Thrive

Last updated: June 27, 2024

James Hudson “Jamie” Taylor IV has dedicated his life to missionary work in China and among Chinese people around the world. With over 30 years in ministry, he has played a pivotal role in the Chinese church of his generation. At the same time, he is adding to a family legacy. Jamie is the great-great-grandson of Hudson Taylor, the well-known pioneering missionary to China, and the direct heir of his name. 

Hudson Taylor is known for the incredible success of his missionary work in China, but he also became the primogenitor of a line of missionaries. “My parents were also missionaries. My grandparents were missionaries. My great-grandparents were missionaries. And of course, my great-great-grandparents were missionaries in China, Hudson Taylor and Maria,” Jamie says.

However, the Taylor legacy was not something that Jamie was ready to accept outright. Because of his family heritage, the outside expectations came at an early age. By age five, he was already exasperated by others asking if he would follow in his ancestors’ footsteps. “And so at the age of five, I made it known that I would do anything but be a missionary,” Jamie says. “I grew up with a fairly antagonistic view of, one, becoming a Christian, and two, following in this line of missionaries.”

It was not until Jamie’s last year in high school that the Lord softened his heart and he became a Christian. However, his feelings toward the missionary vocation had not yet been so converted. He started his undergraduate work at Seattle Pacific University fully accepting the faith but with no plans to take up the family work. 

After finishing his undergraduate degree, Jamie spent two years living and working in the San Francisco Bay Area in California. At that time, the Lord began just one of many providential works in Jamie’s life. A family friend named Dr. David Adeney recruited Jamie to be his chauffeur. Dr. Adeney had also been a long-term missionary in China and Singapore; he was a family friend to the Taylors in the field. As Adeney was in his 70s and making his rounds to speak at churches, Jamie spent much time with him on the road and as a frequent guest in the churches at which Adeney spoke. Adeney also frequently invited Jamie over for a free home-cooked meal complemented with times of sharing and prayer. Between hearing Adeney speak in churches and sharing meals at his table, the Lord was covertly working on Jamie’s heart. “I don’t really think Dr. Adney ever let on that he was discipling me,” Jamie says. “And it was really through that kind of interaction that the Lord began to tear down some of the opposition that I had in my heart… the reservations that I had or some of the stronger feelings that I had in terms of full-time Christian service.”

Jamie slowly began to discern a call to full-time Christian service. However, he felt he needed a clear sign from the Lord. He knew full-time Christian service would require much more biblical and theological training. “I needed a confirmation from Him,” Jamie says. “And the fleece that I put out was that: allow me to go to seminary.” He had very little money in his early 20s and was determined not to borrow money for his education. So, he asked the Lord to provide the means for him to receive his seminary education as confirmation of this newly found call.

At this point in his life, Jamie was not without connections to Asbury Theological Seminary. “Asbury was at the top of my list,” Jamie says. “Actually, it was the only one on my list. I didn’t apply to any other seminary.” His father had been a graduate of Asbury Seminary, and the pastor of the Free Methodist church he attended in the Bay area was also an alumnus of the Seminary. Not only so, but the president of Seattle Pacific University at the time of Jamie’s undergraduate education had recently become the president of the Seminary, none other than Dr. David McKenna. “Uncle David, as I call him,” Jamie says. Dr. McKenna was also a classmate of Jamie’s father at the Seminary.

Jamie was accepted to Asbury Seminary, but he was still waiting for the Lord’s confirmation. He recalls that letters began to come in from the Financial Aid department inquiring about how he planned to pay for his education. He would promptly throw them into the trash can as they came. “I decided, as my great-great-grandfather often said, God’s work done in God’s way would not lack God’s provisions,” Jamie says.

After many letters came in, Jamie finally received a different letter from Financial Aid. The letter communicated that his tuition, room and board had been completely covered. An anonymous donor had learned that Jamie Taylor, the descendant of Hudson Taylor, was planning on attending Asbury Seminary, and the donor made arrangements to cover all of Jamie’s financial obligations for his education. He had received the confirmation he requested from the Lord.

Not only so, but Jamie received an important revelation that would mark his specific role in the Taylor lineage. He was going to seminary with the confidence that God would provide for his life just as he did for his great-great-grandfather. “There are many, many stories about how the Lord provided for Hudson Taylor, a man who focused on faith and trusting in God’s faithfulness,” Jamie says. “But that same God can provide for me and my generation.” It was from this personal realization of the provision of God that Jamie felt a release from the pressure of his family’s legacy. 

“And so I’ve often been asked, do you feel pressure being a descendant of Hudson Taylor?” Jamie says. “And my response is, well, if there is pressure, there’s only a pressure to be faithful in my generation as he was faithful in his generation – that’s the pressure. And that’s a good pressure.” As he puts it, he was now certain that God had called Jamie Taylor to full-time ministry. “And he just happens also to be James Hudson Taylor IV,” Jamie says.

While at Asbury Seminary in the mid-1980s, Jamie became very involved at the Lexington Chinese Church under the leadership of Dr. Joseph Wang, a pastor and professor at the Seminary. Jamie did his mentored ministry under Dr. Wang and gained vital experience working in a Chinese church. Toward the end of his time at the Seminary, Jamie applied to work in full-time service with OMF International, formerly known as China Inland Mission and founded by Hudson Taylor. The organization recommended Jamie serve more time in a Chinese church, which led him to a congregation in Boston. His time in Boston proved crucial for taking his seminary education and learning to apply it to a real-life ministry setting. “It gave me a very good foundation in terms of just church-based ministry, which I think is important, whether it’s in the area of evangelism, in the area of discipleship, of teaching, etc.,” Jamie says. 

