Category Archives: Church

Rayliu1

Pastor Ray’s blog Raykliu is continued in Rayliu1.

Please go to http://rayliu1.wordpress.com/ for future posts.Pastor Ray’s blog

A Tale of Two Churches

After our prayer walk we visited two churches in Beigang, a dark place where Satan has a stronghold. The first church is independent and established about 15 years ago to serve the poor. As part of its outreach she provides tutoring for primary students, run by church members.

Tutoring elementary school students

Tutoring elementary school students

The church is housed in an industrial/warehouse building made of corrugated steel, which gets very hot under the summer sun. Since the church cannot afford air conditioning, she sprayed water onto the roof so that as the water evaporates, it cools down the building. The excess water runs down the side of the building and over time caused the “bleeding”, brownish stain on the walls.

Corrugated steel building

Corrugated steel building

The second church is a new church plant soon to be opened. It is located right across the street from a middle school, and also plans to offer tutoring as a service to the middle class neighborhood. The building is donated by a doctor, and renovated to become a church.

Building donated by doctor converted to church

Building donated by doctor converted to church

Taiwan churches are typically small, with a congregation of under 50, and can be housed in residential buildings shaped like match boxes. The ground floor serves as the sanctuary for worship.

Main floor to serve as sanctuary

Main floor to serve as sanctuary

The second floor bedrooms are converted into classrooms, and a large open area serves as a multi-purpose room for fellowship or large classes.

Second floor as fellowship hall and classrooms

Second floor as fellowship hall and classrooms

The enemy tried to stall the opening of this church for over two years by causing various troubles for the pastor and his wife, including physical ailments and lawsuits. All missionaries and pastors working in such dark places need your prayers. They are on the front line of intense spiritual battles. Pray whenever you can to support God’s servants.

Church Planting Plan

We did a number of projects during this STM, including conducting workshops, preaching, teaching Sunday school, visitation, helping a missionary with his computer challenges etc. One of the assignments involved reviewing a church-planting team’s budget, which evolved into an examination of the team’s plans. A budget is an itemized allotment of funds, and reflects how the team plans to spend its money to achieve its goals. For a church-planting team, the ultimate goal is the establishment of a reproducing church. From a zero-based budgeting perspective, this immediately raises the question of whether each proposed expenditure is justified in the light of this objective.

For instance, some activities may be aimed at attracting the unchurched (the community) so that they might become regular church attenders (the crowd). [Refer Saddleback’s 5 different groups of people.] However, if the unchurched are outside of the church plant’s normal commuting distance and unlikely to attend the church, then programs targeted at attracting them may not be justified.

Saddleback Church's 5 different groups of people

Saddleback Church’s 5 different groups of people

Since a church is people, one of the first questions is “who is the target group?”. In analyzing the programs being offered by the team, it turned out that our team members are targeting four distinct target groups:
1 The poor,
2 University students,
3 Children, and through them the parents,
4 Families.

Reviewing church-planting strategy

Reviewing church-planting strategy

Each group has its unique characteristics, and a church based on that group would be very different from churches built on other groups. For example, the poor would form a grass roots church, at the opposite end of the spectrum from a church comprised of highly educated university/graduate students. Besides the education level, much of a campus church’s congregation might have a short tenure of a few years before they graduate and move on, which is different from a more stable church based on traditional families. One cannot form a church of children alone, you need to get to the parents, which is less direct and involves more time and effort.

"Happy Family Filling Stations" as building blocks for church plants

“Happy Family Filling Stations” as building blocks for church plants

And the team’s vision is much bigger than planting a single church in a town. Vision 119 calls for recruiting 119 workers to plant 60 churches in 60 towns along Routes 1 and 19, the least reached areas in Taiwan. Each of these towns consists of a dozen or so districts, totaling over 750 districts for all the towns. What the team had dreamed about was establishing a fellowship cell in each district. These cells would form the building blocks for a cell church in that town that comes together each Lord’s Day for worship and instruction, then scattered the rest of the week for service and witness. The cells are the spokes feeding into the hub, the cell church, and these churches would form a loose network spreading throughout western Taiwan. This dream is much bigger than what the team can do on its own, and requires much prayer, enlisting more workers, and having a detailed plan with milestones and deadlines. We need right brain visionaries and left brain planners to work together to realize this vision. Has the Lord called you lately?

Experiencing Missionary Life

Visiting the sick in a nursing home

Visiting the sick in a nursing home

This is not the norm for most missionaries, or even the pattern for many, but it is a realistic depiction of a typical day in the life of a church-planting missionary. The work week starts early with team bible study and prayer meeting at church at 7:15 am, Tuesday to Friday. Then, depending on the day of the week, our hosts will be engaged in various ministries targeted at:

* seniors (community fellowship; temple outreach),
* adults (worship, fellowship; one-on-one discipleship),
* junior highs (tutorial class), and
* elementary school children (English class; WHIZ Kids Sunday school).

