Tag Archives: church planting

Farewell, My Darling

As the lyrics of “A Summer Song” go, “They say that all good things must end some day; Autumn leaves must fall.” So our 4 weeks of STM came to an end. We did some ministry, got re-acquainted with some friends, made several new ones, and learned a few things. What’s most gratifying to see is how the Lord’s work here had grown – a new church had been planted, over 15 in Grace Meal had been baptized, campus ministries got started, children’s work had grown etc., and kids we met last time now become teacher’s helpers! How fast time flies, especially when you’re having a good time. Here are a few farewell photos. What remains is one week on our own touring Taipei, as we’ve never really seen Taiwan after visiting 3 trips and living here for over 18 weeks. I suppose we will return to assist wherever needed, but until next time, “Farewell, My Dalin”!

Dalin (大林)

Dalin (大林)

Dalin, also affectionately called "Darling"

Dalin, also affectionately called “Darling”

Saying goodbye to 2 of the "little teachers". When we first met them 2 years ago they were still in elementary school!

Saying goodbye to 2 of the “little teachers”. When we first met them 2 years ago they were still in elementary school!

"Last supper" with some colleagues

“Last supper” with some colleagues

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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?

Let there be Light

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I just finished reading “Let there be Light – A history of SEND International in Taiwan” by Roland Friesen. The author was the former Taiwan Area Director from 1981 to 1993, and very honest in depicting both the success and failures in the field. Since we came back from two short-term mission trips to Taiwan last year, it helped to put everything in perspective. As Friesen himself said, “unless a person knows from where he came he most likely won’t know where he should be going“.

For us, who just completed a consulting assignment to help put their ministry handbook together, it was especially interesting to see how the current mission, vision and strategies developed. For example, prior to Far Eastern Gospel Crusade (FEGC, as SEND International was called before 1981) entering Taiwan, the 1965 feasibility survey identified that:
1. The Taiwanese (Fujianese) and Hakka should be the target groups.
2. FEGC should concentrate on evangelism and church planting.
3. FEGC should not start a new association of churches.
4. FEGC should relate closely to an existing evangelical group of churches
.
Then, in 1980, the mission’s statement of objectives added, “Do evangelism through like-minded churches where they exist … We will seek to relate the churches we start to other like-minded evangelical churches.”

The current mission statement is as follows: The Mission of SEND International in Taiwan is to glorify God by partnering with like-minded believers to establish reproducing churches among the least reached Hakka, Hokklo, and Asian Expatriates.

The Hokklo or Hoklo is the same as Hokkien or Fujian. Asian expatriates were added later because of the high immigration of foreign brides for Taiwanese men, as well as foreign workers for factories and care-givers for seniors and children. Ministry to Asian expatriates is an effective means to the end of establishing Hakka and Hokklo churches. The definition of like-minded partners has broadened from specific named denominations and independent churches who had chosen to work with SEND, to those whose passion is to see the completion of Vision 119 (calling 119 workers to plant 60 churches along old Route 1 and Route 19 in Taiwan), and agree to SEND Taiwan’s vision, mission, and values. So while there is fine-tuning because of changing circumstances, and struggles due to limited resources, disunity and human frailty, the mission stayed the same, and form follows function, as it should.

In contrast, here in Toronto I see some churches losing sight of their mission, even though they have adequate human and financial resources. Sadly, some are caught up with internal “politics”, with different departments jockeying for power and defending their “turf”. They place a low priority on the Lord’s Great Commission to make disciples of all nations, and shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces, not letting those who are trying to enter come in (Mt 23:13-14). The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers (2 Co 4:4), but sometimes he blinded the minds of believers too, so they are doing the enemy’s work instead of the Lord’s work. May the people living in darkness see the great light (Mt 4:16).

