The date of June 7, 2020, was a memorable day for some Chinese churches. With the pandemic effectively controlled, churches in many places resumed onsite Sunday services.
Many Christians returned to the "Lord's home" with joy, but some discordant notes appeared. A sister told me: "I looked forward to returning to church, but I fell asleep. The pastor's preaching was long, tedious, and made me drowsy."
Although the sister felt very embarrassed afterwards, her experience is not unique. It is a problem that casts a shadow over the resumption of worship services.
Due to the pandemic, Christians listened to online sermons for several months. Believers could choose to listen to rich and powerful preaching online. Before the pandemic, most people went to church to worship, and only listened to the pastor in their own church. At most people would only occasionally go to other churches to “try something new”. But providing online worship and pastoral care is different. Not only can you hear the preaching from your local church, but you can also search and find sermons preached by pastors from other churches. As a result, believers have can compare sermons, and after a period of time, the "Matthew Effect" occurs. The fans of good preachers increases every day, but the average pastor is rarely listened to, and believers may even leave their home churches.
When believers who have heard a lot of wonderful sermons come back to the church, they are naturally disappointed with boring sermons that lack depth, so they fall asleep. Just like a person who eats fish and meat for a long time, suddenly white rice with green vegetables is no longer as appetizing as before.
We go to church we listen to the truth of the gospel, understand the faith better, and improve our spiritual lives. If the preaching is subpar, Christians must still listen with a receptive heart. Otherwise, this is disrespectful to the Lord, and makes the pastor sad.
However, in an environment where believers are spoiled by a spiritual feast, the church should avoid the habit that some have of dozing during the service, leading to the loss of believers. Only when the pastor realizes the seriousness of the problem and understands and shares the truth better, can this problem be solved.
The development of the church is difficult to be quantified like one does a company. At most, it can only be judged by the growth and dedication of believers. However, under normal circumstances, this problem will not be particularly prominent, so pastors and church staff may be unaware of the seriousness of the crisis. Because they are busy with various ministries which take up too much of their time, they do not have enough time to prepare properly. These problems will cause the shepherds to become increasingly shallow in what they share with the congregation. They are unable to provide the spiritual nourishment that the believers desire. So brothers and sisters are reluctant to listen.
But the situation is different now. With rich online resources, believers have more choices. This presents a huge challenge to the pastors. How to make brothers and sisters willing to listen to and prevent the loss of believers are issues that pastors need to consider after the reopening of the church. Therefore, the vast number of pastors can only adapt to the new situation when they are constantly learning and enrich themselves.
Crisis often includes opportunity. The problem faced by pastors is not actually a bad thing, because it will force them to study hard and improve their understanding of the truth. As a female preacher said: "The pastor is also loyal to the Lord when he or she strives to nourish the believers with suitable information." When pastors study and learn this is very beneficial to the development of the church and growth in the life of believers.
Pastors should also see the positive side of online preaching because there is a wealth of information available. Pastors can learn from each other, so as to share the word of the Lord and build up brothers and sisters’ lives.
It is regrettable that believers fall asleep during the service. They need to have their minds changed and worship the Lord with godliness. The pastor can use this as a motivation to learn and grow in the faith and become a ready vessel for the Lord.
- Translated by Abigail Wu