I. Historical Background
The first Taiwan Lutheran congregation was established in Kaohsiung on June 3, 1951, with about 100 other congregations established in the following 15 years. Most of the early congregations were started by missionaries and Chinese evangelists, who had to flee from Mainland China in the period of instability. The Headquarters of Taiwan Lutheran Church was set up in Taipei on November 10, 1954. Thirteen congregations established by 8 different missionary societies joined this Synod at that time. There have been periods of abundance, decline, renewal, and growth in the 60 years of mission work in TLC. The first period was “the growth period” from 1950 through 1965. The second period was the “decline period” from 1965 through 1979. The third period is the “renewal period” from 1979 till 1995. The fourth period was the “growth period” from 1996 to 2010.
II. Present Situation of TLC
Presently, TLC has about 92 mission sites –56 congregations, 36 church plants, 6 para-church organizations: Mission Center, Theological Education and Training Center, and Welfare & Charity Foundation, 2 Hospitals, Taosheng Publisher.
We have 175 full time gospel workers: including 53 ordained pastors, 56 diaconal ministers, 37 evangelists, 5 seminarians, 24 intern evangelists; and 11 pre-interns for over 20,000 members, with an average attendance of over 11,515 on Sunday Service; among them there are about 1200 university/ college students, 1,650 teenagers, and 2,100 children.
Gospel Worker Training
In order to meet the needs of TLC’s congregations and mission sites planting, and let every Christian find a role to serve in the church, our gospel worker training system has been divided into three steps:
The 1st step: to have fundamental training for every baptized Christian. After being trained, every Christian is expected to become a disciple knowing God’s love, worshiping God, having good relationship with God through daily devotion, caring and loving fellow Christians, and sharing the gospel to non-Christians. Each local congregation and church plant is responsible for their own fundamental training. Beside the discipleship of the congregations, we have two programs for young adult to be trained and participate in the ministries: Grain Mission School and Pre-Interns Program. The Grain Mission School trains young adult who are cell group leaders, chairpersons or co-workers of youth fellowship or full time interns or seminarians who are in charge of youth or student ministries during the summer vacation. After they finished the training, they may apply the Pre-Interns Program as full time assistants at congregation for youth or student ministries.
The 2nd step: to set up gospel worker training sessions for elders, deacons, counselors, small group leaders, zone leaders, and intern evangelists. After training, these workers are expected to be more experienced and competent for church ministry. Our Theological Education and Training Center is responsible for this type of training, which is fundamental in the training of evangelists. Once the intern evangelists complete this step of training and pass the evaluation process, they may start taking full-time or part-time courses in theological seminaries.
The 3rd step: to provide on-the-job training for evangelists and ordained pastors. After serving in the church for a few years, the ministers may receive on-the-job training for one or two years at the Pastoral Training Center and young adult may at Grain Mission School. When they understand more about their gifts and emphasis, they can consider long-term or short-term studies in Taiwan or abroad. After completing their studies, they can serve their original congregation, or take on a new position, such as training gospel workers for the next generation.
Ministering to the People Suffering from Calamities
Bearing the urgent needs of society in mind, TLC Social Service Committee was established in 2003. The committee members in each district are attempting to help congregations learn the way to serve the church neighborhood. The Double Bliss Welfare & Charity Foundation has been ministering to the people in Taiwan, hoping to find better solutions to some social problems and difficulties. They have fought abortion as well as promiscuity in the society. At the present, they are trying to help the minority group of new immigrated spouses from Mainland China and South East Asia.
Chiayi Christian Hospital (CCH) has been successful in medical evangelism. Over these past years, the CCH has sent teams to Thailand, Burma, Laos, the Philippines and Mainland China for either short-term, or long-term medical services and evangelism.
Beside these mission trips, they have also been evangelizing to Thai and Filipino laborers working in Taiwan. The Thailand Labor Center was established by CCH in 1996, while the Filipino Labor Center was established in 1997.
For several years, some of the pastors have been evangelizing or teaching intensive theology or Bible courses for the pastors and leaders in Mainland China. They have also been doing social work simultaneously. Some younger pastors and evangelists are also involved in the evangelical work and training there.
In terms of overseas church planting, in 2005 Shilin Truth Church planted mission site in Senai Town, Johor State, Malaysia and in 2011 “Disciple Truth Church of Malaysia” became our formal member congregation. In 2013 opened “Kulai Truth Church of Malaysia”, and in 2014 planted “Kingdom Revival Church” in the district of Skudai, Johor Bahru, Malaysia.
In June, 2006 by the assistance of headquarter and Mission Committee, Taipei district Council planted our first overseas congregation – Truth Evangelical Church of Los Angeles. In 2007 we supported to plant another overseas congregation – Good Shepherd Christian Church, Silicon Valley to pastor Chinese there. We already have 5 overseas congregations and mission sites.
Presently, there are one missionary couple in Ethiopia, one missionary couple in Nepal, one missionary couple in Myanmar. Every year there are two interns joining in NMS’s youth mission project in England. From 2015 to 2016 there are 19 congregations involved in short term missions with 39 batches to Mainland China, Malaysia, Nepal, Ethiopia, Myanmar, Thailand, etc.
III. Prospects for TLC
Facing the 21st century, the vision, composed of four goals, are as follows:
- To Build an Evangelical Foundation: to have a deeper understanding of the gospel, and to let the truth be deeply rooted in each congregation, church plant and para-church organization.
- To Train Gospel Workers: in pastoral ministry, administration and various professions (medicine, publishing, TV & broadcasting, education, social work, etc.) according to the gifts the Lord has given to each gospel worker.
- To Expand Evangelical Churches: 20 mission sites (3 congregations, 15 church plants, 2 para-church organizations) in Taiwan and northern California were established from July 1999 to present.
- To Develop Gospel Enterprises: to strengthen our ministries in medical service, publishing, TV & broadcasting, social service, etc.; and to give more consideration to social needs, and to develop ministries of the social charity type.
As for the next three years, our objectives are to:
- Go for Taiwan: Help the middle and small churches to grow healthfully, to break through. At the same time, encourage more churches reach out to the west coast and Hakka area and plant churches there.
- Go for Mainland China: Exchange and share our spiritual blessings received from God to Mainland Chinese churches, and cooperate with them to bring the Gospel back to Jerusalem.
- Go for the World: Learn how to intercultural mission, and preach the Gospel to the people other than Chinese. Go for the goal of making all nations be Lord’s disciples.
We pray that our Lord will give us new faith in Him. “We will be alert, stand firm in the faith, be brave, be strong and do all our work in love.” (1 Corinthians16: 13~14) And we will be able to spread Christ’s love to Taiwan and overseas. (Isaiah 54:2~3)
We still need the support and prayers of other fellow churches. We ask for your prayers for the future work of TLC. We hope that we can truly bear the mission entrusted by our Lord.