Celebrating 150 Years of Protestant Mission Work in Taiwan

Taiwan Infographic2015 commemorates the 150th anniversary of Protestant mission work in Taiwan. This infographic highlights four fruits of Protestant mission work as well as a task that remains to disciple the whole nation.

  1. 4,101 Protestant Churches
  2. 3 Million Church Members
  3. 5.6% of Taiwan’s population is a member of a Protestant Church.
  4. Protestant Church Membership nearly tripled between 1989 and 2013.

These are impressive accomplishments, built upon the foundation of the first pioneer missionaries and the generations of workers who followed. Still there is much to do as 22 million people in Taiwan are not yet members of a Protestant church. So the included map casts vision for the task that remains.

This map shows how many new churches are needed by district to attain a church to population ratio of 1:1,000 or one church for every thousand people. From the perspective of Saturation Church Planting (SCP), attaining this church to population ratio would provide every person in Taiwan with easy geographical access to a Protestant church and is a significant milestone to reach in the process of discipling a whole nation.  For more information about growth of the Protestant church in Taiwan and the task that remains, see the report by the Global Research Team of One Challenge, Taiwan Church Growth Report 2015.


Improve the Life of People in Your Community

The first week of November I enjoyed representing One Challenge at Taylor University’s World Opportunities Week. This was a lovely opportunity to interact with students who are seeking to discover God’s plan for their lives.  As I was sharing with a student about how OC uses research to identify needs of communities and countries where we work, she shared something she learned in her public health class, where her professor repeatedly emphasized:

“You can’t solve problems for people living in a place you know nothing about.”

How true. To improve the life of a people, one must first understand the context.

Ed Stetzer points this out in the forward he wrote for Patrick Johnstone’s newest book, Serving God in Today’s Cities. “If you don’t properly understand the context in which you want to minister until after you start ministering there, your ministry will likely be more frustrating than fruitful.”

This week I participated in a webinar with Luis Bush from Transform World 2020, where he shared:

If the Church wants to be relevant and effective in the community, it needs good information that describes the community’s people and need, the condition of the church; and the spiritual forces which influence current reality. The Church must see the city as it truly is; not just what it seems to be. These data will show leaders God’s top priorities and highest leverage (greatest results per effort) ministries that will bring about the most impact and lasting results.

Thinking back to when I assisted a group of church leaders seeking to promote community development in Romania, it was their consensus that community development had to begin with a community needs survey. Only by knowing the people in an area and their needs, can relevant action be taken to improve the lives of those who live there. Or we might say that if we are going to love our neighbors, we must first know our neighbors.

Paul wrote to Titus “Our people must also learn to engage in good deeds to meet pressing deeds, so that they will not be unfruitful” (3:14). So ask yourself:

  • What pressing needs in your community need addressed?
  • What actions would address these needs?
  • What resources can the Body of Christ muster to improve the life of people in your community?
  • What information is already available about your community? Where can I find it?
  • What other information would be helpful? How can I find this out?
  • Is there anyone who is already studying my community? How could I help? If no one is gathering information, could I start the process? Who could help?
  • How can I share what I’m learning about my community with other like-minded people?

I’ve always found that it insightful to go out and walk the streets of a community, praying about what I see.  Seeing the people and their needs and bringing them before the Father’s throne never fails to stir up love for them.

Perhaps the first step to improve life in your community is to step outside and take a look around.

Persecution: The New Norm for Christians in the USA Today?

The International Days of Prayer for the Persecuted Church are on Sundays, November 1 and 8, this year.   Often Western Christians think of persecution happening “over there” in North Africa, the Middle East, India or Asia. However this year, persecution –and even martyrdom — seems much closer to home.

The “2015 Role of Martyrs” now includes persons from the United States, having in view the shootings in Oregon and South Carolina – interestingly nine persons were shot/martyred in each case and the shooter chose a “lucky one” to tell the world why he did what he did.

The news source I regularly follow draws attention to the persecution of Christians in the United States: hate speech, lawsuits, jail, ridicule, pressure to not publically practice one’s faith. Thinking about this rise of persecution in the USA Today, I came across these words of Jesus.

“The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil.” (John 7:7)

“Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also.”( John 15:20)

“Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when {people} insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:10-12)

I guess we should not take it personally when we are “persecuted for righteousness sake.” This is just a manifestation of people’s hatred of Jesus. They hate us because they first hated Him.

So the International Days of Prayer for the Persecuted Church are not only for our brothers and sisters “over there,” but for us too. Perhaps this will add a bit more passion to our praying. Check out the website for the International Day of Prayer for specific ways to pray.

God Opens Doors for Effective Ministry

Last weekend I was sharing at a missions conference in Kansas about the work of One Challenge. I pointed out that in 2014, OC workers were active in 102 countries –  the highest number of countries in the history of the organization. Since I’ve started writing this blog series about the ways that God is at work in the world, it occurred to me to look at the broadening of OC’s ministry from the God-at-work perspective.

New Testament Teaching

Turning to the New Testament, we find five passages that state God opens doors for effective ministry. The majority of these are about Paul’s ministry.

