Shepherds of Mainland China Urban and Family Churches are Physically and Spiritually Burnt Out

Aug 05, 2012 08:28 AM EDT

During the 30 years of Christianity in China and the increasing numbers of newfound churches in the present day, the number of Christians and the physical and spiritual needs of the church are ever increasing. However, there is a lack of missionaries and leaders in China, and the church is facing the "too many sheep, not enough shepherds" challenge, which is leading to burnt out hearts and souls of many leaders.

Immense lack of adequately prepared staff in service

In other words, the present China is in an era of famished spirituality, but also in an era of overflowing spirituality. More and more members of the country are discovering that "China lacks religion", especially university students and working young adults. More and more people begin to search for religion, and the many newfound churches in the city do manage to satisfy to a certain extent this need for religion among the people. This group of enthusiastic sheep is starting their belief from zero, and thus there exist many blind spots in their religion that require substantial nurturing.

However, the present church in China is facing a significantly unbalanced ratio of shepherds and believers. Believers are increasing exponentially, while the church only has very few full-time staff in service. One of the Beijing churches has an average attendance rate of about 600 people, while there is only 4 full-time staff in service. Besides, there is a lack of adequate preparation for those who spread the word. The enthusiastic believers who wish to serve God thus lack theological training and preparation. A theology student once said honestly: "The church has many enthusiastic believers who wish to serve God, who are also new believers. They are enthusiastic, and that is not a bad thing, but if service lacks life experiences, the deeper truth cannot be fully conveyed. I look forward to the day when God can employ more people who are better armed to carry out his work."

The lack of time for shepherds to devote to spiritual development is a problem that must be addressed

Some churches have branches, which lack shepherds, especially those that are in the farming districts. Thus, many pastors, after concluding their weekly teachings, rush to these other branches to preach, and are often performing these duties non-stop. Pastor Lu from the Beijing Bai He Yuan stated: "It has been too busy. I have not taken a day of vacation since returning to the country two years ago." Many pastors reveal that there is almost no free time in their everyday lives.

These shepherds who are chosen by God are busy catering to their sheep, even to the point of sacrificing their "Sabbath day". They are burnt out physically and spiritually, and the time they spend in private exchange with God or meditating God's word is significantly reduced. Pastor Lu stated that this problem had to be addressed. He said: "Pastors are too busy, and their time spent to be near God is thus reduced. This is a problem that needs to be addressed."

What if this situation can be rectified? Pastor Wong, a Canadian Chinese pastor, proposed: "What is important is to guide believers to build a correct perspective of the church based on the truth in the Bible." He encourages more believers to take part as staff in service to the church, in order to reduce the burden born by the shepherds of the church. He said: "The church is the body. When a believer joins the church, it implies that he/she becomes a limb of the body, thus a part of the body. Every believer should find their calling, and contribute their efforts, unlike shoppers in a supermarket who just pick items that fit their liking."

Pastor Niu from Shanxi once emphasized on the topic of the lack of shepherds in the churches of the farming districts: the country needs to train more talents in theology.

[Editor's note: Carol Lee translated this report.]