Predicament and Solution Faced With Rural Pastors

Rural Church
Rural Church (photo: Pixabay)
By Ruth WangJanuary 20th, 2017

"Live on confidence", people who know the situation of pastors from rural churches must be familiar with the jargon.

In the middle of the 19th century, James Hudson Taylor, founder of China Inland Mission, put forward the concept of evangelism dependent on confidence instead of money or other power. Pastor's salary was not fixed every month. They lived on God's offering instead of donation. "Live on confidence" played a very important role in the development of Christianity.

Many rural churches in China have insisted such kind of view for many years, thinking that the job of pastors should not be paid. Most of the rural pastors have been volunteers in the past few decades. Church's development has been restricted due to this phenomenon.

A reporter of ChristianTimes used to visit Kaifeng City of Henan Province, talking about this topic with Z, a 60-year-old elder. Elder Z began to believe in God in the early 1980s when the rural churches rejuvenated. Now he serves God and does farm work at the same time to make a living.

He believes that the support of pastors is very necessary due to the social change. In the past pastors didn't need too much money. Nowadays people can't do anything without money.

Brother C, the nephew of Z, is about 30 years old. They were born and raised in a village of Kaifeng. They serve the same church there. There are about 6,000 villagers, including 200 Christians. Z said that with urbanization and secularization, the rural population has overflowed into the city. The rural church has also been affected.

C and Z are two generations with different experiences of growth. However, they both realized the need to support pastors especially under the background of urbanization. The population loss makes the development of rural churches much difficult. Practical solutions are eagerly needed.

Christian Times: How do the rural churches in the neighborhood feed the ministers?

Z: Rural believers don't want to support pastors because in the past they were volunteers. Believers hold that pastors should get nothing because serving God is a sacred job. Although they all know that pastors also need the money to live on.

I began to believe God in 1980. People were not rich at that time. Many of us just hoped we could have enough food every day. Our only way of transportation was riding a bike. We didn't need so much money. Now the old pastors always said that they were not paid when they were young. However, they have neglected the different situation of different times.

Nowadays most of new churches were based on old ones. We need much money to decorate or expand the churches. The church has little money to support pastors.

Christian Times: You are also a pastor of the older generation. What do you think of supporting pastors?

Z: The Bible also said: "We can't block the cattle's mouth when they eat crops." Paul also got supported by Lydia, an affluent woman, when he did the mission.

Christian Times: Has your idea changed compared with the past? I mean maybe at first you also thought that pastors should not be fed by believers.

Z: Things change. People change. Now almost everything should be done with money. Without money you can't eat, make a phone call or take a bus. The education fee of children is also much higher. All in all, we can't live without money, nor can pastors.

Christian Times: However, sometimes it was just difficult for the church to support pastors due to the financial problem, right? 

Z: Nowadays rural pastors find different ways to make a living. Some of them work in the city. Some follow the example of Paul. They work in the daytime and gather at night. They have to help others and feed themselves at the same time. Some pastors have a few acres of farmland. They grow crops on the land and raise pigs or sheep.

Christian Times: Rural believers are not willing to dedicate to the church or support pastors, right?

C: Believers are willing to give money to the church. However, they are not willing to support pastors. 

Christian Times: So where has the money gone?

C: Building churches.

Z: Sometimes I even lent money to other churches because they were going to build new churches.

Christian Times: So you mean the traditional opinions have caused the phenomenon?

C: Yes. And there is another problem. what should we do if we were able to support one pastor but now there are ten pastors in the church? What should we do? It's a matter of equality. Another problem is that pastors only preach and teach. They don't spend time on pastoral care.

Christian Times: Why did this happen? The traditional pattern was that pastors shepherd believers and believers support pastors. How could the good pattern be forgotten?

C: Pastors have no sense of pastoral care. In my opinion, the so-called pastoral care is to talk with believers from time to time and pay attention to their spiritual life. The governance of the church is the job of the elders. 

We have built too many churches. However, few people attend in the church. Pastors only focus on preach. They just take turns to preach the gospel in different churches.

Z: Now the mechanism of the church is not perfect. A pastor from South Korea said that in the Bible one-tenth of the dedication should be used to feed Levites. Now the money can be used to support pastors. I agree with him. I also think the church should use some money to do charity like taking care of orphans.

Christian Times: When you began to believe in God, the rural church rejuvenated in Henan Province. What was the situation of the church and believers at that time?

Z: At that time the thoughts of people were relatively simple. The job of evangelism was also easy. Nobody worked in the city. We worked and ate together every day. We gathered together to listen to the gospel at night.

The villagers were not well educated at that time. They often fight or quarreled with each other. However, when they came to the church, they felt the peaceful atmosphere. They thought the church was a venue of cultural activities so they shouldn't do anything rude in the church.

At that time there were no specific skills of evangelism. We just read out the Bible in front of a crowd of villagers. However, they were eager to learn about the church and always waited ahead.

Nowadays pastors need to raise children and work. Some of them have flown to big cities. They choose to settle in the city. Now the city church is reviving but the rural church is gradually declining. The conditions of the city church are good while the number of rural churches is decreasing.

Christian Times: How do you see the decline of the rural church and the rise of the city church?

Z:This is what this age is like. The rural church should pay more attention to visiting brothers and sisters. Pastors should also be paid and supported by the church. Pastors should devote themselves to preaching the gospel, otherwise people's heart will be weak. Without God's words, people will be lost in the temptation of the secular world. At the same time pastors can also visit the patients and the elderly.

Pastoral care of the rural church is very important. However, we need to support pastors first. We should pay them from time to time according to the practical situation. For example, we should pay for their transport expanses and offer them food when they come to the church. We should offer them some money to cover their living expenses.

The church may rent several acres of farmland so that pastors can grow some crops or vegetables to make a living. When they are busy, brothers and sisters can help them with the farm work.

I think if I work outside of my hometown, there will be so much limitation when I want to get back. However, if I choose to grow crops, my schedule will be flexible. When I am busy with evangelism, other villagers would help me. When they are busy with farm work, I could also help them. The relationship between pastors and believers will be promoted.

The pastor needs to visit and shepherd believers every day. However, they can't do it without our support. We should solve their practical problems. We are thinking of how to solve the problems. I would like to apply the ideas I have mentioned above in some churches and see the results. Let's wait and see.

Translated by Emma Ma

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