Multiple pastors assert that the Church in China is facing a bottleneck, wherein the gospel is challenging to spread, the believers are indifferent, and the Church's influence is incredibly weak. This is a common feature pastors observe in churches situated in big cities, small cities, or rural areas.
Numerous individuals reminisce about the gospel work of two to three decades ago when preachers faced challenges, but the spread of the gospel was highly effective. Preachers in those days generally lacked education and theological training, but they went out with faith and love, and when they began speaking about God, some people believed, some were influenced, and some were healed. It was considered a time of revival, and miracles frequently occurred in Churches.
Around a decade ago, although signs and wonders were reduced, the Church continued to thrive, and the people of faith transformed. With urbanization, the Church moved from the countryside to cities, and the Lord began to call many intellectuals and young people. During this time, the Church's theology became clearer, and the Lord called pastors born in the 1980s and 1990s. This group of people may not follow because they have been healed, but they may yearn for the truth of the Bible, drawn to the Lord's love and truth.
In recent years, several churches' number of believers has stopped growing due to external factors, such as the impact of the pandemic, an aging population, and significant life pressure on people, including farmers' work pressure in cities. In addition to external factors, pastors are also reflecting on the Church's problems. Here are the views of three pastors on this.
Pastor Li served in a Church for 20 years and believes that internal strife, a lack of Christ's life, and reluctance to engage with the outside world were all problems in the Church.
Disputes are often invisible in small churches, but once the church develops, pastors tend to consider the church and the congregation theirs, leading to division. Pastor Li believes that strife within the churches has done significant damage to the churches and their believers, resulting in loss of faith.
Moreover, he observed that believers have much knowledge but little faith and no life in Christ. He notes, "Although they say they are Christians, they live like non-Christians. When people used to talk about Christians, whether they believed in them or not, they would say that Christians were loving and nice people, but now numerous people think that Christians are just like other common people."
Third, Christians tend to praise the Lord behind closed doors rather than going out into crowds and communities. Pastor Li believes that Christians can influence society today in many areas.
Pastor Bian (pseudonym), who led a church for several years and now works as a minister, believes that the present pastoral work in the Church is often just preaching, but some people never change even after hearing sermons for ten years. Pastoralism needs to be more sophisticated, leading believers to grow, get out of life's difficulties, and find their own gifts of service. Pastoralism should aim to help believers in every aspect of their lives, akin to raising a child. Not only should they provide food, but they should also teach them how to speak and handle things.
Pastor Bian likes to use the expression "get it right." He says, "If a believer has no job and life is difficult, you cannot merely tell them to gather or pray more. You need to help them find a job or train them to work in a particular field first." He said, "For example, you can recommend a sister to do clerical or domestic work and make it happen. You can also suggest brothers learn a certain skill, run a shop, and so on."
Not only that, but Pastor Bien also advocates training individuals by having them serve in different positions with their gifts. He believes that in a position of service, believers' lives can grow faster. He has seen numerous believers grow and become more positive in their lives as a result of finding the right place to serve.
Brother Yingjie (pseudonym), a pastor about 40 years old, said of the present church that the gospel did flourish decades ago, and he believes it is the work of the Holy Spirit. "But history is like that. There are peaks and valleys. We have to hope that we won't always be in the valley. When we are at a low point, we need to reflect, repent, and seek God's help."
Based on his own experience, he pointed out that the domestic church needs to improve its management system. His own church nearly fell apart, but after suffering a severe blow, he realized it was because of problems with the management system. Since then, he has slowly reorganized the church, learned, and tried hard until it has become more stable and established its constitution and rules of governance. And he found that after perfecting the management system, he became less tired in his position as pastor. Several things can be entrusted to the other church workers. Church workers also develop their lives and character when they participate in service.
- Translated by Nicolas Cao