Interview: Pastors Are Most Unlikely to Repent, But Should Repent the Most

A picture of a man on a bare mountain
A picture of a man on a bare mountain (
By Li ShiguangApril 13th, 2023

Pastor Zhang Shujun believed in the Lord in the early 1980s. Soon after his conviction, he decided to serve the Lord full-time. During the 30 or so years of his ministry, Pastor Zhang experienced and witnessed the revival and development of the church in China. He also sees and hears many ugly things happening to the church and its congregation. In his view, in the current situation of the church in China, it is not ordinary believers but pastors who should repent the most, and they are also the most unlikely group to repent.

The easiest thing to change is the human mind and nature.

During the decades of his service, Pastor Zhang has seen the rise, growth, and decline of many people.

For instance, there was a very young pastor who was aggressive and capable. Pastor Zhang was once very optimistic about his future. However, the reality was that when the church developed rapidly, the young pastor became proud. He eventually lost his vigilance and fell into temptation.

Satan kept saying to him, “You are amazing," “You did a great job," and “You are young and promising! Because of you, the church has developed so well." Then, his mind really started to change slowly, from saying “Thank God for everything being God’s grace” at the beginning to “I am excellent, and I can develop the church so well.” In this way, the young pastor slowly lost himself in pride. By the time others realized that something was wrong with the young pastor, his heart had already been taken away by Satan and could not be recovered.

It is pastors who should repent the most, and they are the hardest to repent.

Pastor Zhang said that he saw many ugly defects in pastors. Many pastors flatter themselves by bragging. They were so used to boasting about and feeding on illusions, pursuing their own fame and gain without really pursuing God’s will. Therefore, he believes that in the past few years, the general change in the environment or the impact of the pandemic has caused the dismantling of many pastoral teams. They suffered God's wrath. He thinks this is right. It is not that God rejected them, but that they rejected God first.

There is another reason. In fact, everyone knows that only through unity can we do great things for God, and so many pastors can urge alliance and unity in their words, but in practice, it is totally different. The fact is that unity is very difficult to achieve. Pastor Zhang believes that the difficulties for many churches and ministries to unite and cooperate are due to the fact that many people think highly of themselves and their churches and ministries are larger in scale and volume than others. So the premise of an alliance is to treat such people as the center, “I am the greatest, so you should take me as the center and listen to me.”

Therefore, although some pastors have spoken well and shouted out the importance of unity, it would be much better if pastors from different churches could meet and have a meal together. That is why Pastor Zhang finds it difficult for many pastors to humble themselves completely. They are used to putting on a show all the time, and they cannot change it.

Therefore, Pastor Zhang personally thinks that those who should repent the most and who are the most difficult to repent are not ordinary believers but pastors. Because some pastors he has seen and known can be said to be “the fakest and vain," they are not the same in private and public.

“As far as I know, in the Christian community, the people who commit sins the most are not ordinary believers, but certain pastors from some churches. People appear to be good, but they may secretly commit many very unbearable sins such as extramarital affairs, corruption, witch-hunts, and many other crimes that even people in the larger society would not commit, but some pastors would." Pastor Zhang explained, “That is why I said that the person who should repent the most is the pastor. Of course, it may just be certain individual pastors.”

He added, “No matter whether you are a pastor or an ordinary believer, as long as you come to God, you should completely humble yourself in complete honesty, confessing your sins and repenting. Change what you have, encourage what you have not, and always move forward with vigilance and awe. Don’t stumble when the church develops, as people will sometimes stumble.”

His advice to young pastors is to learn the Word first, then walk by the Word.

Pastor Zhang believes that many pastors of the older generation in China have never studied theology or even been educated for various historical reasons. Therefore, under such circumstances, there are inevitably many regrettable situations in the church. For instance, in the process of disseminating the faith, there are many wrong messages about the faith. “The older generation of pastors can firmly cling to their beliefs in suffering. We need to learn and carry forward this spirit, but we also need to identify and abandon some bad or even wrong things about it. Take its essence and discard its dross.”

Nowadays, many young pastors are generally well equipped with theological knowledge and education, but in this new era and new situation, the problem is that the spiritual life of some pastors does not match their spiritual knowledge and education, which has caused many pastors to be bigheaded and not practical.

"Speaking of 'theorist,' more important and needed for the church in China is 'doer,'" he concluded. 

- Translated by Charlie Li

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