'A Friend in Need is a Friend Indeed': Reflection from Losing Staff Member

A picture shows a person riding a horse with some lambs around.
A picture shows a person riding a horse with some lambs around. (photo: pixabay.com)
By Li ShiguangFebruary 9th, 2023

The shortage of pastors has been a problem in the Chinese church, whether in the past or present. We can foresee the situation will continue in the future. However, reasons for a lack of pastors vary. Possible factors can include underpayment, a lack of a systematic co-worker training system, or intrigues and church politics...

Brother An (pseudonym) who pastors a church in eastern China, reveals another reason for losing a staff member. 

In a period of time, An’s church moved several times due to COVID-19 restrictions and other issues. Some members left the church during that period.

“Those people would wonder if they should stay in the church after encountering so many things. Should they change to another church?” An said. 

An’s church paid a great price for frequently relocating. “We have paid a greater price: furnishing the place, relocating sites, and helping rebuild the faith of believers through care and follow-ups,” he added. 

But the trouble was not all bad. “We find that the lives of people who left our church due to the pandemic and political tension contrast sharply with those who continue to worship here.”

That is the Matthew Effect, named after a passage in the gospel of Matthew, which refers to the good becoming better and the bad getting worse. 

The membership of some churches in An’s city has declined by more than half since COVID-19 broke out in early 2020 because many Christians have been used to gathering online and do not attend church. At the same time, some churches failed to group the congregation into several teams, and a single Sunday service could not meet the spiritual needs of members. This inevitably led to a membership drain. 

An’s church not only encountered losing members but also suffered from the loss of a staff member. 

“We have a very important worker who loved the Lord and really devoted himself to the ministry. He did everything well, but he left. When looking back, I would say that he could work very hard in a secure and stable environment, but a fatal problem rose to the surface when suffering knocked at the door. His sufferings were totally strange and unacceptable to him. When there was a tribulation, he became very scared and started to keep a distance from the church. Sadly, he left.”

After this, An began to reflect on how the church trained its staff. “We recognize a very serious problem in leading the staff. We used to believe that the amount of time a believer devotes to his faith indicated the depth of his spirituality. We also judge staff members by this standard. This concept may evaluate a lay believer, but it doesn’t fit a church worker. For quite a long time, we did not pay enough attention to the spiritual practices of believers and staff members. Then we rearrange the standards for staff members. We are training workers with very strict standards. Strictly speaking, we don’t have staff members right now; all we have are candidates.”

"Because we've discovered that many believers pay their tithes on time and even give more than one-tenth. Many rush to the front of the line when the church initiates something. They are very keen on church affairs, and everything seems fine. But there is an old saying—a friend in need is a friend indeed. When trouble comes, the inner life of a person will be truly revealed.”

Brother An said that pastors need to think deeply when people's faith is limited by things like financial stress, restrictions because of a pandemic, or political stress. We must keep informed of the times and actively adjust how to cultivate Christians and staff members. 

- Translated by Karen Luo

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