Are Missionaries in Taiwan still needed? (Alain R. Haudenschild)
Are Missionaries in Taiwan still needed? (rev.from first publication in Dec 9, 2008) 中文
Ralph Winter regards a country as a “reached country” when it is able to continue the ministry of evangelizing its country responsively without major assistance by a foreign missionaries. Winter answers the question by asserting that Taiwan is no longer a pioneer mission field. He sees remaining missionaries as "church–tending missionaries, who are deeply burdened in serving the church movements created by 'yesterday's' pioneer mission work." National church leaders should be given "the privilege of reaching their own people."The question today whether in Taiwan where most unreached unreached segments of the population have still not even 2% Christianity Winters concept can be applied to get multy-ethnic mission work done.
Re-evaluating Ralph Winter’s Statement for Taiwan
What really happen since then seems to justify a re-evaluation. In the meantime new missionaries have arrived and taken up new responsibilities alongside with local ministers in church-planting and outreach. New local pastors have stepped into the places where formerly Chiang Kai-shek soldiers with a good Christian education had filled the pastoral ranks of the country side churches. While Christianity among the Mandarin speaking churches especially in the central and south cities of Taiwan grew slightly, not much change was noted in the traditionally better evangelized northern part of Taiwan. Since this is the case some smart pastors undertook the effort to count differently. How about including the Sunday School kids?
Well, if Christianity is counted this way Taiwans’s Protestant Christianity by the end of 2007 was 4,13%, had 48 churches with more than one thousand worshipers every Sunday and 23 mega churches in Taipei, with eight of them in the Daan District of Taipei only. In the meantime there are more than 50! Also with this way of counting Taipei has 8.95% Protestant Christianity, not including the Catholics, Adventists and the True Jesus Church!
But how about looking where this growth occurred? – The whole growth was in the already better reached Mandarin speaking segments of Taiwan, which makes up about 20% of Taiwan’s nearly 24 million inhabitants today. What happen is that Christianity in the meantime became even more part of the often despised group of solely Mandarin-speaking Taiwanese. – This is probably what Ralph Winter intended to explain as well: Once a people group has 5% Christians it has the force to develop pretty much on its own. This “rule” 20 years ago could only be applied on the Aborigines and the Mandarin speaking segments of Taiwan’s Christianity. And it seems to proof true.
The Unreached Segments
In terms of unreached segments of Taiwan’s multicultural society compared to 20 years ago it has become even more complicated with more than 650,000 mostly Asian expatriates (guest-workers, in-married brides) not included the 200,000 immigrants from mainland China challenging both missionaries and local churches. If this new fact is included in the presentation of Taiwan’s society the numbers look about this way:
Map 1: Division of Major Language Groups in Taiwan Dec. 2012
20,3% Mandarin speaking (mother tongue)
18,9% Hakka (4,62 mio)
03,3% Expatriates (550,000 incl. in-married & 220,000 from China)
02,0% Aborigine 304,000
What we quickly realize is the percentage of Hoklo speaking people coming down below 60%. – On the other hand we have a number of new languages in which people are hungry for the Word of God. The big question is whether the 3900 mostly Mandarin speaking churches of Taiwan are going to reach those more than 77% people in the almost entirely unreached segments without support from professionals?
The last 17 years in Taipei and North Taiwan in this account give as a lesson: if left on their own local pastors will choose the easiest way of church growth, which is not to do any cross-cultural work. Otherwise the church will not grow quickly! In a face conscious country like Taiwan this is a work driving reality. Besides, the theological seminaries do not prepare well for cross-cultural ministries, leaving many pastors in the assumption to add some more languages in their church-life would do the job. Usually the result is giving up new ministries in about 2 yrs time. At least they tried. What will they do without help from professionals? Nothing will change.
