Based on my observations and reflections on a recent visit to Taiwan, I extend the following call for prayer from all Christians. (You can read about these in the article posted at Global China Center).
First, we should thank God that the number of Protestant Christians in Taiwan seems to be slowly growing. Since the “back door” is often as wide as the “front door,” it’s hard to tell how many people really following Christ, but they do seem to be more than before.
As my report indicates, the church in Taiwan displays many marks of both maturity and zeal. From personal evangelism to theological reflection, Christians are seeking to understand and communicate their faith in Christ vigorously and in a marvelous variety of ways. Transformed lives speak powerfully, and these are not at all lacking among all classes as the gospel advances.
We can be thankful for decades of faithful service by foreign missionaries, as well as the persistent labors and steady Christian witness of thousands of believers and church leaders.
At the same time, we need to ask God to break through barriers to faith in Christ, especially deep-rooted allegiance to, and fear of, local “gods” and long-held religious traditions. All too often, people who have indicated some commitment to Jesus fall back into the old ways when family pressure or some financial or personal shock shakes confidence in the Word of God.
The pervasive influence of what we could call “instrumental religion” affects the church, too. Too many “converts” to Christ are really seeking worldly benefits, usually because they have been told that belief in Christ will bring success, healing, family peace, or some other tangible blessing. Shallow evangelism and biblically-weak preaching do not nurture an environment where strong, healthy faith can grow.
China’s age-old immersion in Confucianism has produced a climate in which God’s grace is hard to grasp, even for Christians. Somehow, preachers have to be trained to communicate the truths that so gripped Paul and the other apostles, who focused on what God has done for us in Christ and then on our response as a natural consequence of communion with Christ through the Word and prayer. Weary people need to be taught to come to Christ for rest and refreshment on a daily basis, not further loaded down with burdens to serve in church, evangelism, or give more money.
Nor is the church free from dangerous errors, both “liberal” and “conservative.” Denial of biblical inerrancy and the introduction of new teachings, usually from Germany via American liberal seminaries, have weakened the pulpit, while the charismatic movement has generally shifted attention from the Cross in all its meanings to personal peace and prosperity, along with a constant quest for ever more exciting emotional experiences.
Only prayer will stop the spread of corrosive distortions of the gospel.
We should not forget to ask God to give strength to the Christians in Taiwan, both local and foreign, who labor daily to represent Christ in a world of materialism, hedonism, and idolatry and in a society torn by political strife and wearied with worry over the future. We can pray that the Lord will hearten them with his promises and personal presence.
Meanwhile, we should pray that their efforts to evangelize their neighbors and to take the gospel to other lands will succeed and advance God’s kingdom.
Finally, let us ask the Lord of the harvest to thrust forth laborers into this field. Taiwanese are becoming more receptive to the Good News, it seems. Even as we must pour most of our resources into the vast population of mainland China, Taiwan’s own unevangelized population and its strategic position call for more foreigners to go there, learn the language, and live out the love and truth of God amidst a very needy people.