In the 1970s, Enya (pseudonym), a female pastor, was born into a Christian family in a small county in North China. Today, she and her husband lead a church that places a strong emphasis on relying on the Holy Spirit, receiving positive testimonials from neighboring congregations.
Recently, she shared her arduous journey and struggles on the path of personal growth and ministry spanning over two decades with an online Chinese Christian newspaper, the Christian Times.
Struggles and convictions after being filled with the Holy Spirit
Enya grew up in a Christian household and was sponsored by her hometown church to study theology for a year in 1997. In 1998, while serving in ministry, she encountered an elderly pastor filled with the Holy Spirit, inspiring her to learn the art of prayer under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Despite receiving the Holy Spirit and spiritual gifts, she encountered resistance and difficulty in her ministry, as some members of her hometown church struggled to accept Pentecostal Christians. She recalled, "Because I could speak in tongues during that period, I faced a negative attitude from my fellow servants. Some even accused me of being possessed by evil spirits."
In the midst of this painful struggle, she fervently prayed to God. The Holy Spirit communicated to her that this was the ministry that God intended for her. She subsequently relinquished her burdens and found solace and strength in her heart.
Reflection and transformation in ministry
In 1999, she married a pastor from a city in East China, and together they established a church. Throughout their journey in ministry, she came to realize that, as servants of Christ, personal renewal and purification through Christ's life were of greater significance than the ministry itself.
Her husband experienced a severe car accident but continued to worship God even in his extreme physical weakness. She learned that focusing on Jesus was more important than engaging in ministry, as the presence of the Lord satisfied those who served Him.
Pastor Enya recounted, "One day, my husband was involved in a serious car accident while transporting church workers to their lodgings. He spent an extended period in the intensive care unit."
"On one of those days, he suffered multiple fractures, including his nose, and had to undergo intestinal surgery. His nose had been bleeding for an hour or two before I arrived. During my presence, I continuously proclaimed God's word and prayed. After approximately half an hour, the nosebleed gradually ceased."
She continued, "Remarkably, it was a Sunday, and immediately after the nosebleed stopped, my husband said, 'Today is Sunday; let us worship the Lord together in the hospital.'"
"Through this car accident, I realized that cultivating a deep and intimate relationship with the Lord takes precedence over eloquent preaching and ministry."
She also reflected, saying, "I noticed that many staff members who loved the Lord left due to differences in opinions, and relationships with others were strained. When collective decisions aligned with her ideas, she obeyed. However, when they didn't, she refused to comply and eventually chose to depart. In prayer, God revealed to me, 'The ministry I desire is not rooted in meticulous planning.'"
She added, "Our ministry began to transform, shifting its focus towards seeking God's will in all matters and fostering an intimate relationship with the Lord. We embarked on a path where God stood at the center of our ministry, creating a familial culture. When individuals received visions and made decisions, we advocated for the involvement of the church family."
Enya emphasized, "When individuals receive revelations, we urge pastors to review and discern them while allowing others to express their reservations and concerns. Church workers are encouraged to lead lives guided by God because prophets should respect the apostles' examination. Let pastors make decisions and bear responsibility for the execution and implementation of these visions. Let us walk in unity and obedience within the framework of personal reception and authority."
Insights and visions after the COVID-19 pandemic
Three years after the pandemic, Enya's church realized the importance of nurturing a sense of commitment among believers toward the church. She observed that, in the past, congregants often fixated on spiritual conferences or sought-after renowned pastors. Consequently, she placed increased emphasis on small group gatherings, which deepened believers' connections with and dedication to the church.
"During the pandemic, through these small group gatherings, we frequently congregated with fellow Christians, thereby gaining a deeper insight into their lives. We concentrated on cultivating a familial culture within the church where fear and the concealment of weaknesses were discouraged. Recognizing that we are all sinners, we emphasized collective prayer, growth, and transformation," Pastor Enya added.
Challenges and struggles in pastoring
When addressing the current challenges and obstacles in pastoral work, Enya remarked, "Contemporary individuals grapple with constrained schedules and are often drawn to worldly entertainment and distractions. For example, many individuals work overtime, and some parents prioritize their children's education by enrolling them in various supplementary classes, which poses a challenge to their attendance at church."
"Faced with such circumstances, our church has placed greater emphasis on daily online spiritual meetings in the mornings. Simultaneously, we encourage church members to share their personal testimonies about how God has led them. As they experience God's grace, they begin to pursue a life of faith, causing their worldly pursuits to wane."
"For those engaged in the corporate world, we stress the importance of seeking God's wisdom and strategies in their professions. In our church, approximately half of the couples are both believers, while the other half consists of female believers whose husbands do not share their faith. The church regularly hosts themed gatherings for couples, extending invitations to non-believing spouses. Some individuals, during these couples' meetings, embark on their faith journey through courses focused on marital happiness."
Nurturing young leaders: releasing them, but with accountability
Pastor Enya elucidated, "As older-generation pastors, we recognize the necessity of gradually entrusting many ministry responsibilities to the younger generation. We adhere to the principle of relinquishing control without forsaking accountability. We are determined not to wait until our departure, akin to Eli and Moses, before allowing the next generation to assume leadership roles. Our guiding philosophy is to journey together as a family, with pastors from various generations serving side by side."
"While we are still present, we offer our support for young staff members to engage in ministry. Witnessing them excel in ministry brings us great pride. In our church, the gifts and anointing present in the older generation of pastors readily flow into the lives of the next generation through mutual respect."
Pastors should retain their essence
Enya emphasized that the former approach to ministry development in her previous church often revolved around people's desires and human plans, with divine inspiration taking a backseat. Once, God inspired her and some church workers to redirect their focus away from all-consuming ministry and instead seek God and His divine kingdom.
"Examining the Old Testament, it is evident that when the kings of Israel engaged in warfare without seeking God's guidance, relying solely on worldly wisdom and kings, their efforts ended in failure. However, when they assembled with the elders, sought God's revelations, and followed His guidance, they emerged victorious," she added.
"We are firm in our belief that whether pastoring a church or advancing a ministry, the path to success lies in companionship with God. God desires a collaborative effort where people work alongside Him to accomplish His ministry. We must initiate this journey by collectively seeking God's will, then obeying; the Holy Spirit will provide the guidance and direction needed."
- Translated by Abigail Wu