In the past few decades since the reform and opening up, Chinese churches have made great progress. Many pastors being concerned about Chinese church development made analyses that in the 1980s and early 1990s, the development as a whole was driven by the laity.
However, since around 2000, different churches have adopted development models. A new feature is that most pastors have tried their best to promote the growth in their own way, while believers often become the objects to be served. The strength of lay believers has been ignored and stagnated. On the whole, it is still a mode of “pastors being on the podium and believers in the pews”.
In a recent interview with the Christian Times, an online Chinese Christian newspaper, Pastor W who has many years of serving experiences in rural grass-roots churches in mid-China reflected much on his own pastoring method and church development mode during these years of ministry. In a word, it means “being men of examples not of words”, a practice from theory to doing.
Pastor W shared the following:
Since 2000, many believers in Chinese churches have received more orthodox theological education. The church system, structure, and various ministries have been gradually established. On the one hand, it shows that the Chinese church has developed, but on the other hand, when the organization of the church has become increasingly strict and perfected, the church has also begun to become rigid, losing the presence of God and being unable to establish a close relationship with Him. Therefore, we have to return to inner peace and wait for God. Many campaigns, such as inner life and Christian spirituality are signs of this phenomenon.
In the 1980s when there was no church system, no proper theological education, or no studying of inner life and spirituality, however, the Holy Spirit strongly worked on the churches and believers, and there were indeed many miracles and wonders.
I find that the more tightly organized churches are less optimistic. Yet, such churches are more optimistic where believers can grow more freely. So I really encourage believers to stand up and become leaders. God will train them himself.
I used to worry that believers would go astray and fall. However, slowly I realized that I had made a big mistake that is the minister took the place of God. Pastors always think that they need to watch closely on believers, but in fact, God can shepherd them without others, and He will watch believers himself.
Now, in the midst of the pandemic, I see that many pastors seem to have disappeared from our sight, and I ask whether God will deliberately hide pastors. God wants to show His own glory, not ours, and to establish a close and direct relationship with believers. I have been thinking like this for a long time. What will happen to the church in the future? We can’t imagine it and no one knows it. We can only walk in faith believing in what God will do in the church, for believers and God’s workers.
In the past, when the environment was better, the real Christians’ influence on society was actually minus because, at that time, pastors and church workers had their influence inside the church rather than outside it. Many ministries were confined to the church. But now the environment has become very different, and many pastors can no longer continue to work in the way as before. At this time, many pastors reflect on themselves and have felt the need to become more practical and down to earth. They can’t just stand on the podium and teach people purely theoretical things but need to practice God’s way with their lives and show the way.
I was greatly inspired by the sharing of a minister who once said, “In the past, we used to do discipleship training. In fact, such training was false. We were actually doing disciple lecturing but not genuine training. The best way to train disciples is to live a good disciple life beginning from the pastor himself that is you be an example for others to imitate rather than teach them theories.”
In my opinion, today’s pastors need to show that they are disciples of Christ with a real life and let others see this way of life so that believers can refer to it and imitate it.
Jesus had been leading his disciples for more than three years, and his teaching was limited, but he would often live with his disciples. After the disciples saw what Jesus did, these memories would be deeply imprinted on their minds and would never be forgotten for the rest of their lives. What is instructive is something that a person listens to and then understands, but in fact, it is difficult to have a long-term impact on a person. Personally, I think that in the future church, as pastors, we need to truly live out the image of Christ first so that believers can follow.
Whether the ministry of a pastor comes from the throne of God, from the inner chamber, or from the school are totally different matter. In this way, a pastor may not talk much in his sermons, but have a great impact on the lives of believers and become a great help. Likewise, even if it is a long speech, it may not really affect and help others.
Therefore, pastors need to truly live a holy and pious life, so as to truly cultivate believers.
Why are there such evil things as corruption and fornication in the church? Because some people’s theories may be solid, but their foundation of faith is not so, and there is no real life connection with the Lord. A mature life is reflected very seriously in the smallest things. In this way, it will naturally have true influence.
- Translated by Charlie Li