TAIPEI, Taiwan– From the street level, there does not seem to be anything out of the ordinary happening in the car park at the Takashimaya shopping complex in Tianmu.
But every Sunday morning — and at other times of the week– between 120 and 150 Christians from about 20 nations go to the ninth and tenth floors for spiritual refreshing.
Oasis – Bread of Life, is home to a ‘family’ of Christians in a church that South African pastor Will Smit says, according to anthropology, “…is impossible to function”.
The church’s five-member leadership team told I Witness-News about the operations of the religious organization.
“When you take mission courses in Bible school they tell you this model should not work because of its diversity,” says Jeff Taguchi, senior pastor at Oasis.
“When you have so many cultures, languages and denominations in one place, there is bound to be a lot of fiction. But with God, nothing is impossible,” Smit adds.
Taguchi says that the church is a family. Its mission statement is “Reconciling the Hearts of Fathers and Children to Heal the Nations”.
That the mission statement came about after a former pastor “discovered the nature of Taiwan is that it is a fatherless nation”.
“… A lot of fathers are working and are absent and things of that nature. And what happens is that your next generation grows up without a role model and the result is destined to repeat the errors of the past and, at worst, even get worst as it moves along,” he says.
Oasis believes that by restoring that relationship the nation will be healed. Its mission is:
Training, equipping and teaching the Word of God.
Worshipping in Spirit and in Truth.
Learning to minister through Love.
Sending to advance the Kingdom of God.
“This church is a family and we represent family in this community. We approach the gospel in that way also,” Taguchi says.
“When I share the gospel with somebody in Taiwan, we talk about … a family who wants to adopt you as a benevolent father who is actively interested in your career decision, in how you live your life and who you are… accepting you for who you are — the idea also of never leaving you nor forsaking you and always providing for your needs.
“The thing is, when we ask a lot of Taiwanese this question of whether they want to be a part of a family like that, the answer is obviously ‘Yes’. And what we have found is when they ask where that family is and then you say it is in Jesus Christ and it is in a Christian church, that’s when they start to kind of laugh.
“Because, what happens is that they don’t see a difference in the Christian church versus their home one. So the environment that we try to create here is a real family that responds to real needs; that reaches out…
“It is a place where people can find security, where their trust will not be broken and where their spiritual, emotional needs will be met,” Taguchi explains.
“And most importantly, somewhere where they will meet God,” says Jon Wright who hails from the United Kingdom and who is chairman of Oasis.
Bread of Life is an independent, 50-year-old denomination, which started in Shanghai, China, Wright says.
The international headquarters are on Hoping East Road, Taipei and there are about 200 congregations worldwide, all catering mainly to Chinese congregations.
“The core doctrines of Bread of Life are essentially protestant, in that there is only one true god; that Jesus Christ is the son of God — He is also God. He is born of The Virgin. There is only one way to come into a relationship with God and that is to accept Jesus as your personal savior and, also, something that is very common in Chinese churches, which is water baptism. Bread of Life believes very strongly in water baptism,” Wright says.
From cell groups to full church
Oasis, one of 77 Bread of Life churches in Taiwan, began as a branch of the Bread of Life church on Hoping East Road in downtown Taipei.
And, what began with groups of Christian meeting in homes in the Tianmu area soon grew into a full congregation with the first service on the first Sunday in January 1996, says American Karen Person, head of the Sunday school department and pastor Taiwanese Rock Lo.
They say that much of pastoring at the teething Oasis was done by Americans Ralph Jones and Tim Myers.
And, in its infancy, Oasis had to deal with the challenge of meeting the needs of a congregation where English and Chinese were the dominant first languages.
“Ralph [Jones] had been a pastor to Chinese-speaking church and we found that when we started an English-speaking church, those that would attend an English speaking church had Chinese friends they wanted to invite,” Pearson says.
“I think we tried everything. We tried translator earphones for a while. That was awful,” she says, laughing.
“Then we had two services for a while — an English service then a Chinese service — and then finally decided that we needed to worship together. So we have been bilingual since .”
