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Thursday, July 07, 2022
opinion
Dialogue: Five Challenges Faced by Church in the Post-Pandemic Era
A picture shows a conductor leading a choir in singing a hymn in a church.A picture shows a conductor leading a choir in singing a hymn in a church.

None of the days is peaceful and that seems to have become the new standard for our modern times. In the past three years, the COVID-19 pandemic, social ethics disorders, secularization, and the Russian-Ukrainian war, etc., all have directly and indirectly brought impacts and challenges to the church.

A few days ago, Brother W, a Christian scholar in South China, shared his thoughts based on some phenomena that he has observed in recent years. He believes that extreme speeches, secularization, church internal struggling, prosperity theology, and the generation gap between the older generation of pastors and young believers are the challenges that the church needs to face today.

He confessed that he didn’t necessarily have solutions to the above issues, but at least “raising the awareness of these problems could lead to reflections and thoughts”.

Challenge one: extreme remarks

Now is an era of social media so everyone is influenced by a variety of opinions on different grounds worsening the opinion gaps. Brother W observes that in the past few years, there have been similar problems of extreme speeches in the church community. For instance, many specific issues are being raised to a higher plane of principle in those comments to prove that “the Western moon is rounder” (a Chinese metaphor meaning “life in the West is better”, translator’s note) - just as Hu Shi, former president of Peking University, once said that “the moon in the United States is rounder than in China”, appealing to total westernization.

“The church community should not emphasize faith issues with a too strong ideology of other countries. The occurrence of many problems is actually caused by mankind’s sinful nature. The church needs to keep transcendence.”

“I think this is also a major obstacle to evangelism. Christians do not need to link Christianity with political ideology. Similarly, we don’t talk about which country is good or bad,” he reminded. “Specific things need specific solutions.”

“Therefore, I think the church needs to pay attention to the following aspects. First, pastors should teach believers to avoid making extreme remarks, which means they should be practical and not raise matters to a higher plane of principle. Second, try not to just view the problems from the political angle, but to view them from the angle of sinful nature.”

Challenge two: secularization

“The impact of secularization making believers care less about church affairs and spend more time on worldly affairs is another very serious problem,” Brother W said.

There are many reasons why many Christians have a weak sense of belonging to the church. Brother W shared that he saw that some Christians thought there are too many problems in the church and so they didn’t want to be part of it. Some people had painful memories brought by the church. For instance, the childhood memory of a sister he knew: her mother always cried every time she returned from a church service, so it was difficult for her to get close to the church.

Challenge three: internal struggling in the church

“This problem is definitely dishonorable to God, but it does occur in some local churches. One church worker has once exposed the corruption in the church, but he was kicked out from the church by other internal staff. Also, there are some church personnel who are the only children and have strong personalities. So the harmony among church staff is an issue that needs attention,” Brother W added.

Challenge four: prosperity theology

Successful theology is also a challenge that Brother W believes needs urgent attention, especially during the pandemic. He explained: “During the pandemic, I know that some Christians are full of doubts about their faith because their previous belief was the teachings of prosperity theology. When the epidemic comes and many people are infected including Christians and pastors they know, will they still believe in God? Will they have doubts about God?”

“I came across such cases while chatting online. I saw many Christian beliefs collapsed because the core values of their beliefs were not the gospel of Christ, but their own selfish desires.”

Challenge five: generation gap

The generation gap between the older pastors and young believers is yet another increasingly prominent challenge faced by the church. Brother W regrets that older pastors don’t seem to realize the problem of this generation gap. He saw that older pastors often shepherd young people in a rather simple and hush way, and the two parties cannot connect or understand each other and open their hearts. That would lead to the failure of pastoral care over time.

“A good way to raise young people is when pastors know what young people are thinking, know what are the painful points and needs of their time, and establish a true sense of belonging, which might better retain them.” He concluded that “specific matters may require pastors to think deeper and rely on God to solve them.”

- Translated by Charlie Li

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