Editor’s note: Last names have been omitted for reasons relating to security.
A team of three South Carolina Baptist pastors returned Feb. 10 from Taiwan, where they led an eight-day relational discipleship training for native pastors. With the help of translators, the team trained 61 people from 14 churches using Immersion materials.
It is the third trip initiated through the South Carolina Baptist Convention to the country, where the International Mission Board is working with pastors in Taiwan to increase gospel sharing, discipleship and missions.
“Our purpose is to help churches fulfill the Great Commission. It is the church who sends. We helped make the connection, pointed out the need, and prepared the team to go. Their churches sent them by praying for them, supporting them, and will hopefully go with them next time,” said Tim R., SCBC missions mobilization team leader.
The team included associate pastor Patrick R. and pastor Woody O., both of Harmony Church in Edgemoor, and pastor James P., pastor of Open Arms Fellowship in Hampton. In 2016, Patrick traveled with the SCBC to three Taiwanese cities to scout needs and meet with potential partner churches for future trips. He said that less than 4 percent of Taiwan’s population of around 25 million is evangelical Christian and describes the culture as being driven by success and materialism.
“It is great to see God start to open hearts there for discipleship and to then go and speak into the lives of the people they work and go to school with,” said Patrick, who served as trip team leader.
The team’s work came about through partnership efforts between the SCBC, Chinese Baptist Convention, and IMB personnel in Taiwan, who coordinated the training schedule, invited local pastors, and provided translators. The team led one-day Immersion experiences in each of the three cities, with the goal of introducing relational discipleship tools to the pastors. Each event had large-group presentations of big ideas, then small-group time to work through details and definitions and to allow for more personal interactions.
“We talked about what a disciple is, the biblical foundation for relationships, and how Christ set the example of discipleship in the ways that He reached out to people and poured into the disciples. When we asked the pastors questions in small groups, their responses were similar to responses we hear in South Carolina,” said Patrick.
Woody said he was drawn to one pastor in particular during the training. The pastor had a heart for reaching the lost beyond his own territory and to plant a church where one was needed. The team visited his church, and Woody preached to his congregation.
“I saw God working through this pastor. His city is like a kernel of popcorn ready to burst open, and this pastor just needs help. It would be a great place for our church to partner with and provide some help to this pastor,” said Woody.
Open Arms Fellowship is a missions-minded church, and James participated in the trip to explore a partnership opportunity in Taiwan. He is also involved in relational discipleship through several regular community groups.
“Relational discipleship models what Jesus did. It changed my life, and I hope it will change some others. In Taiwan, the biggest challenge was [in] communicating and how some euphemisms were lost in translation. Cross-cultural discipleship made me stop and think and be more intentional about how I was communicating and working with the translators,” James said.
Patrick said the pastors of Baptist churches in Taiwan are aging, and they struggle to bring in new people mostly because they lack discipleship skills. “The pastors there are desperate to reach their communities. But they haven’t been discipled and don’t know how to disciple their people. The desire is there, but they don’t have that framework,” he said.
“These pastors are doing church in the old model and aren’t getting traction in reaching the lost and sharing the gospel. It’s not unlike our older churches here in America, so it was neat to see that maybe we can help them move forward a little bit,” said Woody.
According to James, discouragement was a common theme shared at the Immersion experiences, but, by the end of each training, he saw God at work providing encouragement to many pastors. “We were able to see a few respond as if they had a new tool to use, which was exciting and made us realize we can make a difference,” he said.
Efforts to make a difference by sharing the hope of the gospel in Taiwan will continue through future trips, with the next one slated for April. A team of SCBC staff and pastors will return to the same three cities and plan to complete the remaining Immersion training materials with pastors there.
Tim R. said the February team was a perfect fit for the mission. “Knowing that Baptist churches in Taiwan wanted to experience relational discipleship, it just made sense to send SCBC pastors who could demonstrate it effectively. That is why we sent James, Woody and Patrick.”
Information about future Taiwan mission trips or partnership opportunities may be found online at www.scbaptist.org/missions.
— Julia Bell writes for the South Carolina Baptist Convention.