Although all kinds of in-person church activities in China had to be recently suspended again, Chinese pastors did not quit shepherding and caring for the believers. They all tried to continue to fulfil their mission of pastoral care through various means such as WeChat, video, voice, live broadcast, etc. They even worked harder than ever to do pastoral work, for fear that everyone will be "spiritually starved".
There was once a sister who asked me how to open an official WeChat account because her father was a pastor at a grass-root church. At an old age, he desired to be able to "follow the example of other pastors" who send sermons to the brothers and sisters of their churches.
It is reasonable to imagine such an old pastor encountering many difficulties; even if he had an official WeChat account, the next sermon still needed to be preached via an audiovisual interface, instead of being completed face to face. It was not easy for us young pastors to learn to adapt to that, talk less of an old man.
Due to the efforts of the pastors and the convenience of the Internet, the brothers and sisters during this period did not suffer from "starvation" as they had feared before. On the contrary, they felt "over-nourished".
Recently, some brothers and sisters told me that when they were free at home, they could "listen" to seven or eight sermons of different pastors all over the country before the end of the day (I know most of them might have had a quick glance, just like constantly changing channels while watching TV). Hearing them say so left me with a "burp feeling " in my spirit.
Especially on Sundays, the official WeChat accounts, live broadcasts, videos, audio and text sermons of various churches and pastors were all over the place in some believers' WeChat groups, full of beautiful things to see.
This is also a good thing. However, gradually, the focus of the discussion is no longer on what inspired or moved them from what they had heard. Instead, it becomes "Look, this pastor is very handsome, that pastor's voice is so beautiful"; "That teacher is so articulate, that colleague's expression is so beautiful"; "This particular sentence in this sermon is so graceful, that sermon is so profound..."
It seems as if "listening to sermons" has become a "beauty pageant" and a "speech contest". We have all become "spectators" and "judges". This so-called phenomenon is a cause for worry!
This is not to say that pastors cannot be appraised, nor that there is no difference in the level of preaching and skillfulness among different pastors, nor that the teachings of pastors should be accepted unconditionally and without questioning. It's about how we regard the work of the church and the pastors, and how we understand and acquaint ourselves with the word we hear in such a special season.
Indeed, as earlier mentioned, none of us has ever had such an experience. As a pastor, you can't preach face to face to everyone all at once. Instead, you have to record alone in your study, preach in front of the camera in an empty church, and carefully consider the correlation between the words you speak and those in the manuscript. To be honest, although the young pastor writes every day, he noticed that he was much less expressive than his usual face-to-face preaching. Let alone pastors who have not done deep research in this aspect.
I say this is not to generate sympathy but to objectively describe the situation. I hope that on the basis of understanding, brothers and sisters can also cherish, encourage and love their own church pastors. At the same time, a lot of support and encouragement should be given to the church and pastors. After all, our pastors are neither actors nor experts in the field of network anchoring. The relationship between us and pastors is not the same as the relationship that exists between actors and audiences, but the relationship between family members. Isn't it?
At the same time, we need to have the right attitude when listening to sermons. The more you listen to a sermon does not determine how spiritually adept you will be; having more biblical knowledge does not necessarily make your life better. On the contrary, the Lord Jesus told us that only those who "hear and act" will have their faith become as firm as a rock. Those who "hear but don't act" will have their faith built on sand. In the face of difficulties, it will collapse. (Matthew 7)
I often tell my brothers and sisters a formula: "10000 points (hearing) + 0 points (doing) = 0 points (life)". If we are very good at listening to sermons and get 10000 points in listening to sermons, but we can't act on the word and get 0 points in acting on the word; the 10000 points for hearing + 0 points for acting on the word, is still equal to 0 points in life. This may be a more surprising statement. It could be that "10000 points for hearing + 0 points for doing = a negative life".
It's not uncommon to see people in the church who have heard a lot, know a lot about the Bible, have been believers for a long time, but have experienced no change in their lives. Instead, they became selfish people who criticize others, frown at brothers and sisters, and criticize preachers. Such "10,000 points in hearing" is a negative score for the inner life.
The Lord has said that his judgment shall begin with the house of God and he shall judge us according to what we have received. Imagine that one day, when our lives and behaviors are measured mainly by the words we have received; will each of our lives be commensurate with the words we have heard? Will it be a zero? Or a negative? This really needs to make us very alert.
May the Lord be merciful and help the church, help the pastors, help our brothers and sisters!
(The original article is published by the author, the senior pastor of Guangzhou Zion Church, Guangdong Province.)
- Translated by Nonye Nancy