Pastor Shares Unforgettable Journey to Studying Theology

A wooden cross lays on an open Bible.
A wooden cross lays on an open Bible. (photo:
By Su Ran April 18th, 2024

Every pastor or fellow worker in a church has uniquely various reasons for embarking on the path of ministry. Among the testimonies of their ministry services, we often hear that some individuals enroll to study theology without much knowing why, and they drop out and remain unsure of their next steps; others choose to study theology because of their mothers’ faithfulness, and they see the good changes in their mothers, feeling a need to delve deeper into it. However, as it is regulated in their churches that only pastors can be recommended as seminary candidates, some of them choose to work in the church first before pursuing their theological studies. Yet, there are those who are forced into studying theology.

Recently, I had the privilege of hearing from a pastor sharing his story on how he started his journey of preparing for seminary and engaging in ministry, which deeply moved me.

Pastor Cai graduated from a theological seminary in 2022 and serves at a church in Shenzhen. He studied physical education in college and worked as a fitness coach after graduation. During that time, he had a girlfriend for seven years, but due to disapproval from both families, they eventually parted ways. This caused Pastor Cai to experience a prolonged period of sorrow, and that prompted him to reflect on the meaning of life. The plain daily routines made it seem as if his life was transparent, causing a sense of hopelessness in life. “Why am I living here?” he pondered, unsure where to find the answer.

One day, a Christian client spoke to him about God’s creation and the origin of man. This piqued Pastor Cai’s interest, and he actively sought out a church. That marked the beginning of his fervent search. “On every Sunday, I attended three worship services. For the same sermon each time I heard it, I received different insights,” Pastor Cai recalled of his early days of faith.

Weekly church gatherings were no longer sufficient to satisfy his deeper quest for understanding. He began planning to apply for theology studies. His family had no faith and did not support his decision. So, he had a plan in which he worked hard for some time to save enough for tuition, rent, and living expenses. Then he focused on the preparations for theology studies. “God blessed me during that time and provided me with many more clients,” he said. In 2016, he quit his job, rented a room, and spent the next year preparing for the exam while serving in a church. In that year, he read 200 books.

However, a family emergency occurred during this period, depleting all his savings, including the money he had saved for his studies. “During the toughest time, I ate only one meal a day for a month,” he said. Despite this, he had already received his offer letter, and he believed that since God had allowed him to pass the exam, He would also provide for his tuition.

Pastor Cai put this matter in prayer and searched for God’s will in his work. After several unsuccessful attempts, the pastor of his church approached him and offered to pay for his tuition on the condition that he would return to serve in the church after graduation. At that time, Pastor Cai did not feel called to continue serving in that particular church, so he declined the pastor’s offer. He said he would continue to wait for God’s guidance.

One day, the president of Guangdong Union Theological Seminary visited their church to preach a sermon. After the sermon, the pastor called Pastor Cai over. The president told him that his tuition for four years had already been paid in full, and he could start studying as soon as the semester began. God had used another brother to solve Pastor Cai’s tuition problem, helping him successfully graduate from his four-year program.

After graduation, Pastor Cai, like all other students, faced the question of which church to serve. He often prayed about this. Soon, he arrived at a church in Shenzhen to serve, which was undergoing some turmoil at the time. Despite this, he felt called to stay.

Initially, he went without a salary for five consecutive months, and his family began to advise him to consider serving in a different place. He was tempted to leave, but thinking about God’s guidance, he decided to persevere. Finally, after enduring the toughest times, he received his salary for the five months in a lump sum, and the church’s situation gradually improved and stabilized.

After graduating, Cai has served in the church for over a year, always maintaining a learner’s attitude and devoting daily time to spiritual cultivation. Although there were difficult times in his ministry, he shared how he took over a group from a fellow worker, which caused dissatisfaction, and how he proposed new ideas in meetings that drew criticism. However, he continually reminds himself to practice self-denial in his ministry, which is a senior believer’s advice that has deeply influenced him.

- Translated by Charlie Li

related articles
LATEST FROM Church & Ministries