In early 2020, the coronavirus outbreak was a blow to many different organizations, including churches.
As churches in China have been closed since late January, they have used many types of online software to send daily devotional content to congregations. However, the pandemic has posed a new challenge for the church and even exposed many weaknesses and painful issues.
Three pastors from different areas in China shared their insights on the church during the pandemic.
Pastor Chen: The function of a church is only limited in a church building.
The pandemic exposed the church as being quite small and too weak — regardless of what is happening currently with believers and in society.
This was not evident when the church was open during normal times and believers were active in church services. Nonetheless, the church failed to provide leadership for believers.
No matter what believers needed or how the church continued to care for its congregation online and provide online worship services, the church hasn’t been able to show what it should really be.
During the pandemic, believers were like sheep without a shepherd, running around to different churches to listen to sermons.
In fact, Pastor Chen shared that the existence, authority, and function of a church did not come from a church building.
A building is not a place to which believers have a commitment; it is not a faith family, but simply a place for gathering.
Socially the church did not play a leading role in this pandemic, despite donating materials and money. Many churches were more concerned with their own benefits and did very little unless they were pushed.
As to how to cope with those painful issues, Pastor Chen claimed that the church should recognize these problems. As long as it was aware of them, the problems could be solved.
It would not be hard to let the church do what it’s meant to do, such as enhance the quality of pastors and provide better care for congregations. But some churches regarded themselves as bodies that are capable of everything and never make mistakes. That was the key problem.
If there were no external forces present to challenge the church to reform, it would be very tough for the church to be transformed. If the church isn’t able to be transformed and make changes, it will fall behind what is happening within society.
Brother Lv: Commitment, tithes, and pastoring were the greatest sore spots.
Due to the pandemic, many believers did not feel so committed to the church as before.
With the rise of “online church” options, some believers had less commitment to their own churches, especially if the churches were not doing well.
As tithes and offerings were relatively lower in the last months, many churches faced a financial crisis.
Not able to meet in person, believers might have changed to other churches and stopped giving tithes to their own churches.
The pastoral ministry of weak churches stopped giving care during the lockdown. Even though they may have started an online ministry, the result was poor because the staff were unfamiliar with technology, and the congregation was not a good fit for online streaming services and the members were not highly involved.
Many churches did not emphasize small groups—those churches have shut down since the outbreak. Their members used to gather on-site and they did not receive good quality pastoring online.
As to what measures the church could take to recover, he spoke of two things.
The first thing was whether pastors would recognize the existence of those problems in the church and make changes.
The second point was that church leaders should deliberately train the young generation.
Some leaders seized all the power in their hands, but individuals were limited in what they could do. Leaders should decentralize their authority to include young people and groups leaders.
Then pastors should work diligently as some of them became lazy and stopped working because they could no longer meet in a normal manner.
These pastors should work harder despite the difficult situation, giving more care to believers.
Pastor Lei: It’s important to use the technology of this new era in pastoral ministry.
He realized that there was much that the church did not understand about online ministry.
Believers could not meet in person and some persons left the church. The church should make better use of technology.
It was necessary to work in developing an online ministry. For example, his church launched training programs online—they turned out to be effective and some courses were offered again.
- Translated by Karen Luo