Nurturing the Next Generation - An Interview with Lilian Li, Assistant Professor of Biblical Studies


Mimi Tang 

Development Liaison
MDiv 1996


Stay connected with people, keep listening

Before Lilian was called to embark on her divinity training, she was a high school teacher. She always has a soft spot in her heart for the youth, whether in school, at church, or working in Breakthrough1, which had a substantial influence on her. “In these young people, you see innocent faces that are not being concealed and haven’t been changed by the sophisticated world. When people have reached a certain stage in life, or have been in a certain position for too long, they tend to be numb about things, thinking they already knew everything or have very special opinions! The fact is, we do not know everything. I always remind myself that I should stay humble. To stay young at heart, I need to keep listening to the youth without any judgement. I should spend time with them and understand them! To me, this is very precious.” Born in the 80s, she described herself as a bridge between her parents and the young people. She hopes to remain faithful in hearing the voices of both generations, “I am not here to judge who is right, who is wrong or to give any advice. If I see there are misunderstandings, I will share authentic life stories that I have heard first-handed and not hearsay. Perhaps they will never agree with each other, but can we try to understand the story and the values behind the entire picture? We are not seeking for approval. If we can have a better understanding of each other, we will be able to see life from different perspectives. When we do so, amazing things can happen.”

Having grown up in a non-Christian family and studied in a Christian school, Lilian met good teachers who were patient and caring. They completely changed her rebellious attitude towards the Christian faith, and ignited her passion for education. You may perceive that Lilian has a quiet demeanor. When she was in 6th grade, after becoming a Christian she had the courage to search for a church to attend by herself. She went up to the second-floor church on her own, surprising the pastor who had handed out a gospel leaflet to her earlier on the street! Moreover, just two weeks after she started going to church, she was ready to go out and share the gospel… all these memories are now putting a smile on her face, “That’s me! I may be hesitant in the beginning. But once I have made up my mind, I always give my all in everything!” When she was in 11th grade, she had an opportunity to participate in a camp organized by the Breakthrough Organization. It opened her eyes and imagination about how the gospel was able to transform social culture. She found herself deeply inspired by the life and the thinking of their founder Josephine So. When Lilian went to college, she chose education as her major study. She also became actively involved in campus evangelism. From a high school teacher to a seminary teacher today, the campus has always been an important part of her journey that will always be cherished and is full of grace.

Lilian recognized her calling from God as early as her freshman year, but it was not until ten years later, with another year of struggle, that she was finally willing to submit, “The fact that I had to leave school was my biggest hurdle! I was already married to a pastor. I have been a pastor’s wife, and have been serving God all along. I felt that I had already fulfilled what God wanted me to do. There was no need to study further!” However, things took a surprising turn later, thanks to a question probed by a brother of her church, a gospel leaflet with a testimony she came across while peeling an orange, and an email about experiencing divinity training camp that was inadvertently opened despite the effort to delete all promotional messages. Out of nowhere came a gentle reminder: “Wow, this was so real! Just when you thought you could keep away from Him, He is everywhere for you to see.” In the end, she made up her mind and said “Yes!” Lilian pressed on courageously and took off for the journey again.

Stay connected with love, keep hoping

Still, she always has a wishful thinking, hoping to return to serve in a high school after graduation. But it was shattered. Instead of teaching at a Christian school, God led her to join her husband’s ministry by serving at the same church: “This is the pursuit of God. Everything happens in His time. And in the end He shows me what is beyond my own will.” Looking back, she realized that everything He had prepared was a blessing for her, “During those days, I had time to care for and bid farewell to my family members who were ill. My husband and I were able to face these issues together while taking care of both our family and the church.” Later, she had an opportunity to further her study on the Old Testament at CGST. This was also beyond her expectation. “I love studying, but I recognize my limits. Had it not been by the grace of God, I would not have had the opportunity and the motivation to finish my doctoral dissertation.” Now she is teaching at CGST, her alma mater, her passion is not deterred by the curriculum review. On the contrary, the philosophy behind the new curriculum is more in line with the learning model that she has always aspired to: “This means that teaching is not just about feeding knowledge. It is about engaging with students while listening to them in a context where we reflect and collaborate together.”

At CGST campus, Lilian met a group of young students, who were about the same age as her when she first started teaching in high school. At that moment, she suddenly realized what God has revealed to her: He has prepared a campus way larger than the one she had thought. There are many possibilities in God, and there can be so many different ways to serve Him. She found herself relating to the young people of this generation. They are living the moment together, breathing the same air, seeking and crying together: “Since 2014 when I started serving in the church, I deeply felt that the youth has been in an era of rapid changing. They are passionate and sincere, amid confusions and struggles. They have been enduring many hardships and yearning to have their needs recognized. How the faith can become their resources, so that in times of helplessness and hardship, they know how to discern, how to decide, how to hold fast to their beliefs, and ultimately have the wisdom to sort things out in difficult situations?” Her voice choked with worries and concerns, as well as memories that still have stinging pain.

It was 2019 when Lilian came to the final stage of writing her thesis: “Whether it is a young person or an adult, one is bound to feel despair when faced with the situations in Hong Kong. My study focused on the Book of Lamentations. I wept while writing each chapter of my thesis, especially when I reached the conclusion of my paper. As I watched the news, I felt strongly about our need for the word of God. The Bible offers a perfect place for us to cry out to Him and vent our anger, incomprehension, pain and hopelessness, allowing us to express our inability to feel God’s love and His salvation. At the very moment when we do not know how to pray during extreme pain, the Bible tells us that the only way out is by seeking and turning to God. It gives us a resource, through which we can cry out to Him and stay connected with our mighty Creator. If there were only praises in the Bible and no lament, we might find ourselves lost in the wrong place. It is in lamentation that we can find hope, which hope is not about ‘a promising future’, but more about a cry to the Lord with our authentic self. And I truly believe the Lord is listening.”


1. history/, access dated 4 May 2021.


Back to Bulletin Index ^TOP