|Rev. John Sung|
Rev. John Sung after his first Singapore visit in 1935, about to sail for Shanghai
September 27, 1901|
Hinghwa, Fukian, Qing China
|Died||August 18, 1944
|Education||Ph.D. in Chemistry, Ohio State University, 1926|
John Sung Shang Chieh (simplified Chinese: 宋尚节; traditional Chinese: 宋尚節; pinyin: Sòng Shàng-Jíe; Wade–Giles: Sung4 Shang4-Chieh2) (29 September 1901 – 18 August 1944), also John Sung, was a renowned Chinese Christian evangelist who played an instrumental role in the revival movement among the Chinese in Mainland China, Taiwan, and Southeast Asia during the 1920s and 1930s.
He grew up with a Christian upbringing. His father was a pastor of the local American Wesleyan Methodist Church. Sung also helped his father in church duties. On certain evenings when his father was either too busy or was too ill, Sung would have to lead the sermons as a substitute instead. Because of his early contributions to the church work, many church members referred to him as “Little Pastor”.
However, it took Sung some years of testing before he became the influential evangelist that many knew. In 1920 he was sent to America for his higher education. He studied at Ohio Wesleyan University and Ohio State University. A brilliant student, he earned a doctorate in chemistry in five years. His chemistry essays and research documents can still be seen in the University library today.
Despite the array of career opportunities in front of him, Sung believed that he was called by God to commit himself to work for Jesus Christ. In 1926 he went to Union Theological Seminary in New York for theological studies.
During his period at the seminary (more specifically, on 10 February 1927) John Sung was baptized in the Holy Spirit during a time of prayer. He once exclaimed, “This was my spiritual birthday! Although I already believed in Jesus since my early childhood days, this new experience is a life changing one for me ”. John Sung described that “The Holy Spirit poured onto me, just like water, on top of my head”, then “The Holy Spirit continuously poured onto me wave after wave”.
It was then that he claimed to have been born again. “At first it seemed that there was no way to get rid of [his sins] and that he must go to Hell… He turned to the story of the cross in Gospel of Luke 23, and as he read the story came alive. So vivid was the sight of the Saviour dying for his sins that he seemed to be there at the foot of the Cross and pleading to be washed from all his sins in the precious Blood… Then he heard a voice saying, ‘Son, thy sins are forgiven’” (Leslie T. Lyall, “A Biography of John Sung,” p. 43).
After this experience John Sung now felt that he possessed more strength and fervently preached the Gospel to people he met. John became a radically changed man and began to preach fervently to his peers and lecturers in the seminary. It was such a drastic change in the man that his fellow liberal theology students reckoned that he had gone out of his right mind, and the seminary authorities confined him in an insane asylum, where he stayed for 193 days.
Despite this period of isolation, John Sung set himself to read the Bible. It was during this stay that he read through the entire Bible 40 times and soon became very familiar and well versed in its teachings. This period of Scriptural reading and spiritual renewal laid the foundations for one of the major revivals of the 20th century.
Return to China and gospel ministry
The Chinese Consulate managed to arrange for Sung's release and he returned to China in November 1927, without graduating from Union Theological Seminary. Before stepping on Chinese soil after an almost eight-year absence, he threw all his academic awards into the sea, only keeping the doctorate diploma for his father. This action he intended to signify his full commitment to the Gospel.
After his return to China, he began preaching in the Min-nan region for three years. His main topics at that time were “The Crucifix ” and “The Blood of Jesus”. His messages were based on Bible teachings concerning spiritual rebirth, salvation, and bearing a cross.
In 1930 or 1931, he joined Bethel Bible School of Shanghai, where, with other graduates, he formed a "Bethel Evangelistic Band". The topic of his sermons were now mainly about how to deal with sin. A summary of his teaching during this period was that people admitting their sins is not enough, they must “repent of their sins” and after repentance should come a time to “Correct your sins”. He went on to say that after one has changed sinful habits comes a time to “Repay your sins”.
Sung also believed that by saying “Lord, forgive me for I am a sinner” is insufficient. He emphasized that during prayers, repentance should be made as a whole group and done step by step in minor detail. In fact, Sung listed twenty major categories of sins and if one had committed one of those sins listed within a category then one must admit and repent of that sin during a group prayer session.
Sung was sometimes so excited that he often jumped onto the pulpit to preach; in the middle of the sermon he would always sing a hymn for up to twenty or thirty minutes. John Sung also made use of props during sermons. On one occasion during a sermon, he brought a coffin, placed it under the pulpit, and shouted, "Get rich, get rich, get the coffin!". (This was a play on words in the original Chinese, used to convey the idea that pursuing money will not bring you eternal life.) After exclaiming this statement, he then went and lay down in the coffin himself.
Sung proved to be a zealous and compelling preacher. His name spread throughout China and invitations soon poured in, requesting him to spread the gospel to other regions as well. By 1936, it was believed more than 100,000 Chinese were converted through his ministry. His missionary work spread beyond China and he was actively preaching to overseas Chinese population in Southeast Asia. Sung’s Bible messages were focused on the need for repentance. He took the issue of sin very seriously and often invited his audience to repent to a list of specific sins that he read out. He spoke out against sin and hypocrisy, even at the ministers and pastoral staffs who were with him at the meetings. As such, he often offended many. His sermons regularly moved his audience to tears with the message of Christ’s love.
Sung was a man of prayer. He actively complied a list of prayer requests given by fellow Christians and would spend many hours praying for them.
Sung read only the Bible and a daily newspaper.
His preaching ministry meant that he was away from his wife and children for very long periods.
Sung was quoted as defining faith as "watching God work while on your knees".
Last years and legacy
Towards the last years of his life, intestinal tuberculosis plagued him and deeply affected his work. Despite this, he continued to preach and even had to speak in a leaning position to lessen the pain. He succumbed to the disease at the age of 42. It is claimed that John Sung was the most influential Chinese evangelist during the 1930s and his ministry had a profound impact on Christianity especially in the Chinese-speaking world in China and Southeast Asia. He also helped found the Church Assembly Hall along with Watchman Nee and others. Countless Chinese were converted and revived through his ministry and they would play a significant role in the growth of Christianity in the region.
A confession from a woman in Indonesia when John Sung enter the church from the door, sick people nearby suddenly healed as he walk forward to altar. It happened in a service in Church of Sion (known today as Gereja Ayam) in Jakarta, Indonesia in 1930s(it was Batavia, Dutch Indies on that time) .
- Lim, Ka-Tong. The Life and Ministry of John Sung, Armour Publishing, Singapore, 2011.
- Lim, Ka-Tong. "The Life and Ministry of John Sung: Sowing Seeds of Vibrant Christianity in Asian Soil." Ph.D. Dissertation, Asbury Theological Seminary, 2009.
- Smithers, Dave John Sung - Apostle of Revival, retrieved from: 
- Sng, Bobby E.K. In His Good Time: The Story of the Church in Singapore 1819-2002, (3rd ed.), Singapore Bible Society, Singapore 2003, pp. 172-179.
- Tow, Timothy John Sung - My Teacher, Christian Life Publishers, Singapore 1985.
- Sung, Shang-chieh. (1995.) The diaries of John Sung: An autobiography (Unknown Binding). Luke H. Sheng, Stephen L. Sheng.ASIN: B0006QUQ2U
- Leslie T Lyall (1964). John Sung: Flame for God in the Far East. Moody Press.ASIN: B0007FDM0I