Interview: Millennial Fellowship Leader Talks About Ups And Downs in Shepherding

By Elsie Hu, Yetta Yao , October 15, 2018 10:10 AM

The youth choir of Fuzhou Huaxiang Church held a concert on Sept 13, 2018. (Provided by Lin Qingyun )

Born in the 1990s, Brother L led a college fellowship in Eastern China.

In this interview, he talked about how shepherding college students for the past six to seven years has shown him how shepherding is like life: filled with hardship, joy and all kinds of flavors. 

The downs

When he talked about the "downs", Brother L said that he did not suffer as a preacher; but, currently, the college fellowship community, as a whole, is facing some difficulties and challenges, which made him feel "down".

 1. The preacher's own growth becomes a problem

Many of today's Christian preachers who are in colleges and universities are in a very awkward predicament.

Followers are mainly college students, who always graduate in a batch after three or four years. The faith and skill of preachers have grown rapidly, but after three or four years, new students arrive and their faith is not strong enough to keep up with preachers' thoughts. Thus, preachers can only resort to the most elementary way to shepherd them similar to how they preached in the early days. As they repeat the same thing all over again, the preacher runs into a sense of frustration.

Brother L, only after he experienced these things, comprehended the difficulty and felt greatness similar to the time when Jesus was preaching in his time on earth. For humans to understand the Word, Jesus incarnated into flesh and preached it in a human way.

But in the long run, Brother L has fallen into the predicament. When college graduates leave the fellowship and enter society, they will grow faster in faith when they experience more churches, people and things. However, the ministers who remain in the college fellowship, have gradually fallen behind, and become the "lowly" compared to those graduates.

In this dead loop, ministers not only consume a lot of time, energy and effort, but their ministering level can only remain at the stage of shepherding new college students.

"But no matter what, the preacher still has to break through the environmental obstacles and keep growing."

Brother L believes that "the minister cannot stop the pace of learning, especially the ministers who shepherd college students. Once they stop learning, it will become very dangerous to them."

 2. Believers with mental depression easily consume the energy of the preacher

Depressed believers are not unusual in many churches. On the contrary, they are very common. Some people with mental illness are not valued in society, and even worse, they are excluded and abandoned. However, after visiting the church, when they feel the warmth and love of believers, they are willing to stay. Therefore, some people with clinical depression are cured because of their faith and it does often happen in churches.

Nevertheless, for the health of a believer with mental depression, there must be a sacrifice and a sacrifice from others - the preacher is one of them.

Brother L has shepherded several believers who suffer from mental illness. "Mental depression occurs a lot in our generation," Brother L explained. "Some people with depression came from poor families and from a young age, they are left alone by their parents, who are busy going out for work and money. They ignore their child's physical and mental growth, leaving the children to feel that they are abandoned."

So, after coming to the fellowship, they become extremely dependent on the preacher.  They always come to the preacher for various problems, ask for help and answers. This consumes the preacher's time and energy immensely.

However, regardless how tired he becomes, he is always willing to help whenever there is a need from a believer with mental depression.

 3. The generation gap problem caused by age

Don't assume that the "generation gap" only happens between the young and the old. There is also a generation gap between young people as well.

"College students have brisk thoughts, and their minds can change at any time."

When referring to the generation gap, Brother L also becomes very helpless. "Sometimes you can't talk to them. You don't understand what they are thinking. They don't know what you are saying too."

Although some people suggested to Brother L to find a young man to lead the fellowship, Brother L rejected the idea.

"It is not impossible to encourage college students to stay and help in pastoring the fellowship," Brother L said. "But I don't want to do this."

His answer was because he knows how challenging it is to educate college students, so he does not want others to suffer. Moreover, Brother L hopes that these students can go to bigger and be in a better place to prevail after graduation, and contribute to society.

"I myself have encountered resistance of the whole family because of shepherding. Relatives, friends, classmates, they do not understand. But, these young believers have not experienced, because they are mostly the second generation of Christians" Brother Lu explained, "Often, they want to do full-time ministry only due to hot-headed thoughts and sudden rush." He added that to the Christians who want to serve God full time, he usually gives them time to cool down and contemplate thoroughly this question: are you truly and sincerely intend to serve God? Often, after the believers cool down and cleared their thoughts, the final decision is to "leave."

This leads to the fourth point:

4, No co-workers

"It is very painful for a person in charge of a fellowship to have no co-workers." Brother L concluded. More than once, he had thought about leaving the fellowship when he was weak. But, he chose to stay because of his reverence of God and his responsibility to the followers.

The ups

Brother L said that although shepherding is not easy, when he think about its sweetness, he still feel that it is worth it.

1. Obey the call of God to achieve the pursuit of the life

"Everyone searches for life and meaning. I personally think that ministering is also a call to obey God."

When Brother L mentioned his experience of "answering the call", he said, "In fact, when this kind of thing came to me, I never dare not to answer."

But after the call, Brother L did not respond immediately before he was willing to serve. In the process of obeying God's call, he also prayed seven or eight times to God for the signs of the call, and then God showed him the testimonies in various things in life. Brother L was obedient.

"Calling is not a supernatural thing. Instead, it's the ministry role comes to you. It's up to you to accept it or not. You accept it, take on it, this becomes the call on you. If you are not willing to do it, that's it. If you insist on not taking it, God will call upon others to do it."

It is like as he (Brother L), had worked outside the school for a few years after graduation, but one day, the former head of the fellowship suddenly called him and said, "I quit."  

"Because his parents are preachers, at that time, I thought that the fellowship was in safe hands when it was handed over to him," Brother L said.  

"But because he left immediately after the call, the fellowship was in chaos. I had no choice but to resign from work, and came back and took over the shepherding of the fellowship." At that time, Brother L thought that he was only temporarily in charge. Once the right person is found, he could leave. As it turns out, since then, there is no new young person willing to take over this responsibility.

2. Established friendship with more people

Followers are all college students, and it is easy to build good friendships. When these believers leave school after graduation and spread to all parts of the country, if Brother L visits them, these believers will come to pick him up and arrange accommodation for him. If time allows, they even take Brother L out for a local tour for a day or two.

"These are the secondary," Brother L said with a smile.

"The main thing is that thanks to God, it is great that there is always someone that you know everywhere you go."

3, Harvested love

Brother L and his wife met in the fellowship. Every time his wife is mentioned, Brother L is always full of gratitude: "This is God's blessing to my marriage." He exclaimed that if he was not a Christian and did not become the fellowship leader, his wife would not have married him.

Sister J, the wife of Brother L, gave him great support. In all these years, when Brother L shepherding the fellowship, she never complained while still being the only person earning money to support their family.

Before Brother L's full-time shepherding, she had made a wish with God, hoping that her monthly salary could reach 5,000 yuans within certain time, so that she and her husband could live locally.  But within three months, her monthly salary has already exceeded 10,000 yuan. To this day, the husband and wife have never starved.

- Translated by Jake Jason

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