“The poorer the church is, the more spiritual it is."
"Pastors should have nothing to do with money."
"It's fine as long as church staff are devout in faith, away from being part of the business which is secular.”
Arguments such as these are widely spread in many grassroots churches in China as if talking about money or business has been labeled as some taboo subject.
A few days ago, Pastor D (pseudonym), who has pastoral experience of more than 40 years, shared his thoughts after experiencing many stages of church development and changes in an interview with the Christian Times, an online Chinese Christian newspaper.
During the meeting, D mentioned a point worth attention that the Chinese church shouldn’t shy away from talking about money and business, on the contrary, it needed to concentrate on cultivating the mentality of economic self-reliance and commercial awareness of pastoral staff and believers. He particularly encouraged believers to actively create social value in their respective fields, work hard to make money in commercial activities, and "engage in small businesses."
He believed that if the church had no economic self-reliance, nor did it encourage believers to create value in business, in the long term its growth would be like limping. Under such circumstances, often the church and believers would be relatively enclosed and easily marginalized. Over time, they could naturally become a "freak", which was not beneficial to the church’s healthy development and the testimony of faith.
"In the 1960s, due to historical reasons such as the Cultural Revolution, the environment at that time was very difficult. Being persecuted, many male pastoral leaders couldn’t serve. Therefore, from the 1960s to the 1980s, most of the churches in China were led by female believers.” Based on what he witnessed during those historical moments, D talked about the reasons why currently the Chinese church had weak economic and business sense. “At first, this group of female leaders had one feature in common they could live without making money. Under the environment in that time, their husbands and families could support them, for which they didn’t need to go out to earn a living and were still able to work in the church.”
He emphasized that he was not looking for gender-based reasons. In the final analysis, in his view, the environment during that historical period gradually produced such results. Such a deformed development "had destroyed the ecology of the church. The material poverty of the church, and of pastors and church staff themselves became a stumbling block to the healthy development of the church. Ultimately, many churches took a wrong path that should not have been taken and many regrettable things happened."
He continued: "After the 1980s, with China’s reform and opening-up, the policy of freedom of religious belief was implemented again, and the church opened its doors. However, the outdated approach to leading the church continued its influence for 20 years, for which till the year 2000, rural family churches had almost zero growth."
"I think that the church hasn’t made reasonable efforts in three aspects in the past 20 years. First, it has not paid attention to developing the economic awareness and system. Second, it has not created a complete training program about the truth. Third, it has not generated impact on the social level."
At present, he believes that "some problems have become more prominent, such as few male believers in the church, the difficult survival situation faced by the church itself, and its insignificant influence on the society."
He is convinced that the church needs to face these problems head-on, and work in three aspects to achieve breakthroughs. First, the church needs to have a sense of economic development, which does not mean that it should be involved in market activities as a participant, but to help pastoral staff and believers to develop such a mindset so that they actively engage in business activities and become self-reliant financially, rather than just accept being poor or rely on others’ support. Second, churches and believers should also be equipped with truth and participate in training, negating the tendency to corruption and secularization with financial wellbeing. Third, Christians must live out their lives and serve society.
"Being financially well, the church must be managed on the basis of the truth at the same time, otherwise it will end up in corruption. So, material wealth is prepared for ministries. In today's various fields, Christians occupy a very small proportion without much social influence." He encourages the believers of his church to participate in the market operations that create economic value, with their own expertise and talents, do business and bless the church energetically. Meanwhile, pastors and church staff also do not object to business and self-reliance. D himself serves while doing a secular job. Many staff workers around him also have the same mindset. He insists that although it indeed presents much pressure, in the long run, their economic self-reliance and social awareness will be strengthened, which in turn promote healthy growth of the church.
"Having economic strength, we can give back to the society in charitable activities, help more groups in need, and practice the teaching of being the salt and light of this world," D added.
- Translated by Shuya Wang