Topic: Should Pastors Venture Into Business?

A picture of coins and money on and beside a Holy Bible.
A picture of coins and money on and beside a Holy Bible. (photo:
By Steve Sun January 9th, 2024

Full-time pastors and ministers often face a significant income gap compared to the need to support their families and children's education. It is a matter of concern whether pastors can venture into business.

In an interview with the Christian Times, an online Christian newspaper in China, five pastors from different provinces in China, each with over 20 years of pastoral experience, expressed their views on the issue.

Rev. Jing Baihan, born in the 1970s and a leader of a city church of about 50 people in East China, often testifies to the wonderful work of God in his church for visitors. He also introduced how he engages in direct sales of Amway products. For instance, he demonstrates the promotion of relevant apps within his network for pastors, allowing them to earn money through others' online purchases.

He said, "As a pastor, one needs to become wealthy for God." According to him, pastors can engage in business, aiming for a better life for themselves and their families through direct sales work. He expresses the willingness to not solely depend on believers’ donations but to contribute a portion of any surplus to specific ministers in need.

Similar to Rev. Jing, Rev. Liu Yishan, introverted and aged nearly 50, underwent professional theological education and once led a hundred-member city church in South China. However, he encountered difficulties when the devil tempted him to create a fake certificate, which led the church council to suggest that he resign.

After leaving his pastoral role, he encountered a local e-commerce and social media marketing business model. He promotes his products in his social circle and regularly recommends related items to pastors and believers. He said, "I hope to bring the gospel to professionals after realizing my prior inability to understand the real situations of church believers during my pastorship."

In contrast, Rev. Cui Tianhong, born in the 1970s and leading a thousand-member church in South China, believed that pastors can engage in business but must do so cautiously. From the beginning of the establishment of the church, he has led the ministry to the present day. As a professional elite, he has performed the best in the company. Knowing he is a Christian, the boss doesn't give him a job on the weekends. Despite being a workplace elite, he considers the primary purpose for pastors entering business to be for the Lord and to reach more people in the workplace with the gospel, rather than solely for making money.

Rev. Zhang Shuqiang, nearly 60 years old, from a first-tier city in South China, equipped with theological training, has led varied types of churches and now serves as the head pastor of a 300-member church. He believes pastors can be involved in business but emphasizes the importance of clarifying the purpose and aligning with God's intentions. He shared an experience where a pastor friend introduced him to Christian entrepreneurs, some of whom were deceptive and sought funding without genuine Christian intentions. He warned about the lack of discernment potentially leading believers to financial losses and tarnishing the church's and pastors' reputations, which adversely affected the spread of the gospel.

Rev. Zuo Zongsheng, leader of a thousand-member church in South China, born in the 1960s, along with his wife, were both business elites before dedicating themselves to full-time ministry. They abandoned their affluent lifestyle and solely relied on faith to serve the Lord. Even in challenging times when they had to scavenge for leftovers or lacked money for public transportation, they refrained from re-entering the business world. They emphasized that ministers should avoid any involvement in business-related work or invitations. Zuo advocated for pastors and staff workers to do the Lord's work and leave the rest to God. They firmly believed that rejoicing in God and relying on God's provision can still be possible in today's society."

(To protect the interviewees, all names mentioned above are pseudonyms.)

- Translated by Abigail Wu

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