Editor's note: Following the previous four topics on how to cultivate a new generation of successors in the Chinese Church (see article one, article two, article three, and article four), a pastor in South China put forward the view that it is urgent to give young people more opportunities and positions in ministry.
Pastor Liu Xinghe (pseudonym for safety reasons) from South China shared his views and feelings with the Christian Times, a China Christian online newspaper.
Christian Times: How do you think the church is cultivating a new generation of spiritual leaders or the next generation of pastors and church leaders?
Pastor Liu Xinghe: I think a church’s selection of the new generation of leaders should not be based on their abilities and talents first, but on if this person is enthusiastic about evangelism.
Then the church needs to lead some young people to participate in the ministry, giving them opportunities for ministry. Discover talents in the process of serving and training, and then encourage them to study theology and receive more training.
Christian Times: What necessary factors do you think should be taken into account for choosing the successor who is after God’s heart? What kind of person do you think is a great choice?
Pastor Liu Xinghe: As for the selection criteria of the next generation of church leaders, I think the most important thing is not the academic qualifications and his talents, but the burden and enthusiasm of this person for soul salvation. For example, at that time, Charles Spurgeon found many young people with low academic qualifications and average abilities, but they were all enthusiastic about evangelizing. Later, these people continued to be trained and became a group that changed the Church of England. At that time, the mainstream thought and culture of the Church of England was that, when selecting church workers, it highlighted the basic requirements for academic qualifications and abilities. However, many people who were trained in that culture, I think, were not spiritual leaders, but the simply ordinary staff of the church.
If the successor is not burdened with the salvation of human souls, even if he is eloquent or spiritual, or takes part in a choir, etc. - he is blessed but not burdened with evangelism, so such a person cannot be called a leader.
At present, I haven’t seen such a suitable successor in our church. They are not enthusiastic about the gospel, and even though they have high education degrees and they believe in the Lord seriously, it is difficult for them to be successors.
Christian Times: What do you think is the significance of cultivating a new generation of leadership for the church in China?
Pastor Liu Xinghe: I think we should know how to cultivate influential successors, the church should especially focus on cultivating professionals. Such a person may not be a preacher, maybe a businessman in the workplace, but he can preach the gospel in his familiar field. He has insight and foresight into this society and can see the side that church pastors often can’t see. And he is doing well in business in society, so he must be influential and will have a driving force for evangelism.
Christian Times: How do you think church pastors in China can become more open-minded in training a new generation of successors? Or what should be done in the specific operation?
Pastor Liu Xinghe: Today, the church in China should be more inclusive and structured. I think that Christianity should not emphasize classification, such as theological arguments between different factions, but should be more inclusive in talks.
As long as we believe that Jesus is God’s only son and can be justified by believing in Jesus, then we are all children of God. We can accept him and do things together. At this time, we ask God to give us the touch of uniting with each other.
I think one thing that many churches do wrong now is to let many influential people in the workplace become elders and deacons in the church. Let them be trapped in administrative work and not exert their greatest influence. Lead people in their field and build more churches without their own influence. Churches have outward centrifugal force, so it is necessary to establish a larger church expansion system, which can allow them to develop and establish churches for different groups of people.
Christian Times: What do you think should be a healthy mode of cultivating and selecting the successor? What concepts or models do we need to update in Chinese churches?
Pastor Liu Xinghe: We actually need to learn from Islam, which originally started in the Arab region. Arabs go all over the world, even to Africa to do business. When they made money, they built a mosque in the local area and asked the imam to preside over the work. Then they also had economic influence in the local area. Finally, they turned all the local people into Muslims, and the country became Islamic. Southeast Asia, Indonesia, and Malaysia, which were originally Malays, are now Islamic.
Today’s church does not make good use of the power of businessmen. We didn’t give them a sense of mission, and we didn’t give them the ability and vision to expand. Although we hold a church and a flock of sheep, we have no foresight. Today, the church needs a greater pattern and courage in employing and dispatching people.
In the long run, we still need to cultivate the next generation of Christians and establish an environment suitable for their growth. We should create more opportunities for the second generation of Christians to participate in the ministry, so that they can be touched and edified there. Because without that environment, they have no space and opportunity to be trained as a new generation of church leaders.
- Translated by Charlie Li