Characteristics of the three Unreached Segments of Taiwan:
a) The Taiwanese speaking working class are linguistically (Hoklo/Hokkien) and culturally separated from the majority of evangelical churches which still mainly use Mandarin, although some churches have tried often unsuccessfully to open Hoklo /Hokkien speaking cell-groups and ministries. They realized: This people groups dislikes learning things the way Mandarin- and Hakka speaking people are used to. This people group comprises 56% of the population and there are still only a few churches or workers specifically reaching out to them. Missions and local organizations concentrating their mission efforts on this group of people now are: Village Mission, Overseas Missionary Fellowship International, LCMS, Formosa Christian Mission/Team Expansion, The Evangelical Alliance Mission (TEAM), Youth With A Mission (YWAM), SEND International, Grassroot Mission, Evangelical Formosan Church, Southern Baptist Mission). Despite big plans in the nineties, not much was achieved until now. - This group’s folk-religion is called Taiwan folk-religion a mixture of animism and traditional Chinese religions with an emphasis on spiritism to find revelation. It is polytheistic and syncretistic. At times, the boundaries between the belief systems are lost. There is also an receptiveness to incorporate new ideas and thoughts. They can easily incorporate every type of Christian belief and yet don’t see a need to commit their lives to Christ. There is an urgent and critical need for more local church ministries support and missionaries willing to work among Hoklo and learn Min-nan (Hokkien/Taiwanese) as the first language of communication.
b)The Hakka in Taiwan count 4,6 mio people with 14,000 evangelical Christians. The Hakka communities in the north (Taipei 550,000) north-west (Hsinchu 65% of population), central (Miaoli, Taichung, Taichung County, Nantou) and south (Pingtung) and south-east (Taitung). There is now a national group concerned for outreach: 'Christian Hakka Evangelical Association'. Several missions have opened a ministry among them (SEND, WEC, YWAM, Lutheran Brethren World Missions, Presbyterians and Baptists). There are now about 80 Hakka-speaking churches, among them is the largest denomination the Chung Cheng Church Association (42 churches) in Northern Taiwan. They also head the Hakka Theological Seminary training center in Chudung focusing on the training of Hakka Christians for Hakka ministries. The Hakka Church Growth movement was founded in 1998 with the goal to have Hakka churches in all major cities of Taiwan, or at least cell-groups ministries.
The Taiwan Baptist-, the Bread of Life Church, as well as Taiwan - and other Presbyterian Friendship Churches have opened their doors for such ministries and church-planting efforts in the cities Toufen, Miaoli county (YMAM), Miaoli (YMAM), Touwu, Miaoli county (Taiwan Grassroot Mission) Hsinchu County (SPFC), Chungli (SEND), Hsinfeng (SEND), Hualien (Baptist), Taichung (WEC), Dongshe (SEND w. Central TW Baptists) and in Taipei (four districts). Of the 10 more CCT Hakka churches scheduled to plant within the next years already four were started recently. There is a critical need for Hakka church leaders. Of 14 churches in the Taoyuan/ Hsinchu area only 6 are independent, nevertheless pending God’s provision the movement wants to press on and on every third year plant a new church. Through the initiative of the Chudung Hakka Theological Seminary a Hakka mission agency network was established and first missionaries were sent out to Indonesian Hakka areas for theological teaching/church-planting.
This group’s folk-religion is called Hakka folk-religion a mixture between with ancestor worship and Vedism/ Brahmanism, which both were in fact the pretext for the Chinese Taoist Yin-Yang and Feng-Shwey belief. With only a few gods the Hakka Folkreligion it is much less polytheistic than Taiwan Folkreligion. To have the right „Feng-shwey“ to be in balance with the Yin-Yang and in peace with the ancestors for a Hakka is much more important than it is for his Hoklo neigbhor. In contrast to him he also seeks to gain insights in the future through magic (geomantic) rituals, rather than by using spiritism (a possessed person) like the Hoklos.
There is only some openness to incorporating new ideas and thoughts if the connection to already high regarded Hakka beliefs can be established. They can not easily incorporate elements of Christian belief but usually rather reject than discuss its content. If they agree they commit their life completely to Christ. There is an urgent and critical need for more local church ministries support and missionaries willing to work among Hakka and learn Hakka as the first language of communication.
c) Factory & Construction Guest Workers, Health Care-takers, Foreign Brides
The number of guest-workers and foreign brides immigrating to Taiwan in recent years continue to grow with as many as 550,000 coming from the countries Thailand, Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, some of them living here without legal papers. Except form the Philippines most are from unreached or mission work prohibited countries.
