In the past 30 years, the Chinese Churches experienced the Grace of God: the number of believers increased from hundreds of thousands to tens of millions. However, a large number does not necessarily mean maturity. Today the Chinese Churches are facing a period from growth to maturity.
Raymond Lombard, the Pastor who has been serving God in over 40 countries in the world, and providing theological training to disciples visited China repeatedly in the past a few years, and interacted with pastors from different places. Recently, he received an interview from the CCD.
In his view, the Chinese Churches have a huge potential, but at the same time, there are two short boards which are restricting the Churches from realizing their potential, one is theology, and the other is money – pastors always feel shy or awkward when it comes to money, they can't speak frankly about the truth on giving money. Apart from the above, Chinese pastors are also lacking in cooperative spirit.
The first challenge is theological training.
The Western Churches have rich theological resources, but the Chinese Churches are a lot weaker in this aspect. They have little material, which has indirectly caused the weakness of theology among Chinese churches. Currently, the Chinese churches have also more and more realized this issue.
We need to provide pastors, especially the basic level pastors, with a large number of practical biblical theological training.
About theological training, Raymond admits that there have been theological training which only focus on theoretical study, such training should be balanced with biblical teaching. There have been negative examples, some enthusiastic Christians became faithless after they joined the Theological College.
But how do we balance theological training and biblical teaching?
Raymond believes it is fundamental that theological training must have a mission perspective. Theological training must also combine with detailed service practice. For example, in disciples’ training, we shall require the disciples to do missionary work, to organize groups, and to nourish the disciples spiritually. During this process, good results can be achieved through combining practice and theology.
It is sad if theological training loses the mission perspective.
The second is money.
This is what he found through interacting with basic-level pastors: when pastors talk about money, they feel difficult, and shy.
At the beginning, he thought that was strange, later he found that basic-level pastors really had difficulties to open their mouths and ask followers to give money; he also found it had to do with the Chinese culture: it is hard to talk about money frankly.
He thinks basic-level pastors need to have the courage to frankly talk about the truth on giving, need to correctly educate their disciples on the truth of tithe. The Bible talked about money and sacrifice openly, and pastors need to face sacrifice and fundraising correctly, and to educate and execute appropriately, otherwise it is very hard to develop churches.
The Chinese Churches have comparatively more conservative theological traditions, and formed an idea “the poorer, the more spiritual”; people should serve without pay and that is believed to be the demonstration of “living with faith”.
For this, Raymond believes, if we can face sacrifice and fundraising in the right manner, we can develop churches and services much better. A lot of pastors can then serve God full time, instead of working for others to earn a living, while doing a lot of service.
He expresses that China is very big, so some pastors have to spend a lot of their own time to travel to other places to do service and pay for their own travel expenses, which is very hard for them. At the same time, if the churches and believers cannot manage sacrifice and fundraising, and only let the pastors do one-sided sacrifice of time and money, it is very unreasonable in his eyes.
Third, the Chinese Churches and ministries should be more cooperative toward each other.
China is big, with so many people, service cannot be done with one or two churches or organizations. Therefore, Chinese churches and ministries should be more cooperative toward each other. “If you only pay attention to your own church and organization, then it is very hard for the Chinese churches to serve the whole country.”
“We need to ask ourselves: are we focusing on our differences or our similarities?” he said, “if we can see what similarities we share, and what different beauties we have, we will then enjoy and appreciate each other.”
Raymond has cooperated with churches and organizations from dozens of countries, he found it very important to have “National Vision”, only this way, can they step out of themselves and work together with more ministries and organizations, and can have a further influence. The power of cooperation will generate greater energy and focus.
In China, he used to see pastors who refused cooperation and help from others, “We only need God.” He didn’t know how to reply when he heard this kind of words. He believed, even if with different religious backgrounds, they are still parts of Christ’s body, and together they share bigger mission, so if they work together, the energy they can create will be multiplied.
Translated by: Jun Song.