An experienced rural church worker claims that the key to pastoring rural Christians is to make the best use of Sunday sermons in everyday language to make them easy to understand.
During a recent interview with The Christian Times, a male believer C (pseudonym) who has gained rich experience in pastoring rural believers after having served in a rural church in Central China for many years shared his takeaways.
Unlike the believers in the emerging churches in the cities that have developed rapidly over the years, the believers in rural churches generally do not have many needs, almost none for marriage courses, psychological counseling, etc.
C concluded, "Objectively speaking, there are no such demands since basically, most rural believers are elderlies, who consider services such as marriage courses and psychological counseling as flashy with no substance, almost useless to them.”
"The key to the pastoral care for rural believers is preaching. In the past, we used to host spiritual gatherings in the slack season for three, five or even seven days in a row. The meetings were only for preaching. Unfortunately, now we can’t do it anymore due to the COVID-19 pandemic," C said.
C believes that the reason why many heresies in China are developed from rural churches is also related to the narrow understanding of the Christian faith among rural congregations. Many rural Christians have very incomplete knowledge and understanding of their beliefs whose foundation is very weak. Many believers are not very committed to their faith, so they are easily affected by external factors. “Family objections, negative views of neighbors and relatives, the religion-related remarks of village committee leaders, the comments of their children's teachers, etc., may all affect their beliefs." Most rural believers are led to faith and become Christians because of personal needs. When they are sick, feel lonely, or have a personal hobby of singing and dancing that they can’t have satisfied in other ways, the church accommodates their needs. Another way of receiving the gospel is through neighbors. Many believers start to seek God because their Christian neighbors take them to the church.”
After having engaged in the pastoring ministry of rural churches for many years, what experiences and challenges does C have?
First, C clarified the prejudice and misunderstanding that some people hold about pastoring rural believers. "If some people think that the pastoring ministry of rural churches does not demand pastoral staff of high-level qualities and serve with such a mentality, then in a few years, even if they were originally outstandingly talented, they will gradually become ordinary or even nobody. Maybe at the beginning, their performance is not bad. But with the wrong mentality, they do not aspire for progress and will continue to be assimilated by the surrounding environment with time " C has witnessed that there is some older staff who have been serving in the preaching ministry for a long time in the church often have lost motivation for studying. On the contrary, many among the young co-workers have realized that they need to improve themselves and therefore actively study and recharge themselves.
C thinks the biggest difficulty in pastoring rural Christians is "how to build a strong foundation and explain the profound things in a simple way to let believers understand the truth of the Bible in everyday language, in addition to making the best use of Sunday sermons". In rural churches, many believers only attend church once a week, that is, Sunday services. Therefore, it is very important to hold on to preaching on Sundays. This is even the only opportunity to pastor the rural believers. It would be very unfortunate and regrettable if the opportunity for Sunday service was missed.
The rural believers are different from the urban believers. Since rural Christians’ literacy level is generally not high, the sermons that are popular with urban believers may not work at all in the rural churches since the believers simply cannot understand.
Therefore, when pastoring rural believers, pastors must use everyday language adapted for rural society, and to explain the truth of the Bible accurately and simply in a way that the believers can understand. However, it is not easy to achieve for it requires not only rich pastoral experience, but also a good understanding of the situation in rural society. This is undoubtedly a huge challenge for preachers, for which they need to continuously accumulate experience, independently study and innovate. There is basically no ready-made pastoring system for rural believers. Pastors need to summarize and establish their own methods.
- Translated by Shuya Wang