In this article from the Gospel Times, Wu Zhonyi gives an in-depth look into the reopening of the Three-Self church he attends. Wu highlights five areas in which church staff and believers have demonstrated their enthusiasm for reopening churches.
Because of the length, we divided the original article into two parts. This is part one.
Viewing the Fiery Faith of the Church: Five Highs
When it comes to faith, the apostle Paul said in Romans 12:11: “Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” After the refinement and testing from the COVID-19 pandemic, many local churches are once again conducting meetings offline [i.e. in-person].
Viewed from certain standpoints, pastoral workers and believers are zealous in their hearts. This can be seen from “five highs”: high in enthusiasm for worship, high in enthusiasm for giving, high in enthusiasm to serve, high in commitment for ministry, and high awareness for discipline and order.
1. High Enthusiasm for Worship
Believers’ enthusiasm for church services has been running high in some places. Some churches were even having “blowout” services that seemed more popular than Christmas services.
On the day of the reopening, a city church was filled with worshippers from the first floor to the fifth floor, and there were even people standing in the courtyard. Some people were coming from far away suburbs and some were from other churches that had not been reopened.
To make the first service at 8:30am, some believers rose early at 5:00am to get to church for COVID testing, filling out health forms, and scanning a health code with their phone.
One believer told me, “I was so happy on hearing that we would be able to meet; I was too excited to sleep well the night before. I got up very early in the morning, quietly by myself, brought my papers and water, and ran to the church without eating breakfast.”
Some believers were so happy when they received the notice of the church reopening that they cheerfully ran around to tell each other the good news. Since the number of worshippers at the first service was much higher than expected, some churches had to take “suspension” measures, advising the worshippers to keep calm and wait patiently for the second service.
I attended a church service and saw “no vacancies” from the main worship room on the first floor to the two secondary rooms on the second floor (after the service resumed, the church asked people to sit in adjacent seating for the sake of pandemic prevention and control), and those who came late (the service had not officially started yet) had to wait.
To attend the second meeting, some elderly sisters had to wait from morning until afternoon due to the distance of their homes and their impaired legs. Their enthusiasm was evident.
Some believers were envious when they heard that some churches had resumed their services and looked forward to their own churches resuming their services soon. Some believers shared the event on their WeChat [social media platform] once they received the news of the resumed services on August 30. Their gratitude and enthusiasm for the meetings was greater than words.
A minister told me that in the past month since their church had resumed, the number of people has gradually increased from more than 300 at the beginning to more than 500 now. These 500 people are already in a “saturated” state, since the original capacity of the church, which could hold about a thousand people, has been cut in half due to the seat distances required for epidemic prevention.
Not only that, some of the seekers brought by believers have also actively and enthusiastically attended the services. When the pastor made an altar call, some new brothers and sisters came up to the front, opened their hearts to receive the Lord Jesus and became new people.
2. High Enthusiasm for Giving
Some evangelists worry that normal churches services could be interrupted since giving is less—and this situation does exist. However, it is not so in some churches, and the situation is reasonably optimistic. According to the leader of a church with about 1,000 people, the church’s income was reduced during the suspension of worship services, but the impact was not great. In July alone, their church received more than 80,000 yuan from online giving.
For churches that have resumed worship services, believers prepare their money for giving before entering the main church, pray silently, and drop them into the offering box. Some sisters say, “I haven’t been to a service in more than six months, and I have to make up this giving. I can’t withhold what I owe to God.”
There are also some elderly sisters who carefully take out an envelope from their bags, which they had already prepared—filled with the money they saved up during the suspension of the church services—and turn it in all at once.
From my experience, almost all the believers I asked gave as much as they normally would have. In this way, they didn’t “owe” God anything.
An elderly sister in her 70s told me, “I have not been at a church service for more than six months. I am old and not able to give on the internet. When services resumed, I should have given more, not less.” The brothers and sisters around her thought and did the same.
This writer gives in the same way whenever I go to church, because we cannot worship our Father God and Lord with empty hands! Therefore, as long as believers enter the sanctuary, they will give, with no less enthusiasm than when they first entered.
3. High Enthusiasm to Serve
When the church services resumed, staff, especially those who have experienced the “restoration of the church,” are full of enthusiasm to work for the Lord and serve the body. Not to mention that the ministry team, prayer team, choir, security team, temperature testing team, and cleaning and disinfecting team are all willing volunteers. It could be quite tiring for them to persist in “working around the clock” for two or three services a day.
Some middle-aged and elderly co-workers take some time to sit for a while, straighten their backs, and rest their legs when they experienced back and leg pains. Some co-workers were too busy to care about drinking water. Only after the evening service did they realize that they were thirsty and hungry, so they asked their families to prepare some porridge for them to drink.
To get to the church on time, some staff must transfer buses twice and then walk to the church. Some staff leave their homes at 5:00 am without having eaten breakfast. Some couples attend church together to serve. Some couples divide up the work to take care of their families, with one going in the morning and the other in the evening to serve at church.
The staff have to deal with hundreds or thousands of people at their gatherings, and the amount of work involved in registering, taking temperatures, scanning, guiding, and explaining is enormous. They work hard to be loving, patient, and attentive. Especially when dealing with elderly brothers and sisters who cannot scan codes or do not have health codes, they need to teach and guide them step-by-step.
For those church members who have been a bit impatient because of the lines, staff patiently explain and guide them. A sister in her 40s told me, “It’s been a long day and my mouth is dry! I forgot about feeling thirsty or tired during the service. It is only at the end of the day’s ministry that I feel exhausted.”
Some of the sisters in the church’s “Martha’s Class” are co-workers in their 60s. As long as the church is working, they come to the church to cook meals. Even though they must get up early in the morning, they are still eagerly persevere and serve the pastoral staff.
Some church choirs worship in church for about two hours every week. Those who have not yet resumed church services and worship on the internet instead, seek to preserve a devout and enthusiastic heart and increase cohesion. Some of the sisters in the choir also serve on other teams at the same time, which often leads to them “rotate around.”
This writer asked a sister, “Why not resign from a ministry team?” She said, “That’s not right. You mustn’t quit a ministry without consideration once you start.”
A leader who is unable to serve in a church group due to special family circumstances asked the author, “I really can’t do it, I talked to the pastor and he agreed. Is that a sin against God?” I reassured him, “No, that’s what the church agreed too. You can serve when you have a chance. You can take care of your sick elderly family member at home in peace.”
I would like to mention here some of the most endearing people in our church: the funeral team. Whether it’s during the pandemic or after the church resumed, as long as they were notified, the funeral workers are faithful and sincere in dealing with funeral arrangements. From dressing the deceased, to contacting the crematorium, to the burial, they take care of church members who have passed into the Lord’s presence. Sometimes they have no rest from morning to night, in their labor of love to the glory of the Lord.
Regardless of tiredness and minute details, some of the staff from the church ministry team continue to serve at church on Wednesday with full enthusiasm after a short break.
Part two will be posted next week.
Original Article: 从复堂的教会“五高”看信仰的火热 by 福音时代 (WeChat ID: gospeltimes)
Translated, edited and reposted with permission.
Header image credit: A friend of ChinaSource.
Text image credits: Gospel Times (福音时代)
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