This Taiwanese church builds its ministry through increasing its love for God and strong discipleship.
What is the secret to growing a church? Many pastors who start churches often ask this question. For senior pastor of Passion 99 Harvest Church in Taipei, Sophie Hsiung, the secret lies in strong discipleship and a passion to spread God’s Word.
The story of Passion 99 started in 2004, when Hsiung attended City Harvest Church’s Pastors’ Course at the School of Theology. After the course, she returned home to her Baptist church in Taiwan to start a small-group discipleship of just 12 people.
As a result of her leadership and nurturing, the group expanded quickly and within four years, grew to 100 people. It was at this time that Hsiung felt a calling from God to start a new church in her city.
“At that time, I sensed in my heart that it was the Lord’s will for me to step out and start a new church, one that is modeled after CHC: strong in small-group discipleship. After much prayer and counsel from the elders in my Baptist church, I started Passion 99 Harvest Church in the basement of a building in eastern Taipei,” said Hsiung. And so the church was birthed on March 29, 2008.
The Early Days
Like any new church, Passion 99 faced its fair share of challenges in the early years. For this young congregation, the major challenges were church growth, retaining good leaders and finances.
“We had only four core church workers in the beginning and they suffered from fatigue, family objection and a lack of spiritual disciplines. This proved to be challenging as many of the other church members were still spiritual infants who needed guidance from the core members,” shared Hsiung. “Growth of the church membership was not as fast and this was discouraging for everyone,” she said.
Undaunted, Hsiung and some 20 church members went back to the vision which God gave them when starting the church—namely “To build a church strong in Christian discipleship and to trust the Lord for His provision.”
Growing in God
To ensure that they stay rooted in their faith, all new members who were saved were encouraged to go through one-on-one Bible study sessions from more senior members. Hsiung also implemented a strong discipleship system, where church members are encouraged to grow their spiritual life via nine main ways: serving, meeting in small groups, quiet time, praying, fellowship, worship, bible study, evangelism and giving tithes and offerings.
Hsiung shared about the discipleship model, which she learned while attending the SOT course in 2004. “We follow CHC’s strong discipleship model, where a younger church member is guided by a more spiritually mature member. Members are also encouraged and motivated through love to help each other grow in the Lord. This lessens the chances of church members drifting away from the church,” she explained.
Slowly but surely, their efforts started to pay off. The church began to see its membership grow and break past the 100 mark. At the same time, God proved faithful in His provision.
“When I started the church, I had a strong indication from the Lord not to lean on financial support from the Baptist church, so I had to trust Him for His provision. Holding onto the Word from the Lord that we will live in a land where bread will not be scarce and the water will not run dry, we prayed earnestly and each time, God provided for us financially,” said the pastor.
God also sent help to Passion 99 in other practical ways. Toward the end of 2008, the church became an affiliate of CHC and started receiving guidance and mentorship from CHC’s founder, Kong Hee.
“Pastor Kong has instilled in me a greater love for God and a greater desire to grow the church,” said Hsiung. “He is a much-needed mentor and father figure in the Christian scene in Taiwan.”
|PHOTO COURTESY OF PASSION 99 HARVEST CHURCH|
As the members’ faith grew, Passion 99 started to push beyond its four walls to reach out to the lost in society. Monthly outreach events were organized to draw the people in. One such event was “Project Supernova,” an outreach program which aimed to restore the confidence in youths and build up their self-esteem. Through various creative activities such as fashion makeovers, makeup courses and catwalk classes, the church helped to restore and strengthen the self-image of the youth and reconciled them to back God.
The church’s passion for creative outreach also extends to gifts. At some outreach events for example, members gave out bars of handmade soap made of Dead Sea mud and imprinted with a red heart. “Symbolically, the Dead Sea mud refers to the old self dying to Christ, while the red heart represents the blood of Jesus cleansing away the old sinful nature. Along with a note to describe the content, the DIY gifts have since been given to approximately 15,400 individuals in the neighborhood,” shared Hsiung.
The Next Step
With an increased number of members and services, as well as outreach events, the church is now on firmer ground. However, Hsiung shares that the process of attracting and retaining new members remains challenging for a young church like hers. But she believes that when more members are equipped with the right skills and exercise creativity in reaching out, growing the church will become much easier.
For the next phase of church growth, Hsiung is looking into three areas: To equip members with the right evangelistic skills; to help members grow in their intimacy with God through consistent Bible study and prayer; and to raise up 30 leaders who will dedicate one year of their lives into full-time ministry in order to strengthen the leadership base of the church.