Religion in Taiwan

While visiting my spouse’s hometown in Changhua, Taiwan, I visited Bagua Mountain (actually a hill) where there is a huge statue of Buddha.  I climbed up its inner staircases within its inner sanctum where there are displays on each floor explaining the history of Buddhism in Taiwan. I found this to be a good learning experience as I was not raised in a Buddhist-Confucian culture.

Christianity had missed an early opportunity to evangelize China.  Buddhism was only introduced to China in the 3rd century BC but did not flourish until later even into the 3rd to 6th century AD.  There were a some early 5th c. evangelists in East Asia but they did not make any in-roads to evangelize China.

Taiwan’s major religion today is Buddhism.  Having 35% of its population as adherents, there are countless temples in Taiwan–as many as there are churches in the U.S. bible-belt. I’m not sure of the percentage of Christianity in Taiwan but my guess-timate according to various sources is anywhere between 5-10% of the population. Evangelism through the Presbyterian Church came in earlier and established many institutions like hospitals and schools. The local hospital in this city is Changhua Presbyterian (Christian) Hospital.  The local people greatly appreciate this major institution because it has benefited so many people.

Taiwan (R.O.C.) is a free nation and has freedom of religion, speech, assembly, elections, etc., but it is forced to play the political game of who has sovereign authority over the country.  Pray for political stability of Taiwan. The threat and intimidation tactics from mainland China (P.R.C.) is similar to that of North Korea vs South Korea.

 

Helping unwed mothers

Gimme_ShelterThe idea of single pregnant teenagers scares many people including Christians.  We probably wouldn’t know what to do about it if someone in this situation were to come to us, or walk into one of our churches.

What would your church do about it?  What would most churches do about it?

Would you advise such a person to have an abortion, or to have the baby and at least give it up for adoption?

If churches do not have compassion or the willingness to minister to the downtrodden, then is it any wonder most girls turn to the easy solution of abortion?  So if we say we are pro-life, then we should be there to support them and counsel them to have the child, and later, give it up for adoption if they don’t want to raise it themselves.  There are up to 36 couples waiting for every one baby placed for adoption.  Yes, really.

I watched a film called Gimme Shelter.  It’s based on a true story and is inspiring.   The main character, Apple, who’s a sixteen year old teenager, runs away from her mother who is a drug addict and sex worker.  Apple finds herself pregnant and hospitalized from a car accident.  A Catholic chaplain (priest) in a hospital was initially turned away by Apple, but his patience and long-suffering eventually paid off.  Apple began to trust him and gave him the opportunity to bring her to a shelter where she is loved, care for, and finds friendship.  The shelter was founded and run by a Catholic housemother, who truly has a calling in ministry to take care of young unwed mothers.   The love in that place really impressed upon Apple because she chose to stay even when she had the chance to leave. Truly inspiring.

There aren’t a lot of good films that promote the social needs of people from a Christian perspective. This is one that can inspire not only Catholics, but evangelicals and protestants to take action to do what is godly.

Part 4: Religious and spiritual landscapes — urban vs rural

Have you noticed a decline in evangelism in your local church?

In most rural communities, the visible church is more stable and will likely remain (although many historic mainline churches are closing).  Naturally, change in rural communities do not happen as frequently; therefore, people will have the opportunity to integrate their spirituality and their religious life when they feel a need to do so (e.g., some may even decide to enter a church after a long absence after Baptism, Confirmation, wedding/funeral, or the odd Christmas worship service).

However, in the urban communities where the visible Church is less likely to be a permanent fixture.  Fast-paced change is common place (due to construction and new developments).  If an established or historic local church were to disappear from a major intersection in “City X”, the religious loss might not be very apparent; however, the spiritual void will eventually be felt by people whether we know it or not.

What does this mean for the visible Church in urban settings today?  The visible church triumphant must continue to remain and become a more visible part in our urban communities.

Are we, the Church, trying and working hard enough to make the visible Church more visible in our urban settings?  Hardly.

Tragically, many congregations of the historic mainline denominations are shrinking and disappearing from the religious landscape.  This will continue for the foreseeable future because they are failing to  help people make the connection between people’s spiritual lives with their real everyday lives.  There is a currently a huge void and lack of vision for evangelism in reaching out to people with Jesus’ Gospel message.

