Is Rural Church in Central China Doomed to Decline?
By Shen Gao, May 18, 2017 05:05 AM
The members of the rural church are mostly the elderly. The manager of a rural church manager is nearly 60 years old. He used to tell me: "We are the last generation of believers in our place."
As time goes by, the last generation of Christians is dying away. However, few young people believe in Jesus. The number of believers in the church is decreasing. The rural church tends to decline. Nowadays, young people rarely walk into the church.
Several years ago, young people would be developed and cherished in the church. With the spiritual concept "Service is love towards God", young people attended ministries and learned theology in the church. The church paid the fee.
I started learning in the church in 2009. There were much more young people in the rural church back then as compared with today. Almost every church had a few young people. Although the church spent much money teaching young people theology, many of them left after graduation.
Some of them chose to develop outside the church. Some were forced by their family to leave the church. The church also became frustrated with the cultivation of young people. There are only a few activities aimed at young people in the church nowadays. The theological training class I attended is the last session in my hometown.
Many of these young people entered the church a few years ago because their families believe in Christianity. They entered the church under the persuasion and guidance of their families.
Great changes have taken place in rural areas throughout the past couple of years. Various buildings and cars spring up in the rural areas. No villager wants to fall behind in gaining wealth. Only a few families send young people to the church now. The church is also less enthusiastic about the cultivation of young people.
Most of the rural believers are the elderly. The atmosphere of the party is also dull. Fixed pastors talk about fixed things. The way and contents of evangelism haven't changed for decades. I'm afraid this is the reason why rural churches decline - they have limited understanding of the truth.
The cultural level of rural pastors is generally low. People who have never received high school education are also pushed to the podium. Some of them only know how to read and write Chinese characters.
Although believers have stayed in the church for decades and the church also has a history of several decades, the truth can't be spread widely. If we only emphasize on belief instead of the truth, believers' spiritual life won't be nourished.
Several days ago I talked with an old man in my church. He is about 55 years old. When it came to faith, he was emotional: " I have believed in God for more than twenty years. I was ill and almost died before. God's grace saved me. However, I'm vulnerable. I couldn't take every church activity even though I am close to the church. I was so enthusiastic when I started to believe in God."
Some rural Christians are just like the old man. They have passion but their pursuit of belief still depends on attending regular gatherings in the church. The spiritual view of regular gatherings may come from the concept of revival - The more people in the church, the better.
The apostle Paul said: "You shouldn't stop gatherings." It doesn't mean that we can't skip any gathering in reality. The lack of truth and knowledge make the heart of believers gradually numb. The gathering is more like a ceremony for believers today!
The old generation of pastors can't fulfill youngsters' eagerness for the truth. The church was unable to retain them. At present, the decline of the rural church is an inevitable trend.
When we look back a decade of years ago, we can see that the renaissance of the rural church in Henan Province and Anhui Province was very bright. The pastors and believers were united. Both the young and old worked towards the same purpose. We still miss that age.
However, I think the renaissance was due to God's grace and mercy. During the Cultural Revolution, people's enthusiasm of belief was suppressed for a few decades. Their enthusiasm just spurt out after the Cultural Revolution.
In my opinion, the enthusiasm was rooted in the shallow understanding of truth. The nutrition of the truth couldn't further develop the church.
The new green bud under the yellow leaves is the future hope of the church. The church of God will never lack hope. When we are rooted in the abundant earth of truth, the flower of the Gospel will flourish and endure.
Translatd by Emma Ma
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