His time in Boston proved to be another providential act of God as it was where he met his wife, Mimi. Mimi was born in Taiwan but lived in Boston at the time to work on her master’s degree in vocal performance. According to Jamie, she is the first Chinese person in their family. However, Jamie’s calling to missions was not an initial draw for Mimi. Not unlike Jamie in his younger years, Mimi felt that the Taylor legacy was merely stories of a past time and was “museum material.” “She said she couldn’t sleep the first night she knew I liked her,” he says. “My interpretation is she was so excited she couldn’t sleep. But probably if the truth be told, it was out of a great deal of trepidation that she couldn’t sleep.” 

Eventually, the Lord stirred Mimi’s heart as he did Jamie’s, and the couple grew in a desire to work in full-time ministry together. They were married in 1993 and the Chinese church in Boston became a strong foundation for the ministry they would build for many decades into the future. According to Jamie, “We are in touch with that group of people who have supported us and who have prayed for us over these last 30-plus years.”

Those next 30 years together would be spent primarily in Hong Kong with OMF International. Jamie’s ministry there focused on three major areas: theological and biblical training, leadership training, and missions training. Because of the growth of the Chinese church from the middle of the 20th century until Jamie and Mimi arrived, there were simply not enough seminaries to train the many pastors presiding over this explosion of new believers. Not only was Jamie equipping them theologically and biblically, but he also provided teachings on effective leadership. Lastly, he felt a special burden to train the Chinese church for cross-cultural missions. There was a great need for all things necessary to successfully equip the Chinese church to spread the gospel around the globe, especially because of a lack of resources and experience. Additionally, Jamie felt a need to encourage the local churches in China to have a missional vision. “If the local church doesn’t have the kind of vision that it should have, then it will be very, very difficult,” he says. This is a need that he still perceives as crucial to his ministry today. 

After working toward these three goals in the Chinese church for over 15 years, Jamie began to feel it was time to pause and resharpen his theological education. He was accepted into the Beeson Leadership Program at Asbury Seminary to receive his D.Min. in 2006. He looks back at what he describes as a very rewarding time in the Beeson program with a special appreciation for the international community he found among his fellow students. The program had two tracks at the time, one for North American pastors and one for international pastors. Jamie made a request to Dr. David Rambo, the head of the program at the time, to be part of the track for international pastors. “I told him that I have spent almost all of my life in Asia, and I look like I’m Caucasian, but I’m actually more Chinese,” Jamie says. Dr. Rambo graciously assented. The program had three focuses, each of which was very dear to Jamie’s heart regarding his personal ministry: preaching, leadership, and missions. Jamie found that the D.Min. program proved to be yet again another providential act of God. At the time of his program, he had no idea that having a D.Min. would be a requirement for becoming the president of China Evangelical Seminary (CES) in Taiwan, a position that he had never considered but was about to be offered to him. 

In 2020, after correspondence with the presidential search committee of CES, Jamie began his role as president of the Seminary. Founded in 1970 by his father, James Hudson Taylor III, CES is an interdenominational institution and the first graduate-level seminary in Taiwan. According to Jamie, seminaries in Taiwan before CES offered Bachelor of Theology degrees for students who did not have an undergraduate education or were not accepted by traditional universities. However, Jamie’s father felt that theological education needed to reflect the growing educational system of Taiwan. Therefore, he founded CES with the intention of only accepting college graduates. 

The invitation to become president of CES created a predicament for Jamie. “When my father relinquished his role as president in 1980, he categorically said that from henceforth, it’s no longer for foreigners to serve as president of CES,” Jamie says. “But rather, Chinese now need to, so to speak, step up to the plate.” There were five Chinese presidents of CES after his father’s tenure before Jamie’s invitation, and he was of like mind with his father that this should continue. However, Jamie’s identification with the Chinese people to whom he is called would once again be affirmed. The committee graciously told him that because he was born and raised in Taiwan and because he had lived 30 years in China doing ministry, they effectively considered him Chinese. “So I don’t look Chinese, but I’m through and through Chinese on the inside,” Jamie says.

After prayerfully considering the invitation with Mimi, Jamie accepted. Since taking on the presidency, Jamie has focused his ministry on two major areas. The first is to continue his commitment to see the Chinese church fulfill its specific role in Jesus’s command to be witnesses to the ends of the earth. “I think in the 21st century, it is for the majority world church to step up and to finish the task, so to speak, the Great Commission of Jesus Christ,” he says. “Certainly the Chinese church is a part of that global church.”

The second area is to see “the Chinese theological world mature and to be able to contribute to the global theological community.” He says that the global West has played an important role in spreading the gospel and interpreting scripture, but that it is time for other cultures in the majority world to be encouraged to share their vital perspective on theology. ​​”There is a Chinese perspective to theology and biblical truth. And I think that not only informs but also is an important area to make up what is lacking in other ethnicities,” Jamie says. “And so there needs to be a mutual cross-pollination to help us understand the fullness and the richness of theology of God’s revealed word.”

Having never worked in a seminary before, Jamie admits there has been a significant learning curve. He credits Mimi’s support and the support of the team around him for CES’s success in carrying out its mission during his term thus far. He says that having people around him who complement his strengths and weaknesses is a strategy the Lord has placed on his heart. Once again, the Lord has provided all that is needed to fulfill His calling on Jamie’s life at the right time.

Recalling how the Lord placed the D.Min. program on his heart before knowing it would be a requirement for his eventual presidency at CES, Jamie remembers initially feeling silly purchasing an academic robe from Asbury. “I thought to myself, what in the world? You’re not going to have to wear that robe,” he says. “Well, now you know the rest of the story. I end up now having the opportunity to wear it at least once a year for our graduations.” Graduations in which Chinese Christians are sent out, equipped in their own language and within their own culture, to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ to the entire world. 

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