Today, there exists a dilemma in the church. A phenomenon wherein Christians who do not attend the Sunday congregation receive no peace and strength for the week while the Christians who are able to attend still do not receive what their spiritual lives need, which gradually leads them to believe that Sunday congregations are boring. Though there are many preachers in China now, only a few of them are gifted with high spiritual lives that can truly uplift and bring benefits to the lives of all Christians who hear them. In my opinion, this dilemma lies in the format of the services of Chinese Churches.
The number one cause of this dilemma is time management. Though it is nice to hear fellow Christians' testimonies, some services allow for testimonies to take up half of the time for preaching the sermon, which leads to many Christians wanting to hear more of the truth of God.
The second reason is that many preachers teach based on their own understandings. Some preachers from China explain the text of the Bible based on their own opinions without considering the meaning of the Scripture.
For example, Mark Chapter 2 tells the miracle of Jesus healing the paralytic man. Mark 2:8-9 said, immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, "Why are you thinking these things? Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Get up, take your mat and walk'?"
A sister, without fully understanding the meaning of the scriptures cited above, can preach that saying "your sins are forgiven" would be easy for the scribes. However, the scribes, even if they were bold enough, would not dare say such words.
Thirdly, some preachers try to explain the context of the Scriptures through hard scientific facts, even if they do not know if these facts are accurate or not. For example, in the time of Herod King of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. Both of them were upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord's commandments and regulations blamelessly. But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren; and they were both well along in years. (Luke 1: 5-7) Some preachers would try to explain the age of Zechariah and Elizabeth, saying that they are sixty, seventy, or even eighty years old by just basing on the scripture, "the priest Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth were well along in years."
Another example, "Bear in mind that our Lord's patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. (2 Peter 3:15-16) Paul writes the same way in all of his letters which contain some things that are hard to understand and that ignorant and unstable people are distorting, which can lead to their own destruction.
The fourth reason is that many preachers often make mistakes about the complicated relationships of Biblical characters which can lead to confusion and inaccuracy in teaching the Word of God. One day, a church in China invited a student who majored in theology to teach about the Bible here. The student said that Jehoshaphat wanted his son Amaziah to marry the daughter of Ahab, Athaliah. However, it was Joram that married Athaliah and that Amaziah was the great-grandson of Joram and therefore could not marry Athaliah, because she was his great-grandmother.
The fifth problem in the format of services in Chinese Church services today is that there is no focus in the sermons. Some preachers taught from the Bible without a proper format of a title and topic of the day, effectively wasting the time of all the brothers and sisters in the congregation.
For the sixth reason, even if preachers did have a title for their sermon, it is not even relevant to the content. Some preachers came on stage, read several verses from the Bible, and just spoke about the content randomly. However, the Scriptures they read did not have anything to do with they were talking about.
For example, one night, a preacher read the price of discipleship (Luke 14: 25-33) and the establishment of the communion (1 Corinthians 11 :23-26), but the topic she talked about was the way of the Lord. She talked about the humility, the obedience, and the sacrifice of the Lord which was completely irrelevant to the Scriptures she had read.
The seventh problem is that some preachers teach without proper preparation stating that he is lead simply by God and the Holy Spirit to teach a certain Word or section of the Scripture. What's more, these ministers argue that they are simply following the example of Peter and Paul, Jesus' Apostles who preach without preparation according to the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
However, I believe that preaching means teaching what God wants us to say and that God gives us enough time to prepare what we will teach. We must cherish all these opportunities to teach the Word of God, therefore, preparing well, and not destroying the work of the Holy Spirit by our unpreparedness. By writing a sermon itself, we are also still doing the work of the Holy Spirit.
The last, but not the least reason, is that some ministers have a lack for new ideas, which serves as the biggest problem in Chinese Church services. Many preachers teach one sermon in one church and proceed to another church, teaching the exact same sermon, leading our brothers and sisters to get tired of the sermon and treating it as a "lullaby" or way to fall asleep.
For example, one preacher prepared a sermon about Naaman's healing in one church, but when he went to another church, he taught the exactly same sermon again. I have heard that same preacher teach that specific sermon at least three time already, and another preacher might also be teaching that sermon as well.
The way Chinese Church services are formatted and laid out cannot keep up with the demand of the growth of the spiritual lives of all our Christian brothers and sisters. Let us therefore earnestly pray that God will move and help Chinese Church services to evolve in order to satisfy the hunger of our fellow Christians.