Preachers in Midwest China: Churches Face Priest-Shortage, Seminary Graduate Can't Find Job

A Church in West China
A Church in West China
By Issachar LiNovember 23rd, 2015

Time flows without stopping in the world. In our limited time, some people are busy eating, drinking and marrying, some marvels at life and death and some pursue comfortable lives. There are still some who sacrifice themselves to Chinese churches, following the call from God. This series will introduce twelve preachers in Midwest China and their lives.

Let's begin with the story of the preacher, Ms. Chen.

After her graduation from a seminary in 2005, Ms. Chen was stuck in an embarrassing situation --- no church would hire her full-time, something that she had never expected before.

The seminary she studied is approved by the Government. Born in a capital city in the west of China, she had difficulty applying for seminaries because the local church didn't know her and were unwilling to recommend her to some known seminaries (in China seminaries recruit students recommended by churches).

Chen, who expected her sick mother to be healed by God then dedicated herself to God, received help from an old pastor thus the local church recommended her. They agreed that the local church wouldn't hire her after the graduation, which Chen didn't care for at the age of over 20.

Among the cell groups, Chen thought she met a team where she could serve all her whole life. The team aimed at preaching the gospel, whose founders once studied in seminaries accredited by China. They led vivid praise and worship services, which was not accepted by the main trend that time. They often held praise and worship services in other churches and preached the gospel in distant civil churches.

Sadly, the team was dismissed in 2010 when she was already married and had a daughter. One of the possible reasons may be that some people were against the team for disagreeing with their novel worship form or gesture (e.g. lifting and spreading hands in prayer, clapping in worship, etc). The main team leaders were charged as heretics. Another reason may be that the chief pastor was struck by his wife's death (his wife suffered from cancer) and they didn't have much fellowship time together and most of the time they discussed some "important" issues. Therefore, the team broke up.

Back home, Chen hoped to serve local churches using what she had learnt when she was 25 years old. However, she understood what the agreement between the local church and her really meant to her. Although a church leader praised her excellent academic performance, there was no local church providing her a full-time job. All she could do was participate in cell groups in a church.

Compared to many preachers, Chen is lucky to have a a family and a Christian husband, Mr. He, who have the same vision and don't object to her service. His uncle is a pastor in a church. They dated in 2008 when her husband was a chief. They got married in the fall. In 2009, she gave birth to a daughter and became a full-time housewife. In 2012, when her daughter reached the age to go to kindergarten, she continued her church service. However, for her, restarting did not seem easy. 

The child day care didn't go well as expected but just supported their living. Chen still wanted to be a full-time minister. She was considering to close the child day care. She asked God in prayers. Knowing this, a fellowship who aims at supplying living expenses to preachers donated 800 yuan to her each month. Although 800 yuan was small money, Chen believed it was God's response to her prayers. She decided to close the child day care. Her husband found a job and studied theology in his leisure time, expecting to work with her in the future for the Lord.

However, working as a part-time minister is not a long-term strategy. Chen is considering to build a church herself. She hopes to find believers who don't belong to any church and supply them with spiritual bread. She hopes to build a mission church as a bridge connecting to  other churches. 

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