A Voice From China's Pastor: God Bless Us When We Cannot Meet In-Person

A pastor worships God, a church, and a believer joins in praise and worship.
A pastor worships God, a church, and a believer joins in praise and worship.
By Xiao Muren March 7th, 2022

In China, there are two growing challenges regarding the safety of the church and whether we can gather in the church. Large in-person gatherings are forbidden in many cities, but the definition of “large gatherings” depends on the sizes of the cities and the views of the law-enforcement personnel. Some cities define it as gatherings of “more than ten people”, while some define it as “more than one hundred people”. 

The Feelings in Every Sunday

Every now and again we hear of news such as the churches being attacked, meetings being dismissed early, or the termination of contracts of landlords. This has led to the phenomenon that all pastors in the chat group greet each other with “Is everything OK?” every day.

The solemn situation has made us value Sunday services more. The Bible never asks us to attend extra group meetings, fellowships, or online lectures, though they’re very good and are encouraged. But the Bible has asked us to gather in the church every Sunday. This shows the importance of meeting on Sunday. Because for some non-devout Christians, meeting on Sunday may be their only chance to be told about God’s words.

When I prepare for Sunday sermons, sometimes I may have come up with nothing, even after long deliberation. Then I would write a perfunctory sermon. At this moment, it would occur to me that this may be the last meeting in the church, or it even is the last meeting altogether. Believers deserve to hear the most devoted and touching sermon. That’s how God’s words keep echoing in their minds. This is why all the elders and deacons of the church serve in every Sunday service with the aim to glorify God.

Every Saturday, I may wonder, “Would they come here tomorrow to interrupt our meeting?” The next morning, when I pass the police station, if I see that a bus is parked beside the police station, I may wonder, “Would they use this bus to disperse the believers in the church?” This may sound crazy, but this is the challenge and risk we’re facing every single day.

Reflections on Threats

A pastor in the same city shared that when his church was attacked, a high-ranking officer threatened him. The official said, “You should think about your child when you do this. You child may lose the chance of entering a school of a higher grade.” All other pastors felt worried when they heard this. What if they forbid our children to go to domestic colleges and ban them to go abroad for foreign colleges? Would our children understand our decisions? Then would it be meaningless for us to ask them to study hard if they couldn’t even have the chance to go to college?

This kind of risk often fills pastors’ hearts. Pastors in the chat group should encourage each other, but now they’re spending much time analyzing the current situation, guessing the plan of law executors and the actions we should adopt. The solutions include hosting online gatherings, online Holy Communion, multi-location church, group church, or allowing women to preach sermons and lead Sunday services. 

The Reminder from God’s Words

The current situation has led to some practical interpretations of the Bible. For example, some pastors tried to adopt the online gatherings as a long-term thing, instead of a makeshift and temporary solution, and they tried to redefine the responsibilities of pastors and elders based on this. This is not good news for the Chinese church which is already in a difficult time.

At a time like this, God’s words seem even more valuable, “When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time.” (Matthew 10:79) If we worry too much, the worry will consume too much of our hearts and will tempt us to trust in our own plans as a result. That would make us believe less in Christ.

Please pray for us that God would protect us all.

(This article was originally published in the third edition of the Chinese Theologue Newsletter.)

- Translated by Nicolas Cao

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