Feature: Rural Preachers' Delimma in Northern China
By Josiah Li, January 11, 2017 01:01 AM
The CCC & TSPM of Daming County, Hebei, held a three-day friendship association for local seminary graduates in Honglou Church from Dec. 29 to 31, 2016. A total of more than 80 graduates attended the meeting. This gathering was conducted to help those seminary graduates recover their devotion and provide them a chance for mutual communication.
Since the 1990s, the church in Daming County has sent 100+ members to pursue a theological education in other places including Beijing, Jiangsu, Zhejiang and Fujian. Besides, the local church has held a one-year Bible training program for twelve years. However, more than half of the seminary graduates are losing.
With the theme of "Lord! I Want to Return to You", the gathering included parts of self-introduction and sharing in groups, in which preachers were free to talk about their difficulties and situations. Some local preachers are persecuted by their families and some feel that they're ill-equipped with truth. But financial difficulty puts them in a dilemma between serving the church and supporting their families.
Struggles of preachers
A preacher who has served in a church band for over a decade claimed, "The road of ministry is a road of dedication, self-denial and pains. I didn't feel hard before marriage, but I find it really hard to (walk ahead) now. In the past, I didn't worry anything while I'm concerned about daily necessities... I depend on the Lord's grace along the way." Despite poor conditions, he confesses, "I must continue on this road of ministry and keep my promise with my life."
Another ex-preacher who belongs to a gathering about 25 or 30 kilometers away from the church was a migrate worker in Beijing. When a new church was to be built, he borrowed 2000 yuan to support the new construction. But he was forced to leave his mother church to support his family.
Recalling his ministry as a single, he would rather not enter marriage life if If he could turn back time. Feeling burdened to nurture young people, he quit his job in Beijing and decides to return to church.
The majority of the attendees still serve in the church except Brother Sun, who works outside the church after graduation from the sixth Bible class held by the local church. Being embarrassed for never serving in ministry, he shared in a low voice, "My wife and I cooperate on serving God. She serves as a choir member and I make money to support our family."Then a church co-worker replied, "You can call it serving God through business." This answer gave him comfort. Sun once took an oath before God, "As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord." (Joshua 24:15)
Co-workers of the general assembly get unpaid in 2016. Now there are around 10,000 Christians in Daming with about 30 churches and 57 gathering-points divided into 5 parishes. Every parish has approximately 10 gatherings led by one or two trained preachers each. Generally speaking, a preacher can get an allowance of 200 yuan every month on time.
The gatherings are managed by the general assembly that has 15 co-workers consisting of one pastor, six elders and the other preachers. The income of the general assembly comes from church's property rents, reaching at around 200,000 yuan. These workers receive the monthly payment ranging from 400 yuan to 800 yuan. However, they were unpaid in 2016 for the assembly is in debt of more than 100,000 yuan due to a pastor's house fire. Moreover, it is known that it needs to distribute 80,000 yuan to fund the Bible class every year. But they're still under financial pressure in 2017.
One of the co-workers chooses to stay after a struggle.He who has two children used to run his own business while serving the Lord. But it was ineffective in both sides. Then he gave up the business and works full-time. His family earnings come from his wife's work at construction sites (around 1500 yuan per month) and farmland. The worker said that it would be harder to serve without his wife's support.
Reasons why preachers suffer from financial difficulties
The reasons why the local preachers have financial difficulties include that rural areas are poorer and believers are willing to build churches with huge amounts of money but grudges supplying preachers. They hope that pastors can live "a life of faith"(totally depend on God). If a pastor claims any financial difficulty, they will regard him as of little faith, saying that God can supply him, as he ordered ravens and the widow at Zarephath to feed Elijah. However, they are not the channels to support preachers in their eyes.
For the local preachers, they feel ashamed to talk about supplying them with the congregations, which equals begging money from their hands. In addition, another factor that the general assembly has input a lot into church decoration and equipment and ignored God's servants has contributed to this problem. A co-worker of them states that they're aware of this big mistake.
Since the autumn of 2016, Daming CCC & TSPM has launched a campaign that advocates daily donation of one yuan used to help preachers, poor believers and non-believers, according to Rev. Zhang Baosheng of the CCC & TSPM.
Besides, 14 gatherings of a parish have reached an agreement that the 40% income of each gathering, namely less than 200 yuan will be used to support preachers.
The Bible training program continues
Despite that the majority of graduates choose to work outside the church due to financial pressure, Rev. Zhang affirms that the Bible class will continue.Starting in 2005, the program has trained approximately 600 people.
Rev. Zhang holds that students will establish their faith foundation there and they will not lose faith easily even though they work in society. Graduates resolved to serve will stay in local churches and for those who want further education, this will be a stepping-stone to higher Bible schools.
Translated by: Karen Luo
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