In the contemporary era, pastors may be labeled, exalted, and forced into specific roles. That is indeed a negative social phenomenon because labels are conveniently used to put people into boxes. Pastors may be praised more than they deserve and assigned roles simply because it is easy for others to lock them into these specific roles. While many believers respect their pastors, the most easily overlooked issue is the care for the pastors’ lives and families.
A common phenomenon is when believers share their problems with a pastor and hope that the pastor can pray with them and help to solve the difficulty. However, the pressure, difficulties and pain faced by pastors are often ignored by believers.
On the other hand, the lack of financial support for rural pastors has gradually put additional pressure on them. Because some churches have limited resources and cannot provide adequate support, compensating their pastors has become a serious issue.
I once heard a brother’s testimony that it was hard for him when he went out to teach because the people he taught were poor and he could not force them to give him much pay. Life was so difficult for him that during his wife’s pregnancy he had to pick up rotten vegetable leaves in a vegetable market very early every day. He was unable to put into words how he felt because he was unable to earn enough money to support his wife and children. Later on, when he returned to his local church and shared his experiences and frustrations, the brothers and sisters were in tears. They showed a particular understanding of the hardship in a pastor's ministry. That also inspired each other to show concern for the quality of life of the pastor.
At present, the rural churches ignore the care for pastors because sometimes they don’t understand the hardships and costs that the pastor has to bear. Too often the congregations are rather powerless - although they see the needs of pastors, they can do nothing about it.
This is especially true of rural pastors. If rural pastors have more farmland on which to grow crops, their economic situation will be better; if they have less land, then there will be less income. For ordinary farmers, one acre of land will probably give them an income of about 1000 yuan for a harvest season and ten acres of land will earn them 10,000 yuan. As far as the pastor is concerned, his own environment and conditions also determine the path of his future life. Although it is true that the pastor should live by faith and rely on God, the pastor, on the other hand, also does need the care and help from his congregations according to the needs faced in real life.
In this era, the loss of many rural pastors has gradually become a common phenomenon for various reasons such as the need to support the family, the need for children to go to school, the need to take care of their parents and the elderly and so on. They are forced to leave their service positions. Conditions in some rural churches are poor and the believers are elderly. The elderly rely on state subsidies to support their monthly expenses and there is no extra money to give. Therefore, missionaries have to find another way, or gradually choose to serve part-time, or leave their churches to work in other places. They will then attend churches in the areas where they live.
Sometimes the internal pressure for pastors comes from their family, parents, children, social environment and peers. It's common to neglect the family because of a busy schedule. I heard testimonies of some church co-workers that some pastors did not harvest their farmland first, but went to help believers who had no one to help them at home. After helping them harvest their crops they then returned to their own land to harvest their crops. This helps us see that the pastors have much more to do - not only do they need to prepare sermons and teach in the church, they also care for the life of their believers. However, pastors place pressure on themselves and their strong feelings can pastor's they keep to themselves or only tell to God.
As a rural pastor myself I also have great internal pressure and difficulties. When I see some colleagues around me looking for jobs and gradually leaving their positions, I sometimes also want to find a job suitable for me. I want to find a paying job and serve in my church at the same time. In fact, some of my co-workers have given birth to several sons and they will have a heavy burden in the future, so they have left to find employment elsewhere. Some have aged parents at home and their families have financial difficulties due to illness. Some don’t get sufficient income from their churches. They need to buy houses so they go out to work. Some go to work in factories, some perform wedding ceremonies, and some work as salesmen.
Who will care for pastors? Who will listen to the voices of pastors? Who will understand a pastor's life? When the pastor’s life and family face difficulties, who will take care of them? But we know that God will never forget, as it is written, "Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!" (Isaiah - 49:15)
Nowadays, the times are gradually changing and life is full of various challenges. Although the pastor's position sounds very nice, he has to bear the cost, suffer hardships and sacrifice more. While serving, they let go of their own affairs, give up their own plans, and sacrifice quality time with spouses, parents, and children. They put their hearts and souls into their service, although they sometimes encounter a lack of comprehension, ridicule and criticism. Even so, they still learn to be patient and grateful. This is the life of a pastor.
There are many paths in life, both narrow and wide. We are convinced that the path taken by the pastor must be narrow because the narrow path leads to God and is full of hope. However, this narrow path will also be full of many difficulties, stumbling blocks, misunderstanding and being despised. Fortunately, God is there for the journey.
- Translated by Charlie Li