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OMF International and Missions in China - Interview with James H. Taylor IV

"Now, allow the spirit that has touched and inspired Hudson Taylor to also touch us and the Chinese churches with greater intensity. We hope that we can fulfill the commitment to this commission.”
( [email protected] ) May 13, 2005 05:29 AM EDT

On April 29 through 30th, OMF International held a mission conference titled, “Serving Christ in the Chinese Century” in the Bay Area of San Francisco. James H. Taylor IV, great-grandson of Hudson Taylor, founder of OMF, and various other Chinese mission organization representatives led this mission conference consisting of workshops that explore subjects on education and preparation of mission in this new century.

At the closing of first day, Pastor James Taylor, OMF International chairman, was interviewed by Gospel Post reporters.

Question: How are you Pastor Taylor? If you will, can you briefly describe the ministry of OMF? Can you tell us the vision, and both short-term and long-term goals?

Answer: OMF stands for Overseas Missionary Fellowship. In 1865, my great-grandfather Hudson Taylor founded the China Inland Mission for the purpose of proclaiming the gospel and establishing churches in inland China. Because of the changes in situation, missionaries to China Inland Mission in China begin to leave China. Among them, many have gone to Philippines, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Malaysia, and many other areas with Chinese speaking population in order to evangelize the local Chinese immigrants. Up until 1953, the last two missionaries from inland departed from China. The center of our work has moved from China to the Chinese in many countries with South East Asia. Then, after discussion and prayers, they have decided that they would continue to serve in South East region, and the name of Inland China Missions would be changed to OMF International. The vision of OMF International remains as to proclaim the gospel “Un-reached people, un-reached places.”

OMF persistently dispatched new missionaries to proclaim the gospel to different group of people. Our work area is not limited to reaching just Chinese immigrants, but to reach the natives. We now have around 1000 missionaries, who are devoted in different work field, in 10 countries. Some are responsible for planting churches and preaching the gospel; some work for publishing firm; some are working in the medical field while others work to maintain sanitation.

Our vision has not changed. It is to widely proclaim the gospel to ‘un-reached people, un-reached places.’ We don’t only focus in the city, but we places most of the focus in the far-reaching places, where we would assist the natives in setting up native style church. Our role is to only serve and assist, and it shouldn’t be that a foreigner is responsible and guiding the church.

As for short-term and long-term mission goals, let’s say that they are opportunities. For example, there are many opportunities over the summer, which maybe 3-4 weeks of summer vacation to travel abroad to Philippines, Japan, Hong Kong and various areas to establish English academies. After we’re done, we can proceed with mission work. But if really want to serve the natives then we must learn the native language.

However, let’s look at today’s mission fields. We would discover that in Asia 80% of the population lives in places where missionaries cannot access. The countries whose mission door is completely shut include China, North Korea, Malaysia, Indonesia, etc. In reality, that is not the case. Even though foreign missionaries cannot go, but Christians with professions can go there using their lives as witnesses. There are many of these kinds of opportunities. As for preachers, we can probably think of the traditional preachers, going to establish church, minister to the congregants. This is something that can be done within a country with religious freedom. But, many countries in South East Asia do not share the same rights as we do. Even if this is the case, there are still many opportunities. We hope to rely upon the strength of the Lord to develop our ministry.

Q: What is the relationship that OMF has with the Three Self Patriotic Movement of the Protestant Churches in China and the House churches?

Answer: The house churches are quite complicated, for example, churches in less developed areas are much different from the house churches in developed areas. Besides this, some are considered as “Hai Guai” churches, representing Chinese foreign exchange students who have returned to China after becoming Christians while they were studying abroad. While they are in China, they would need to be trained spiritually and learn how to advance in their faith. Their churches do not belong to the TSPM Church system. We categorize them as house churches. Thus, house churches are much more complicated and diverse.

From the standpoint of tradition and history, we have a close relationship with house churches. Many house churches would state that they are part of China Inland Mission. In the 50s, when many denominations are disintegrating, while the only legally accepted churches are the TSPM church, already there are many churches that proclaimed as being part of China Inland Mission churches.

