Church Leadership Succession: A Negative Example

A church
A church
By Li ShiguangJanuary 12th, 2024

Recently, Reverend Chen, a retired church leader from northern China, shared his experiences, illustrating the consequences of improper church succession.

At over fifty years old, Chen voluntarily stepped down from his position. Over his thirty-plus years of ministry, he witnessed and interacted with diverse types of churches.

He mentioned that in the 1980s and 1990s, many churches experienced significant revivals. However, he noted that most of them had essentially disappeared. According to him, a crucial reason for this decline is the failure of church management and succession.

During the 1980s and 1990s, many churches were just getting started, emphasizing mutual love among believers without much consideration for management. There was a prevailing belief that management was based on human intentions rather than divine guidance and was a human skill rather than God's wisdom.

Many Southern churches emphasized administration but often adopted an autocratic or patriarchal management style. In contrast, many Northern churches during the same period essentially neglected management, with individuals acting based on their understanding and inspiration.

In Chen's extensive experience, two churches stood out for their decline due to inadequate management and succession.

In these two churches, one was in central China. An elderly female believer by the name of Liu initially led the church. Despite her devoted service during the Cultural Revolution, the church faced difficulties because Liu lacked managerial skills and was unaware of the importance of grooming successors.

When Chen first visited the church in the late 1990s, it had a substantial core team of more than 100 members, covering multiple provinces across seven regions. However, due to Liu's inability to manage, the church's growth was severely hindered.

Once a female staff member from Liu's church attended the theological training conducted by Chen. This married female worker, with a child, received a call from Liu towards the end of the training. Liu instructed her to serve in a distant southern city. The female Christian expressed concerns about her family, which would jeopardize her family's stability. Chen intervened, emphasizing the importance of family.

Later, Liu, due to her advanced age and deteriorating eyesight, became unable to see things clearly and accidentally fell while walking. When it came time for a transition, she never considered the issue of succession, let alone actively nurturing one.

Surprisingly, the successor she chose was a young, unmarried male believer in his twenties. He engaged in online conversations with a Christian woman in her forties, and eventually, the two individuals rented a room together, engaging in a sexual relationship. When the husband of this woman found out and attempted to confront him, the successor was frightened and reported the situation to the church. There was strife in the church, and eventually, the church was divided and vanished from history.

Chen highlighted that selecting a successor is merely a choice made at a particular moment, while cultivation implies investing a considerable amount of time, resources, and energy. Initially uncertain about who could take over, the head of the church could train several, or even a group of, potential leaders.

- Translated by Abigail Wu

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