Chinese people have the impression that churches are full of old people and women, and that men don’t often go to church. The phenomenon of more women than men in the church not only brings challenges to the development of the church’s ministry but also makes the possibility of marriage for relatively old sisters in the church difficult.
When Brother L was studying at a theological college in Taiwan, he had an online interview with the Gospel Times about what he saw and thought about the situation of more women than men in the church.
Gospel Times: It is common for churches to have fewer men and more women. Is this the case in the church you serve in Taiwan?
Brother L: This is also the case in Taiwan. This was also the case when I was a student in Indonesia, but it’s even more so in mainland China. In several local churches, there are more sisters, and they are relatively older. So, subjectively, the church has more female believers and fewer male believers.
Gospel Times: What do you think caused this?
Brother L: I think there are many factors contributing to this situation.
First of all, I would talk about the sovereignty of God. Because God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy on and blesses whom he wants to bless. I think maybe God predestined us to have more sisters in the churches. That’s one possibility.
Second, it may be common that the women could not “bring Jesus to life”. In other words, the husbands don’t see Jesus in their wives. They are one thing in the church and another when they are out of the church or at home. The dichotomy between the sacred and the secular is wrong. They’re holy only in the church - kind of like a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It’s just a religious life, not actually having faith. This leads to the unwillingness of men to understand or accept the faith.
Third, I think men may be more rational. Maybe like Thomas, they need to touch Jesus to believe. Maybe it’s also a hindrance to being a man.
Fourth, I think there may be a lot of pressure in my current life and work. Men, as the head, mainly bear the economic responsibility of the family, and that is a heavy burden. But I don’t think this is the main reason. It’s mostly about the relationship with God.
For example, in some families, men want to go to church, but their wives also want them to make money. Christians tend to be poor, so they work hard to make money and put Sunday aside. Some wives want their husbands to go to church, but their husbands will not go because they think that if they go to church on Sunday, their daily salary of 200 or 300 RMB will be lost.
Fifth, the degree of belief is not the same. Many people’s faith rests on the material side effects of faith, which we often refer to as “being satisfied after eating bread”. Many so-called believers only have hereditary beliefs.
Why do I say that? Because statistics show that the number of Christians on New Year’s Day and Christmas is higher. They probably just replaced the Bodhisattva in the temple with Jesus, resulting in the phenomenon of “only believing”.
Sixth, there may be a trick of Satan involved. Many people think it will be fine to believe later. Now is the time to make a lot of money. So they wait to believe later. That’s why they postpone.
In general, I think faith is about believing, and it’s about continuous, present-progressive faith. And this “faith” is a gift from God, so I would say that God’s time may not be here yet. Some people believe from childhood, some from middle age, some from old age, and some from dying. Therefore, as long as a man is not dead, he has the opportunity of repentance.
Maybe some men in their later years are more faithful. It is the sovereignty of God, and I can’t say that he does not believe or he will not be saved. I can only say that we need to keep sowing.
There are many good testimonies. The sister prayed for her husband for decades, and then one day he believed. So I think it is the stubbornness of men (or women), like the stubbornness of kings and pharaohs, unwilling to submit and humble themselves before God.
Gospel Times: Can you elaborate on the “sisters’ lives without testimonies” you mentioned?
Brother L: Why do you say “hallelujah” in church and treat your husband differently at home? Even when I preach, I joke about it. I will say, “Some sisters scold their husbands until they get bald.” Why would you give the worst to your husband? According to First Peter, good behavior should influence the husband.
Gospel Times: What was it like when you first came to faith?
Brother L: I went to church with my grandma when I was eight months old. I always was a Christian, but Jesus was my grandma’s God, not mine. But why did I start to believe? I think I have special grace or a special revelation. I hear special voices that most people don’t. In other words, I’m blessed with a calling.
I never wanted to be a pastor, but God had special amount of grace for me. When I was misbehaving, when I was with some bullies, I suddenly heard, “Tao, repent, be like Peter, not like Judas. Both men sinned, but Peter repented and Judas was hanged. You have to look at Psalm 70.”
Second, after I graduated from a Bible training program and served for a while, I went to junior college, and then I went to work in Shanghai. At that time, I was rebellious. But when I heard it said, “Seek first the kingdom of God and the righteousness of God and what your need will be given to you.” These words just gripped my heart.
Generally speaking, the end of people is the beginning of God. Some people will succumb to God because of illness, disappointment, or what it takes to be obedient. My father and my grandfather believed in Jesus because of my misbehaving.
Gospel Times: What is your observation of brothers’ participation in church service?
Brother L: The Bible says the brother is the head, but there are more female believers than male believers in the churches (I don’t know about some foreign churches. As far as I know, there are more female believers than male believers in all Chinese churches.)
Some denominations, such as the Southern Baptist Convention, do not approve of women preaching. I think this has a special background and is also a controversial issue. I want to say that, brothers, you should stand up and take responsibility. But some churches can’t help it because there are really few brothers; participation of male believers is not very high.
In other words, if a church has a high degree of participation of male believers in its ministry, that church is likely to be revitalized, or healthy.
