SHANDONG, China – Ephesians 4:11 lists the spiritual leadership offices of apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers as gifts bestowed on various individuals within the Church to equip the saints for ministry. The ultimate purpose, stated in verses 12 and 13, is to build up the body of Christ until all attain to the unity of the faith and knowledge of the Son of God. For appointees to these important roles to function competently, they need in turn to be able to accurately handle the Word of God so that they may be presented as workers approved by God (2 Timothy 2:15).
To this end, the Chinese Church is committed to training and equipping vocational Christian workers for preaching and teaching from the Bible. In support of this effort, the United Bible Societies (UBS) has given a total of 1020 sets of Bible tools to preachers in the counties of Bincheng, Liaocheng, Weihai and Yantai in Shandong Province. (Photo: Preacher Feng Yanhua, one of the recipients of the Bible Tools supported by UBS, at her church meeting point located in a garage.)
Books in the set include Ministry to the Glory of God by Bishop John Chew (UBS Global Council Member), a Chinese Study Bible and Commentary to John’s Gospel Volume 1 and 2.
Using the Garage as a Meeting Point
In Liaocheng, a city located more than 100km north of Jinan, the provincial capital, monthly training sessions are held for volunteer preachers. Bei Tang Church, the main church in Liaocheng, has planned to train nine batches of preachers in 2015. Upon completion of training, an examination will be conducted for all trainees. During winter months, a 20-day training is provided for all church volunteers at a sub-county level annually.
Such efforts at preparing ministry workers have borne fruits for this church. In 15 years, she has grown 10 times to its current 2,000 members.
Feng Yanhua, 43, graduated from Jinan Bible Training School in 2010 and has since served as a preacher in the Bei Tang church. She is a recipient of the Bible tools and a participant in the training sessions. Feng is very grateful for the book gift.
She shared, “These Bible tools are so helpful firstly for my own personal growth and understanding of the Bible. Secondly, they certainly help in my preparation for preaching and ministering to believers.”
She is particularly encouraged by Bishop John Chew’s book, Ministry to the Glory of God. It gave her a deeper sense of direction and taught her the right attitude to adopt for her ministry.
Currently, Feng is overseeing a meeting point at Liuquan Huayuan, about eight km from Bei Tang Church. Situated in a garage space of 30 square meters at the ground floor of Feng’s housing block, it can accommodate up to 40 persons. In this precinct are 51 other blocks housing more than 2000 residents.
For many believers living in Liuquan Huayuan especially those who are not physically mobile, the weekly Tuesday and Thursday evening meetings held in this cosy garage becomes their time for worship and spiritual feeding. This ministry, which started with just seven or eight persons in 2010, now has members filling its pews to the max at each weekday gathering.
What’s heart-warming is that Feng’s non-believing husband, together with her two sons, is supportive of her ministry. In fact this garage space was meant for his vehicle but with his consent, was converted into a place for worship.
The Gift of Books
Zhang Qiulin, another recipient of the Bible tools book set from Liaocheng, was also very inspired after reading the book, Ministry to the Glory of God. She said, “I found for myself a clear aim and the way forward for my ministry.”
Zhang serves mainly in the Liaocheng Church. Referring to her earlier years as a Christian, she shared, “I saved very hard 20 years ago, going without food on some days, to purchase a Study Bible. It is now very torn, so I am glad to be receiving a new Study Bible. I have always placed priority on books knowing how much they would enrich my life and help in my spiritual growth. I am so grateful for the gift of these four books, I will treasure them.”
Feng and Zhang are just two of a vital group of Christian workers labouring for the sake of the Gospel under challenging circumstances. The Chinese Church faces a dire shortage of trained pastors and preachers. The estimated national average ratio stands currently at 6700 believers to one pastor. The province of Shandong is just one of many provinces needing well-resourced pastors. Besides having a huge congregation to minister to, pastors and church workers are also at the forefront of dealing with existing and emerging heretical teachings.
UBS hopes to support Christian workers and Bible training school students at a county level. Some of these needy locations are rural and impoverished. Without the gift of Biblical reference materials, church workers will struggle to find help for their teaching and preaching work. There are thousands of church workers throughout the country waiting for a supply of Bible tools. To cater to these requests will need many more years of funding.
With adequate support, UBS will continue to provide Bible reference materials to these needy preachers, thus ensuring sound teaching by well-trained and equipped Christian workers.
Story: Angela Teo
Edited: Cynthia Oh
Photo: DD /UBS CP
2015 © United Bible Societies China Partnership