A team of three South Carolina Baptist pastors returned February 10 from Taiwan, where they led an eight-day relational discipleship training for native pastors. With the help of translators, the team trained 61 people from 14 churches using Immersion materials. It is the third trip initiated through the South Carolina Baptist Convention (SCBC) to the country, where the International Mission Board (IMB) is working with national pastors to increase gospel sharing, discipleship, and missions.
“Our purpose is to help churches fulfill the Great Commission. It is the church who sends. We helped make the connection, pointed out the need, and prepared the team to go. Their churches sent them by praying for them, supporting them, and will hopefully go with them next time,” says Tim R., SCBC missions mobilization team leader.
The team included Associate Pastor Patrick Roddey and Pastor Woody Oliver, both of Harmony Church in Edgemoor, and James Porter, pastor of Open Arms Fellowship in Hampton. In 2016, Roddey traveled with the SCBC to three Taiwanese cities to scout needs and potential partner churches for future trips. He says that less than four percent of Taiwan’s population of around 25 million is evangelical Christian and describes the culture as being driven by success and materialism.
“It is great to see God start to open hearts there for discipleship, to then go and speak into the lives of the people they work and go to school with,” says Roddey, who served as trip team leader.
The team’s work came about through partnership efforts between the SCBC, Chinese Baptist Convention, and IMB personnel in Taiwan, who coordinated the training schedule, invited local pastors, and provided translators. The team led one-day Immersion experiences in each of the three cities, with the goal of introducing relational discipleship tools to the pastors. Each event had large group presentations of big ideas, then small group time to work through details, definitions, and allow for more personal interactions.
“We talked about what a disciple is, the biblical foundation for relationships, how Christ set the example of discipleship in the ways that he reached out to people and poured into the disciples. When we asked the pastors questions in small groups, their responses were like responses we hear in South Carolina,” says Roddey.
“I saw God working through this pastor. His city is like a kernel of popcorn ready to burst open, and this pastor just needs help. It would be a great place for our church to partner with and provide some help to this pastor,” says Oliver.
Open Arms Fellowship is a missions-minded church, and Porter participated in the trip to explore a partnership opportunity in Taiwan. He is also involved in relational discipleship through several regular community groups.
“Relational discipleship models what Jesus did. It changed my life, and I hope it will change some others. In Taiwan, the biggest challenge was communicating and how some euphemisms were lost in translation. Cross-cultural discipleship made me stop and think and be more intentional about how I was communicating and working with the translators,” Porter says.
Roddey says the pastors of Baptist churches in Taiwan are aging and struggle to bring in new people mostly because they lack discipleship skills. “The pastors there are desperate to reach their communities. But they haven’t been discipled, and don’t know how to disciple their people. The desire is there, but they don’t have that framework,” he says.
For his part, Tim says the February team was a perfect fit for the mission. “Knowing that Baptist churches in Taiwan wanted to experience relational discipleship, it just made sense to send SCBC pastors who could demonstrate it effectively. That is why we sent James, Woody and Patrick.”
The Janie Chapman State Missions Offering provided support for travel expenses and training for this team that served in Taiwan.