The Thai. In the last 11 years 6 churches were founded for the Thai. The first was started in Chiayi in 1997, by the Chiayi Christian Hospital. Today there are Thai churches in Taichung, Chungli, Guanin, Shulin (near Taipei), Kaoshiung. There is a need for more pastors; Thais in Taiwan are very receptive to hear the Gospel, get training and successfully start churches in their home-country. Most Thais in Taiwan are reached by either Thai or German missionaries, the later speaking Thai very well (Taiwan Fellowship Deaconry Mission). Over the strongly SEND supported TECC (Taiwan Expatriate Caring Committee) network it was possible in cooperation with other missions to establish a first Thai church association (under the financial oversight of the Taiwan Fellowship Deaconry Mission). - While at least some Thai factory worker can be reached through Camp and Church ministry, the inmarried Thai are completely unreached. In the meantime The China Lutheran Seminary has picked up the lead to serve this people group even with scholarships and support churchplanting among them. In 2010 they opened a mission center with regular Global Mission Prayer Meetings. - More (Thai) pastors are needed to complement the serving team of six Thai pastors under Thai leadership.
The more than 300 Filipino and local English churches/fellowships have taken over responsibility for this 86,000 member counting English & Tagalog speaking group. They are reached by Radio, garbage evangelism, preaching, bible-studies, correspondence courses and literature ministry. Involved church denominations are „World for the World Fellowships“, „Jesus is Lord Church“, Joshua „Generation Worldwide Ministry“, „Life in the Spirit“. Some churches like the „Taipei International Church,“ the Taipei Episcopal Churches the Bread of Life, the House of Christ and a few other churches have opened their doors and rooms for Filipino fellowships. Many Filipinos turn their lifes to Christ during their time in Taiwan and go back with a vision for their homeplace.
The Vietnamese workers, health care-takers and brides (99,000 in September 2012) come with low education from a poor and a non Christian background. In the meantime also students show up for studies in Xhongli, Taichung and Kaoshiung. They are very receptive for the gospel too. In 2008 the first Vietnamese church was founded (Free Wesleyan Church Taipei), the second Vietnamese church (Xhongli) was officially registered in October 2013. SEND has a short term missioanry working among them, C&MA has one Vietnamese pastors couple in Taiwan serving fulltime. Two missionary couples work independently at several places among Vietnamese students since 2010. Already a few hundred found the LORD and several were baptized in Taiwan, some ask to get baptized in Vietnam after leading their family members to the LORD too. Because it is nearly impossible to bring Vietnamese pastors from Vietnam to Taiwan the workers among this group with a wide open harvest field is far too few.
The Indonesian (200,000 in September 2013) are the fastest growing group with some Indonesian churches to go to, but usually with a Muslim background. Five Indonesian churches (Taipei LLT, Taipei – , Chungli -, Taoyuan Gereja Bethany Indonesia and Taiwan Industrial Evangelical FEllowship (their Indonesian churches are called "Living Water Churches") are doing some outreach work and also church-planting among. Only in 2013 efforts to do much more among this largest group of expatriates were heard and more helpers enter the ministry, however still far too few. The Taiwan Industrial Evangelical Fellowship has church-planting team and works closely with a local church planting group of committed Taiwanese in several church-planting ministries in the south. (Maps about the distribution at TECC's separate blog)
Since May 2004 the „Taiwan Expatriate Caring Committee“ (TECC) ministers among expatriates to coordinate the trans-lingual and cross-denominational ministries in Taiwan, as well as its data management. Ever since the awareness for the spiritual needs of these expatriates increased among local churches. TECC took responsibility for the organizing for annual conference, the print of 20,000 Gospel of Mark in Mandarin/Vietnamese, the print of the 10,000 Gospel of Mark in Thai and Indonesians, as well as the translation of follow up material for the „Taipei Franklin Graham Festival“ in 2008 in Thai, Indonesian and Vietnamese. Seconds editions have followed in Indonesian and in Vietnamese already and new Thai version is in planing.
The TECC Committee members is represented by missionaries from the Taiwan Industrial Evangelical Fellowship (TIEF), Taiwan Fellowship Deaconry Mission (TFDM), Taipei International Church (TIC), Christian & Missionary Alliance (CMA) and SEND International of Taiwan (SEND). Through the multilingual bimonthly publication „Kaibian“ a publication and an Indonesian mission magazine supported by TIC and TECC today thousands of expatriates can be reached at their working place.
In addition there are 200,000 Chinese foreign workers from mainland China, for which we hope the churches take care by themselves. There is an urgent and critical need for more local church ministries support and missionaries willing to work among these people groups especially from the local churches’ site.
How to turn this development into another direction?
