Editor’s note: This story is about a graceful testimony and worldly struggle of a post-millennial pastor who is also a theological student. His thoughts on the Chinese church systems should be given high attention and serious reflection by the church community.
I believe that his confusion and struggle can represent the thoughts of young pastors. Perhaps, his observation and thoughts are not comprehensive enough, but for the long-term development of the church, his views are at least worthy to be reflected by church leaders.
Below is his testimony in the first person.
I am half Taiwanese because my great-grandfather was from Taiwan Province. I grew up with my grandparents who loved me very much and spoiled me.
I went to church with my grandmother since I was a child. At that time I was a simple child, so when my grandma prayed, I prayed. When Grandma went to the services, I would follow her, for snacks. When I grew up and went to middle school, I had to attend extra classes every Saturday, so I didn’t want to go to church on Sundays. I thought that if I went to church on Sundays, I wouldn’t have time to play. Gradually, I changed from a good boy to a prodigal son. I could be found either in pubs or internet cafes. Truancy was my common practice.
Later, I saw a lower-grade girl at school who was very beautiful, and I liked her much. I became possessive and forbade others to approach her. One day, I borrowed a knife from my buddy and hid it in my schoolbag, attempting to cut my rival in love. Coincidentally, my father saw it. He took me home and stopped sending me to school. My tiger mother left her job and began to accompany me.
Just then, a very important person in my life - my Sunday school teacher came. He encouraged me and persuaded my parents to believe in Jesus if they wanted me to be good. Like that, my whole family believed in the Lord Jesus nine years ago. My parents went to church at four o’clock every morning to pray for me, and they made a wish for me, “Jesus, if you can make my son a good boy, we are willing to offer him to you”. Then, my mother sent me to a Bible school.
I did not receive calling so I was passive, and I felt boring to chant “Jesus, Jesus” every day. However, one day in a class, I heard that Jesus was sinless, but he died on a cross to bear our sins. He did it for you and for me. So I confessed my sin, repented, wept, and prayed for a long time. I didn’t expect that on that day I was born again.
From then on, my parents didn’t have to look for me all night. After my mother believed in the Lord, she gained 30 pounds (culturally a sign of health in China, translator’s note). I still remember my parents once said to me “your parents on the earth can’t discipline you well, but your father in heaven can.” I went back to school.
Once on a Teacher’s Day, I said to my teacher, “Happy Teacher’s Day!” My teacher thought I was going to beat her because I used to cover her head with a sack bag and beat her with my classmates. She said, “A naughty person like you can believe in Jesus and be nice. Call those naughty people to believe in Jesus then.” I thought that made sense.
I could change, not by myself, but by the power of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. I desired to study hard for Jesus and then be of use to him. However, as the Gospel of Luke says that nine out of the ten lepers that were cured forgot the grace of the Lord, a few years later, I went to college to study business administration and then worked in Shanghai.
During that period of time, my mother called me every day with tears, “You belong to Jesus. You should be humble and obedient.” I was a little confused. I was so good, diligent, self-reliant, and didn’t want to depend on my parents. There was nothing wrong with me working here. To be of use to Jesus, earning two or three thousand yuan a month—could that be enough to take care of my future wife and children?
One day, I fell asleep and heard a voice in my dream: “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and what you need will be given to you.”
Once, I attended the funeral of a relative who was only in his fifties and had a fortune of hundreds of millions yuan but died of liver cancer. My mother said to me, “What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?” So I determined to offer myself again and wished to offer myself once and forever.
Now, I’m in the second year of the Master of Divinity program. I never thought I would study theology and be a pastor, but God has had mercy on me and shown me a favor.
As a post-millennial, I wish more young people can arise in the church and the church system in China can be optimized! Born in 1996, I attended a Bible school in 2010. In 2012, I delivered a sermon for the first time in my life. I would like to ask why churches in Jiangsu and Zhejiang province could cost millions or even tens of millions of yuan to builD church buildings but never wanted to change the church system? When I was called to be a servant of God, I had ‘ten-thousand’ worries. I was worried that I would depend on my parents all my life.
When I said to my mother with tears, “Mom, I don’t want to serve Jesus, because it will make you and Dad work too hard.” my mother replied, “I'd rather eat pickles while you serve the Lord than you make money to buy ginseng (an expensive food item, translator’s note) for me.” (These are the words of a mother who just became a believer. People who offer themselves to God need their families’ support.) I wonder what the readers might think.
I hear that some churches only give young pastors a few hundred yuan a month. How do you expect pastors to support their parents with such a low salary? Those who work should have their due wages. They shouldn’t be paid too much otherwise more people won’t study theology out of a calling but for money. Yet, the pay can’t be too low either. So what pay is reasonable? I think it depends on the local consumption level.
Church ministry is serving, and family ministry is serving too. The two should be balanced. If people don’t know how to manage their own homes, how can they take care of God’s church? Therefore, the church must give the pastor time to accompany his wife. God not only wants pastors to minister well and be good servants but also wants them to be good husbands and fathers. Many pastors may say, “Son, I know all these, but I don’t even have time to rest”. Resting is not only about spiritually coming into the presence of the Lord Jesus. Resting also includes physically sleeping.
God is wonderful. Sometimes, He would allow miracles to happen to us, like crows feeding Elijah. To quote Hudson Taylor, doing God’s work in God’s way will definitely not lack God’s supply.
(To protect the author’s privacy, this article is signed under a pseudonym. It is reproduced from “Xiao San Za”, a personal official WeChat account.)
- Translated by Charlie Li