Story of Rural Pastor Embarking on Urban Church Planting

A country church at sunrise
A country church at sunrise
By Esther TianNovember 21st, 2023

Though he is only more than 40 years old, Rev. Zhou Guang (pseudonym) has served in the church for nearly 30 years. His faith in God started with his mother’s illness. Since then, he has begun his service, which has extended from rural to urban.

Zhou was born in a remote village in North China. In response to her sister's advice, his mother, who had been the target of evil spirits, accepted Christ. After the conversion, some female believers came over to her home with hymns of praise and prayers, driving out demons for Zhou’s mother. Gradually, she got better, and the demons were gone.

Therefore, under the persuasion of several Christian aunts, the teenager Zhou went to church with his mother and even accepted Jesus by faith. At that time, without finishing his junior high school, Zhou also started to learn crafts from a skilled man of architecture.

During a gathering, with a hand raised, Zhou Guang responded to the pastor upon hearing of his calling, saying he wanted to devote himself to the Lord. Hereafter, he confirmed his call to serve. Though he was just a youngster, Zhou decided to serve the church in his hometown with the determination to give up the practice of architecture. Despite the architectural teacher’s three-year persuasion to leave for earnings, Zhou refused, only for church gatherings.

After joining the church, Zhou gradually grew from a “little assistant” to a core member of the church staff and got married to a female staff worker in the church. The previous pastor, who relocated to serve somewhere else, even entrusted the couple with the church.

Pastor Zhou was just in his early 30s when he took over the church. The previous pastor and his wife established many churches in the surrounding villages and towns. So, the number of believers that Zhou needed to pastor, monitor, and connect among diverse cross-regional churches was thousands.

To be a good leader of these churches, Zhou kept consulting with the experienced pastors and church staff respectfully, staying in contact with the former church leader, and being willing to cooperate with neighboring churches as well. Even facing exterior challenges and self-incompetence, the young Pastor Zhou still stuck to his position because of his faithfulness to the Lord and the mercy and guidance of God.

Not just being the guard for the rural churches, Pastor Zhou also followed the lead of the Spirit to plant churches in urban areas for the rural believers who came to the city for work, accompanying their children's education, caring for their grandchildren, or retiring.

Actually, Zhou never thought about creating churches in urban areas. Later, some believers said that they couldn’t accommodate the worship pattern and pastoral method of the city churches, asking about the possibility of planting churches in city areas. With such feedback, Zhou began to rethink and lead believers to pioneer in the cities. Currently, Zhou and his staff workers have set up churches in different cities, with a majority of believers who moved to cities serving in the church.

Before this, they also encountered a bottleneck in the development of rural churches. As believers tended to share testimony of the gospel and their faith, nearly every villager in nearby areas believed in God. When it came to planting churches in cities, more people had the opportunity to hear about Jesus.

Honestly, when talking about preaching in the city areas, the first thought in their minds was, “No acquaintance! The trust among people differed from how it was back in rural areas. How can we share the gospel with those in the workplace without connections and common topics?” They began to pray together, seeking God to open the door for them. It turned out to be a piece of cake when they actually put it into practice. In this process, they witnessed God’s faithfulness and realized that human thoughts couldn’t restrict the power of God.

Pastor Zhou appreciated that his church has focused on prayer and evangelism, just like the early church. Besides, they follow one spiritual principle: they only do the things God allows them to do, and vice versa. No matter how much work they need to do or how many experiences they have, they seek God's will and follow the lead of the spirit instead of relying on men’s methods.

Zhou admitted that he was very tired in the first few years of taking over the church. It wasn't until the last year or two, when he had experienced the challenges and the continued guidance from God, that he truly learned to rely on the Holy Spirit.

He mentioned that his church staff would pray first and forget their previous experiences or methods before starting any ministry. He said, “Men can have a variety of methods, but what matters is which one God uses.” They also declared through prayers that God would change the city, the spiritual world, and people’s hearts. After the ministry began, a prayer team would pray behind the scenes for those who served.

Zhou Guang also studied courses on pastoring and leadership growth from experienced organizations at home and abroad. Instead of practicing in his church directly after learning a course, as in the past, he spends more time leading staff workers to seek guidance from the Lord and find a suitable method for his church in practice.

- Translated by Poppy Chan

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