When the West Meets the East

United Reformed Church (URC) ministers from UK have visited Taiwan recently. Through the trip, the UK ministers have gained a lot of experience about the pasturing method of the churches in the East. Accompanying by 4 other ministers, Rev Raymond Singh made a 10-day visit in February to the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan (PCT), which is the largest denomination locally.

The visit to one suburb-based church was the most impressive event for Rev Singh. The church keeps the tradition of the early disciples, like it has teaching before the service and has table fellowship afterwards.

The history of Christianity has been rewriting since the revival of churches in the East. There are many clues in the reality telling us about the trend. Two years ago, there was a shocking statement appeared in The London Times, “Christianity Almost Beaten in Britain, says Cardinal."

The Archbihop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Conno addressed this in his speech on a gathering of Roman Catholic clergy in England in 2001.

Rev. David Cornick, the general secretary of the United Reformed Church in Britain, commented, "In Western Europe, we are hanging on by our fingernails. The fact is that Europe is no longer Christian."

"We are currently living through one of the transforming moments in the history of religion worldwide .... The era of Western Christianity has passed within our lifetimes, and the day of Southern Christianity is dawning,” said Philip Jenkins, distinguished professor of history and religious studies at Pennsylvania State.

Worldwide, 70% of evangelicals live outside the West, as Gene Edward Veith, culture critic for The World magazine expected, “we will see nonwhite missionaries moving up from Africa to convert the heathen in Europe and America.”

Not counting the quality of spiritual atmosphere in the West, numbers do show us the status quo. The Barna Research Group (BRG) has presented a statistical report in Mid February about the church attendance and church-related activities. The research was based on annual tracking survey of religious behavior in US.

The church attendance was at 42 percent in 1994, and 43 percent in 2004. For volunteering to help the church, it was 25 percent then, and 24 percent now. Among born-again Christians, sharing one's faith in Jesus with non-believers was 58 percent in 1999, and 55 percent in 2004. In conclusion, the importance of a disciples’ life for Western Christians has remained relatively unchanged over the past decade.

The mentioned visit is part of the Christian World Ministry (CWM) Experience Enlargement programme. Rev Singh said, “it should not be an ‘old boys’ network.” He encouraged going on more trips so as to build a new network of evangelism comprising the East and The West.

Nevertheless, this is truly the age of famine of spiritual food when young people wander for direction as the Bibles says. Rev Singh has found similar confrontation that UK and Taiwan churches are facing in promoting Christianity. Now, possible ground for the East to strengthen the West and open up a new way for the Kingdom of God in unity is seen.