In recent years, rapid environmental changes pose no small test to the in-person meeting and stability of Chinese house churches, and to pastoral ministries of nurturing vast believers. The present hotly-debated issues are as follows: whether the gathering forms should be large-venue based or community-based in scattering cell groups; or whether it is better to gather physically or online. Christian Times, an online Chinese Christian newspaper, recently interviewed Pastor W from East China, who has more than 20 years of pastoral experience. He shared his reflections and opinions on the development of the church and pastoral work.
The following is the pastor’s sharing in the first person:
First, be a down-to-earth pastoral worker.
My parents were both Christians and my father came to Christ after the Cultural Revolution. In his ministry for more than 40 years, my father was a Christian who had many experiences and suffered a great deal. When I started my ministry I worked in the countryside. Later, when the missionary work turned to the urban area, we moved to office buildings in the city and rented venues for gatherings. Then, due to vanity, many ministers started to compete in securing large gathering venues and gaining more believers. Among such ministers were the people whom I used to nurture. They eventually chose to get loans and spent tens of millions to build church venues in urban locations with a high market value.
I once had the idea of having a big church and living under the aura of a great pastor. In my church, I also experienced the trial of being over-respected: God is first, and I am second to Him. Thankfully, God led me to repent. I was determined not to envy pastors who are used to the comforts of life and people’s respect but to be a practical pastoral worker of Christ. We ought to return to the mode of leading group gatherings like it was in the early church and cultivating the disciples of the Lord in a down-to-earth manner. Now, although the environment is difficult, I can see that God continues to bless my pastoral work, and it is very important to return to my original calling as a pastor.
Second, restore the original awareness and enthusiasm of doing the mission.
The church needs to be a church where disciples can be assigned for missionaries. Now there are different missionary courses to study. All of which have excellent aspects. No matter what kind of teaching materials the church approves, the most important thing is to enable the church pastors to restore the original awareness and enthusiasm of the Apostles in the beginning as the Bible recorded. The church needs to see more deeply that the significance of missionary work is that Christians can participate in the mission of ambassadors entrusted by the Lord, and we can see the significance of spreading the gospel to all nations. This is a great blessing to Chinese churches and believers. Faith should not stop at the individual level but should make the church and Christians more aware of the relationship between God’s kingdom and the individual. It is a blessing for the church to become a church with the ability to send out missionaries.
Third, the church should inherit the mentality of suffering for the Lord.
An elderly sister and her husband were imprisoned for more than 20 years when they were young. After being released from prison, the couple were alone and they went to a place to do a ministry for the elderly. Later, the elderly sister was paralyzed in bed. Yet, to her visitors, she often said three things: "What do you do? Do you have a calling from God? Being a pastor is a blessed path. You should have a good walk in it."
In order to be loyal to the Lord Christ, this sister gave up her great future when she was young and spent her beautiful youth in prison. When she got old, she was paralyzed in bed and had to be taken care of by others. In such an encounter, she could say in peace that being a pastor was a blessed walk and walked in it well. The visitors were encouraged and some of them burst into tears. Her words and deeds and her charisma in Christ influenced many young church leaders in my time. Now the church needs to rediscover this tradition of being determined to suffer for the Lord. This is the root of the church and it is the key for the church to be blessed and preserved by God.
- Translated by Charlie Li