John Sung was a Chinese revivalist, evangelist, and prophet. He was one of the most influential Chinese Christians of the revival of the 1930s. Sung preached with a strong emphasis on repentance, and was a very powerful
man of prayer.
Early life and education
John Sung was born in Hingwa, Fujian province on September 27, 1901. His father was the pastor of a Wesleyan Methodist church. In his youth he assisted his father with church duties, including leading sermons when his father was too ill. He was nicknamed "Little Pastor". In 1900, he left for America to pursue higher education. He studied at the Wesleyan University of Ohio, and later Ohio State University and Union Theological Seminary. He worked menial jobs full time to support himself, and earned three degrees within 5 years. However, as a result of all this work he became backslidden and doubtful.
Sung received the baptism of the Holy Spirit on February 10, 1927 during a time of repentant prayer. After this experience he was strengthened and more fervently preached the gospel to those he met, including his peers and teachers at the seminary. Some believed he was mentally ill, and he was committed to an insane asylum by seminary authorities. He was incarcerated for 193 days (about 6 months), during which time he committed himself to nearly continuous bible study and prayer. He read the Holy Bible from beginning to end 40 times.
This spiritual renewal was to be his training for his role as a revivalist in China. He did not graduate from the seminary, and returned to Shanghai in November 1927. He threw all of the academic awards he earned into the ocean on the trip, except his doctorate diploma which he saved for his father. This was an outward display of his full commitment to the gospel. On returning to China, he passed up academic and employment opportunities in favor of
preaching the gospel.
John Sung preached in Min-Nan region for 3 years, with messages centered on spiritual rebirth, salvation, and bearing a cross. He joined Bethel Bible School and formed the Bethel Evangelistic Band with some of the other
graduates. He became the school's field evangelist and focused his sermons on how to deal with sin. When not preaching he was mostly reserved, but was full
of intense emotions behind the pulpit.
Sung emphasized that repentance should be made as a whole group, and taken step by step in detail. During sermons, he listed categories of sins, and if one had committed any sins within a category they must be admitted to during group prayer. Full of excitement, he often jumped onto the pulpit to preach. He also made use of props to aid in getting his point across, and would usually sing a hymn for up to 30 minutes at a time.
He spoke out against hypocrisy, including against ministers and pastors in attendance. Sung was known to intercede carefully for a large list of requests for many hours. He kept small photos of those he prayed for. He was a great example for the Chinese church as a man of prayer, and allowed nothing to interrupt his time in prayer. Sung defined faith as "watching God work while on your knees". Many sick and crippled came to him for healing. The blind
received sight, the lame walked, and the deaf and mute were made well when he prayed for them in the name of Jesus.
Later life and legacy
Sung was sick with intestinal tuberculosis through the later years of his ministry. He overcame this difficulty and continued to preach, often in a leaning position to lessen the pain. He suffered with painful, infected ulcers
in his colon. Sung died at the age of 43 on August 18, 1944. He was the most influential Chinese evangelist of the 1930s. Sung helped found the Church Assembly Hall with Watchman Nee and others. He led many thousands to Christ
in China and Southeast Asia, and had a profound impact on the church.