This entry is part 20 of 25 in the series 30 Days on the Chinese Church

The most precious resource of any church is its lay leaders and co-workers. Yet all to often churches take these people for granted and fail to give them the care that they need. Today I want to share about how this applies to Chinese churches.

Growing and Serving

When people from CFC move out of the area and are looking for a new church, I advise them to find a place where they can both grow and serve. The church should provide solid in-depth teaching as well as care and support in order to help people to grow. They also need to be able to find opportunities to serve that are a good match for their abilities and spiritual gifts. It is unhealthy to have one without the other. If people are constantly fed without serving they become spiritually fat and lazy, while if they are constantly serving without being fed and nurtured they become burned out.

Chinese culture values the ability to “eat bitterness” (chi ku) and remain steadfast in the face of difficulty. We all need to do this at times. I have great admiration for some of the Christians in China, who have remained faithful in the face of incredible opposition. But the church should not be a place where it is constantly necessary to “eat bitterness.” Yes, Christians should be dedicated and should serve sacrificially. But it is also the job of leaders to care for those who serve.

What sometimes happens in smaller Chinese churches is that one or two college students or young adults remain in the church after finishing high school. Most of their friends have left the church, but they stay behind because they are committed to the church and very much needed to run the youth ministry. But they don’t have have a peer group at the church, and their church life is all giving and very little receiving. Inevitably they become burned out after a few years and look for a way out.

I have met a number of young adults like this who have visited CFC, and they tell me that the only way they can see to get a break is to leave their church. I am very sad that it comes to that, and I hope that no one ever has to leave CFC because there is no other way to get a break. We must value the co-workers as people more than we value the work that they do. That’s not easy to do when the pressure is on to get things done, but we must resist the temptation to “use” people to reach our objectives. Sometimes it’s just better to do less.

I realize that smaller Chinese churches may not be ready to start a young adult ministry, so part of the vision for our young adult group is to provide a place for fellowship and spiritual nurture for young adults serving in other churches. If we can help to feed them and send them back to their churches spiritually refreshed, we can help them to continue their work there. For this to work we must be careful not to try to recruit them away from their home churches, because often they are doing valuable ministry there. One young woman who comes to our young adult ministry said that in her home church the young adult group consists of three people: the youth pastor, his wife, and her! She loves the fellowship in our young adult group, and it strengthens her to go back and serve in her home church.

I will be away at a leadership training retreat the next few days, so there will be a break in the series. But I have several more very interesting topics to cover next week.

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