Rural Church Pastor: My Churches Don't Become Poor for Paying Staff

The Rural Church
The Rural Church (photo: Levi)
By Xi LexianApril 11th, 2022

Presently, most media reports of rural churches are about the decrease in the number of rural church workers, the inability to pay ministers, the shortage of ministers and spiritual guidance, the lack of responsibility, the rampant heresy, and even the closure of churches. Pastors nationwide are sorry to hear about all of this.

In 2008, recommended by our chief pastor, my wife and I willingly accepted the mission to serve in a small town church. Up until now, we have been serving God full time for 14 years. At that time, my wife and I had just been married for over a year. Before that, I served in another rural church for three years as an intern. My wife and I studied together in an urban seminary for three years and became ministers.

It is a small town in the northeast mountainous area. When my wife and I came here, there was not a single church building. We had gatherings at the deacon’s house where there were sixteen people at our first gathering. The church rented a house for us. However, 14 years have passed, and even now, there are no more than 20 members in this church. We call our church H Church.

In the second year, H Church built a chapel of more than 100 square meters with the help of the county church, and had a fixed place of worship.

Also in that year, in a more remote mountain village 15 kilometers away from H Church, a sister preached the gospel there and set up a gathering place of over a dozen people. They invited me to preach and serve there, and so I rode my motorcycle twice a week to lead the sermons and services there. After about three years, the church there also bought an old house as its venue with the help of the church at an upper hierarchy. We call that church S Church.

It was around the time before and after S Church built its venue that it had the largest number of members, 20 or 30 people. But I knew quite a few of them joined for fun at that time. Some actually had no faith foundation at all. True believers were only over a dozen, some of whom left for cities one after another as time went by. Up to now, there are seven or eight people who usually get together in S Church.

It has been difficult for churches there to grow for many years. Around 2014, I prayed to God to add 10 believers to my church. At the beginning of 2015, God granted my request two fold. There were constant changes to the ministers of the neighboring town. So, as per usual the county church arranged for me to serve that church, which had twenty followers. We call this church C Church.

Although there are not many people in these three churches, they all have their own fixed venues and are independent. When we first arrived at H Church, the church gave us 200 yuan per month, and the church kept increasing our salaries. In the first few years, S Church could not pay for pastors because all of them were new believers, and donations to the church were very little. Later, S Church could pay for pastors. By 2013, S Church would increase its monthly pay from 300 yuan to 500 yuan. I did not agree because I knew that the annual donations of these few people’s church was not reaching 6,000 yuan at that time. But the sisters said, “We give it to you by faith”.

In 2015, because I had one more church to serve at, C Church, I had to reduce the commitment to S Church. I felt that I owed S Church, so I volunteered to reduce my pay. Yet, S Church did not agree to reduce it and gradually increased it instead.

In the same year, my wife’s mother died and left her some money. We bought a second-hand car and gave birth to our second child. We were grateful to God for preparing this car. I had to travel among three churches and a gathering point. At the peak, there would be seven or eight services a week, and it would take hundreds of kilometers to run. The temperature could easily reach below minus twenty degrees in wintry northeast China. Without this car, I would be too cold to travel that distance. Later, C Church gave us a subsidy of 7,000 yuan for this car.

God has taught us that the church does not fall short of finance for paying ministers, and even increases the pay instead. The dedication of the church also increases with it, and the church has more than enough to build a venue and all other needs.

Our source of life is mainly provided by the church. I remember a theological classmate said to us more than ten years ago, “Who still lives by faith now?” But we still live by faith and it is God who supports us. For these years God wants us to experience a life of faith.

During the years of the pandemic, the donations to these churches have not decreased, and the number of people who worship has not decreased but increased slightly.

I also teach my brothers and sisters that working for money is also working for the Lord so that we can help others, instead of asking for money. During the pandemic, our three small churches also contributed seven or eight thousand yuan. I teach my brothers and sisters not to say that the church is poor, because we are God’s family, though small, what we have is more than enough through faith.

By 2022, the payment provided by C Church will rise to 1,200 yuan from 500 yuan which it increased to in 2015. S Church will rise to 800 yuan with the usual seven or eight people. H Church’s living expenses will rise to 1800 yuan. H Church is responsible for renting a house and burning materials for heating, and giving us an extra monthly pay at the end of the year. C Church and H Church usually get together with no more than 20 people. Several churches have extra subsidies during the Spring Festival, and most or even 80% or 90% of church income is used by us. And the church is willing to do it.

In comparison, more than 50 believers in these three rural churches have done their best. According to the proportion of the number of people, they have exceeded their strength, and it is in no way behind the rich churches in the cities. If the church can do its best to love the ministers in this proportion, maybe many ministers can stay.

- Translated by Charlie Li

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