In 35 years, this pastor has never had a day off
Meet a hardworking guy caring for 45,000 Chinese people every week
Let’s start with the good news. Christianity in China is growing at more than 10 per cent a year, according to both secular sources such as the Council on Foreign Relations and faith-based sources such as the Centre for the Study of Global Christianity. But there is a human cost.
“I believe in being on call 24 hours a day.” – Liu Xiafan
Reverend Liu Xiafan has woken up at 4am every day for the past 35 years. He walks along the river, praying and singing, to start his day. He works a 19-hour day, seven days a week. He lives on site at his home church in Luhe, to ensure he is constantly available for his congregation.
Liu is like the Brian Houston of Jiangsu province in eastern China. While Houston’s Hillsong network sees about 40,000 people attend one of the 82 weekly church services across 30 locations in Australia, Liu cares for close to 45,000 Christians worshipping in 40 churches across the Jiangsu province.
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One of them is Rev. Liu’s home church in Luhe, which welcomes more than 2500 people every week. The rest are house churches.
But while Houston – or other leaders such as Sydney’s Archbishop Glenn Davies of the Anglicans, or John Wilson, who leads Australia’s Presbyterians, have many dedicated pastors to work with, Liu is one of only four pastors looking after the area. Liu is tired.
“I never get a day off. It’s the way here,” he says. “My daughter got married and even then I didn’t have the day off. Our situation is not considered too extreme, because we have four trained pastors in the area. In some situations, there’s just one. We are quite lucky.
“For me, it’s very natural,” he says. “I believe in being on call 24 hours a day.”
Rev. Liu is not the only pastor working like this in China. It’s a pattern repeated over and over again. Church growth, combined with a lag in the number of pastors being trained, means that across China there are an average of 6700 Christians for every trained pastor.
Rev. Liu dreams of having a pastor in each of the churches he is visiting. He believes that, with the training he is implementing, his dream might just come true in the next 10 years.
“We have 44 theological students in training from this district. They will all come back here. The district has produced the most seminary students within the province – they make up one whole class in the seminary in Nanjing! It’s quite an accomplishment. I feel very thankful and grateful to God for how he’s moving here.”
The students make great sacrifices to train.
Bible Society wants to make Rev. Liu’s dream a reality, too. In 2018, it is helping equip more than 450 pastors and seminary students in theological training.
Pastors who have been working non-stop for many years are being given the opportunity to study, learning more about their beloved Bible and acquiring knowledge they can take back to their congregations of thousands who are hungry to learn about God and his plan for the world.
The students make great sacrifices to train. It’s common for married students to live apart when on campus, because the six- or eight-bed dormitories are single sex.
And new theological students are being prepared for a life on mission, who can return to their communities ready to take some of the enormous load from the pastors looking after flocks of thousands and leading more to faith. It is estimated that more than one million people in China are coming to faith every year. The need for theologically trained pastors is great. And you can help.