HUBEI, China - In the cool, drizzling days of March 2023, Lin Zhuangying and a hundred other preachers from the region of Jianli city attended a four-day Bible Equipping Course.
The course, organised by the Hubei Christian Council and supported by the United Bible Societies (UBS), aimed to better equip preachers for their Bible teaching ministries.
"This is a spiritual feast!" Lin said with heartfelt emotion. "We lack such courses in the rural churches. I am thankful to UBS for channeling God's love to us through this equipping course. It has been a tremendous help to us,” he added.
Many preachers like Lin cherish the rare opportunity to temporarily set aside their various church ministries and learn from Bible teachers from Zhongnan Regional Seminary.
"This is a spiritual feast!" Lin said with heartfelt emotion. "We lack such courses in the rural churches. I am thankful to UBS for channeling God's love to us through this equipping course. It has been a tremendous help to us.”
To help us understand why such Bible equipping courses are important and timely to him, Lin shared his journey in Christian ministry. “My wife and I started ministry here during the hottest time of the year in July 2011.” The heat was to symbolise the challenges Lin and his wife would face for years to come. After graduating from seminary, the couple had left behind a relatively well-off urban life in coastal Fujian province and moved to a small town in Hubei province to serve in a local church as full-time preachers.
They were met by around twenty believers. "We thought that by following the same model of church development from where we came, this church would also grow likewise." However, that did not happen.
They later discovered that due to previous heretical teaching in the area, the locals had some misunderstandings about Christianity. Some believers had left the church and hearts had become hardened.
Over the years, Lin and his wife undertook pioneering work, starting many tasks from scratch. However, challenges abounded along the way.
Externally, Lin faced a scarcity of Bible reference books and resources. "We had to sometimes search online and print out materials to use. Although we feel that this is not an ideal solution, we had little choice as resources are limited."
Internally, Lin felt that his “Bible reserve” was emptying out and his energy depleting. In recent years, he has been preaching and teaching almost every day, be it at daily prayer sessions and Sunday services, or teaching at churches and meeting points he oversees. "After years of service, I felt drained."
So, Lin appreciated the Bible Equipping Course as an opportunity to recharge, upgrade himself and connect with other preachers. He explained that it is common for preachers in grassroots churches to feel lonely and tired. “These four days are a good time to rest and recharge our body, mind, and soul.”
He admitted that due to the hectic workload, they may not have time to study the Bible regularly. "We ask believers to read the Bible, but we may not read it regularly ourselves, becoming like the Pharisees!" Lin confessed.
Lin was hence grateful for the course instructors’ encouragement to engage with the Scriptures. They even share methods on Bible reading. "These Bible reading methods are rarely explored during our busy church activities. So, it's a helpful reminder for us to feed ourselves on the Word of God."
Besides, Lin also appreciated the session on ‘Discerning Heresies’ which was very relevant to his church. He shared that recently his church was infiltrated by a cult group that targeted young people and tried to lure them away from the Christian faith.
In this regard, he also found the lesson on “Introduction to Systematic Theology” helpful. He said, "When preachers engage in systematic theology, they can discern incorrect teachings more effectively. With sound theological understanding, they can serve the church better."
Praise God for such a fruitful time of learning. One of Lin’s favourite Bible verses is, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go" (Joshua 1:9, ESV). Let’s pray that Lin and many other preachers in China will continue to be strong and courageous in the Lord as they shepherd the flock in China.
Story: Marcus Xiao
2023@UBS China Partnership
More photos on the Bible Equipping Course for Lay Preachers in this album.