Since the implementation of the reform and opening-up policy aiming to revive China, churches in this country have reached a new stage of development. Nowadays, churches are springing up all over China and crosses are erected under the skies. We should have been happy and God should have been pleased with the achievement. However, in my vision, God is crying for China because there are so many problems with the churches in China. Now, I would like to talk about these problems and let's pray for China together.
I. Poorly Paid Pastors
From the Old Testament, we see that priests and Levites are a consecrated group among the twelve tribes and selected to serve God instead of the first born of Israeli. They didn't have any property and according to the Law of Moses, a part of tithes was spent to pay them and they also gave tithes to God. In this way, they were able to serve God without worries about bread and offer sacrifices for people with all their heart. Apostle Paul has also said, "Now to the one who works, wages are not credited as a gift, but as an obligation. (Ro 4:4) For Scripture says, “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain, and the worker deserves his wages. (1Ti 5:18)."
However, in reality, we find that God's servants lead a hard life. I have learned that in the town where I live, pastors can only earn as much as over 1,000 RMB per month which is not enough to even support a family. Many missionaries and pastors have no choice but to go into business to make ends meet. On many sleepless nights, they pray to God and time and time again they weep before God, just as what David said in the book of Psalms, "I flood my bed with weeping." (Ps. 6:6). The Prophet Elijah was a man just like us (Jas 5:17) and pastors are also men and women just like us. I remember that in a church, a church member felt astonished when he saw a pastor going to the public bathroom! Perhaps in eyes of some believers, God's servants are all otherworldly people but in fact, they are just normal people. We need to think about why believers have this opinion regarding pastors.
II. More Baptized Believers but Fewer Regular Attendees
In my town, there are over 200 believers who are baptized each year. However, by comparison, there are only a few believers going to the church regularly. The church doesn’t even fill up on festivals, let alone on Sundays! Some believers go to church only once a month. Where are these believers? Why do they refuse to go to church while they have been baptized to strengthen their faith? Occasionally, they go to church but they often leave in a hurry. They may think baptism guarantees salvation so worship is not necessary.
However, can baptism really guarantee salvation? Can all baptized believers ascend into heaven? Do we still remember the fact that if believers don't repent, they may be blotted out of the book of life? Do we still remember the fact that that first generation of Israelis left Egypt, but failed to enter Canaan? If believers don't understand the truths and the importance of their faith, they cannot walk according to God's will or be blessed through the offerings given by the believer to God. I still remember when an elder encouraged several believers to make offerings, some believers grumbled secretly that he came to ask for money and not understanding its importance. Could it be said that encouraging offerings in church is wrong? In fact, making offerings is a way to be blessed but why do the believers do not understand it?
III. A Few Practitioners and Examples
Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ. (Ro.10:17) Believers have many opportunities to hear the message: Biblical study, worship on Sundays, church anniversaries, Thanksgiving Day, Pentecost, Christmas Day and other church gatherings. Church leaders take great pains to invite famous preachers from other places to introduce new perspectives to the word of God. Paul has said that ‘even though you have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel.’ (1Co. 4:15) Today, there are many teachers, but only a few love believers with fatherly concern and there are many preachers, but a few practitioners or examples. Some preach because of sensibilities and duties and the preaching focuses on theological theories and various witnesses.
It is hard to hear a message that pricks believers' heart. ‘When there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint; but blessed is the one who heeds wisdom’s instruction’ (Pro. 29:18) The last sentence of the book of Judges is that in those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit. Today, we may think it does not matter if we do as we see fit. However, we must realize that our words and deeds may influence many believers. Shouldn't we be blamed for believers' confusion about the truths? When we look back to the Bible, we may find that Lot did not move to Sodom immediately but gradually, and in the age of Noah, the flood came while people eat and marry as usual. Jesus has said that the day will come as a theft. Now, worships are formalized gradually and attendees become fewer and fewer. We must stay alert!
IV. Too Much Expenditure on Construction and Decoration
Church leaders have their own difficulties and church members have their own confusions. The solutions to these problems can be found in Bible. First, church members should make offerings according to Biblical teachings. Prophet Malachi also called to the Israelis to make offerings so the house of God would not lack bread and they would be greatly blessed. Second, with an abundant supply of preachers who will serve God with all their heart, we can be assured that God’s love and blessings continues and the calling is not given up by these pastors. Third, churches should not use donations only for construction and decoration. I know that in order to keep up with the times, some churches even violate Biblical truths and raise funds in various ways to purchase land and rebuild churches even if it would bring huge debt pressures to churches. Whether it was in the Old Testament or in the New Testament, we may see that money for building tabernacles and temples were donated by believers. No church today can be more luxurious than the holy temple built by King Solomon. However, without God, it was finally destroyed by Babylonian invaders. This is what the Lord said:" Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. Where is the house you will build for me? Where will my resting place be? (Isa. 66:1)
God is not willing to live in a house built by man's hands. We should pay more attention to spiritual building. When people know God, they will serve God with fear and church's money will not be embezzled or wasted in any way. Recently, China suffered from flood and earthquakes. Can we say that those victims are punished by God because they are more evil than us? Jesus has said, "I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish." (Lk. 13:3). When we pray for disaster-hit areas, we should be alert. We should follow God's teachings, press toward the mark, become God's servants in this age, walk according to God's will and please God in every moment.
(The writer is a believer from Weifang, Shandong Province. )