Kevin is the pastor of the Taipei Shopworkers Church. He heads up a ministry that reaches a large segment of the population that is overlooked by many traditional churches. Service industry personnel work long hours, including on Sundays. Many have limited education and they often come from broken marriages and dysfunctional families. Kevin himself comes from such a background. But he came to faith through this ministry which was started by missionaries. He was also discipled and mentored by missionaries. And he is supported and encouraged by missionaries as he now leads the church. This is one example of the way missionaries partner with local Taiwanese believers and churches.
OMF missionaries in Taiwan do not serve as pastors or on the staff of established churches. We are generally in pioneering ministries, “outside” the church, in places where the church is absent or weak. We do not necessarily wait for the local church before beginning a ministry in a needy area. As missionaries we have the freedom to step out, take risks and try new things. Local pastors of established churches often do not have the time or permission to do this. So sometimes it looks like we are doing our own thing.
However, we do have a strong commitment to partnership with local churches. This is reflected in a number of ways.
OMF missionaries are active members of Taiwanese churches, taking time to serve and build relationships with local pastors and believers in the place where they live.
If our primary ministry is pioneering a new work, we seek to find local believers to work alongside us. These can include volunteers from other churches, seminary students doing a ministry placement, or full-time Taiwanese colleagues. We also seek to train up people from within the ministry, like Kevin, who can take over as leaders when they are ready. The end goal of every ministry is to see it being lead and supported by Taiwanese believers.
Missionaries can pioneer new ministries in new areas. But the real breakthrough comes when local believers are involved and start to take the lead.
Because of this, in the last couple of years we have also been working to set up a local Taiwanese mission agency, independent of OMF, that can screen, send and support Taiwanese believers who can work as local missionaries amongst the working class. This agency is called the Taiwan Grassroots Holistic Gospel Care Association.
We work with the local church in other ways as well. Some of our members are seconded to work within organisations and churches that share our vision to reach the unreached and needy. In these roles we serve under and alongside Taiwanese leaders.
Other OMF members work to raise awareness within existing Taiwanese churches of the mission opportunities in Taiwan, and abroad, and to mobilise more prayer, interest and involvement. Praise God, there is an increasing interest in reaching out beyond the church to serve the needs of different segments of the Taiwanese population, and also to participate in overseas missions.
Missionaries have a complex relationship to the churches where they serve. We often don’t fit in traditional ministry roles within the church. We bring different ideas and strange ways of doing things. Missionaries can fall into the trap of being independent mavericks. But our desire is to be servants of our local brothers and sisters, being a spur and a blessing to the church.
Our role is to serve as catalysts to mission in Taiwan. Whatever we do has the ultimate goal of seeing believers in both established and new churches reaching out into every corner of Taiwan with the good news of the gospel.
Phil Nicholson – Taipei