Topic: It Takes Prayer, Obedience to Select Church Leadership

A picture shows a man praying.
A picture shows a man praying. (photo:
By Steve Sun December 23rd, 2022

Editor's note: It's the fourth article of a series of interviews under the topic: Cultivate a New Generation of Chinese Christian Leaders (see article one, article two, and article three). A pastor in South China emphasized the importance of praying and obeying God to select leadership in line with God's will. 

A Chinese online Christian newspaper Christian Times interviewed Liang Sisheng (pseudonym for safety reasons), a post-70s pastor from southern China with rich pastoral experience.

Christian Times: What is your opinion of the church's efforts to raise a new generation of spiritual leaders or the successor of the church?

Pastor Liang Sisheng: That's a good question. The church needs to do this job over the long term according to the Bible. Paul exhorted Timothy to not only make disciples but also to take care of those who can learn and teach others in his exhortation to Timothy.

From the Old Testament to the present, the church has had difficulty raising successors even before Christ's return. Consequently, the church must do an excellent job of discipleship and check for the next generation of leaders the Lord is raising among us.

Christian Times: How important is it for the Chinese church to raise a new generation of leaders?

Pastor Liang Sisheng: If the church selects the right successor from the next generation, it will help the church's development. However, choosing the wrong person can be very harmful to the church. Therefore, the selection of the next generation of church leaders should not be taken lightly.

Christian Times: How can Chinese pastors become more open-minded about raising the next generation of successors? In practice, what should be done?

Pastor Liang Sisheng: The most important thing is the work of the Lord, who the Holy Spirit chooses, just as God chose and anointed David. When God asked Samuel to anoint David, Samuel found the wrong person at the beginning. By mistake, he thought one of David's brothers was David. But God reminded Samuel that humans look at the outward appearance, but God Himself looks at the heart, and He also reminded Samuel not to follow his own will in this matter, but to seek the will of God. From this perspective, as a pastor leads a church, he is not just looking at a person's talent, whether a person has leadership qualities, or how theologically literate he is. The most important thing is that the current leader needs to observe, pray, and seek the Lord's will. Let the Lord show me who the successor of my church should be, how I should do it, etc.

Christian Times: Which factors do you think must be considered when choosing a successor according to God's will? In your opinion, who is the most suitable successor in accordance with God's will?

Pastor Liang Sisheng: There are hidden dangers in the election system of some Conservative churches that focus on church constitutions. How long does it take for the church leader to be re-elected, for example? Despite its ability to reflect public opinion very well, it may not always reflect God's will.

Especially a church, assuming it has such regulations. Our church's charter, for instance, requires the congregation to vote. The congregation should be taught to pray frequently for this matter, which means seeking God's guidance rather than just our emotions and impressions as to what we like and dislike that determine the outcome.

When God first chose Saul to be the king of the people of Israel, Saul was not pleasing to God. At that time, the choice of King Saul was based on public opinion, and the suggestions from public opinion did not necessarily have the best results.

Christian Times: What is the best way to raise and select leaders? Is it necessary to update our current Chinese church models or concepts?

Pastor Liang Sisheng: There are some real cases I have seen. In traditional churches, some old pastors choose their successors, but they later found that the result was not what they expected. Presbyterian churches also value election processes. If there are strong pastors, there should be no problems since everyone will vote for them. If there are no strong pastors, the relationship between pastors and preachers will intensify every time there is an election. 

Many Christians in the Chinese community can easily learn how to do it from all over the world. In fact, in many cases, the elected pastor can cause division within the church rather than benefit it. Therefore, praying for guidance and relying on the Holy Spirit to choose the next pastor is essential.

As an example, the apostle Peter proposed the standard of seven deacons in the book of Acts. The entire church must share this awareness, followed by prayer and seeking the Lord's guidance. The second is that everyone has an obedient heart.

Furthermore, large churches may have more pastors and co-workers, as well as many people on the co-workers' team. The successor must have the ability to promote church evangelism, manage, and for public relations. If this person is not good at interpersonal relationships, he will not be able to do well in a large church. It is, however, relatively easy to establish interpersonal relationships in small churches due to their size.

The process of raising candidates to be the successor is easier in small churches. Follow God's guidance during discipleship training. Who is God's chosen candidate? You still need to seek God's guidance. Despite Samuel's experience, God's choice of David surprised him completely.

Putting our own will above God's is the most common mistake we make.

- Translated by Richard Zou

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