SICHUAN, China – “How am I going to teach God’s word without being well-equipped?" Li Fanghua, 74, used to ask herself.
About seven years ago, Li had been moved by the Lord to respond to the call to be a lay preacher. Out of obedience and love for the Lord, she has been leading two Christian meeting points although she sometimes feels inadequate.
Li is one of 190,000 lay preachers in China’s churches who assist pastors in shepherding the believers. According to official sources, there are now 46 million Christians worshiping in around 60,000 churches and meeting points* across China. Due to an acute shortage of pastors, lay preachers help plug the gap.
However, many of them like Li have not gone through formal theological training. Neither do they have much Bible resources at hand to aid them in a more in-depth study and understanding of God’s Word. Many lay preachers fear that they are not able to carry out their duties in preaching and teaching well.
“I was always worried that I’ll mislead others if I do not understand and teach the Bible correctly. It is not a good feeling. Furthermore, I am not well-educated,” shared Li.
Li’s concern is a valid one as the Churches in China since the 1980s have been plagued by cult groups with some rural believers being led astray by heretical teachings. It was reported that these cult groups have in recent years taken advantage of the fears and chaos created by the Covid-19 pandemic to mislead believers. It is thus important that both preachers and believers are grounded in sound biblical teaching and doctrines.
So, Li was overjoyed when she recently received a free copy of the Chinese Study Bible (CSB), distributed to lay preachers at her church in Jiangyang district, with the support of the United Bible Societies (UBS). “The explanations in the Study Bible are clear, concise and easy to understand. The important parts are marked and the colorful graphics also aid me in understanding the Bible and preparing for preaching,” Li shared. CSB is a translation and an adaptation of the study notes from Crossway’s English Standard Version (ESV) Study Bible.
Indeed, Li takes her preaching and shepherding role seriously. She observed that some believers in her meeting point face difficulties in life which test their trust and faith in God.
“Financial woes, unanswered prayers, prolonged sickness, and other issues can often weaken one’s faith. So, I need to know how to use God’s Word to exhort them and strengthen them in their faith. One area I’ve emphasized to them is the need for repentance and to fully trust in Jesus who is our Saviour.”
Not only did the CSB provide her with necessary tools and knowledge, God also used it to relieve her of the anxieties she once felt. “In the past, I felt apprehensive each time I preached. Now with the help of the CSB, I feel more assured that I’m leading the believers on the right path. I’ve gained more confidence in my ministry and I know better what to focus on when preaching. The CSB is exactly what I need! Thank you UBS for this kind donation.”
Thank God for lay preachers like Li Fanghua. Let’s remember them in prayers as they minister the Word of God to the believers in China so that their faith would be strengthened in the midst of today’s challenges.
*Meeting points are usually small registered congregations served by pastors from the registered church in the district.
Story: Priscilla Fan and Cynthia Oh
Photo: UBS CP
© 2023 UBS China Partnership