Rural Pastor: Four Major Innovations to Improve Pastoral Ministry in Post-Pandemic Era

A  church with a white cross.
A church with a white cross.
By Li DaonanApril 13th, 2021

A new environment always brings new ideas. COVID-19 is a great change for the world which in the external environment indirectly promotes the innovation of ideas.

Christian churches and pastors are also experiencing this process. A few days ago, Pastor Wang, from a grass-roots rural church in central China, gave his thoughts that in the post-pandemic era, the Chinese church needed to innovate in many aspects of its ministry.

Wang said that the church should emerge from serving in religious mode and establish a personal relationship with God.

"Many problems that we see today are rather viewed from 2-D angles, such as the current environment, limited people and conditions, and present issues. Personally, in my humble opinion, I think we should go beyond these and think about the issues from God's point of view. In fact, when God wants to change the status quo of the church, God will definitely work on it. He will make settings for a change to the whole church, such as the pandemic last year," he stated. 

He continued, "Going through the pandemic has given me much reflection. What I want to say most is that whenever we fall into the religious mode, God will remind us that He is rather happier to let us have a personal relationship with Him."

"When these changes such as the pandemic occurred, I realized that God would make pastors and serving staff humble themselves. He would let us pastors know that next year the church will still grow even if we are absent. It may be people like us who have hindered the growth of believers. I noticed that many believers could not gather on site for many days during the pandemic, but they were more persistent in reading scriptures and praying at home. I think this is also good. Now, this situation will deepen the faith and spiritual life of the whole person, and stabilize the faith of each of us down to the earth, not in the sky. Pastors usually like to create a special atmosphere, but God wants everyone to establish a relationship with Himself."

"In the past, we used to look at people's beliefs from a pastor-centered perspective to measure the effectiveness of the service, but the pandemic has made us all realize that God is the shepherd of the church and he will personally attend to everyone."

Many pastors are pessimistic in that if they do not carry the burden, the church will be done. However, is this the case? The real situation is that many people firmly believe in God in silence, although they do not gather onsite and communicate with each other. Yet, when they do communicate, you will find that there is resonance, that is, during the pandemic, their faith becomes more real because God works in everyone and God also works in this era. We do not have to be depressed and pessimistic about the present situation, because it is the beginning of revival."

"However, it may be that the preparation for church revival is in bad circumstances because when our faith is deeply rooted, it will lead to revival; so we may now have more time to reach out to society and non-Christians," the pastor claimed. 

The second renovation was that pastors should change their roles - from leaders to lighters.

Looking back at the pastoral mode of the church, most serving staff were led by pastors to implement plans made by them, but now the environment and situation were very different from before, and pastors were no longer leaders, but igniters, which meant encouraging everyone in the church to stand up and act together.

"Every Christian will change from passive to active when he moves, so it will be more convenient; instead of letting believers wait to be served, believers should be encouraged to do it. In this manner, many problems will be gradually solved," Wang explained. 

Third, the real threshing floor was not the church but the world.

"I often share the idea with believers that drivers will drive to gas stations, but we do not buy cars in order to live in gas stations as gas stations just help with refueling. The gas station is not our destination. Gas stations are only for us to stop by. They are just supply spots," he insisted. 

The pastor urged, "By the same token, we come to church for spiritual supply, but the real threshing floor is not the church, but the family, society, and even the world. Otherwise, if the church says it is closed today, then we will have no service to offer. Our job is in the world. The same is true when Jesus sent his disciples everywhere. If we are confined to a certain church, it will be very difficult to preach the gospel."

Fourth, pastors should turn from pursuing the expansion of a church to pursuing their own deep beliefs.

"There is a trend that I am not optimistic about now. Many pastors like to emphasize the physical size of their churches, but look at some theologians in history, such as Martin Luther or Karl Barth. They had been ministering in one place for a long time and first established a deep understanding of God, church, and pastoral care. In fact, pastors should not pursue the size of a church too much, but should go deep into their own faith before they can have a deep understanding of Christ.“

He noted, ”It can also promote the quality of pastoral care. Only when we can really serve 10 people can we possibly serve 10,000 people, and only when we really help one person can we possibly help 10,000 people. However, today we pay too much attention to matters, big matters, but not people."

"The quality of pastors’ faith is more important than what they do. Our faith needs deepening. If your faith cannot go further, your influence on others is superficial. I was recently reading Wang Mingdao's book. In fact, he did not have much influence on everyone at that time. Many people did not meet him but just heard about him. Then he influenced many people and he still does. Because he did not emphasize what he did but emphasized on how his life was and on his relationship with God."

"The pursuit of influence itself has no influence. Only when we pursue the relationship with God can we have a real impact. What affects others is not what you do, but your relationship with God, which can bring about shocking changes," he concluded. 

- Translated by Charlie Li

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