When they had arrived and gathered the church together, they began to report all things that God had done with them and how He had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles. Acts 14:27

But I will remain in Ephesus until Pentecost; for a wide door for effective {service} has opened to me, and there are many adversaries. 1 Corinthians 16:8-9

Now when I came to Troas for the gospel of Christ and when a door was opened for me in the Lord. 2 Corinthians 2:12

Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving; praying at the same time for us as well, that God will open up to us a door for the word, so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ, for which I have also been imprisoned. Colossians 4:2,3

In Revelation we have the words of Jesus Himself.

“And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write:  He who is holy, who is true, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, and who shuts and no one opens, says this: ‘I know your deeds. Behold, I have put before you an open door which no one can shut, because you have a little power, and have kept My word, and have not denied My name.’” (Revelation 3:7-8)

While all these passages point out that God opens doors for effective ministry, the Colossians 4 passage adds the additional point that God opens doors for effective ministry in response to prayer.

Modern Examples of How God Opens Doors through Prayer

As I reflect on how God opens doors for effective ministry through prayer, one striking example comes to mind. In 1982 God led Brother Andrew, the founder of the organization “Open Doors,” to launch a seven-year prayer campaign for the opening of the Communist Bloc. The campaign began in 1983. Seven years later on November 9, 1989 the Berlin Wall came down and rest of Eastern European countries soon came out from under the Communist yoke. As a result, the 1990s witnessed the beginning of religious freedom first in Eastern Europe, then in the former Soviet Union.

I well remember reading Charles Colson’s accounts of the role that people of faith played in the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe in “The Body”. Little did I realize that God would open a door for me and my family to serve in Romania for 15 years, strengthening the churches there.

Paul reminds us that God “is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20). In the case of Brother Andrew’s seven year prayer campaign, not only did God “open doors” in Eastern Europe, but God also opened up Central Asia after the collapse of the Soviet Union. At that time Central Asia was an even tougher “no access zone” than Eastern Europe.

God gave me an “open door” to have a short term ministry trip to Mongolia 2013 – where I learned how God opened this closed country with just four believers in 1990, built his church, which numbered at least 41,000 in 2014, and was using Mongolian believers to enter even more difficult “no access zones”.

Yes, God is able to do way more than we can ask or think.

Oh God, now open the 10/40 Window!

As Eastern Europe and Central Asia were breaking free from the Communist yoke, Christian leaders began to focus prayer attention on the world’s toughest “no access zone”, the 10/40 Window. For over two decades now, the month of October has been chosen to “pray through the window.” Although we have yet see an opening of North Africa, the Middle East, Central and Eastern Asia similar to the Communist Bloc, there are signs that God is at work in the region in an unprecedented way. What wonderful testimonies we hear of how God is drawing peoples in this region to himself and how encouraging to see the growing number of church or disciple making movements!   These “first fruits” should encourage us to continually intercede for the opening of the 10/40 Window.

So in response to prayer, God opens doors to for effective and fruitful ministry. This is another way that God is at work in our world today. Since this is the case, how are you praying for God to open doors? And when God opens a door for ministry, he has in mind someone to walk through that door, and you just might be the person! Are you ready to go with God through that open door?

October 4 is 10/40 Window Mission Sunday, a part of “Praying through the Window” month.

From 1 – 31 October 2015 Christ’s follower worldwide  will be Praying Through the Window. The first Sunday in October has been designated 10/40 Window Missions Sunday, which is October 4 this year. It is not too late to tell your church leaders about this special day of prayer, and encourage their participation.

The 10/40 Window is located from 10 degrees north to 40 degrees north of the equator. There are 69 nations across Northern Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia in the 10/40 Window. More than four billion people live here, including 90 percent of the world’s poorest of the poor.

The 10/40 Window is often called “The Resistant Belt” and includes the majority of the world’s Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and Communist Governments. It is estimated that 1.6 billion of these people have never had the chance to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ – not even once!  (Source: win1040.com)

Since the 1990s this region of the world has been the focus of concentrated prayer – and we are now hearing wonderful reports of harvest in this part of the world.  For example, here is one encouraging report of what of how God is at work in India.

“The last decade has seen a great escalation of disciple making and church planting,” reports Dr. Victor Choudhrie leader of a church planting movement in that nation. What does he mean by “a great escalation”? Between Pentecost 2009 and Pentecost 2010, Choudhrie’s ministry saw one million baptisms. That’s a one followed by six zeros!

As is true of any revival or great awakening, this didn’t just happen. It was a sovereign work of the Holy Spirit ignited by the prayers of God’s people. “This was made possible because of an avalanche of prayer,” Dr. Choudhrie explains. “Both praying through the Spirit and praying through the mind. Holy Spirit-guided, informed strategy resulted in a huge harvest that we could not think or imagine.”

Theologian Karl Barth advised young theologians ‘to take your Bible and take your newspaper, and read both. But interpret newspapers from your Bible.’ In previewing the items of concern for this year’s Praying Through the Window, I was encouraged how the promoters blend current events with and a biblical view of God’s desired future. You will be encouraged to read how God is at work in the 10/40 Window — And you can partner with those on the front lines through prayer.

