Pastor: 'Family-Based' Culture of Honor Can Handle Disunity in Church

 A group of people put their hands together.
A group of people put their hands together. (photo:
By Steve Sun December 13th, 2023

"If a church aims to attract new members, it can’t just put a great effort into delivering sermons or other ministries like receptions or visitations. More significantly, the church needs to showcase internal harmony and unity with other churches amidst these conflict-laden times," said a pastor. 

Recently, Zhao Tianguang (pseudonym) from East China gave an interview to the Christian Times, a Chinese online Christian newspaper. He shared his faith journey, saying he uses a culture of honor rooted in the family to promote harmony and unity within his church and among varied types of churches.

Regarding governance, the patriarchal, oligarchic, dictatorial, and clique-driven approaches prevail in some rural and urban churches. At times, the lack of harmony within a church has diverse negative impacts on its followers. Zhao's church values the Charismatic movement, with members trained in diverse theological training systems, yet it remains undivided. Worship in his church is vibrant and expressive, as they emphasize encountering God and flowing in the Holy Spirit while maintaining church order. Simultaneously, they focus on applying a culture of honor anchored in the family.

Zhao believed, "The reason for the church division may be different theological ideologies or an excessive emphasis on the Charismatic movement, which disrupts church order. Ultimately, the church should value pastor's and believers' inner lives, not just their spiritual gifts. Humans have gifts but also sinful tendencies. Often, it's these tendencies that cause division, not the spiritual gifts. When a church comprises members with spiritual gifts and theological knowledge yet lacks unity, it's because believers' lives are problematic."

One of Zhao's core pastoral principles is a culture of honor rooted in the family, where pastors and believers respect and love each other, similar to the relationship between parents and children. Pastors assume the role of parents in the church, transmitting the love and truth of the Heavenly Father.

He emphasized, "The culture of honoring the elderly is crucial. When pastors learn to honor all spiritual elders they encounter, God is pleased, and blessings flow from the elders to the younger ones. Even if elders aren't outstanding, they also should be honored, as they remain channels of blessings to younger members within the church."

"One reason for church division is that pastors highlight their differing pastoral ideologies or the disparity in theological and charismatic levels. The culture of honor breaks this human-centric 'comparison culture,' promoting harmony and unity. Churches should be uncombative, just like piano keys, which produce sounds when touched and remain silent when untouched. Mutual honor resolves internal church divisions."

Zhao observed that after the pandemic, many pastors expressed a desire for harmonious relationships and rejected the isolated church development trend. Zhao's family, upon recognizing these needs, invites them to worship together and have meals. So, Zhao cultivates a culture of honor to achieve internal and external harmony within the church.

Firstly, when seeking external harmony for his church, he humbles himself to initiate contact and visits pastors to mend strained relationships. He admits his immaturity and inadequacies, seeking forgiveness and showing honor to them.

Secondly, for elders or peers, Pastor Zhao serves and accompanies them with respect. For instance, Zhao's family calls their spiritual elders parents, treating each other with honor. Believers refer to him and his wife as parents too.

Lastly, Pastor Zhao's family entrusts new positions for ministry, providing trust, support, and guidance, akin to parents watching their children grow and appreciating their progress with advice and encouragement.

Zhao admitted, "To restore a family culture within the church, pastors should focus on establishing a relationship with God. Charismatic churches previously lacked theological preparation, while evangelical churches with good theology lacked the filling of the Holy Spirit. When the church values the charismatic movement without establishing proper order, harmony is lost. Order alone is sometimes insufficient; there must be Christ's love. A culture of honor can achieve this harmony."

This pastor cited an example, "Once, a senior female pastor who embraced the culture of honor gathered discordant pastors, humbly washing their feet. Through this process, many pastors shed tears of repentance, coming into unity. Hence, we believe that a culture of honor can resolve conflicts in the church."

- Translated by Abigail Wu

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