Catechism for Life: Pless Teaches in Taiwan

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— by Rev. Roy S. Askins
— Johanna Heidorn, photographer

On April 4, twenty to thirty Taiwanese Lutherans gathered in the second story sanctuary of Salvation Lutheran Church in Chiayi Taiwan. It’s 6:30 in the evening; they planned to stay for the next three hours. Prof. John T. Pless has come to teach on Luther’s Small Catechism as a handbook for the Christian life. Rev. Dr. Michael Paul, missionary and theological educator to Taiwan, provided translation. 

Over the course of six days, Pless who serves as assistant professor of pastoral ministry and missions at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana, taught Lutheran pastors and laity throughout the entire island of Taiwan. Each day, he lectured in a new city for six hours, one primarily session designed primarily for pastors and a second for laity. 

These lectures coincided with the release of Handling The Word of Truth in Chinese translation. Originally written in 2004 and revised in 2014, Pless and Paul distributed over one hundred copies of the book to attendees. 

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Teaching Pastors and People

With pastors, Pless discussed the ongoing relevance of Martin Luther’s theology for the twenty-first century, particularly with reference to Law and Gospel. For lay members, Pless taught a class titled “The Small Catechism as Handbook for Parents and Children.” He discussed how the head of the house uses the catechism to instruct the children and explained how that teaching prepares the family for life as a child of God, particularly during times of persecution. 

Pless said the trip “reinforced the need to have solid Lutheran theology on the mission field.” Not only is the Christian population of Taiwan less than 5%, but the majority of Taiwanese Christians have been strongly influenced by Pentecostalism. 

The influence of Pentecostalism on Taiwanese Christianity has given the impression that Christianity is primarily a legal system; many preachers fail to proclaim the Gospel clearly and accurately. Solid Lutheran theology will “preach the forgiveness of sins and the power of the Gospel to free the conscience and give freedom in Christ Jesus,” he said. 

This lectures series from Prof. Pless is the first in a series of lectures planned by Dr. Paul and the Chinese Evangelical Lutheran Church (CELC). “We’re hoping every year to have two lecture series,” he said. The lecturers will travel throughout the whole of Taiwan teaching both pastors and laity in the CELC. They have plans to include lectures on sexual ethics and preaching.


I, Rev. Roy S. Askins, serve as Director of Communications for Asia region of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. You can support my work at lcms.org/askins.

Johanna Heidorn serves as Communications Specialist and Photographer for the Asia region of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. Please visit her gallery to see more of our work in the Asia region (password: Asia). You can support her at lcms.org/heidorn

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