This remains the special task missions have to tackle. They are the professionals to reach those living in the spiritual darkness. As the local Christian leaders are very occupied in increasing their churches worshiping attendance and performance in their society, they have a hard time to focus on this challenge with their whole church bodies. There has been some improvement in the last two years, but much and very soon more commitment is needed, because the average wisdom how to handle basic problems in life in a democracy has decreased rapidly in the last years. The biblical teaching provided by Sunday schools, outreach and all type of ministries especially in Minnan speaking areas with alomost no Christian testimony at all is a desperate need.
Local pastors and church-leaders don’t miss a single chance to attend seminars with related topics to increase their knowledge in order to perform better in that account. In fact they often feel helpless to really contribute in crossing their culture and reaching others in an unfamiliar culture. They will only commit if they are given a job to do within those groups. But with the exception of a few churches they will not start on their own.
Map 2: Overview of (Protestant) Christianity Growth within 15 Years
% 1997 -- Groups--% Christians 2007 2012
2,5% ------ Mandarin ------- 3,3% 6,00%
0.3% ------- Hakka------------0.35 0,4%
0,7% --------Hoklo------------ 1% 01.1%
0.01%-------Asian Expatr.-- 0,25% 00,4%
90% --------Aborigine------- 85% 80,00%
From the missions side and local expatriate churches’ side there are some worth to imitate examples how to face this situation LWCS World Mission, (assigning all their people to Chia-yi County), OMF International with Formosa Christian Mission/Teamexpansion (assigning many people for Hoklo Ministries in Chia-yi City), Taiwan Fellowship Deaconary Mission (inviting Thai pastors to serve the Thai), Taipei International church (establishing a Tagalog ministry thus planting five Filipino churches) etc. Only a few did something among the Hakka and not much was achieved in those 20 yrs either. But the conditions for growth have improved. The 13,000 Hakka believers call an extra Hakka Theological Seminary in Chu-dung their own and preapre a larger one in Longtan. They have at least sent out missionaries and started a church-planting movement with high goals. Even U.S. Chinese missions agencies like the “Grassroot Mission” or the local “Village Mission” are excellent partners in reaching both the Hoklo and the Hakka.
The Relationship to Local Churches
What may help to turn things around for both local churches and missions alike is a more holistic approach in gaining families for Jesus like in Dutch times. In those days Sunday School was the major tool to educate and gain people and tribes for the Kingdom (I know in those days the concept of families was just about introduced, but we still can learn from it). Apparently this is something very “hot” in local Taiwanese churches. When our office planned the Taipei Franklin Graham Festival the North Taipei Sunday school teachers decided to run a “Kids Festival”, bringing 34,000 to the Kids Evangelism. Not less than 3200 of them gave their lives to Jesus. Franklin Graham was not even here yet. In addition as a thorough research conducted by SEND International in 2009 revealed international teams do better in reaching teh unreached in the areas without any or very weak Christian testimony.
The local churches through the Chinese Christian Evangelistic Association support the Taiwan Expatriate Caring Committee network logistically, making it a common effort to resource mission ministries among expatriates through churches and burdened organizations. But again, this does not mean they learn how to integrate them in their midst.
If we want to aim for the 5% minimum percentage of Christians in an unreached population, missions must put their manpower and efforts in concentrating on those unreached segments like the Hakka, Hoklo and Expatriates without waiting whether local churches are ready to follow them. If it works they will join and learn to teach their people. In other words as far as Taiwan is concerned we have in almost 80% of its population a pioneer work to do within a highly structured and challenging environment but with all the promises of our LORD Jesus on our side. Therefore should not be afraid of the hard work. Taiwan’s churches will only learn to do it better, if we are more certain in our role and in our focus. The gospel was brought to Taiwan by many nations for the nations. Therefore for the multy-cultural Taiwan burdened, skilled and well prepared people are desperately needed, in a broad range of ministries in those above mentioned target groups. Besides, culturally sensitive people are needed in seminary and grassroots mission-theological teaching, music, Old Testament teaching, Christian writing with the ability to educationally prepare local churches for cross-cultural missionary engagements. Sheldon Sawatzki in his paper 21 years ago comes to the conclusion: “A mature church is one that is autonomous, financially independent of foreign subsidy, has sufficient resources and numbers to continue the work of evangelization in its own context, and is itself a missionary–sending church. For many denominational mission–planted churches in Taiwan, this stage is reached in thirty–forty years.” – As we have just seen those denominational mission did not strongly increase their personnel and efforts to work among the then 80% unreached people segment of Taiwan.