Encouraging young Christian to do daily devotion

Encouraging young Christian to do daily devotion

If there are no programs, they would visit neighbors or shut-ins, or invite neighbors to come to their home for bible study. Breakfast and lunch consist of drinking fruits and vegetables extract health supplements. Their front and back doors are not locked, and neighbors often drop in unannounced. This has pros and cons. The good thing is that it showed that they are on good terms with their neighbors, or else they would not bother dropping in. The disadvantage is that the day is often interrupted and long, as people may drop in late evening and stay to chat.

What we admire about our missionary friends the most is how naturally they turn any conversation into spiritual subjects. Perhaps people in rural settings are less guarded, which makes it a little easier, but I think it has more to do with their being gifted as evangelists. Above all, it has to do with the heart. If you are focused on winning the lost for Christ, you will find a way. Hope you and I can do the same.

Giving examples of discipline methods in parenting workshop

Giving examples of discipline methods in parenting workshop

Second Parenting Workshop:

Telling Bible Stories in WHIZ kids Sunday School:

Mobilizing Workers and Supporters

We met with a group of pastors and deacons who visited with our mobilizer in Hong Kong. This is an important part of the ministry to raise awareness, support (prayer, STM teams, financial) and recruit new workers to the harvest field. Sometimes people have an erroneous idea that Taiwan is “reached” and have no need for workers. That is true only for the Mandarin speaking in large cities, but not for the Taiwanese and Hakka speaking in small towns and villages. Vision 119 is targeted to meet that need.

Giving orientation to ST trip members from Hong Kong

Giving orientation to ST trip members from Hong Kong

In front of Dalin Good Neighbor Caring Center

In front of Dalin Good Neighbor Caring Center

Sharing Grace Meal at old building of Double Blessing Lutheran Church, our mission partner.

Sharing Grace Meal at old building of Double Blessing Lutheran Church, our mission partner.

We also visited the new building of our church-planting partner. Double Blessing Lutheran Church is the parent of the daughter church based on grace meal. For the new church plant to be a thriving, reproducing church, it is very important that we have local ministry partners who assume responsibility of the ministry when the missionaries finish their task and move onto another field.

New building of Double Blessing Lutheran Church, with a seating capacity of 250 people.

New building of Double Blessing Lutheran Church, with a seating capacity of 250 people.

Sanctuary of new church, still under construction.

Sanctuary of new church, still under construction.

Children and Campus Ministries

(Continued from yesterday)

Yesterday we posted videos/photos for adult ministries; today we continue with children and campus ministries:

WHIZ (Wise, Happy, Intelligent, Zealous) kids Sunday School:

Teaching second graders English.

Teaching English in elementary school.

Teaching English in elementary school.

Alphabet song:

One thing very helpful about schools in Taiwan is that they are open to religious groups (Christian, Buddhist or other) who offer to help in teaching English, virtues or other subjects, both during regular class time or after school. If Evangelicals don’t seize the opportunity, cults and other religions will. We hope to reach the family through the children.

As to campus ministry, Taiwan has 111 universities and colleges spread across the island, so student ministry is very important in reaching the educated. Here we visited two out of five universities in Chiayi county:
1. National Chung Cheng University (ranked #13),
2. National Chiayi University (#38),
3. Wufeng University (#39),
4. Tatung Institute of Commerce and Technology (#73), and
5. Nanhua University (#75).

Wufeng University with 6000 students

Wufeng University with 6000 students

Chung Cheng University has close to 12,000 students. We visited a professor who was one of the organizers of the Christian fellowship. He estimated Christians comprised about 3% of the student body, higher than the percentage in Minxiong where the university is located.

Visiting an Associate Professor at National Chung Cheng University. Besides supervising grad students, he teaches an interesting course on Jewish Customs and Life Sciences based on the OT.

Visiting an Associate Professor at National Chung Cheng University. Besides supervising grad students, he teaches an interesting course on Jewish Customs and Life Sciences based on the OT.

Doing bible study with graduate students

Doing bible study with graduate students

Adult Ministries

We assisted in the outreach activities started by our host missionaries. Some are targeted at adults e.g. temple outreach, seniors ministry, parenting workshop, tract distribution etc. Others are aimed at youth and children e.g. university fellowship, high school and elementary school English class, WHIZ kids (Awana Club style Sunday school) etc. Here are a few videos/photos of adult ministries:

Conversing with a Taiwanese lady at the temple health clinic:

Friday Fellowship

Friday Fellowship

Meeting with the first person we led to the Lord during our last Taiwan STM.

Meeting with the first person we led to the Lord during our last Taiwan STM.

Our first Parenting Workshop

Our first Parenting Workshop

Worship on Sunday afternoon

Worship on Sunday afternoon

Distributing flyers in night market

Distributing flyers in night market

Doing exercises with Taiwanese-speaking residents in “Golden World” community before sharing testimony and bible stories:

God’s Guidance

God's guidance 1

Sometimes things are so remarkable that you just know God must be directing everything behind the scenes. When our missionary friends returned to Taiwan after a year of home service (furlough), they started looking for a place to plant a church among the Hakka people. The Hakka is an unreached people group (0.6% Christian) concentrated in several counties where there are few or no churches, so it wasn’t hard to identify the towns with the needs. However, receptivity and finding a specific, suitable site is.