Gospel Times: Because of the situation of more female believers in the churches, some churches have changed their mission strategy, and they start to focus on men. What do you think about that?
Brother L: As Paul said: “To the Jews I became as a Jew”, which is a well-targeted mission strategy. But I want to warn you not to misunderstand the gospel. The gospel is not just for men, but for all sinners.
For example: Regarding the sermon strategy of “happiness groups” to spread the Gospel, I would say, don’t turn the gospel into a theology of success. The gospel is just the gospel. Jesus was born for us, died for us, was buried for us, and was resurrected for us. He died for us sinners. This belief should not be changed at all because it would be against the men.
On this basis, I think it would be better to preach the gospel to brothers in a way they can understand. So the strategy of "happiness" is fine, but this is especially important - otherwise, it will be pleasing to people but displeasing to God.
If evangelism becomes a marketing tool, then I don’t think that’s very good. That’s the fundamental problem with the gospel, quantity without quality, and I think that’s a wake-up call. We should pursue quantity on the basis of quality.
Gospel Times: What is a happiness group?
Brother L: The happiness group is a group in which people talk about happiness, peace, God’s love, and so on. God loves us, but he is also perfectly righteous. Right now, this church’s pastors never talk about God’s justice or God’s judgment. We should be concerned about that.
Gospel Times: What is the role of a brother in the workplace? How does he live out his mission in the workplace?
Brother L: I think the question goes back to the church’s teaching concept. Many churches think that only serving in church is true service. But I would say that serving is doing what God wants you to do; it’s also what you do for Him.
After this is understood, there are all kinds of service. There is service at home, and there is service in social work. Our worship is not just about meeting in the church. It’s all about what we say, do, and think. So I think there is a balance between church service, family service, and professional service.
With this in mind, let us look again at what a brother should do in his professional life. People like good behavior. Everyone else works for the boss, but Christians work for God. We are different from others. We would rather be called fools.
Gospel Times: What are the common temptations and weaknesses of brothers?
Brother L: I want to use the words of the Bible: “the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, the pride in riches”. Specifically, in terms of sex, power, and money.
Gospel Times: How do we conquer them?
Brother L: The rules are very important. For example, the visiting should not be one-to-one. There must be two sisters and one brother, or two brothers and one sister, or more people. It is best for sisters to coach sisters. Brothers should care about brothers to avoid the transfer of feelings in the process of heterosexual counseling, to avoid temptation. If one-on-one tutoring is required, keep it open and public so as not to cause unnecessary trouble.
As a preacher or pastor, you should not touch money when you are serving. The church’s finances shall be handled by accountants.
These are principles that I learned in my seminary classes as well as what some predecessors of the faith taught me.
Gospel Times: As a single brother, what are your expectations for your future marriage?
Brother L: Actually, I started taking marriage classes when I was a teenager. For someone my age, I got high marks in marriage theory, but I still had a lot to learn in practice.
I remember in my testimony that “whoever marries me is a fool”.
Why would I say that? Because if I am now serving in the church in Taiwan. As long as I serve for eight days a month (weekend internship), I get more than 3,000 RMB. In the future, if I work full-time, I can earn 10,000 to 20, 000 RMB a month. Then my life will be free of worries. If I return to the mainland to serve, I can only get two or three thousand RMB for a month of full-time work. In economic terms, I certainly could not provide much for my future wife then.
In addition, churches here may perform their respective duties with administrative departments in charge of administration and pastoral departments in charge of pastoral care. In mainland China, the church administrative and pastoral care systems are relatively imperfect, so the pastoral workers have to do everything. Even the phone of a priest or pastor is busy 24 hours a day and he may spend less time with his wife.
A full-time pastor and a layman are two different things when choosing a wife. As a full-time pastor, I would definitely like to find a sister who serves full-time with me, so that we can work together.
In my opinion, the balance between family service and church service is very important. If you can’t manage the house, then you can’t manage the church.
As for how to choose a mate: I think you will make a choice from your location spiritually.
There are few brothers in the church, and the sisters are in their thirties and forties. Do they need to keep waiting, or should they marry someone who doesn’t believe? This is a controversial issue regarding how to apply in context the principle that “the faithful and unbelievers cannot be together”.
Gospel Times: Does your church have a fellowship?
Brother L: There is a fellowship of brothers. There are several types of fraternal fellowships. One is for adolescents who are dealing with issues such as masturbation, and the fellowship guides them in dealing with physical changes. One is a fellowship of marriage-ready brothers to help them become husbands after God’s will. There are also business fellowships, elder brothers fellowships, and so on.
Gospel Times: What is the growth and witness of the brothers in fellowship?
Brother L: As for teenagers, for example, these boys are often tempted by Satan. Some are self-indulgent and some are abstinent. They are going in two wrong directions. We teach them according to the Bible, for example, that sex is a gift in marriage, and let them wait patiently. Let them read the Scriptures. As Paul exhorted Timothy, “shun youthful passions”. Then everyone participates in sports together and plays basketball, which can help them learn to win. Many unbelievers are also willing to participate in such activities.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the interviewee and should not be understood to represent the views of China Christian Daily.)
- Translated by Charlie Li