Last week we posted part one of an interview with a young urban church pastor that was originally published in the Christian Times. In this post, part two, he talks about the challenges of church administration and the lack of theological resources.
CCD* Exclusive Interview with a Chinese Young Pastor: How He Thinks of the Development of City Church (2/2)
In recent years, as part of China's urbanization process, we have seen the rise and development of urban churches, not only in top tier cities, but also in second tier cities and provincial capitals. More and more believers have become involved in ministry.
Brother Liu believed in God when he was a graduate student and then studied at a house church theological seminary. He served conservative house churches and reformed churches in several cities successively, and he was recently invited to be a preacher in a new church. He often wrote down his thoughts regarding the development of the church.
In the interview, he stressed the importance of theological innovations of the urban church, reform of church management, and interaction with other churches. Furthermore, he talked about common features of young pastors and the styles of church they liked.
Brother Liu frankly admitted the limitations of his thoughts. Nevertheless, his sharing provided us a fresh and perspective for thinking about the growth of the urban church.
CCD: In addition to theology, to what else does the church in China need to pay attention?
Liu: Churches need to establish better systems of administration and internal management, including decision-making. Because people in the churches come from different places and backgrounds, there may be differences of opinion on what system of church administration; sometimes this can lead to conflict. I prefer a Presbyterian system rather than bishop system or patriarchal system, especially as society becomes more and more democratic.
Connections and interactions between urban churches are also important. I served in the south-central and eastern parts of China and discovered that urban churches are less connected to each other. But some ministries, such as the earthquake disaster relief in Sichuan in 2008, cannot be done alone. Pastors also can share and discuss their views of the trend of our times.
CCD: How do we balance the relationship between social service and the building of church administration?
Liu: It's a hard one. Social service is a bridge to connect those outside the church with the gospel. A century ago, the great missionaries, such as Samuel Pollard and James Outram Fraser (Chinese 富能仁), not only preached the gospel, but also engaged in educational and medical work. It was a product of a certain time period and is difficult to replicate nowadays. On the other hand, it is a good idea to establish some groups for brothers and sisters; this gives them a sense of belonging and a place they can turn to for help. .
CCD: What do you think about the theological resources for the preachers nowadays in the urban church?
Liu: As I see it, there are more theological resources for the preacher than before. Most have received basic theological education. It is said that the Chinese church is anti-intellectual, but I think that most believers desire theological understanding. They also care about the quality of preachers and whether the preacher has ever studied in a theological seminary. Some veteran preachers have also started to equip themselves by engaging in intensive theological training.
There are many theological seminaries in China nowadays, but some of them lack certifications and experience. This phenomenon needs immediate attention.
CCD: Besides theological resources, do preachers in city churches have any other resources?
Liu: They know little about other fields. If the preacher's knowledge is too limited, it is hard to find relevant points from which to preach the gospel.
CCD: Compared with the previous generation, what are the key features of young preachers and believers?
Liu: I think young preachers and believers have a stronger thirst for knowledge of the Bible. They get knowledge from the veteran missionaries and the Internet. The videos and blogs of Stephen Tong and other preachers really affect them. Besides, they want to apply the knowledge to their lives. Sometimes don't like to use too many religious terms when communicating.
CCD: You personally studied theology and have served God since your graduation. What are the unique characteristics of your church? There are many preachers today who have graduated from university. What do you think of this situation?
Liu: I'm just starting out. I think a preacher needs to keep a low profile and be a teacher and a friend with the believers he serves. It is much easier to be close to believers with the notions of equality in this age. I meet many preachers from famous universities. They have good theological training, extensive knowledge, and are fluent in English. However, they lack social practice and have not experienced career pressures. They need to be more mature in dealing with complicated interpersonal relationships.
*China Christian Daily
Original article: 【对话】华东一80后牧者：对城市教会发展的一些思考 (Christian Times)
English translation: CCD Exclusive Interview with a Chinese Young Pastor：How He Thinks of the Development of City Church(2/2) (China Christian Daily)
Adapted and reposted with permission.
Image credit: City Skyline: Beijing, by Lei Han, via Flickr.
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