Rural churches are now facing many challenges - the lack of preachers, the aging of believers, and the young pastors who much prefer serving in cities to working in the countryside. In addition to the current era’s influence of development on the church, people's mentality is no longer what it used to be. As most old believers in rural churches are illiterate, they cannot read Bible verses. They can only listen to God's words with the help of a media player or by attending church services. There are many old people in rural areas who have believed in Jesus for many years, but they frequently encounter one problem. The problem is that they do not quite understand their faith and they always regard the belief that one goes to Heaven after being saved by Jesus as the whole matter of the faith. As to the content of the faith, they do not understand much of it. That is not only related to the serving quality of their pastors but is also related to their environment and families.
The group that rural churches are facing is a special one in which most are farmers, shepherds, house builders, road builders, or grocery sellers. They can only understand God and their faith on a personal basis. Yet, understanding or preaching the truth is their weakness. For instance, the grocery sellers may be very good at calculating prices and thus communicate clearly, but it is difficult for them to summarize their beliefs. They can only give a rough idea of it. When they are asked difficult questions, there is always no way for them to answer them.
In fact, the memory of the old people in rural churches is somewhat poor. Sometimes it takes a long time to learn a verse and a poem not because they are slow in learning, but because their energy and memory are not as good as before. Moreover, it is easy to forget what they have heard. Therefore, many young preachers are unwilling to stay in the countryside. On the one hand, there are many elderly people in the countryside; on the other hand, the church finance is unable to pay the preachers; in addition to that, young people always like to face young people.
In addition to worship and gathering, the more important aspects of the work of rural churches are visiting and praying for the sick, and the work of casting out demons. Many old preachers have full confidence in God, they have the experience of praying for sick people, and they are also full of God's power and authority in driving out demons. On average, they have villages to go to every day and some sick families will call them. They pray for others, preach the gospel to those who have not repented, and finally pray for them, leading many sick people to repent at a time. Sometimes they also go to the hospital to pray for those who are seriously ill and dying, and baptize them if conditions allow them to.
These old pastors are examples of the faith accompanied by practical testimony of faith every day, but one day they will grow older and rest in peace, so the pastoral care of rural churches still needs to raise more young people or others who can bear the burden of loving the Lord. In fact, it is not easy for young people to commit themselves to rural churches. If some people are willing to serve rural churches, perhaps most of them are initially old people. They have poor eyesight and poor hearing too. Even some grandfathers and grandmothers doze off at every gathering. However, if young people prepare themselves to willingly and gradually serve and lead, and have a good reputation and witnesses in rural churches, perhaps people of different ages will participate in the service over time.
I also appeal to more people to pray for rural churches, the old people, and the young people who are still sticking to their service posts, because such a service environment is not easy and it is very hard to practice with confidence. I visited many rural churches, saw the aging of many rural preachers, and found various problems in rural churches. My personal view is that what rural churches lack is not enthusiasm, witness, and experience, but the thoroughness and the summary of the truth, and on the other hand, the power of the doers of the Word.
Are you a member of a rural church or a city church? Whatever your environment is, you will eventually face the challenges of the world to your faith, the temptation of materialism to people’s minds, and the traction of money and financial resources to people's hearts. Although rural churches say that the present situation is full of challenges such as lack of service personnel, serious aging and loss of staff loss, I still believe that God will be responsible to His church. God's use of people is not measured by people's eyes, and God's arrangements and plans for the church are by no means transparent to people. Despite some people thinking that the rural church has no way out, I believe that God will never forget those who really love him because God's strength is so complete in the weak.
- Translated by Charlie Li