China Christian Daily recently wrote about three brothers who were once influential pastors but who now work as street vendors or as a taxi driver.
Brother Wang a decade ago served in a church primarily composed of migrant workers. He studied at a seminary in Zhejiang. He then served in a church located in a provincial capital in central China, whose congregation was mainly migrant workers with some local students. He later became the senior pastor. As his ministry grew and became accepted by the believers in the church he began to draw up plans to establish a new rented meeting place. But the Covid epidemic put a stop to those plans. The few believers who remain today meet temporarily in a sister’s house. Brother Wang’s income has suffered and so to feed his family (his wife and two children) he now is involved in food delivery work, gaining only a modest income.
Brother Zhang “graduated from a seminary in the United States, and his theological training courses were previously in high demand. During those years, his income was relatively substantial due to training fees and the contributions of believers, rendering him a successful figure.” But the new religious laws forced him to cease his underground training programmes and to work “as a church pastor in a developed city in the south.” This church primarily catered to cultural and professional groups. “Following three years of the pandemic, the church under economic pressure decided to terminate his employment. With his daughter studying abroad and his family's need for sustenance, he has resorted to working as a taxi driver.”
Brother Wen “graduated from a prestigious university. After obtaining a master's degree, he briefly worked as a university lecturer. Subsequently, he joined a church in central China. Slowly, his ideas clashed with those of the church. That forced him to leave church ministry and rely on writing articles. At one point, his official WeChat account gained over ten thousand followers. Unfortunately, during the pandemic, the platform was closed due to its Christian content, resulting in the loss of his last means of self-realization.” He now sells items at a stall to gain a stable income.
China Christian daily points to three reasons that these three pastors have had to seek secular work to support themselves.
- The sometimes devastating impact on church attendance caused by the three years of the Covid pandemic. Membership had dropped in at least one case from the envisioned thousands to just a dozen or so church members, with the obvious financial impact that has brought.
- The new and very restrictive religious laws have, at least in brother Zhang’s case, closed down a successful teaching and training ministry.
- China Christian Daily points to a third factor – the changes taking place in the nature of the Chinese church related to the abandoning of the old village model in favour of a more modern and urban based version of church. “The transition not only signifies a change in the personal destiny of the pastors but also highlights the transformation within the traditional church.” The traditional church adopted “a patriarchal system as its foundation, rather than focusing on the realization of gospel values and the individual social worth of its adherents. Consequently, it is bound to disintegrate.” In other words these three brothers, in the China Christian Daily writer’s view, carried an old rural church model into a city environment, and that model ‘broke’ under the pressures of the first two factors above.
Pray for these three brothers that they find encouragement in the Lord and a path of service for the future.
Pray for those believers who no longer attend church because of the Covid pandemic.
Pray for China’s church leaders to continue to develop church models that work well in the “new China”.