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[Interview] Grassroots Pastor from Henan Province Talk about Present Situation and Transformation of Rural Churches

[Interview] Grassroots Pastor from Henan Province Talk about Present Situation and Transformation of Rural Churches

A gathering in a rural church during the Spring Festival A gathering in a rural church during the Spring Festival (Christian Times )
ByYetta Yao April 16, 2017
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Under China's urbanization process, massive rural population has flown into the city. The countryside is declining.  Fewer and fewer young people go to the  rural church. Only old pastors and old believers still remain in the rural church.

Brother Lee from a rural church in Henan Province is almost 60 years old. He thinks the urbanization of rural churches is inevitable.

In his opinion, rural pastors should both explore the town church and hold on to the rural church. Faced with urbanization, we should still accompany the old rural believers through the last period of their life.

A church was built in his town one year ago. It was the beginning of urbanization of the rural church in his hometown. The process is difficult. Rural pastors are faced with many challenges when they shepherd in the urban church.

A co-worker of Christian Times invited Brother Lee to talk about the current situation, exploration and challenges of rural churches in Henan Province.

Christian Times: What do you think of the current situation of rural churches? What's the current challenge? Is there any effective exploration?

Brother Li: I personally think the urbanization of rural churches is a long-term process. The fellow workers of our church have discussed this matter before. We think the process is necessary because it is the willingness of the holy spirit. The job of the holy spirit is to preach the gospel to the crowd. The city is full of people.

Christian Times: If the rural church moves to the city now, what about the old believers and left-behind children in the rural church?

Brother Li: It is a long process. We have discussed the matter before. The rural church can't fall behind while we develop the city church. Currently we are unable to move all the rural churches to the city.

Christian Times: How can we maintain the balance between rural churches and city churches?

Brother Li: We need to work in close cooperation with an appropriate division of labor. Different fellow workers should do different things. The leader of our rural church wants to develop a new church in the town. We will make efforts to maintain the rural church as well as explore the city church. The church in the town marks the beginning of rural church's movement to the city.

Christian Times: There is still generation gap between the rural church and the urban church. The urban church needs youngsters while the old church is supported by the elderly. Would it be difficult for old pastors like you to shepherd in the urban church?

Brother Li: The generation gap does really exist. However, the gap won't forbid us from going to the urban church. We need to narrow the gap. Fellow workers themselves need transformation. We need to improve our quality and methods of shepherding.

For example, it is difficult for pastors of my age to use the Internet, computer and mobile phone. However, we have to learn these for our job and our next generation. In addition, we should change our clothing, manners and customs. When I am in the city, I can't continue using rural dialects.

Christian Times: Speaking of rural churches, what should we do to better feed these believers?

Brother Li: Almost all believers in the rural church are old, but we can't leave them. We should serve them patiently because they have contributed their whole lifetime to the church. Now they are going to see God. We are going to accompany them through the last period of life.

Christian Times: If we shepherd the church of rural and urban areas at the same time, fellow workers will face great pressure. Why not make others take charge of the town church and you are only responsible for rural churches?

Brother Li: We already have some three self churches in the town. We have different ideas with them. They thought we were competing for their territory and sheep. It's not the case. Actually we set up church in the town to preach gospel to those non-Christians.

Christian Times: You explore new church in the town. On one hand, it will attract more people to believe in God and benefit three self churches. On the other hand, the town church will facilitate the movement of rural churches to the city. If we set up a new church in the city, will there be benefits for rural churches?

Brother Li: Yes, there will be. Information can flow to each other. Staff and materials can also flow. As a result, a  church won't be charged by only one person. It is like a union.

Christian Times: The style of evangelism in the rural church is different from that in the urban church. However, the basic truth is the same. So how can we grasp the differences and the similarity?

Brother He: The way of teaching is different. However, the information is all about saving, repentance and other basic truth. In terms of baptism, sermons, the rural church and the urban church are the same. However, we evangelize in different forms of language and expressions.

Christian Times: Compared with the urban church, what's the characteristics of rural churches?

Brother Li: The believers of rural churches are farmers. Food is the first necessity of people. The pace of farmers' life is seasonal. During the slack season the church will take time to feed believers and there will be many gatherings in the church. During the busy season, people are buried in farm work. They only worship God in the church on Sunday.

Rural churches in Henan and Anhui Province have a common way of shepherding. Pastors transmit same information in different halls. This is called flexible church.  The town church is fixed. We have fixed fellow workers and venue. The advantage is that the information won't be mixed.  

The ministry method in the town church is different. There will be people from all walks of life. They may come to the church at different time. In that case, the town church can open a few continuous lessons every day. For example, there could be lessons respectfully in the morning, afternoon and evening. Whenever believers come to the church, pastors can serve them.


Christian Times: What's the challenge in shepherding and  transformation of rural churches? 

Brother Li: Faced with urban church, rural pastors need to make many changes. Yesterday I told my son and my son in law to buy me a suit. Faced with different people, we should wear different clothes.

I give different lectures to people of different ages.  I always talk about dreams with young students in theology class. I gave old believers comfort and encouragement to spend the rest of their life.

We are faced with big challenges in shepherding pastors. The fellow workers of my church haven't received any wage since we started to serve God. However, the fellow workers in the church work full time. They don't have their own land so they need to be paid.

Christian Times: Can the wage system be used in the rural church including the dozen of churches you are feeding now.

Brother Li: The key problem is that the rural church lacks  money! The daily expense of the church is high. We have to spend money on evangelism, gatherings, charitable donations and festivals celebration. The main source of church funds are from testimony donation, tithing and so on. We even have to pay for motorcycle fuel by ourselves. Thanks to God. We haven't lacked anything.

Christian Times: Now the economic situation in rural areas is not so optimistic. Believers are almost all the elderly. Would it be difficult for rural churches to transform? Will  rural churches decline eventually ? What about the future development of rural churches?

Brother Li: We should watch the need of the holy spirit and the development of rural church.

In recent years, the urbanization of rural churches can't be finished completely due to limited conditions. So we need to focus on developing urban church and spare efforts to serve the rural church at the same time.

Some believers in the church are more than 80 years old. If we only set churches in the city, the old man can't afford the bumps on the road.Therefore we should achieve a balance between the development of the urban church and the rural church.

Translated by Emma Ma 

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