This is a true story about a rural church in central China that at first gathered in a small house and then later moved to a larger one that was demolished for certain reasons.
The church leader asked one of his relatives who had some authority in that village to give the church a piece of land to be used for new construction. The "official" agreed but added that the church should pay 20,000 yuan as a compensation fee for permanent use. The price seemed quite reasonable.
Because the church had been allowed to construct a new building, the villagers' committee agreed to have them give money after the construction was finished. About two years later, the new church was completed. However, the church leader then refused to pay, claiming that there was no money.
The "official" was eventually dismissed because of the matter. Since religion is a sensitive issue, on the one hand, the village leaders were without countermeasures despite having complained about not receiving the money.
On the other hand however, the church leader testified everywhere that the free land was God's gift and the congregation followed him without question. Therefore, the entire church was convinced that the fund should not be given to the committee because it was God's money.
After the revised regulations on religious affairs came into effect last February, administrative authority was transferred to the village cadres who reported the matter to the local county government. The latter supported the former's decision to take back the land.
Realizing the bad news, the church leader summoned the administrative board to meet together and later delivered 20,000 yuan to the villagers' committee. They however refused to accept it. The committee ordered the church to relocate within a given period of time or drastic measures would be taken.
On demolition day, many villagers watched the scene, a large percentage of whom endorsed the action. Most villagers were angry at the church and argued that it should be torn down because it hadn't made any contribution and owed the village money.
This story teaches us a lesson that the church should keep its word, regardless of whether it wins or loses. In our culture, people look down on those who break their promise. If the church violates its agreement and can therefore not be trusted, people will regard God as equally suspect.
In fact, there is another contributing factor to all of this, namely that there was no real pastor in charge. The only pastor of the church had just attended a two-year Bible training program.
- Translated by Karen Luo