• 0
China Christian Daily
  • 0
church & ministry |

Challenges Face by a Post-90s Seminary Graduate Serving the Church

Challenges Face by a Post-90s Seminary Graduate Serving the Church

A Rural Church in China A Rural Church in China(CCD File Photo)
ByGrace Zhi February 12, 2017
  • 34

Sister Wang Li, a 25-year-old seminary graduate, serves as a preacher in a grassroots rural church of Henan. Like many theological students, she was influenced by her mother to accept the Christian faith then received a theological education. After graduation, she began to serve the church. During the ministry, she faced a dilemma of which should go first, ministry or family. When her mother was diagnosed with cancer, she was trapped in difficulty and had no idea of what to do.

This generation of young preachers is under the pressure different from the elder, in the face of the conflict between a rising cost of living and the impact of "the theology of suffering" on local churches.

With the development of the times, it's unpractical for Chinese seminary graduates to serve the church while laboring in the fields to support themselves. However, old-fashioned concepts in rural churches that you appear more spiritual if you're poorer and sickness stems from sins lead to the loss of graduates and young preachers.

Walking on the path of servanthood, influenced by her mother 

The process starting from her conversion to studying theology to becoming a preacher was related to her mother. Wang's mother became a Christian in 1992. However, an accident pounded her family.

Wang introduces, "My father passed away in 1996, four years after my mother's conversion, leaving behind my 34-year-old mother, four young children and a debt of 5000 yuan. My mother spent her days in tears, eating like a bird. My eldest sister dropped out of school at 13 and elder sister didn't finish the fourth grade... She experienced the inconstancy of human relationships and that our trust is only in the Lord Jesus..."

''After the accident, my mother started to serve in the church. Illiterate, she was in the church ministries of Martha and visiting with enthusiasm."

Since she was a child, Wang followed her mother to the church nearly every week except when she at school. She graduated from high school in 2008 and intended to go to university. Nevertheless, her mother wanted her to go to Henan Theological Seminary, hoping that she could study theology there and serve God in the future.

At that time she was unwilling to obey the will and angry with her mother. Three months later, she finally obeyed her mother.

Working outside the church to support her younger brother

The three-year study strengthened her faith.  After graduation, she decided to work in Shanghai for a year to support her younger brother who was about to attend university and return to serve in the church.

In Shanghai, she participated in the local church service in her spare time. One year later, she went back to serve in her home church. However, her work drew some controversies which criticized that her working outside the church showed that she lost faith in God. This caused twists and turns on her future path of ministry.

"There will be always cracks when a mirror is broken," Wang says.

Serving the church as a volunteer

Back home, she serves her home church and another church where her husband attends service as a volunteer. Her home church has fifty to sixty members and the number of worshipers reaches about one hundred during the Spring Festival. She refused to accept the payment from the church for it's still in debt, which built a large church for the last two years. The husband's church never mentioned of paying her. Besides, she preaches sermons in other churches that pays her eight to one hundred yuan each time.

The county where she lives has 60 churches with around ten seminary graduates. Two of the graduates are hired by the county's CCC & TSPM and four are paid by their churches. The rest all serve in the church as volunteers. 

One of the reasons why the rest are volunteers in the church is that many church leaders and preachers who don't receive theological education are all volunteers and they hold that the graduates shouldn't get any payment from the church like them. What's worse, a concept exists in the church there that if you ask money from the church, which is considered as the money of God, you are unspiritual and don't have faith. So all church staff are volunteers, making a living by farming.

"When I delivered a sermon in a (local) church, a believer told me that he received money from the church. I didn't know how to answer him. So everyone wants to work in urban churches, but preachers are more needed in rural areas."

Afraid to preach the message on tithes and offerings in the church 

Affected by the concept, she confesses that she dare not to preach the message on tithes and offerings in the church, let alone preaching that "the worker deserves his wages". Once a preacher who declared a sermon on money was forced to leave the lectern.

Since her church service, she preached the only sermon on offerings in a service for the church construction. She was the first to offer a sum of money her husband's family gave to her for engagement. "The message on offerings was declared under such a circumstance.'

"In our church, sermons are only preached within last half an hour in the Sunday service. If there is a time-out, many people take their bags and leave the church. We want to alter the cognition of the congregation, but they remain the same after hearing due to the limitation of their culture, age, comprehension and cognitive attitude."

Difficulty of service while working part-time

"In local churches, seminary graduates face basically the same problem and we're accustomed to it." The sister states that the churches of the county can't accept the way of serving the church while working part-time.

"Your monthly salary will be 1200 to 1500 yuan and you have one day to rest in a month. There is no time for you to do ministry. You have to sell vegetables, fish and shrimps."

Afraid to seek the public's help to cure her mother's cancer

After having a child, she stops her service in other churches and serves only in her home church and husband's church. Her husband works to support the family.

At the end of 2016, her mother was diagnosed with cervical cancer. Instead of launching a public cry for help, she doesn't want to spread the news. She replies, if her mother knows that she has cancer, she will give up the treatment, holding that our lives are in the hands of the Lord. The another reason for the privacy is that many believers may say things, like "you're sick because you sin and don't have faith" and "You can't trust the hospital because God will heal the disease."

On Jan 15, 2017, her mother started chemotherapy, who is going to do radiotherapy and chemotherapy in the next five months. The cost of the treatment is a heavy burden to this family.

Believe in God's sovereignty and his kingdom

Despite hardships along the road of ministry, she believes that God still reigns and the kingdom of God will come. 

"Rural churches that have many problems are still under the special guidance of God. God, who understands people's weaknesses, seems more sensitive here for the dead faith of the low-class believers", she says, "many believers here who lose their first fervor are finding their positions under the slow sedimentation, to be thousands of pebbles that will raise a thousand ripples and be silently submerged by water, waiting for a new era. "

Translated by Karen Luo

  • 34
latest from church & ministry
top topics
comments powered by Disqus