"Do not stop gathering, as those who are used to it, but exhort one another. Even more so, knowing that the day is near. (Hebrews 10:25)"
Worshiping God together with fellow believers in person is very important for Christians. On the one hand, it is the will of the Lord. On the other hand, it is also our personal needs.
In this extraordinary period of the global pandemic, our church service has to be held online. This may not be difficult for urban churches or some young churches because they are used to online meetings or activities. However, it is relatively new for rural churches, and it takes time for them to learn and adapt. After all, the leading group of rural churches is the elderly most of whom do not use smartphones or the Internet. Some of them are illiterate or poor eyesight, so the effect of the online gathering will also decline because of these factors.
Although we accumulated some online service experience last year, there are still lots to improve. Those services were the first attempts of formal online gathering, so we are still learning and adapting. However, with last year's experiences, it is much more comfortable this year for the churches to hold online services. Yet, there is still much to be improved.
Online services allow more freedom than attending services in person. With only the voice connection enabled, believers are relatively relaxed at home. However, this poses some difficulties for pastors because they could only see if the believers are online but cannot know if they listen carefully. Thus, pastors are not aware of how the believer feels about the sermon and whether believers are praying to reflect on what they have heard.
Online services seem to be convenient for believers, but pastors will have more jobs to do. Because a Sunday service quality depends on how believers absorb or reflect on God's words, it is crucial to motivate them to attend online gatherings. However, online services are more challenging to manage than physical ones, which pastors have to face. Suppose pastors fail to cultivate the enthusiasm of believers for online services during this whole period. In that case, services will be like a formalized event later on.
Pastors should also build tight bonds with church deacons because pastoring a church cannot be accomplished by the pastor alone. Everyone must use every position in the church to make the entire team of co-workers function correctly. It is the least optimal in the church where the pastor makes decisions alone and only demands co-workers to accomplish. In this case, co-workers cannot play their essential roles in church management. Instead, pastors must have a core co-worker team, allow co-workers to speak, express their opinions, and make plans so that they can carry out the church work.
In this way, the relationship between pastors and believers will be closer.
Furthermore, pastors should be not just concerned about whether believers pray, read the Bible, or sins against God, etc. The pastor should not act like inspectors when they meet believers neither. Otherwise, the relationship between pastors and believers will only be tenser. It will be difficult for believers to follow them.
Instead, pastors should try to care about any difficulties or unhappiness in believers' lives and pay more attention to their problems to see if they could offer any help to tackle their challenges. The reason why I say this is because of my own experiences. I have been watching my child very closely since he went to school as if he was going to school for me. I was worrying about If my child is doing well, if his classmates did better than him, or if teachers and classmates like him. Our daily communication is all about study and school-related topics.
Until one day, my child said to me: "Mom, could you talk with me something besides study?" I was shocked at the time. I didn't realize that I became so scary to him. I love him and wanted him to work hard and have a bright future. But I found that my child and I were becoming more and more distant. I used to talk about everything with him, but now I only talk about his study, and I don't know what else I can talk about with him. Then I realized that, for children, such a mother is cold and terrifying.
My experience with my son links me to think about the relationship between pastors and believers. Pastors hope that believers love the Lord and push them to the extent that believers could not stand anymore. Therefore, the pastors also need to adjust themselves appropriately, pay more attention to believers' actual lives, and make believers' life experience reconcile with God's word. In this particular period, let us encourage each other and gather and worship together fervently.
- Translated by Xiaodan Zeng