They had three objectives:
1. Find a place to live, which doubles up as the home base for a church;
2. Find ministry partners, as there is no way one couple can do everything themselves;
3. Find a means to reach out to the community.

Mission policy does not allow missionaries to purchase their home on the field. However, there are few rental properties on the market as generally Hakka folks prefer home ownership rather than renting. Furthermore, they prefer word-of-mouth publicity over advertising. The few houses that are listed are usually those that are so dilapidated that the owners have to resort to their least preferred method to lease them out. For several months our friends looked at what’s available. Some have worn electrical wiring that is like “live” wire dangling from the ceiling. Another has only one bathroom in the entire building, an “out-house” on a balcony, without heating! They just couldn’t bring themselves to sign a lease.

Re volunteer workers, they have to train local believers to help with the ministry, and to pick up the baton from them. A colleague referred them to a Taiwanese pastor who has a heart for reaching the Hakka like they do. He had gathered the few Christians he could find and started a bible study/prayer group with them. One couple is in restaurant workers ministry. Several are retired teachers. Our friends linked up with this group and soon many became their core volunteers.

With respect to community outreach, teaching English is a proven method for foreign missionaries to connect with the local people. But instead of a traditional ESL (English as a Second Language) class, they started a class to train the teachers to teach English. And suddenly everything fell into place.

At the first English class, a security guard for a school showed up. He “happened” to be a former student of one of our friend’s retired teacher volunteers. Hakkas respect teachers highly. Since our friend teaches the teachers English, she is held in even higher regard. He also “happened” to own a rental house that was available. It sits right next to a tomb, which might explain why it’s vacant, as superstitious Chinese would find it “unlucky”. But to our friends, it meant only that they have a neighbor who never complains. When the owner heard that his former teacher’s teacher was looking for a house, he offered to repaint the interior and lease them the house, at one-third discount!

In one move they have a home, ministry partners, and a bridge to reach the community. The work started well and in one year they have 3 people baptized, plus 3 who came to faith in Christ when they attended the baptism ceremony. Coincidence? No, Providence! When God moves, things happen. But you have to be involved to be a part of it.

Are House Churches Biblical?

house church 3

Q. My pastor has reservations against house churches because he said they are not biblical. He believes they should join a more formally organized church. What do you think?

A. House churches are biblical:

Rom 16:5 also greet the church that is in their (Prisca and Aquila) house.
• 1 Co 16:19 The churches of Asia greet you. Aquila and Prisca greet you heartily in the Lord, with the church that is in their house.
• Col 4:15 Greet the brethren who are in Laodicea and also Nympha and the church that is in her house.
• Phil 1:2 and to Apphia our sister, and to Archippus our fellow soldier, and to the church in your (Philemon) house

At least 3 house churches are mentioned by name in the NT. In the early church, when Christians were persecuted, there were no institutional church as we know it. Christians gather at the temple or house to house (Acts 2:46), or at the synagogues. The church as an institution comes later when Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire. Even now, in many restricted access countries, churches exist as house churches. To say that house churches are not biblical is narrow North American thinking. The Church is people, not an organization or building.

Are Pentecostals a Cult?

Pentecostalism

Q. Should I warn people against going to Pentecostal churches? I know that Pentecostal is a cult. Can these church goers still claim salvation if they don’t partake in speaking in tongues and faith healing?
In your experience, is distributing Christian tracts a waste of time?

A. It depends on which branch of Pentecostal churches you’re referring to. There are about 740 known Pentecostal denominations in the world, not counting independent churches not grouped as denominations. Of these, 630 denominations (85%) are considered evangelical, 30 (4%) as fringe, and 80 (11%) as cultic. We can’t generalize by looking at the minority and say all Pentecostals are cults.

Historically, Pentecostalism originated from the Holiness Movement at the beginning of the 20th Century. The doctrines were Wesleyan or Methodist, and the main denominations include the Church of God in Christ, the Church of God, Cleveland, and the International Pentecostal Holiness Church. A second branch developed from those with a Baptist background, and included the Assemblies of God, the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, and the Open Bible Churches. These two branches make up the evangelical arm above.

A third, smaller branch started in the UK, consisting of the Apostolic Church which some consider fringe, as they claim living apostles and prophets. Finally there is a fourth branch called Oneness Pentecostals which reject the Trinity and believes in Jesus’ Name only. They include the United Pentecostal Church and the Apostolic Pentecostal Church (not to be confused with Apostolic Church), and are considered cultic.

Can the church goers claim salvation if they don’t partake in speaking in tongues and faith healing? Of course they can. Salvation is granted by grace and received by faith in the finished work of Christ alone. It is never based on tongues or healing. Countless Christians trusted in Jesus Christ as their Lord & Savior and became children of God, but never spoke in tongues or had the gift of healing, or received it.

In my experience, distributing tracts is not the best evangelistic tool, but it is not a waste of time. We have seen seekers coming to faith in the Lord through reading tracts. I prefer doing evangelistic Bible study, or using Evangelism Explosion. or using the Gospel Bridge myself, but I distribute tracts too. God can and will use whatever means to bring people to Himself. Hope this helps.