Pastor Urges Chinese Churches to Abandon Theological Monolith, Embrace Mutual Respect

A church sits by a lake.
A church sits by a lake.
By Li ShiguangJune 12th, 2024

Pastor Chen was born and raised in the south of China with overseas education. He believes that in the current new environment, Chinese churches need to return to denominationalism but must also learn to appreciate and respect each other and be able to rationally view the differences among themselves.

"Vast China" determines that Chinese churches will be diverse.

Pastor Chen believes that within any healthy church, there must be “diversity.” Since China is vast with very different regional situations, Chinese churches will not be limited to a single model.

After the reform and opening-up, the Chinese church began to re-embark on its journey. Some churches quickly established a development model of "team networks." Many large teams appeared, leading to the rapid development of the Chinese church.

However, as time goes by, the team networking model has shown many shortcomings in the current situation and can no longer adapt to the constantly changing environment. Pastor Chen believes that one of the important reasons is that theological thought has not and cannot be unified. Some teams tend towards the Reformed theology, while others align more with the Charismatic movement. Therefore, whether within the co-workers’ community or at the church level, many problems have begun to emerge.

Christians should not seek a monolith in church governance models and theology.

Pastor Chen believes that “forcing a square peg into a round hole is not a good idea.” Instead of forcibly gathering people together through artificial means, it is better to separate them. He believes that the Chinese church has gradually come to the time of “dismantling” and "reassembling,” that is, people reorganizing their churches according to their theological beliefs.

Pastor Chen said that due to some special historical reasons, denominations almost completely disappeared in the Chinese church for a long time. However, denominations are generally positive and healthy for Christianity now.

In the history of the Chinese church, there have been attempts to oppose denominationalism through localization movements because some church members intended to eliminate denominations, believing that they all came from the West. Therefore, organizations such as the Church of Christ in China were established. Pastor Chen commented, “China is so vast, and there are significant cultural differences in different regions. Under such circumstances, the church can only unite through theology; otherwise, it can only forcibly gather the church through secular, artificial means, which the Roman Catholic Church has proven to be a failed approach.”

Pastor Chen elaborated that our thinking about theology should be dynamic. "In terms of denominations, we need to absorb the good and healthy factors from those denominations, but we must also constantly adjust and develop according to the actual situation of the Chinese church."

“We should not pursue monolithic church governance models and theology,” he said. “Chinese culture and history both attach great importance to and pursue ‘unification.’” However, he believes that in terms of theology and denominations in the Chinese church, we must learn to respect others, appreciate their strengths and advantages, and view the differences between each other with a tolerant attitude.

Finally, Pastor Chen said that the church certainly needs to unite, and the only thing that can truly unite all churches is evangelism. "When everyone works together, there is no need to emphasize denominational or sectarian issues, and the strength of all churches is unleashed."

- Translated by Charlie Li

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