One of the more interesting people I’ve met during this journey doesn’t speak a word of English. His name is Pastor Bai (pronounced Bye, as in goodbye). He’s a simple man; humble in spirit, quiet in tone, not very impressive as the world defines greatness. But he is one of those folks you rarely meet who exemplifies the character of Christ so vividly; it’s almost as though his subdued spirit and character screams out, “man of God”.
Martyn and I met with him because he came with a heavy heart, seeking advice.
This is his story.
Bai has been the pastor of a small, multi-site church of about 60 total people for several years
Multi-site because although they gather together occasionally the distance between their homes is too far for most to travel consistently so they meet weekly in four different smaller gatherings. In spite of this they consider themselves one church and Pastor Bai has been their shepherd for several years.
In the past year Bai found it necessary to travel to another area of China to tend to a family issue; he was gone for a couple of months. When he returned he was shocked to find that in his absence an outsider had come in and worked to influence the church family in negative ways, telling them they needed someone else as their pastor rather than Bai, someone more educated. Additionally, this man convinced a majority of the people that because they didn’t have much material wealth it was wrong for them to be expected to give to the church and provide for their pastor.
Bai returned to a divided church. He explained to us with a heavy heart how much he loved his church and all the people involved. But even as he has returned to lead, they are not giving financially and he is faced with a difficult decision in his responsibilities to provide for his wife and two children. He can go find work but tearfully explained how this would minimize his ability to care for and minister to the people of his church
Rather than become bitter and vengeful toward these confused baby Christians he feels a deep pain in his heart for their immaturity as believers and a sincere, God-given responsibility to disciple them.
He loves them. All while facing a very real dilemma of how to pay his rent this month.
We listened carefully and then tried our best to comfort and encourage him. I gave him the little cash I had and we prayed with and for him. He never asked for money; he only wanted the godly advice of two brothers so he could heal his church family.
I have no idea how this situation will work out but I left the meeting examining my own heart. How would I react to a similar situation? Would I focus my frustration on the troublemaker or the misled church? Or would I react like Pastor Bai and feel an ache in my heart for imperfect people? Would I be inclined to move toward these hurting people…or away from them?
I believe Bai is so in tune with a heart for Christ that he is reacting much as Jesus did when he looked down on Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives before entering the city to endure the fate set for him there
“If you had only known on this day what would bring you peace, but now it is hidden from your eyes.”
Jesus loves us not because we deserve love, but because He is love.
I’m praying this small church, on the outskirts of Chengdu, will open their eyes and see Jesus reflected in Pastor Bai.
I know I did.