The church in my hometown is a rural church. Growing up in the church, I have particular deep feelings for it because it carries my past and shines into my future. No matter where I go, my heart will always be warm when I think about my church’s elderly friends and their care.
Nowadays, young people are rarely seen in rural areas and so it’s the same in rural churches. It’s not easy to meet just a few young Christians even during the Spring Festival not to mention the whole year round. Yet, even if there are worship services during the Spring Festival, most young people are reluctant to attend. They have long become used to a more vibrant life in urban areas. When they return to the countryside for the holiday, they are bored by the life there. They have also lost interest in rural worship services. Even when they attend a service they won’t sit in the pew long enough till it ends.
What’s more, young people have basically settled in the city for their jobs and their children's education. Most of them have bought houses there. When they arrive in the city, a few can find a church to attend but many of them can't. Over time, those who can’t find a church will stop meeting altogether.
When rural young people enter the city, the first thing that comes to their mind is how to settle down - find a job, build a social circle, and quickly integrate into the city life. Few people think of what to do if they can’t find a church.
The truth is that if they occasionally need to come back home they won’t like to attend church services. At present, the aging of rural churches is very serious even to the point where it is irreversible. There is a huge shortage of young people. Believers in their forties and fifties are young persons in rural churches. Beyond this age group, we can see rural churches have become older and older.
What comes with it is not only aging but also the number of people. The number of people will gradually decrease with the increase of age, which is also a big problem for the churches. It’s like a large family of old people who can't work anymore and there is no young workforce in this family. The problem that this large family of old people will face is the most difficult in rural churches today.
There are many rural churches where there is no one who can deliver sermons. At meetings, they sing hymns they learned a long time ago. Some people who are literate simply pray after reading the Bible. Several churches have only one pastor so pastors take turns in serving in these churches.
I remember it was a very cold winter day during my month-long field training. I and my colleague followed an elderly believer in the mountainous roads to reach a small village. When we arrived at the village church we found no one there. After several attempts by the elderly friend, we finally found a sister. So we asked her to contact everyone to come to the worship service. However, after a long time, she only found two sisters. So in that meeting, there were the three of us and three sisters, six people altogether.
After the meeting, the elder friend asked the sister why only three came to. The sister said that because there were no pastors and administration in the village church many people stopped meeting. They hadn’t had services for a long time.
The brothers and sisters in urban churches are really blessed. The meeting atmosphere is very good. They have all kinds of musical instruments. Because they are young people, they can understand each other well, but they can't understand the loneliness and downturn of the brothers and sisters in rural churches.
The present situation of rural churches is far direr than we know, especially for those in remote regions. However, even rural churches that are well connected with urban life can't change the trend of declining. Believers who originally served in rural churches moved to the city because their children went to the schools there. There was no suitable person to fill the vacancy so there was no way for the old people to fill the gap. Yet the aged believers were educated and trained so that the number of available persons has been greatly reduced.
In fact, if the young people who go to the city can often return to their rural churches to meet or serve, it is equivalent to a nestling coming back to return the help it received while it was growing up. From a spiritual point of view, our spiritual life developed with the care of our elderly friends in the church. Now since we have moved on in our lives and are doing well, we should actively care for their spiritual needs.
I moved from my rural church to a fellowship in the city. Initially, I didn't realize there was such a huge difference without me in the rural church. What I thought was that I was young and if I was always with the old people I’d feel old. I wanted to go to a place where there are many young people. I went out and joined the fellowship because of my job. I was very happy at first and thought that this was the right place for me. Then I heard that no one ministered in my hometown church, my brothers and sisters were weak and indifferent, and they wanted me to come back to the church every week.
Although now I have my current urban fellowship, my heart is always with my hometown church. On the one hand, I have seen the faithfulness of God and have a burden for the rural church; on the other hand, personally, as Christians who come from rural churches, young people should go back and strengthen rural churches as they face an aging population and decrease in numbers.
At present, in order to change the aging situation of rural churches, some young people should make sacrifices and should have a vision and understanding. Pray for more young brothers and sisters to bear the burden on the rural church just as the temple of God was destroyed and the people were taken into exile in the Old Testament. Although they lived in a foreign land, they didn’t forget their country and the temple of God. In order to revive the state of Israel, they returned to Jerusalem from generation to generation, rebuilding the city walls, rebuilding the temple, and re-enacting the Law. Although there were obstacles, they couldn’t stop their determination just as Jesus asked Peter three times: "Do you love me?" He entrusted his sheep to Peter three times. Each time represented the sheep of different ages. It can be proved that the Lord cares about the elderly people in the Church. His sheep are of all ages and none of them will be lost. Therefore, we have the responsibility and obligation to follow the Lord's instructions.
- Translated by Charlie Li