Click here to pray specifically for these Global Issues

  • Global Terrorism
  • World Religions
  • Corruption
  • Lawlessness
  • Persecution

Click here for daily prayer points for the 69 Counties

Your prayers can make a difference. “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” (James 5:16 NIV)

21 Days of Prayer for Global Harvest, September 27-October 17, 2015

The  21 DAYS FOR GLOBAL HARVEST prayer focus, promoted by the Student Volunteer Movement 2, happens September 27 – October 17, 2015.

During these three weeks, individuals, small groups and local congregations in many other settings around the world will  earnestly seek God’s face in prayer for a spiritual awakening and global harvest. You and your group or ministry can be a part of this movement. Register and receive a Prayer Guide (are available in English, Spanish and French and Chinese only Registering).

Click Here to REGISTER!

You can also help spread the word about the upcoming 21 Days. Spread the word through social media and invite all your friends to join you in prayer.

To learn more about the 21 Days for Global Harvest visit 21daysofprayer.net.

Discerning Where God is at Work

How do we recognize where God is at work? This is a pertinent question for mission work. Henry Blackabee first turned me on to this line of inquiry in his book Experiencing God, when he identified the key to experiencing God as “Watch to see where God is working and join Him” (p. 15). Hey, I want to experience God. But how do I figure out where He is at work?  That seems easier said than done.

Earlier this year the mission organization I serve with, One Challenge International, adopted a new strategy statement that says, “We ask how God is at work, then assist the body of Christ to bring God’s transformation to lives, communities and nations.” This comes at our question from another angle and adds the “how” element to our question. So what guidelines might we use to recognize how and where God is at work?

I believe that Scripture provides with a framework that enables us to discern how and where God is at work. To start off, let’s look at Matthew 16:13-18 (NIV)

13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”
14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
15 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven.
18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.

In this passage, Jesus reveals two indicators of God’s work.

First, Jesus declares that God the Father reveals to people that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God (see verse 17).  In the church where I grew up, this passage was often referred to as “Peter’s Great Confession,” and I was taught that confession leads to conversion or salvation (as per Romans 10:9-10 NASB: “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.”) Much later I observed that God the Father is directly involved in bring about people’s confession or conversion. You might guess that I did not grow up in a church in the Reformed tradition!

Other passages in the Gospels also reveal that the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are involved in the conversion process.  For example Jesus says, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day” (John 6:44 NIV).  Matthew and Luke record Jesus’ words where he claims “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him”  (Matt. 11:27 and Luke 10:22, NIV translation).  In John 16:7-11 Jesus speaks about the convicting work of the Holy Spirit.

Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.  (NIV)

As we turn to the Book of Acts, we find that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are active in conversion process. For example, Acts 2:47 says, “And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”  The account of Saul’s conversion in Acts 9, which Saul, aka Paul, retells in Acts 22 and 26, highlights Jesus’ direct involvement. Acts 10 highlights divine intervention in the conversion of Cornelius and his household, specifically an angel, visions and voices from the Lord and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Lydia’s conversion, mentioned in Acts 16:14, indicates “The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message” (NIV). So we find continuity between what is promised in the Gospels and what happened in the history of the early Church as recorded in Acts. God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit are all involved in the conversion process.

I’ve digressed a bit, wanting to broaden our understanding of the divine work involved in conversion. So let’s turn to Matthew 16:18 where Jesus reveals a second indicator of God’s work.

And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. (Emphasis added)

Here, Jesus states that he will build his Church. Tom Julien, in his excellent book, Antioch Revisited, calls this passage Jesus’ “Great Prediction” (p. 91). I usually refer to this as Jesus’ Great Promise.  Either way, it describes Jesus’s ongoing work: He is building his Church.  Note that Jesus did not say, “Peter, you will build my church” or “my disciples will build the Church”. Jesus said He himself would build his Church. So practically speaking, when we see the Church growing, either in number or holiness or by geographical dispersion, these are a good indication that Jesus is involved.

Conversions and Churches – Signs of God’s Work

We have made two discoveries from Matthew 16:13-18 that help us discern how and where God is at work. Conversions: when we see people confessing that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, this is a sign that God is at work. Churches: new churches and healthy, growing congregations are signs that God is at work.

Since the early 1980s, I’ve tracked the numbers of baptisms and new church starts, first for a local church, later for a whole nation, and now for the mission agency I serve. I started to track these numbers because are the clearest measures for the growth and health of the Church. Much later I realized that these measures not only track the growth of the Church, but also point to God’s modern day work. Every conversion, every new church has divine fingerprints upon it.

So in order to “see” where and how God is at work today, there are two items to keep our eyes open for: conversions and new churches.  With that in mind, where do you see God at work today?

Granted other “unspiritual” factors can be involved in conversions or church growth, but that may be a topic for another day. But I do have in mind several other indicators that point to God’s modern day work. And if the Lord grants me opportunity, I intend to write about these in the future.