Prior to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the primary focus of most churches was on numerical expansion, offerings, and ministry-oriented revival. However, in the aftermath of the pandemic, numerous pastors engaged in introspection and came to the realization that the well-being and progress of the church hinged upon fine-tuned ministry, particularly in the context of individual families.
Recently, three pastors hailing from the regions of Southwest China, South China, and East China shared a unanimous understanding: an integral aspect of pastoring the church lies in the ministry for the family.
Reverend Qiu Datong, from a church in Southwest China, has been a devout believer for over two decades. Presently, he oversees a small church within a city. He experienced a gradual decline in the vibrancy of his faith, leading to a sense of ritualism and detachment from a personal connection with the Lord due to the worship practices prevalent in larger churches. Consequently, he took the initiative to transform his home into a church, emphasizing the concept that the family constitutes a church, and conversely, the church functions as a family.
He observed that gathering in homes provided pastors with a direct and profound means to address the challenges faced by each family. Through the application of truth, the Holy Spirit's influence, and communal prayer and fellowship, families were guided towards progressing from hearing the word to actively implementing it in their lives.
He continued to emphasize that the ministry for families encountered various issues, most of which stemmed from relationship issues. When a couple learned to apply their faith in everyday life, they could engage in discussions about their weaknesses and the practical implementation of their faith upon returning home. In this manner, they could support and encourage one another, collaboratively overcoming difficulties.
Yao Meizhen, a pastor's wife from a church in South China, has dedicated two decades to counseling church families. She consistently highlights the importance of unity within marriages. She explicitly states, "When a family within the church faces challenges, it becomes an issue concerning the entire church, necessitating assistance and prayers. Equipped with truth, knowledge, and the influence of the Holy Spirit, we can aid families in resolving conflicts, healing hurts, and dispelling misunderstandings. Whether it pertains to the courtship of single Christians or counseling before and after marriage, the essence of church shepherding lies in guiding families, as the strength of families leads to greater stability within the church."
Yao emphasizes the establishment of family devotional practices, acknowledging that different stages of family life present diverse challenges. As problems are an inevitable aspect, she places great importance on individuals setting aside time for quiet contemplation with God, both husbands and wives, regardless of their busy schedules. Simultaneously, she underscores the significance of seeking forgiveness from God on a daily basis when offenses occur.
Meizhen firmly affirmed, "When the family assumes the central role in worship, the inner lives of its members undergo transformation, altering their hearts and perspectives. I advise female believers not to seek love from husbands who do not love God. If, as a female Christian or the wife of a pastor, you have received boundless love from God, this love will overflow and contribute to a mutually beneficial relationship."
Rev. Lin Xianghui, who has overseen a church in East China for over two decades, believes that the essence of pastoring the church lies in pastoring families, for they constitute the core of God's plan for the world. This conviction originated from his participation in a training course centered around harmonious families, which inspired him to implement this profound approach based on families within his church.
Rev. Lin stressed that a stable family within the church leads to overall stability within the congregation. Often, challenges and pressures arise when one spouse believes and the other does not. Nevertheless, through the practical ministry for families and the accumulation of experience, they can lead the unbelieving spouse towards faith. God has consistently esteemed families, with each family embodying the essence of a church.
(Note: To protect the privacy of those interviewed, pseudonyms have been used for all individuals.)
- Translated by Abigail Wu