Mission Accomplished

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Two months ago we were facing a daunting task of trying to take on two assignments concurrently. The first one consisted of writing a ministry manual for the Taiwan field of a mission organization. An administration manual already exists, but there was no counterpart for the ministry side. Since we felt input from all personnel to be necessary for the end product to be widely accepted, as a starting point we interviewed all church-planters and supporting staff, with open-ended questions to solicit opinion on how things are done currently, and how they can be improved.

Twenty-one interviews were conducted with 23 people over a 3-week period, with each interview lasting an average of 3 hours. We consolidated and analyzed the results, then wrote a summary report of the current status of operating procedures. We then consulted friends at other mission agencies to see how others have approached the same subject, and finally compiled a handbook of processes taking into account current procedures as well as ideas from external sources.

The second job was to substitute for a missionary couple while they go on home service. They are veteran church planters who had planted several churches before, and had just moved into a new area to start a church plant. Since half of our time is already tied up with the ministry handbook project, we were only able to maintain the outreach projects they have started, but unable to develop new contacts due to time constraint. The initiatives to connect with the community include a Virtues English class for grades 4 to 6, a community English class with two levels (phonetics for beginners, and conversation for more advanced students), and personal evangelism and follow-up for those interested to know more about the gospel. Other activities include assisting in a youth fellowship, in Sunday worship, and another English class in an elementary school.

So every week we spend Monday to Thursday in Taichung conducting interviews and writing the ministry handbook, then drive to Dalin/Minxiong about 100 km away and spend Friday to Sunday acting as substitute missionaries to maintain the programs already underway.

By the grace of God, what seemed like an impossible mission was finally completed on time and within budget (i.e. the funds we raised for this STM). We submitted the draft interview summary report and the ministry handbook three days before our scheduled departure, and maintained the programs with favorable feedback from the parents as well as from the adults we followed up. The only thing left is to wait for the review of the draft reports by the leadership team and update anything that needs revision. We also have a standing invitation to return to conduct other projects. None of these is our own doing, for we know too well that we could not have accomplished this on our own. We thank the Lord for His enabling and our sponsors for supporting us in prayer and financially. What a privilege it is to serve the Lord in missions!

Table of Contents of Member Survey:
Member Survey Table of Contents

Table of Contents of Ministry Manual:
Ministry Handbook Table of Contents

Attitude, Aptitude. Altitude

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One of our missionary friends shared with us how he learned Mandarin and Taiwanese. His original ambition was to become a doctor. To enter medical school in the US, one has to pass the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) first. He wrote the test, but the score was not good enough. So he waited and wrote again, but the results were still not satisfactory. So in the mean time he entered graduate school, wrote the test a third time, but didn’t make it. He studied hard and tried once more, but got exactly the same score! Perhaps God was telling him something by closing the door. So he switched to missions, which he loved but the medical profession was in the way. God has a way of reordering our priorities.

He and his young family came to Taiwan almost twenty years ago, sight unseen. They had not been here before on a STM trip, rarely tried Chinese food in the US, then dived into one of the hardest languages for foreigners – Chinese. That took a lot of faith. His wife studied Spanish and French in college and scored a high 95 percentile in the language aptitude test, but his score was average at 55 percentile. He would practice and practice to master the pronunciation, but his teachers told him (later) that they hated teaching him Chinese, because he could not hear the differences in the tones and never got it right. But he persisted.

However, in addition to his language challenge, he fell very sick and had to be hospitalized. As if that wasn’t enough, he developed meningitis to add to his woes. He stayed in the hospital for several weeks, but something happened after he recovered. He can differentiate between the tones and can speak proper Mandarin! It’s as if God was telling him that He will enable him to do what He sent him to do. Aptitude is good, but attitude is better. Now he preaches in Mandarin and can speak Taiwanese. It’s not your aptitude but your attitude that determines your altitude. Trust in God’s grace and enabling. He will see you through.

First Fruits

This man is 93 years old. His daughters witnessed his baptism and wished to be baptized too.

This man is 93 years old. His daughters witnessed his baptism and wished to be baptized too.

