Experiencing Eight-day Retreat in a Rural Church

A retreat was held at a rural church in a county-level city, Jilin, in June, 2023
A retreat was held at a rural church in a county-level city, Jilin, in June, 2023
By Grace ZhiJuly 24th, 2023

I was invited to a retreat held in a rural church in a county-level city in Jilin Province.

After singing in worship, the pastor began to preach a sermon. He reminded the believers that faith should not be just talk; we must take action in real life. Moreover, it is very easy for us believers to worship things other than God, such as grace and physical health, so we must make sure that we worship the one true God. During the sermon, the pastor also explained other common concerns of the believers, such as whether Christians can drink and smoke. All the believers listened attentively during the one-and-a-half-hour sermon and responded with a hearty “Amen” afterwards.

This eight-day retreat began with a training program for pastors, followed by a retreat for lay believers. Pastor Shen from Shenyang delivered all of the sermons in a variety of rural churches. The pastor told us that he had to preach every morning, afternoon, and evening for about a week, giving at least four or even six sermons a day. The theme of this year’s revival conference was “Our Identity in Christ and How to Live It Out,” and Pastor Shen had prepared different sermons for the pastors and lay believers.

Between two sermons, there was a time of praise and worship, and then participants were invited to dance on stage.

After that, there were still believers in the church waiting to be prayed for. I later learned from Pastor Shen that this is the norm for revival conferences in rural churches. In addition to preaching several times during the week, the pastor must pray for the many waiting believers after the sermon.

Pastor Liu, who is in charge of the churches in the county, said there are about 20 churches under their pastorship, each with from a dozen to about 70 members, and revival conferences are held according to each church’s situation. In addition to pastoring the churches, several pastors also work together in other ministries, such as establishing nursing homes and care centers for autistic children.

Pastor Liu also shared some other characteristics of rural churches, such as the fact that during the busy farming season, the number of members attending church would drop sharply because everyone would be working in the fields; in the meantime, some churches would simply stop opening their doors, and the people in charge would not show up. Therefore, in order to pastor the local believers, it is important to take advantage of the slack season to hold revival conferences.

Speaking about pastoring rural churches, the pastor of a county-level CC&TSPM in Heilongjiang Province said that they also attach great importance to pastoring grassroots churches. Young pastors spent much time visiting different meeting points in different villages; while they are officially required to visit each meeting point once every quarter, sometimes some pastors stay in one town for a whole week to visit all 20 meeting points in that town. When the pastors are not visiting, there are volunteers to lead the services.

Moreover, since the conditions in the grassroots churches are grueling, the church is more inclined to send brothers to be pastors of these churches.

- Translated by Joyce Leung

related articles
LATEST FROM Church & Ministries