Editor's note: As the saying goes, "The family is the smallest unit of a nation, and the nation is made up of millions of families." This sentiment aligns with the concept of family, country, and world, which is deeply rooted in the hearts of the Chinese people. In the construction of the kingdom of heaven, the family is also the fundamental unit for faith inheritance and practice. This article documents how a grassroots town church in Southern Fujian, with a steadfast vision amidst prevalent folk beliefs and strong family values, has led many families to overcome idols and turn towards Christ.
In today's era, regardless of diverse ideologies and traditional beliefs, Chinese people identify with family values. If one were to inquire where in China people place the greatest importance on family inheritance, Southern Fujian would be the answer. In these regions, the concept of family and clan has become the lifeblood of social development. The emphasis on family building is also a feature of local churches.
C Church, located in a coastal city on the Taiwan Strait, is such a church with an architectural style of south Fujian. In this suburban church with a congregation of over two thousand people, the percentage of believers whose entire families are Christians even reaches over eighty percent of the total believers.
"In southern Fujian villages, especially here, the foundation of folk beliefs is very deep. No matter which local deity one person believes, it's a matter of the whole family worshipping together," explained Pastor S and his wife, both of whom have served in the church for over 40 years, when discussing the local religious belief traditions. "In our church here, we also follow this pattern. In most cases, households rather than individuals count as believers.
Since the resumption of gatherings in the 1980s, the older generation of pastors at C Church has made "All Family Return to the Lord" the focal point of the church's vision. They initiated diverse localized preaching explorations based on this vision. At the beginning of its reopening, the church started urging believers to establish "family altars." In the 1990s, the church carried out personal evangelism activities, dispatching pastoral workers to rural areas to spread the gospel and destroy idols. In the 2000s, the church shifted its focus to the younger demographic, organizing varied camp activities during holidays to nurture this group and let them influence the entire family. "In these decades, the number of believers has increased significantly. Many families turned to the Lord, removing idols during this period," said the pastor.
In recent years, the church has shifted towards a refined pastoral ministry that focuses on the life-building of believers' family members. "The 'All Family Return to the Lord' has been the annual pastoral theme of C Church for the past two years. All pastoral ministries are centered around building faith families."
Pastor S explained that throughout the 52 Sunday services in a year, the church sets forth the Bible teachings on the family, including cases like Ruth and Boaz, as well as Cain and Abel. "In the last two years, we expected our believers to identify with a Christ-centered family and strive to build one. On this basis, our pastoral theme for the next year is 'The Church is My Home', leading each Christian to be committed to the church.”
Since the resumption of service in the 1980s, the "Family Altar" ministry has been another attempt.
Pastor S stated that every Thursday evening, more than ten pastors from the church enter believers' homes, providing targeted and in-depth teachings to each family. "Following the principle of voluntary registration, as long as there is a spiritual calling and a desire for the pastor to host a family worship service, we will make unified arrangements. However, the condition is that the entire family must participate in worship, not leaving anyone behind," the pastor added. "However, in the past two years, the number of families willing to sign up has been increasing, and sometimes we pastors can't get through."
As of the end of 2023, the number of Christianized families in Church C had exceeded 600. Calculated based on the average of four members per household in the local areas, the number of believers had surpassed two thousand. With the influx of migrant believers due to local industrialization in recent years, this church, jokingly referred to by Pastor S as the "village church in the city," is gradually transforming. However, the pastor's expectations go beyond this, "Not only do we want our local Christians to establish faith-based families, but we also want believers from other places to be able to return to the Lord together with their entire families in our church."
- Translated by Abigail Wu