Taiwan is a small but strategic island near the southeastern coast of China. Its people are mostly ethnic Chinese whose ancestors migrated at various times over the last 300 years.
The Taiwan of today is a wealthy, technologically advanced urban society. Most people live in one of Taiwan’s overcrowded cities. There is a small church established among Taiwan’s middle class which is increasingly affluent and cosmopolitan.
However, most of Taiwan’s people can be considered working class. They are labourers, drivers, shop-workers, farmers, hairdressers, and small-business owners. Although they may not be outwardly poor, they tend to be less educated and are often plagued by family and social problems. Taiwan has one of the highest divorce rates in Asia.
Those in the working class generally speak Taiwanese, in contrast to those with higher social status, who often favour Mandarin. The working class people are traditional in their approach to life, and most are entrenched in Chinese folk religions—a blend of Daoism, Buddhism, and Confucian thinking.
Taiwan’s 23 million people are extremely religious, worshipping a pantheon of gods, spirits, and ancestors. Only 2–3 percent know Jesus and worship the one true God. Less than 0.5 percent of Taiwan’s 16 million working class people are Christians. The rest are heavily bound by idolatry and superstition.
In south-central Taiwan, most townships (clusters of 15–20 villages with populations of about 25,000 people) have only one or two struggling churches—if they have any at all. Only 0.1 percent are believers. In scores of villages, you would be hard-pressed to find one Christian witness.
Taiwan has a much lower percentage of Christians than China does and a wide open door for gospel work, yet very few people are taking the opportunity to bring the good news to this massive group of unreached people—Taiwan’s 16 million working class.
OMF International missionaries are seeking to establish churches among the working class and to help start a church-planting movement that will sweep through Taiwan. We currently have church-planting teams in the Wanhua district of Taipei, in Taiping near Taichung, in Chiayi city and in the towns of Zhongput near Chiayi and in Donggang in the south. We plan to start teams in other unreached areas as God sends more workers.
In Taipei teams have planted “midnight” churches among service industry personnel (shop assistants, restaurant workers, and others) and hope to multiply this in other places.
Our other working class ministries include: outreach in the slums of Taipei; reaching poor and dysfunctional families; and caring for the homeless, prostitutes, AIDS sufferers, juvenile delinquents, and orphans.
It is exciting to see God at work, and yet there is so much more to be done. We are urgently praying for God to send us 5–10 new colleagues each year so that we can continue to consolidate existing ministries and expand into new areas.
Ministry to the working class is challenging, but greatly rewarding. We are looking for people who are passionate, adventurous, and creative. Smart, energetic people who can offer fresh perspectives. But most of all, people who love people.
We welcome those with a wide range of gifts and talents so that we can work together synergistically to build Christian communities among the working class. In the future, we hope to have a range of:
- Personal evangelists: People-people who can enter into the lives of the working class by simply spending time with them. There is a particular demand for male evangelists.
- Thinkers: Insightful people who can consider how to share the gospel and start churches which are both biblical and suited to the working-class world.
- Children’s workers: Workers gifted in ministering to kids and teenagers which often opens the door to sharing the gospel with working-class families.
- Student workers: Many university students come from working-class backgrounds. Student work can be a way to help them take the gospel back into their communities.
- Counsellors, social workers, musicians, etc.: Special gifts and training can be a great benefit in sharing the gospel holistically and practically.
- Working class church planting: Enthusiastic, creative people to form new teams in unreached townships. Teams need evangelists, disciplers, theologians, children and youth workers.
- Children and family outreach: After-school activities for at-risk kids. There are opportunities for ministry to both the kids and to their dysfunctional families—often victims of social injustice.
- Shop-worker outreach: Ministry to service industry workers takes place late at night after the stores and restaurants close. It needs people who can evangelize and disciple these people. This ministry has been very successful in Taipei, so we hope to duplicate it in other areas.
- Prostitute outreach: A new outreach to prostitutes needs female missionaries who can befriend hurting women and help them find freedom in the gospel.
- Missionary interns: Interns join our ministry teams for one to two years. We train them, incorporate them into our teams, and help them process long-term possibilities.
- Guest home hosts: A couple to manage Oasis, OMF International’s retreat centre. A place of spiritual renewal for many missionaries.
- Support staff: Teachers for missionaries’ children, finance, and media personnel.
- Pray for wisdom and guidance for leaders. Taiwan’s political future is a matter for intense political debate and international diplomacy.
- Pray for the removal of barriers preventing the growth of the church. Taiwan is the only major Chinese society where there has not been significant church growth this generation.
- Pray for a nationwide prayer movement to unite the church.
- Pray for a breakthrough among the working class. Taiwan’s Christians are generally highly educated and do not find it easy to reach out to their working-class neighbours.
- Pray for more missionaries to go to Taiwan and that those who are called may be encouraged and willing to stay.
- There is a lack of pastors and full-time workers. Many experienced pastors immigrate to Western nations. In small churches the congregation expect the pastor to do all the work.
- In big cities there are some large vibrant churches that are flourishing. Pray for relevant, spiritual training, and more effective lay training.
- The witness among students is encouraging and students are now permitted to form Christian groups in schools.
- Pray for an awakening of interest and commitment to pray and send out missionaries.
- Pray for sales of Christian literature in the secular book market.
- The creative use of video/DVD, music, the Internet, and other technology in evangelism.