Growing the church in Taiwan
The Presbyterian Church of Taiwan (PCT) undertook an ambitious church growth plan in 2010 that aimed to increase its membership from 230,000 to 300,000 by the year 2015, when the church celebrates its 150th anniversary. The program is an attempt to repeat the success of a church growth movement from the period of 1954–1964 when the PCT succeeded in doubling its numbers.
By Michael Parker
The Presbyterian Church of Taiwan (PCT) undertook an ambitious church growth plan in 2010 that aimed to increase its membership from 230,000 to 300,000 by the year 2015, when the church celebrates its 150th anniversary.
The plan is based on energizing the members in each congregation to do the work of evangelism. Chang Te-Chien (Andrew), the General Secretary of the PCT remarks, “In the past, people thought that church growth was the responsibility of the church, especially the pastors and elders. But now they are coming to see that it is every member’s responsibility.”
PC(USA) mission co-worker Jonathan Seitz, who teaches missiology at Taiwan Theological College and Seminary in Taipei, has observed the growing evangelical fervor of the island’s Christians: “Taiwanese Christians have left a deep impression on me because they are willing to share their faith enthusiastically and non-defensively. Sharing faith is at the heart of the Christian community in Taiwan.”
One-Leads-One, new doubling mission movement
The Rev. Chang Te-Chien (Andrew), the General Secretary of the Presbyterian Church of Taiwan, wants to help people have an active prayer life and not rely so heavily on pastors.
Meeting in 2010, the 55th General Assembly of the PCT adopted a resolution that launched the effort known as the “One-leads-One, New Doubling Mission Movement.” “One-leads-One” is a play on words in Mandarin Chinese. It is a reference to the tallest building in Taiwan, known as the “101 building” because of its 101 stories. The Mandarin pronunciation of 101 is a homophone for “One-Leads-One.” The slogan, of course, also alludes to the need for every Christian to lead another person to faith in Jesus Christ.
It is a new “Doubling Movement” in that it harkens back to a church growth movement of 1954–1964 that was held in anticipation of the centennial of the church in 1965. During this decade, the PCT succeeded in doubling the number of its churches from 233 to 466, and in increasing its membership from 59,471 to 102,943.
The current effort is also intended to be a “mission movement” in that it is not simply an effort to induce merely quantitative growth of the church, but to increase the qualitative growth of every member. The church plans to send out an additional 15 missionaries and 150 short-term mission teams by 2015.
A multi-pronged strategy
The General Assembly Office of the church has a team dedicated to implementing One-Leads-One. “There are three ways to do this work,” says Andrew. “Sermons, literature and music.” The first concerns sharing the vision, convincing congregations and presbyteries that this is a valuable movement. Andrew and other members of the team spend much of their time in churches and before presbytery meetings presenting their vision, convincing the skeptical, and answering questions about the movement.
The second way to promote the work is through publishing educational books. The church Sunday school curriculum includes a how-to book on introducing Christ to non-believers, as well as books for discipleship training.
Taiwanese Christians live as a minority in a non-Christian land and seek to be the fragrance of Christ to their neighbors, says Presbyterian mission co-worker John McCall. According to some estimates, the Presbyterian Church of Taiwan might surpass 300,000 members by 2015.
In addition to this curriculum, the church is also promoting the study of four books on prayer. In the past the church has emphasized prayer for the church, for others, and for society. These new books give instruction on how to pray for personal needs, such as prayer for a new child, healing, people in mourning, work-related issues, and family needs. “All of this,” explains Andrew, “is to help people have an active prayer life and not rely so heavily on pastors. It also serves to prepare people to participate in the One-Leads-One movement, in that they will be better equipped to reach out to friends and neighbors with the love of God in all aspects of their lives.”
To provide motivation on an entirely different level, the church hired popular Taiwan singer Mr. Huang Kuo-Lun to write the theme song for the movement, “One-Leads One,” which is based on the Great Commission of Matthew 28:19-20 and the Great Commandments of Jesus given in Matthew 22:37-39. “Come, come, come,” the chorus bids, “We must go together to proclaim the gospel…”
Emphasizing local congregations
Though the national church has developed new approaches and new literature for the movement, it is the local churches that are being encouraged to implement the One-Leads-One movement.
“The General Assembly,” Seitz explains, “provides resources and educational opportunities, but because the PCT is so diverse, local churches adapt these to their own contexts and ministries.” Congregations are not being asked to develop new programs, but to put greater energy into their existing evangelism efforts. There are a number of effective programs already in place, such as outreach efforts to elementary and middle schools, after-school assistance for poor families, camping outings in which seekers are invited, prayer ministries, and outreach to indigenous peoples.
Michael Parker has served as the Coordinator of International Evangelism. He recently traveled to Vietnam with PCT General Secretary Chang Te-Chien, PCT Evangelism Program Secretary Tsai Nan-Hsin, and others to investigate mission efforts with the United Presbyterian Church of Vietnam.