For the religious circle, there will be a new change in two months, as the Measures for the Administration of Internet Religious Information Services will be implemented in early March this year. By then, all information about religion on the Internet must be published in accordance with the relevant provisions. Religious information can no longer be released at will. With an important influence, the Internet has also become controlled by the state.
This is a big restriction, which is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it limits the channels of religious information release, on the other hand, it can also filter out certain information. In short, the release of religious information on the Internet should mainly meet two requirements. First, the publisher must be a legal person or a non-legal person who has obtained a license to provide Internet religious information services. Second, the publisher can be an individual, but should be a teacher or a religious faculty member of a religious college, so that the information released must be "healthy, civilized, and beneficial to social harmony and the progress of the times".
Faced with such a new change, how should Christians and local churches carry out pastoral work? What should we do if we can't preach online because we haven't obtained the license of Internet religious information service when sporadic COVID-19 outbreaks continue to occur in some places and onsite gatherings are suspended?
First, strive for the Internet religious information service license.
Since the promulgation and implementation of the Administrative Measures for Internet Religious Information Service is to standardize the religious information service on the Internet, we, as manager of the temples and churches, should try our best to obtain the license for religious information service.
If we obtain the religious information service license, then the published religious information must be "conducive to social harmony, the progress of the times, health, and civilization". This doesn't mean that Christians can't preach the basic teachings of the Bible. It's just that in my opinion, when Christians publish such information on the Internet, they need to consider relevant words more carefully, and choose words and sentences more objectively and rationally to clarify the original intention of the Bible, and to try to apply it to the life and service.
Second, collect and save relevant spiritual resources as much as possible.
In the era of knowledge explosion, Christians' thirst for spiritual truth is diluted. When having easy access to spiritual resources at hand, many Christians do not cherish such grace or seize the opportunity to study hard, or collect relevant resources. However, how can we face it when we can't find those spiritual books any more on the Internet?
Therefore, the policy change and the tightening situation are not necessarily bad things for Christians, as it wakes us up to cherish the few spiritual materials already available, and seize every opportunity to equip ourselves.
Third, focus on creating a spiritual growth model suitable for the self-pastoring of lay believers.
If one day, we can't get together either in person or online, what should we do? If we can only stay at home, or in isolation for a long time, how should we face it? If the hypothesis is probable, should we get prepared for it?
I consider that at present, we need to create a spiritual cultivation mode suitable for the self-pastoring of believers. The so-called spiritual cultivation mode of believers at ordinary times is "Bible study and prayer", which is, however, still too superficial, even a little formalistic. Believers do the Bible study and prayer to complete the task and feel at ease. As for the results, it is not their concern.
There is nothing wrong with doing the Bible study or prayer, but we must carry out in-depth study and prayer. Simply put, we need to pay attention to two issues. First is for the lay believers to have lasting interest and motivation to read the Bible, and to basically understand the Bible. Second is to make the prayer life of lay believers become a real spiritual breath, rather than a rigid form, or repeating a few words day after day.
(The author is a pastor in Zhejiang and the article is originally published by the Gospel Times.)