Our relationship with TSPM is also quite complicated. The TSPM churches from 50 years ago are much different from the TSPM churches now. 50 years ago, TSPM is considered as a new denomination, but from the theological perspective, they cannot be accepted the path of TSPM. Of course, we share relationships with them on an individual basis, for example, individual pastors and the Lord loving believers, but looking from the structural standpoint, we don’t have any official relationships; it is same with house churches. We only have acknowledgment on an individual basis, and we do not officially establish any relationship.

Question: How do you see the current conflicts and misunderstanding between TSPM and house churches?

Answer: Actually, we shouldn’t use the word ‘misunderstanding’ to describe this situation, but rather we should use ‘millstone’. There is a historical millstone that resulted since the 50s. TSPM churches have persecuted those believers who did not want to join. This is a historical fact that cannot be denied. And until now, this historical millstone still remains.

In addition, there is a millstone in faith. Today, there are still many people who refuse to join TSPM churches. The biggest reason is that they are reserved in the aspects of faith.

But, an important point of emphasis is that people of house churches really loves their country, but the thing that maybe particularly difficult for them to accept is that many of the religious authorities are atheist.

But, we shouldn’t look at only one point to determine that one is right and the other is wrong. For example, Amity Foundation has publicly printed over 3,000 bibles, allowing any believers to buy bibles at church; For example, there are many cults inside of house churches; but we can’t say that because of this the house churches are not good – Among the wheat, there are weed, unclean things. We, especially the outside people should maintain a neutral stance instead of blowing up this problem. We shouldn’t worsen the situation as it already is. In actuality, not only in China, any churches can experience this kind of situation, where the only difference would its form, in any place of the world.

Question: Then what do you think is the answer to solve these problems?

Answer: Satan always do the work of harassing churches, which prevents the churches to come together as one. Of course, there are other factors, for example, in faith, some people cannot accept the bible, and the fact that Jesus rose from the dead. In this case, they won’t be able to unite, because those people are not Christians. Therefore, the most basic solution is to return to the word of God.

If cults begin to appear in house churches, then it shows that they do not have a clear understanding of God’s word. This opens the door for them to be easily influenced and misguided. If we understand the word of God, then we can distinguish the cults. If an evangelist does not speak about God in his speech, only talks about principle of men, then there is a problem. This is not only a challenge for China, but also a challenge that other nations faces: We need have a firm foundation upon the word of God. Not only do we need to believe, but we need to also obey. In any time, we must place God’s word as the first priority. All questions and problems needs to be solved with answers from the bible. Does the viewpoint on life matches according to the bible? If it doesn’t match, then it is wrong. If you don’t talk about God when you are preaching, then it is wrong. You can’t just speak about the principles of men, because God’s word is the foundation.

Question: Because many Christians with professional trades have gone to China to witness for Christ, what are some of the results of evangelism through them up until now? Were there many people who have become Christians?

Answer: To tell you the truth, it is very difficult to make a calculation, let alone provide a concrete number. But there are many college students -- for example, if you ask the Christian students in Shanghai and Xi An University how did they become Christians, many of them would say that it is because of their link to foreign studies are Christians. Through foreign studies, they come to know Christianity.

I think nobody really knows this number, but what we can know is that this is not a small number. Of course, there are other methods, and identities. Individual identity can also face different challenges, for example, going to Tibet to proclaim the gospel would be much more difficult then to go to any other places for missions. Thus, it is very difficult to determine the meaning behind success. What is success? Does it mean to lead hundreds to the Lord? Does it mean that large churches are successful and small churches are not successful? It is very difficult to say. Some soil are hard, some are soft. Our responsibility is to just scatter the seed. Whether or not they believe is not determine upon our strength, but it is determined by the grace of our Lord.

From 1854 to 1905, Hudson Taylor, who is James H. Taylor IV’s great-grandfather, opened China missions. He died in Hunan Chengsha and was buried in Zhengjiang. James H. Taylor IV and his family later embarked on the journey to find his roots in China. Finally, he found Hudson Taylor’s gravestone within a small building by a museum. By the grave stone, they prayed, “The Holy Spirit has touched Hudson Taylor, inspiring him to have the passion to leave England for missions in China. Not only did he bring the gospel along the coast of China, but he also brought the gospel to those living in further inland of China. Now, allow the spirit that has touched and inspired Hudson Taylor to also touch us and the Chinese churches with greater intensity. We hope that we can fulfill the commitment to this commission.”

Rev. James Taylor IV said, “Not only is this our prayer, but it is also our wish.”