As the COVID-19 pandemic has lasted for more than two years and religious policies have tightly restricted online services, in what direction should the Chinese church develop?
The past 20 years have seen great changes in the Chinese church in terms of the form of gatherings and the number of attendees. Many family church pastors have stepped out of the community and adapted their pastoral strategies. They began to advocate purchasing large buildings as meeting places, emphasizing more on the number of attendance and the amount of donations, but at the same time slowly diluting the universal missionary enthusiasm and the ambition of suffering for the Lord. Twenty years have passed, how is the development of the Chinese church now?
Under the impact of the pandemic in the past two years, on-site church meetings have been suddenly shifted to online. Believers listen to the sermon of the church at home, which makes it more convenient for them to participate in online gatherings. On the other hand, the loss of the number of worshipers in the field and group learning is on the rise.
At one time, large church buildings and attendance number that those church leaders were obsessed with seemed to have lost its former glory. Whether it is the pandemic or the tightening of the general environment, this is a process of refining the growth of Chinese churches in the past 20 years. Pastors in Chinese churches need to understand God’s good intentions, so as to turn to the path that suits God’s heart and serve the church.
When church leaders emphasize the size and number of the church, do they still stick to the believing tradition of the early church in the bible, abiding by the words of God and a heart determined to suffer for the Lord?
I once heard such a testimony: "There was a sister who once studied with her half-sister in the Catholic Church. Later, the older sister had a good social status. The older one told the younger that as long as the younger didn’t become a pastor, she would find her a good job. If the younger continued to be a pastor, they would never see each other again. During the Great Cultural Revolution, the older sister distanced herself from her. Later, the younger sister and her husband were imprisoned for more than 20 years from when they were still young. After being released from prison, the couple were alone and went to a place to minister the elderly group. Later, when the sister was paralyzed in bed, she often said three things to visitors: 'What do you do? Do you have a call from God? Being a pastor is a blessed road on which you should walk well.'"
This testimony shows an elderly female Christian who has given up her great future in order to be loyal to the Lord Christ. Her beautiful youth was spent in prison and she is paralyzed in bed in older years, while others take care of her. In such an encounter, she can peacefully say that being a pastor is a blessed road on which to walk well. That makes the people present encouraged and in tears.
The vitality conveyed by her ordinary words is very penetrating because her life has had this experience. Her words and deeds and her charisma in Christ have influenced many young church leaders.
What the church in China lacks today is not a magnificent building or a gushing pastor. What it lacks today is the pastors and believers who use their lives to influence others’ lives. Similarly, speaking out from the mouths of those who have not experienced faith is completely different from speaking out from the mouth of this old sister. A pastor who has experienced the cross and resurrection can pass on the life of Christ, and the Chinese church needs to cultivate more such energetic pastors and believers, which is the future and hope of the Chinese church.
In the church environment where the material level begins to be richer and more comfortable, many pastors have church industries. At the same time, some pastors have lost their enthusiasm for missionary work and motivation for disciple training, which is an urgent problem for Chinese churches. However, it is hard to wake the sleeping pastor by man. The emergence of today’s environment must have been permitted by God, and I believe God has a reason for it. When more and more pastor leaders and believers face hardships, their beliefs can be experienced more pious, and they simply love the Lord and the Lord as one. If there are only two choices for a church leader, one is a high salary and the other is jail, what would you choose at this time? Paul said, “The humiliation suffered by Christ is more precious than gold and silver.”
When a pastor goes everywhere, he thinks about enjoyment first. This is the spiritual sleep of the church. Such a pastor should come to God to repent. What the present church lacks is the piety and observance of God’s words to the first generation church, and the people who have been trained will have the same problem, that is, the lack of good faith tradition.
In the early days, pastors and believers of Chinese family churches were very awed by God’s words and they were determined to keep it. This is the root-like core that is missing in the pastoral and inheritance of Chinese churches today. A man once said, “When Christ calls a man, he commands him to die.” This man was a famous theologian, priest and martyr in World War II. When he was 39 years old, he was martyred for sticking to the values of Christ. His faith testimonials and theological works influenced a generation of Christians, also known as the conscience of the German church.
Today, God will refine His church. Whether as pastor leaders or ordinary believers, we all need to ask ourselves: “Am I the project of gold, silver and precious stones, or the project of grass and straw? Am I ready to be persecuted for Christ’s sake?” When Chinese church pastors and believers return to the state of faith in the Lord Christ of the early church again, the revival of Chinese churches is just around the corner, and its influence on the world gospel mission will reach a new height.
- Translated by Charlie Li