Chinese Church Voices

Preparing for the New Internet Religious Information Measures

Chinese Church Voices is a weekly column of the ChinaSource Blog providing translations of original writing by Christians in China. The views represented are entirely those of the original author; inclusion in Chinese Church Voices does not imply or equal an endorsement by ChinaSource.


In a recent ChinaSource Blog post, Joann Pittman wrote about the document released by China’s State Administration of Religious Affairs (SARA) titled “Measures for the Administration of Internet Religious Information Services.” These measures are to go into effect on March 1 and, if strictly enforced as written, have the potential to significantly restrict online activities such as religious training, publishing sermons, linking religious content, and broadcasting live or recorded religious events. In this article from Gospel Times suggestions are given for ministering when the measures are implemented.

Initial Suggestions about Church Pastoring after the Implementation of Measures on Internet Religious Information Services

Introduction

The implementation of Measures on Internet Religious Information Services will bring some new changes to religious circles in March of 2022; all religious information online must be published in accordance with the relevant provisions of these regulations. Therefore, we can no longer publish religious information online at will. These regulations are actually a double-edged sword. On the one hand they restrict the channels for the publication of religious information, but on the other hand, they can play the role of a filter.

In short, the publication of religious information online must meet two requirements. First, the publisher must be an incorporated or unincorporated body that has obtained a license for religious information online services. Second, the publisher can be an individual, but must be a teacher or other staff in a religious institution, and the published information must “be conducive to the development of social harmony, progress, and healthy civilization.”

Faced with these new changes, how should Christians and local churches carry out pastoral work? What can we do when some churches have had to be closed during the pandemic and yet have not received a license to hold online services? Here are some suggestions.

1. Strive to Obtain an Online Religious Information Services License.

Since the purpose of the implementation of the Measures on Internet Religious Information Services is to regulate online religious information, the person who is in charge of temples or churches should strive to obtain the license for this. God has not completely closed the door, and we still have opportunities. After all, since God has not entirely closed this door, we should not give up easily. It is better to have a license than nothing. Since the opportunity is there, we should work hard to apply and obtain the license. If we try hard and fail, then we will not be held responsible.

But if we do obtain the license, all the religious information we publish must “be conducive to the development of social harmony, progress, and healthy civilization.” In my opinion, this does not mean that Christians cannot preach the basic teachings of the Bible online. We just need to be more careful about our words. For example, we can use more objective and rational words, and not only illustrate the original meaning of the Bible, but also apply it to the life and service of Christians.

2. Collect and Preserve as Many Relevant Spiritual Resources as Possible

Only when people lose something do they know to cherish it. In this era of knowledge explosion, Christians’ thirst for spiritual truth has been diluted. Many of us did not value the spiritual resources when they were easily available and did not seize the opportunity to study and collect relevant resources. Yet how will we feel when one day we go online and no longer see those spiritual books? The new changes are not necessarily bad for Christians. Instead, we should wake up and begin to cherish the already limited spiritual resources and grasp every opportunity to equip ourselves.

3. Focus on Creating a Spiritual Growth Model for Lay Believers to Self-Pastor

What should we do if one day we can neither meet offline nor online? How can we study if we must stay at home and be quarantined for a long time? Obviously, we must plan ahead and make full preparation.

At present, we need to create a spiritual growth model suitable for believers to self-pastor. This is not a new idea, but the changes in circumstances push us to consider how to deepen the daily devotions of believers. Our daily devotionals rarely go beyond “praying and reading the Bible.” However, this is far from enough. Just reading and praying are still too superficial, and even a bit formulaic. It is as if, as long as you read the Bible and pray every day, you feel as if you’ve accomplished your mission, yet are not concerned about the results.

In fact, there is nothing wrong with reading and praying, but we must deeply engage with our reading and prayer. We cannot read the Bible and pray just for the sake of reading and praying. To be brief, we need to consider two questions: First, how to give believers lasting interest and motivation to read the Bible and to basically understand what they read. Second, how to make prayer a tangible spiritual necessity in life, not a rigid form where we simply repeat the same phrases day after day. These are questions we need to carefully consider, and I will write another article to discuss more specifics.

Original article: 《互联网宗教信息服务管理办法》落实后的教会牧养初探 by Gospel Times.
Translated, edited, and reposted with permission.

Image credit: Mike Falkenstine, One Catalyst.
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