small group leader from her church visited and encouraged her. "It was through these home visits that God reminded me of His love for me. He reached out to me through Ms Zhen. I realised God has never abandoned me. From then on, I started clinging onto God tightly.”
"Since joining the small group, I have read through the Bible from cover to cover three times over. And my life was changed!"
As Pan began to let go of the bitterness within her and set her eyes on God, she began to see changes. Instead of throwing tantrums, her son began to exercise self-control when using his mobile phone. He also became willing to obey Pan and her husband. Pan experienced God as a God who hears her prayers.
Soon, Pan joined a small group study based on The Abundant Life, a set of discipleship materials supported by United Bible Societies. “Through the study, I came to know Christ better and what it meant to repent of my sins and be born again. It also helped me to develop an intimate relationship with God. What used to be just head knowledge, has become more experiential and personal.”
At the same time, God placed a hunger in Pan for His Word. "Since joining the small group, I have read through the Bible from cover to cover three times over. And my life was changed!" As her understanding of God and His Word grew, she experienced a spiritual revival that led her to volunteer as a small group leader for new believers.
Why Discipleship Groups
"In small groups, we know each person more intimately so that we can support one another and walk together," said Pan who is passionate about helping Christians to cultivate basic spiritual disciplines such as reading God’s Word and prayer. She encourages each member of her group to commit to reading five to six chapters of the Bible every day. “Now, we will feel something amiss if we don't read God’s Word.”
"Small group Bible studies with discussions are like spiritual milk that is easy for young believers to digest.”
Pan is excited to see the growth in one of her group members. “Despite the fact that she is a new believer, her faith and commitment to read God’s Word, participation in the small group and zeal for Jesus has inspired old believers like us,” Pan shared with a wide smile on her face.
For Pan, small groups are also important as the instructional format helps to break down spiritual truths for young believers. “Pulpit teachings are like solid food which may be difficult for new believers to ingest into their hearts and minds. Small group Bible studies with discussions are like spiritual milk that is easy for young believers to digest.”
Besides meeting in small groups, Pan also visits the homes of her group members to encourage them regularly. She knows from first-hand experience that it is not easy for new Christians to walk alone; they need moral and emotional support to grow in their faith. From being a nominal believer to a small group member and then a leader, Pan has come a long way. Praise God that today she is also a trainer of aspiring small group leaders to help raise up more disciple-makers in her church!
Jesus himself has given us the Great Commission to ‘Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’ (Matthew 28:19-20; ESV). Let us pray for the many Christians in Feicheng city and all over China who need to encounter God personally, grow to be committed disciples of Christ, and make disciples in the name of Jesus Christ.
Story: Marcus Xiao and Pamela Choo
2023 © United Bible Societies China Partnership