Roundtable: Chinese Church Needs to Raise Awareness of Business as Mission

A picture shows three saplings growing on three piles of coins.
A picture shows three saplings growing on three piles of coins. (photo:
By Esther TianOctober 6th, 2022

Many grassroots churches in China avoid talking about money. Many people think that focusing on money is worldly and that living for wealth is not godly or spiritual. However, with the current development of Chinese churches and changes in the social environment, more and more pastors and church co-workers find that this concept may need to be adjusted.

Whether enhancing and cultivating business awareness is necessary during this episode's round table interview conducted by the Christian Times, an online Chinese Christian newspaper. One of the interviewees is Pastor James, a middle-aged pastor with more than 20 years of pastoral experience, the other is Sister Yan, a co-worker who has been serving the church for ten years and is also interested in music, writing, and education. Below is the excerpt: 

Christian Times: Pastor James, what have you been busy with serving recently?

Pastor James: I have recently registered a company, and the business license has been obtained. Next, I plan to help some brothers and sisters around me to increase their income.

Christian Times: Are you going to start a business? This is very different from your previous philosophy, how did you come up with the idea of doing business?

Pastor James: In April, I read a book called Being Rich for God, which had a great impact on the change in my mind. For the Chinese church to develop, it must not only equip itself with God's word but also take care of its finances.

To begin with, I want to clarify that I am not in search of riches for myself, nor do I feel I lack anything. My goal is to "be rich for God". Along with my brothers and sisters in the church, I desire "to be rich for God."

Christian Times: Sister Yan, what do you think of the pastor’s talk about business?

Sister Yan: At present, in the Chinese church, many people dare not talk about being rich for God, they just talk about being faithful servants of God. Everyone thinks pastors are dedicated to God, so they should just concentrate on pastoring. They will never lack anything when the brothers and sisters give and supply. However, many churches are lacking. Pastor James' awareness is at the forefront in this regard.

Christian Times: According to the teachings of the Bible, many churches believe that "Levites" should not have their own inheritance, and they should concentrate on serving God. Pastor James, do you think there is something wrong with this teaching?

Pastor James: I don't think living by faith is wrong, and the "Levites" also lived well by faith. However, faith cannot be replicated since everyone's situation is different. The church needs to consider many real situations as it develops.

My income was already very high before I became a pastor. However, when I was called to full-time ministry, I lived a "Levitical" life. Also, I feel that I have won. In these 16 years, my life has been rich.

I sincerely treat believers with the love of God, take responsibility for their lives, and are willing to give to the church. The believers also love me very much, and God did not let me lack anything or treat me badly. There is no shortage of churches, and church finances are transparent. I am grateful for God's guidance and provision during this time.

But I also saw that the lives of many pastors and preachers in China can be described as "miserable". In some areas, it is fortunate that the preachers have basic living security, but in some areas, the wrong religious concepts of the pastors and believers hurt the preachers.

Foreign pastors and evangelists are less likely to encounter such problems. Many foreign pastors have dual occupations. Even if they are only pastors, the church will pay pastors salaries according to the principle that "workers deserve their wages."

Pastors who spend time and energy pastoring the church deserve to be paid for. The gospel is priceless, but pastors cannot be considered free to give.

I know that an elder has his own occupation, and his income is also very good, so he doesn't have to worry about life at all. It's a miserable situation for other full-time staff, who have no source of income and are embarrassed to ask for wages. But they have to live and support their families.

Christian Times: Indeed, in reality, this idea has made many preachers in China very embarrassed, and some people have to give up their positions and missions in order to support their families. For the Chinese church, this causes great damage.

Pastor James: Although my only income is my church salary, I lack nothing. But I have a dilemma, I used to be a top salesman. Obviously, I have the ability to make money, I could have helped more people, why should I rely on tithe and offering to live? Through this book, I found a balance, not for myself, but for God and God's kingdom, and for the Christians to be more influential in society.

Sister Yan: I agree very much with what Pastor James mentioned. I know of a brother who worked as a preacher in a church in a remote mountain area after graduating from seminary, but his monthly salary is only several hundred yuan. He not only needs to take care of the sick mother but also has to pay for his family and support his sister in high school. He has a very difficult life, and his own marriage has no financial conditions to consider.

In desperation, he could only treat church ministry as a part-time job and then chose to contract an orchard and a vegetable field to grow green food without pesticide residues. A few years later, he changed his lifestyle, soon got married, found a virtuous wife, and later had two lovely children. He is still a preacher of the church, and he also helps brothers and sisters in Christ to run a company together to improve the living conditions, and he also has spare energy to promote various ministries.

Christian Times: We heard that a pastor also emphasized that the church should have financial self-reliance, and he also encouraged Christians to contribute to society in their respective fields. This pastor believes that to abandon the  “poor thinking habits” and the wrong logic of getting rich means corruption, Christians cannot become a burden to society, but can serve society and become an influential group of people. Of course, he also emphasized the importance of preaching the word of God, otherwise, there will indeed be a phenomenon of rich corruption.

Pastor James: Yes, Christian business must be based on the Scriptures. Why did I change my mind? I made my decision based on the long-term pastoring of the church.

In terms of mission, first of all, there must be financial support to carry out the mission.

From a strategic point of view, many places do not accept missionaries, but they welcome businessmen. Then we need to enter some countries and regions through means of business. We can benefit from entering certain countries as investors, and businessmen.

In terms of social services, if we are prosperous, we can do charity and public welfare to help and influence our city and community.

As a pastor, why talk about business to brothers and sisters? I want to help some grassroots churches that I know, as well as brothers and sisters, to change their views on money. Christians need to change their minds and not think that making money is a very secular thing.

Christian Times: Sister Yan, how did you start paying attention to business?

Sister Yan: I realized I needed to make money after having two children. I need to pay for food and clothing, health care, education, etc. Real financial problems need to be faced and resolved. We need to think about the future of our children.  We need to think and change for our children. I hope that when faith is passed on, the next generation will have a healthy and correct understanding and experience of the faith. Otherwise, the children may grow up to be very repulsive towards the idea of being preachers. They only have a stereotyped impression of preachers as "poor", and it has been proved that many second-generation Christians have stopped on the path of ministry because of this.

Christian Times: Indeed, it is often heard that the children of preachers are more willing to choose to support the church financially.

Sister Yan: When the church encounters financial difficulties and does not have enough financial capacity to provide for the preachers, I think the preachers can follow Paul's example and make a living by weaving tents. For the expansion of various ministries, the preachers choose to serve the church after a worldly job, and they choose to labor and work with their own hands, so as to help the church get out of the financial burden. It's a beautiful thing, and it's still the way to live the beautiful life of Jesus Christ.

Christian Times: Yes, Pastor James, Jewish business is famous all over the world. Do you think this practice is worth learning, or does it need to be adjusted?

Pastor James: I think they're doing a good job, but there needs to be more integration between business and missions. I am also at the beginning. But be alert: First of all, I believe that when Christians do business, integrity is the foundation, and they must provide customers with reliable products and reliable services. Then the business philosophy we want to establish should be like what John Wesley said: "Desperately make money, desperately save money, and desperately donate money."

It is not that "I" want to become a rich man but to create wealth for the kingdom of God. If we believe in the words of God and have a sense of business, then we Christians can do better and more influential services. 

- Translated by Richard Zhou

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