A student from Zhongnan Bible School once shares about the trend of churches outside Henan preferring to recruit pastors from Henan Province. These churches find pastors from Henan to be both well-equipped in theological knowledge and eloquent in their preaching. However, within the Henan Province, the situation is quite the opposite. In fact, many bible school graduates are unable to get posts from churches in Henan and some are even forced to leave their home churches to serve the urban churches.
Henan Province has one of the greatest number of Christian population in China. According official statistics, there are 5 million Christians in the province. Moreover, Henan raises up the greatest number of pastors because around 200 pastors graduate from bible school each year. On the other hand, almost half of the cult groups are actually originated from Henan.
Hence, Henan should have enjoyed the most ideal shepherding environment given the number of bible school graduates it produces. However, the reality is appalling especially in churches in small counties. The major challenge is cult influence. You may wonder why cult influence can settle down so easily in a land that produces the most number of pastors among all other provinces in China?
The loophole comes from inadequate pastoral support in the land. Though huge number of pastors are raised from Henan, many have stopped serving their own hometowns but venture elsewhere due to several reasons such as inadequate financial support to the church staff. Thus, it leaves many loopholes for cult groups to attach the locals.
As many pastors strengthen the church in urban areas where sufficient care and support to pastor are provided, a strong spiritual shield can be built up to fend off the cult influence. As such, cult groups will strategize by attaching only the weak churches where pastoral support is inadequate. There are cases whereby capable pastors in village were forced out of the church due to members' unappreciative hearts towards their leaders' teaching, thus ending up in a vulnerable position before the Enemy.
In fact, the break-in of cult influence is not the reason for church's fall, but the result of church's fall. As church fails to take care of its pastors, pastoral care is also channeled elsewhere in places that accommodate pastors in a more reasonable way. The roles of a pastoral or church leader are listed below:
1. Pastor is the watchman of the church, cautiously looking for signs that may attach the church and praying earnestly against them. If pastors are extremely busy with day-to-day operation without taking note of the external circumstances, the church would be exposed under the Enemy's eyes and fall easily. For instance, a church in Xiang Cheng Xuchang faces a crisis whereby the whole church turns to cult influence over night while the church leaders are caught unaware.
2. Pastor is the warrior of truth, fighting against the deception of cult teaching. When church members are confused about their faith, church leader's role in helping others fight against the spiritual warfare becomes crucial. In fact, some pastors have fell into the hands of cult groups themselves due to lack of theological foundations. Thus, church must strive for attracting truly stable pastors with deeply rooted faith to lead the congregation.
3. Pastor is the fatherly mentor. Paul teaches us to disciple others with a fatherly heart. It's indeed a high standard for many but the basic requirement of explaining Christ's teaching to others is still crucial. In view of many victims of cult groups who are not highly educated, church should strive for spreading the light of truth to fellow believers to strengthen their minds against cult influence.
4. Cult influence can only penetrate through the loopholes of church. Due to believers' lack of understanding of God's word, churches in Henan become an easy target and a lucrative prey to the cult groups.
The void of righteousness leads to the prevalence of evil deeds. Likewise, the absence of truth leads to the rise of cult influence. Cult influence is the fruit of evilness. This evilness does not come from the outside but from within the church. Similar to the fall of the rich family in the classics Dream of the Red Chamber , the family was free from robbery during its flourishing time. However, as soon as the family was broken down from within, attacks and robberies follow suit.
If the loophole is left unattended, it bound to attract enemies. May God help and remind us to care for our pastors. May pastors stand boldly in their calls to shepherd sheep according to God's will, instead of their own to prevent sheep from falling into Enemy's hands.
(This article is written by a pastor from Henan.)