I visited a variety of churches, and many pastors are exploring the future of the church in China. They grapple with several pressing issues, including passing on faith to the next generation, succession in the church, the aging of the congregation, and the shortage of church workers.
Pastor Bian (pseudonym), serving in central China, has been an eyewitness to the church's growth and its associated challenges. Regarding the shortage of church workers, he has a different perspective.
Bian believed that, compared to any previous era, today's church might not necessarily lack workers, and what it lacked most today were Christ and pastors who nurtured believers with the heart of Christ.
Undeniably, in some areas, especially in remote rural villages, there is a shortage of workers. But what Bian wanted to argue was that many churches were not lacking workers, yet they still did not experience revival.
The church needs Christ, not knowledge.
In recent years, many churches have encouraged the training of workers, and indeed, many laypeople have been trained to serve in the church. With the increase in theological resources, many churches encourage pastors and staff workers to receive theological training. Compared to previous years, most of today's pastors are graduates of theological seminaries, some even with overseas theological education backgrounds. However, Bian is concerned about the quality of many theology students. It's not that they lack character, but rather, they may have undergone training without truly acquiring the heart of Christ.
Many pastors have spent several years studying in seminaries, listening to many sermons, and learning a lot of theological knowledge. However, in reality, what they learn in school is often not applicable in the ministry. "Because the church needs not knowledge but Christ. Pastors should preach Christ, who is the Spirit and gives life. They cannot just talk war on paper; they need to have the Spirit of Christ and give life to people. Apart from feeding believers with the truth, they should also serve them with the heart of Christ, entering into all aspects of their lives. Praying for them, pastors can lead them out of life's difficulties, and these cannot be solved with knowledge alone," explained Pastor Bian.
Knowledge can easily lead to division.
Moreover, in this pastor's view, the more knowledge people had, the more arrogant and divisive they were.
Pastor Bian pointed out that some churches experienced division because pastors had different theological educations and each believed that they had received orthodox or superior theological knowledge. Therefore, Pastor Bian emphasized, "Every church should preach Christ, not knowledge. In this way, the church provides the same spiritual food, which is Christ himself. They preach the same content—Christ. The only difference might be how rich or poor the information shared is. As long as it's about Christ, believers' lives will be transformed. A church that centers on Christ is one body and will not divide."
Similarly, if pastors are all proclaiming the truth of Christ, although with distinct perspectives, they become part of God's family, leading to less mutual criticism among churches.
Christ can change people.
The greatest need for believers is to know and receive Christ. Pastor Bian stated that the most important thing pastors should do is teach people about Christ, for those who truly knew Christ would undergo a change in their lives. Just like Peter, who used to be weak but truly recognized Jesus as the Lord after His resurrection, from then on he became empowered. Once denying the Lord in front of a maidservant, he had the courage to martyrdom for the Lord.
Apostle Paul, formerly known as Saul, also had knowledge about God but truly recognized Christ only on the road to Damascus when the Lord's light shone upon him. He willingly became a servant of Christ from then on.
- Translated by Abigail Wu