Wright says that Oasis is probably the only bilingual Bread of Life church.
Taguchi says that OMF International, a Christian mission that serves the church and brings the gospel to some 12 countries in East Asia, says that 70 percent of Taiwanese are in the working class, less than one percent of which are Christians.
“So there is significant work to be done,” he says.
He adds, “The fastest growing Christian population is among college and above and the slowest in the working class. If we can get into that and make the gospel relevant that is where we are gonna see a significant movement.”
But sharing Christian precepts in a nation where the religions is not very prominent is not without its challenges.
“It is relationship based,” Smit says.
“You build a relationship with the person before you can say the truth of the gospel,” he adds, noting the example of Jesus Christ and the Samaritan woman.
“You earn the right to share the gospel with someone,” Taguchi says.
“A lot of our big successes don’t come through Sunday morning. They actually come through Sunday night when we meet with people for dinner or Friday night where we have an active cell group or Thursday night over at somebody’s house. And that is where most of our successes come from,”Wright adds.
Oasis’s outreach missions include visits to the Philippines where, Pearson says teams go “to bless the Pilipino people who are already doing the outreach”.
There use to be missions to Tibet but that has become more difficult.
In Taiwan, the church also ministers to the spiritual and material needs of people in prisons and hospitals.
This is our lifestyle… Christianity is our lifestyle. So, the idea is that people will know what we believe by the way we act – around each other as well as out in public. So they will say there is something different about you guys. What is that? And we have the opportunity to talk to people about a relationship with Jesus Christ,” Taguchi says.
Wright adds, “We are spirit filled church….There are opportunities for people to do things they will not have an opportunity to do elsewhere… We open up the pulpit for people to preach, to learn how to do things so when they leave they can go and be a blessing somewhere else.”
“This is a ministry that is designed to prepare people for ministry. We have a unique opportunity because this is an international ministry. It gives us the opportunity to minister in different countries at the same time while they are here preparing them. It also gives us an opportunity to prepare our Taiwanese to reach out in this location,” Taguchi explains.
He says that Oasis seeks to prepare people for the Christian service rather than becoming a bigger church.
“The philosophy is not that we are preparing to become a mega church as we are preparing to become a stronger church and preparing the people, as the scripture says, equipping them for a life of service. Because life out on the street is not a game, no matter how anybody teaches it. Life is precious and as a result, we believe that the key to a life is a relationship with Jesus Christ.”
Wright says that he thinks Oasis’s greatest achievement is “The number of people who have come in desperate, desperate situation who have left praising the Lord and gone on to share their testimonies with others. The very name Oasis is prophetic because an oasis in a desert is somewhere you go and you are restored and you rest and usually you strike out again. So the fact that the church was named Oasis 13 years ago is actually a prophetic statement.”
Lo says considers to be the greatest achievemt “those who have been equipped and sent out”.
“There was a time in this ministry when it was absolutely necessary for everybody to pull together and push out and stretch the limits of their comfort zone. And they did exceedingly well,” Taguchi says.
He adds, “That is the objective, to bring people to a level of maturity instead of sharing the same messages over and over, we challenge people to go beyond their culture, go beyond their comfort zone, go beyond all kinds of different barriers. We have seen people happy to stand up and become fools for God and go out and do some phenomenal things. There has been healing here, there have been people who have had some significant revelations in their lives; it is just a marvelous experience to see people grow.”
And, 13 years after its own conception, Smit foresees the birth of some “baby oases” while Wright sees people coming back for rejuvenation and the fruiting of pastors.
“Because if we are going to plant baby Oasis churches, we need godly people, completely filled with the Spirit who will build teams around them and go out and do the same thing somewhere else,” Wright said.
Taguchi speaks of expanding locally and internationally.
“At this particular juncture, there is some sense that Taiwan is on the verge of spiritual awakening. It is the only major Chinese speaking nation that has not had a significant spiritual awakening; spiritual moving… this is something that we are praying for, something that we are looking forward to seeing,” he says.