Rural ministry continues to be a significant topic for building up the Chinese church. Tian Feng has invited national and local church leaders to share their opinions on ministry in rural China.
The Current Situation of Rural Churches and Possible Resolutions
Rev. De-zhi Lu, Heilongjiang Province
Through investigation of the churches in rural Harbin, we found three serious problems:
1. Lack of pastors. In rural churches over 90% of ministerial responsibilities are carried out by lay preachers, most of whom have received only the most basic training.
2. Poor management. Many rural churches have no leadership or financial accountability.
3. Proliferation of heresy. Heretic groups such as “Shouters,” “East Lightning,” and “The Established King” are usurping the Christian faith and spreading heretical teaching.
Efforts to Improve Ministry in Rural Xuchang
Fu-zeng Wang, Henan Province
Church ministry in rural areas is a great challenge. For example, in Xuchang, we have only 6 pastors, 5 elders and 386 preachers taking responsibility for more than120,000 believers in the 342 registered churches and meeting points in the area. In order to improve the efficiency of rural church ministry, the Xuchang Christian Council formed a Sacrament Commission to visit the counties, cities and districts to administer baptism and holy communion. The Council also conducts regular group training for the lay preachers from rural congregations.
Thoughts on Rural Church Ministry and Administration
Rev. Jian-hua Ma, Anhui Province
Rural churches in China rely heavily on lay preachers for their daily ministry. Most rural church preachers have not received systematic theological training. So, efforts are made to provide training to lay preachers to better qualify them for ministry. Yet an outstanding problem is that most training programs for rural lay preachers are not systematically designed. Often the local Christian councils have difficulty locating enough lecturers. Even when lecturers are found, there is rarely a systematic design for the curriculum. In order for the training program to be effective, church leaders must consider it a long-term project and create a system for it.
Another important factor for success in rural ministry is the stability of human resources. Migration has impacted rural ministries significantly. Many lay preachers are moving to coastal areas to work. The solution to this problem is to take care of the lay preachers financially. Because financial resources are tight for some congregations, a system could be created to share resources. Some rural churches have launched pilot projects for supporting lay preachers.
Resources should be developed to help lay preachers’ spiritual growth. It is important that lay preachers spend quality time with the Lord. If not, they will become exhausted very quickly.
For those who are managers of the church, it should be remembered that we are commissioned to serve the household of the Lord rather than appointed to rule. Church management should not be monopolized by one person, but should be shared with the whole congregation. Efforts should be made to equip the congregation for ministry and to formulate structures for better ministry.
Foundations for Better Rural Ministry
Rev. Zhien Zhao, Jiangsu Province
There are three areas of groundwork necessary for effective rural church ministry:
1. Development of lay pastors. Plans should be made to formulate systematic training plans and to conduct progressive training.
2. Anti-heretic efforts. Heresy is like cancer; putting a stop to heresy is critical to ministry. The believer should be informed and taught to recognize heresy and distinguish it from sound Christian teaching.
3. Structural development is core. The national and provincial level Christian councils have formulated regulations for better administration. Yet in some rural congregations formulation of a constitution or regulations are opposed in the name of faith. In some local churches, constitutions and regulations are not enforced because individuals or families control the leadership and ministry. Efforts should be made to develop “rule by law” in local congregations.