Interview: How Vibrant Church in Eastern China Maintains Tradition and Changes with the Times

A picture of church pews in the morning sunshine
A picture of church pews in the morning sunshine (photo: Getty Images)
By Esther TianAugust 15th, 2023

Pastor Yun (pseudonym) is the pastor of a church in eastern China. The first time I went to Pastor Yun's church, I noticed that there were many young people, and the church staff were mainly young people.

That night, we attended the prayer meeting. The church staff laid out many mats on the floor of the meeting place, and there were people everywhere. The meeting lasted two and a half hours, from worship and praise to preaching and prayer.

This church has a tradition of more than 40 years, and the pastors and believers who have served and come to the church since its beginning are growing old, but the church never stops renewing itself. It has inherited the traditions that have been held since the beginning of the church: persisting in the pursuit of the Word, thirsting for the Holy Spirit, and focusing on evangelism; at the same time, it emphasizes pastoral care and gives great importance to lay church workers.

1. The pursuit of the Word

Pastor Yun grew up in the area and has gone to church with his mother since he was a child. At that time, several senior pastors in the church believed that it was important to develop young people. Many children who did not go to school were willing to go to church meetings with the pastors, and Pastor Yun was one of them.

About 30 years ago, when Pastor Yun was in his 20s, because the senior pastors emphasized the reading of the Word, several young people, including Pastor Yun, spontaneously started a devotional class. In fact, it was a group where everyone gathered to read the Bible, pray, and worship. Subsequently, the devotional class began to grow and have its own classrooms and Bible teachers; it even began to receive and provide food and lodging for groups of believers who came from other places. From just a few people, the class now has more than a few thousand graduates; many are serving in their own churches, and hundreds of them are serving as either full-time or part-time pastors.

2. Thirst for the Holy Spirit

Pastor Yun emphasizes that it is the Holy Spirit who builds the church and that all they do is pray. Pastor Yun admits that neither he nor any of the other senior pastors of the church are highly educated. Although they have received little informal theological training, they rely on the power of prayer and the love of Christ in their ministry. The church insists on holding morning prayer meetings at five o'clock and at various times throughout the day. In addition, prayer meetings are held on various occasions. In the past, there were all-night prayer meetings, but now it has been changed to half-night prayer meetings.

3. Emphasis on evangelism

Regarding evangelism, Pastor Yun is proud that the church members have done a good job of sharing the gospel. Many parents in the church are committed to raising their children in the Lord. Also, small groups have played an important role. More than 10 years ago, Pastor Yun started the ministry of small groups and delegated the responsibility of pastoral care to the group leaders. In small groups, the group leaders can pay more attention to their members, who can grow in the group, participate in the ministries of the church, and gradually bring their relatives and friends to the church.

In addition, the church where Pastor Yun serves provides quality worship services. The members of the worship band are either professional musicians or have received training. More than 40 church members serve on the adult worship team, with about eight to nine lead singers. Many believers have developed a musical interest through these ministries, which has also strengthened their faith; even the children of these members have joined the youth worship team.

4. Pastoral care-oriented

Pastor Yun also attaches great importance to pastoral care. He places special emphasis on the pastoral care of the frontline workers of the church because he considers his core team to be the pastoral leaders who lead the small groups.

Outside this core team, there are many excellent and competent people, people who are gifted in administration or preaching, and even pastors who have returned from overseas, but in Pastor Yun's eyes, they are not part of his core team. "All the pastors in our core team have a shepherding heart. They are someone who will shepherd the believers, like mothers who care for their children. They have experienced significant challenges in guiding, sharing laughter, shedding tears, and even enduring bloodshed. Anyone who can shepherd in this way can become one of our core members," Pastor Yun said.

Pastor Yun's words brought comfort to the hearts of many weeping shepherds and inspired many young pastoral workers to serve with a shepherd's heart.

The workers who serve in the church are all built up from the small groups of the church. Even the pastors who return from abroad, according to the tradition of the church, must join a small group and humbly accept the shepherding and mentoring of the group leader before they can participate in the ministry of the church under the recommendation of the group leader.

5. Valuing the church's lay workers

Pastor Yun's church uses a sermon-based small group model in which the small groups often play a more active role. Due to the presence of numerous small groups, the ministry requires a substantial amount of manpower, resulting in the transformation of the lives of numerous lay believers. In addition to several full-time staff members, the church has many lay workers. Many group leaders devote almost all of their energy outside of work to shepherding their small groups, and some hold group meetings in their homes or businesses.

Pastor Yun believed that these lay workers tend to be more influential in the community and are very important in the work of evangelism.

- Translated by Joyce Leung

related articles
LATEST FROM Church & Ministries