It is barely a year since the food distribution program “Grace Meal” was launched, but the sponsors were able to see the first harvest and give praise to God. Two believers, both Grace Meal recipients, were baptized last week. Another volunteer will be baptized next Sunday. It was a triple win for the community, for Concordia School, and for Double Blessing Church, but above all it glorified God.

First, over 80 people were supplied with food 7 days a week, year round. On weekdays they receive boxed lunch and dinner consisting of cafeteria food from Concordia. On weekends they get good quality bread and cakes donated by two local bakeries. Their physical needs were met. Secondly, the school won the provincial first prize in social action, as students, teachers and parents were mobilized to be volunteers. The community united together to tackle a social problem, and won.

Third, the church was challenged to provide for the needy in their neighborhood. Their original mission was to reach the university students and educated middle class. They expanded their vision to include the needy, and are preparing to plant a church for this new group. They rose to the challenge and stepped out of their comfort zone.

But behind all these activities of connecting with the community to meet their needs, the neighbors are taking notice that these Christians mean what they say and have the action to back it up. To-date 246 people have prayed to receive Jesus as their Savior. The background of the recipients is complicated, but they have been channeled into cells to study and serve together. The first three “new grapes” are baptized this month. More will follow. Some are being discipled to become leaders. When will a church be established? Only the Lord knows. But it’s all because of grace, without which none of this would have happened. Praise and thanks be to God.

He is in his 70's. He cried when we brought him bread. Rejected by his family but accepted by God.

He is in his 70’s. He cried when we brought him bread. Rejected by his family but accepted by God.

Church Planting

church planting 3

I recall one church member asking me, “Why do you believe in church planting? Isn’t it better for the church to just grow bigger, with more manpower and resources, than to divide the church and split our limited resources?” Good question! Why bother?

First of all, let me clarify by what I don’t mean. Some churches are started when there are factions within a church, and members can’t get along with each other. Sometimes it’s over legitimate doctrinal issues, but often it’s over personal differences. So some group decides to break away and start their own church. That’s a church split and a transplant of the splinter group, not a church plant. By church plant I mean starting a new church to win people to Christ, and could be in an area with few Christians and few churches, or targeted at a people group that’s unreached,

Now why? Because it’s what the Lord commanded. Mt 28:19-20 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. The Great Commission is to make disciples. These disciples are not to be loners, but through baptism incorporated into churches where they could be taught to obey everything the Lord commanded. So the Great Commission implies planting churches.

Secondly, the scope of the Great Commission is “all nations”, or ALL people groups. That’s a huge assignment. What’s the best way to go about it? You can’t accomplish that in your life time, or even several. I’ve been in business 32 years prior to entering ministry full-time, and the key to achieving such long-range objectives is to train your successors who in turn will train their successors to continue the effort until the task is finished. Individuals can’t do it by themselves. You need churches, the combined effort of God’s people with diverse gifts and abilities, but unified to get the job done. And not just churches, but reproducing churches, so that generation after generation of disciples can be mobilized in fulfilling this global command. Hence church planting.

If the Lord’s command is not sufficient for you, nothing else would be, so I’ll stop here.

SEND’s International Director explains church-planting:

Church planting movement:

Your Mission, should you choose to accept it …

mission impossible 5

standard operating procedures 1

Some supporters asked us what is the difference between our current mission trip to Taiwan and the last one. The differences are huge. The last one was a vision trip, to open our eyes to the needs in the field and to acquaint ourselves with the ministry of all the field missionaries. It gave us a taste of what life in the mission field is like, and possibly to identify where we might fit in. We got to know all the field and support workers, and made some good friends while learning what God is doing in this part of His kingdom. It also enabled them to get to know us, and to call on us where they feel we can be of help.