How do we look at it from a church-planters working cycle at it? In terms of the real missionary in Taiwan – only in part the mostly Mandarin as mother-tongue speaking groups are "reached."
When we apply the biblical cycle of church planting according to Paul”s life in Taiwan most mission agencies that entered the Taiwan field in the late 1940's and early 1950's have reached or passed the critical turning point in their life and work in Taiwan. Those who came later in the 1960’s like SEND International, Liebenzell and those who came in the in the nineties are not at that point yet. Usually the so called “Pauline Cycle” takes about 40 years time. The mission–planted church has traversed through stages of dependence (mission domination, the missionary as master, supervisor, administrator), independence (church domination, property transfer, the missionary as servant co–worker invited by church, financial independence) to the beginning stages of interdependence in which the relationship shifts from mission board–to–church to a church–to–church relationship. The missionary then gradually becomes an inter–church worker and an assistant for the establishment of sending structures.
As far as Taiwan is concerned missions have gone through that cycle in one specific segment of the population , but only in one, sometimes two local languages. Many missions planted churches among the former immigrants, because it was easier and the missionaries com from the mainland spoke Mandarin already. When a church was planted in Hakka or Minnan within those of the nearly or completely unreached Hoklo or Hakka speaking segments of Taiwan up to today the churches are still weak and limited in taking over the job on their own.It is right here were more workers are desperately needed! If the percents are counted together( 55,5% Minnan/Hoklo and 18,9 Hakka), this affects more than 74% of Taiwan's 24 mio Chinese population, with the expatriates even (minus the believers) still 76%! And these are only the big segments. - It seems the LORD has send the Taiwanese enough South Asian expatriates so they could as islanders learn more about other cultures and understand their own inter-Chinese World variety a bit better and prepare themselves for both: the cross-cultural task within the Chinese nations and to South Asian nations. Both challenges are in their midst now. How to master them without some assistance from outside? This is probably the reason why international teams do better. They complement each other needs.
Back in those days Ralph Winter’s article caused some mission leaders to make a decision. Mennonite Mission director Sheldon Sawatzki, in those days decided for his denominational mission to transfer mission to the locals on Taiwan. He was finished with the Pauline Cycle’s last step in his churches of the Mennonite’s social segment of operation. To him for the local Mennonites to reach out to the unreached segments did not seem a big challenge. They had learned that. Others did not have so much trust in the locals or were not yet at the point of the Pauline cycle where this had become an issue. In fact for those mission-leaders who rather saw the millions in the unreached segments Winter’s article the discussion about this topic helped to create a better sense on the pioneer work among the still vastly unreached segments in Taiwan.
As resources from traditionally sending countries are dwindling missions must be able to justify their further engagement in Taiwan. A trend in evangelical mission thinking during the last decades is an emphasis on identifying and reaching the remaining unreached people groups in the world. The main argument is the more precise translation of the greek word "ethne" in mission commission related bible verses. Missionary strategists must discern where the job of missions is finished and in which “hsiangs” (villages, squatters) the missionary force needs to be deployed. Following this observation SEND International worked on the sharpening of a clear cut vision (Vision 119) for pioneer work in Taiwan and recruits and carefully preparing new and more people for this important ministry. Finishing the missionary work in Taiwan might still take its time - as long as large areas with thousands of people who do not recognize Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior with little chance to be reached by the locals, who have committed for transforming their cultures value system through their efforts too. As SEND believes it is not all to foreign missions to accomplish the trend is to always look for local partners, if possible.
In the end, part of mission’s responsibility is to pass down a good example how to implement cross-cultural mission as the last part of the Pauline cycle to a maturing local mainly Mandarin speaking church and at the same time focusing on the unfinished task within the unreached 77+ % unreached population with a long-term and “die hard” commitment.
This task will engage missions in Taiwan for at least another 20 yrs. time to level with what was reached in the Mandarin speaking segment, but it can be done and be completed. Contrary to Ralph Winter assumption missionary work should stop at the 5% mark, it should be considered a better goal to reach the 8-10% mark before disengaging, especially when the various Chinese - and other cultures in such a mixtures like in Taiwan make it harder for foreign mission agencies to carefully prepare missionaries for on cultural group only and local churches are still too weak to take full responsibility for the unreached nations in their midst. Yes, in Taiwan missionaries are still much needed, the more the better. But they need to be well prepared for their specific task.