This one is a mission trip, consisting of two components. Part one is internal. The mission agency in the area is undergoing reorganization, with a newly appointed ministry director (MD). While the area’s administrative policies and procedures are well documented, the ministry side still awaits compilation. Accordingly the MD retained us as consultants to assist in collecting the processes and best practices in the following areas:

1. Receiving new missionaries
2. Orienting new missionaries
3. Language and orientation process for first term missionaries
4. Giving assignments to missionaries
5. Home service procedure
6. Choosing and starting ministry areas
7. Forming ministry teams
8. Appointing team leaders
9. Church planting process
10. Church planting closure
11. Partnership with local partner/church
12. Partnership with other missions
13. Receiving short-term mission teams
14. Starting and doing expatriate ministry

As you can see, the subjects start with receiving and orienting new missionaries, and end chronologically with church planting closure, supplemented by auxiliary topics like forming partnerships and doing expatriate ministry. Some subjects, like church planting process, are so big that whole books have been written on them and just scratched the surface. Plus the available time for the assignment is short. Although we have been consultants or used consultant services for over two decades, it reminds us of the series “Mission Impossible”!

To keep the assignment manageable, we have elected to interview all relevant personnel to gather their insights and ideas on the topics. At the same time, we contacted the mission executives of other agencies we know to solicit their advice on the different areas. Hopefully between these internal and external sources, we can gather together all the processes and procedures that will help leadership and the members make important ministry decisions.

That’s part 1, but there is a second component which I will post tomorrow.

(To be continued)

Coming “Home”

Although our hotel in Hong Kong was new and contemporary, it did not feel like “home” as we were living out of our suitcases. However, when we arrived in our Taichung mission house, we felt like we have finally reached “home” as we can put our belongings in drawers and hang up our clothes. A house is not a home until you feel you belong there.

Beautiful shrubs in the mission house courtyard:
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Our favorite fruit stand just around the corner. We arrived during Mid-Autumn Festival when the pomelo is in season. Here they sell for 7 for NT$100, about C$3.50, or C$0.50 each!
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We will spend part of our stay at our missionary hosts’ home in Dalin, a little over an hour’s drive south of Taichung. Their house is 3 steps above street level (over 1 ft.), but still their G/F got flooded to a depth of 4″ during Typhoon Kong-Rey! Good thing Typhoon Usagi did not hit directly.
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Lunch with the principal and teachers from a local high school to establish contact, with a view of starting English classes using the Bible as curriculum to reach the students.
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Virtues English class to reach primary school students and their families.
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Community English class as another means to reach adults and students.
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Sunday worship to nurture believers.
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Church-planting involves a lot of pre-evangelism to establish connections – bridge-building to earn the right to share the gospel. If you are not prepared to serve the whole person, they will not grant you an opportunity to share the good news. Sharing and caring go hand-in-hand.

Church-Planting Workshop

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We were very glad to be invited to join a workshop hosted by the mission agency for all her workers, on the development phases of church-planting (CP). There were 13 career missionary participants in 6 CP teams, who used the book “Global Church Planting” by Craig Ott and Gene Wilson (Baker) as a frame of reference. Each team compared their current experience to the biblical principles and best practices cited in the book, to gain insight into how they can improve their strategy and implementation.

Since it was only a half-day workshop, they were able to cover only the following:
1. Before Launching
a. Targeting and Commissioning
b. Understanding and Strategizing
2. Launching – Evangelizing and Discipleship
3. Establishing – Congregating and Maturing
Each team charted their progress using metrics given in the book, and it was very exciting to see milestones accomplished and yet to be achieved.

Discussion of the last two phases:
4. Structuring – Expanding and Empowering, and
5. Reproducing – Strengthening and Sending
will have to wait till next time, due to time limitations.

Essentially we got a glimpse of CP as insiders, from the ground up, something money can’t buy. It was like being in the “Situation Room” observing as the event unfolds. We were very thankful for the valuable insights shared, and got an appreciation of the hard work and challenges involved in CP. Thank God for church-planters on the front-line waging spiritual warfare on enemy territory. They liberate captives for Christ to advance His Kingdom, and are worthy of your support. Pray for them and supply their needs. It’s one of the best investments you can make.