This means that our contemporary evangelical churches must continue to take responsibility and carry the load for evangelism and mission in urban communities.  Thankfully, many churches have not forgotten or lost their passion and vision for evangelism and outreach.  As Christ’s visible Church triumphant in North American society, we must remember and carry out Jesus’ Great Commission from Matthew 28:19-20, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you”.

Is your local church doing taking responsibility in carrying out Jesus’ Great Commission from Matthew 28?

[ see previous post: Part 3: Religious and spiritual landscapes — urban vs rural ]

Part 3: Religious and spiritual landscapes — urban vs rural

Is there still a need in people’s lives to express their spirituality in some way, shape or form–and within community?  Our  western culture seems to have taken individuality to the extreme where religious community life has been secularized and devalued to the sidelines of life, and even ignored.  Participation in religious community life has now become totally voluntary… but maybe this is good.  It separates true and genuine Christian believers/seekers who voluntarily commit to their beliefs from those who follow Christianity due to involuntary happenstance or family heritage.  As religious community life becomes more marginalized, what distinguishes the visible church from the invisible church will be pared down.  The expression of true spirituality and religious life will become more apparent to secular eyes.

Morever, and more to my point, is that, people who voluntarily desire to become a part of an organized religious/faith community (a church) are not as prone to sliding into spiritual oblivion. Here’s a few cases I witnessed the past month that explains our human need to be in Christian community:

The other day, a stranger walked into our church during our prayer meeting.  he didn’t know us, and we didn’t know him from Adam.  I admired his courage to enter our church.  I suspect the reason why he came might have been motivated by his desire to express his thanks to God for getting him a new job, after having been unemployed for the last four months.  In our prayers together, I felt that our small prayer group was successful in helping him express his thankfulness to God for giving him a job.  I ended up giving him a bible to take home, and we all welcomed him to come again to join us for Sunday worship and Wednesday night prayer meetings (may the Holy Spirit continue working in his life).  Also another fellow had walked into our prayer meeting a month ago. I don’t know what motivated him to come but I sensed he had a need to come.  He wasn’t a complete stranger to the church because he says he knew someone from a while back.

All of us need to have  an outlet for spiritual expression.  Without it, we will ultimately become disconnected from true spirituality.  If the opportunity for one to access  such expressions are denied them, will their spirituality become lifeless and formless? 

[ next post expresses what we need to do about this disconnect. See previous post Part 2. ]

Part 2: Religious and spiritual landscapes — urban vs rural

Have we, as a society, kept our spirituality hidden away too much from the eyes of others for the sake of being tolerant? 

In my move from rural to urban, I have also noticed a big difference in how people approach spirituality (as opposed to religion).   Spirituality in the urban setting (especially on the part of the postmodern generation), is much more individualized, where one person’s spirituality might not  be the same as another’s approach.  This is fine, but when one’s spiritual life is totally disconnected from the religious community life and privatized, there is a hidden danger.  When a person’s sense of spirituality goes dry and empty without some kind of organized religion to support and back them up, their spiritual lives can slide into oblivion.   They may lose their entire sense of spirituality and never know how far they’ve gone because no one is there to keep them accountable.

Has the expression of individual spirituality become too privatized?

[ next post expresses our lack or need of spiritual expression in society. ]

Part 1: Religious and spiritual landscapes — urban vs rural

This will be the first post in a four part series.  I want to bring up and provoke some thoughts about differences in people’s attitudes toward religion and spirituality in both rural and urban settings. The Church is at a critical moment in the 21st century. Either we work to survive and thrive, or we curl up and die in a corner.  What has Christ called us to?

Have you noticed a difference in people’s attitudes toward religious and spiritual expression between rural and urban communities?

Having moved from a small community to a large one, I have noticed very big differences in the religious and spiritual landscapes between urban and rural settings.

In the rural setting, religion is still part of people’s normal everyday lives.  Whether or not they participate in organized religion, the established Christian church is there and is accepted as an integral part of the community.  It is funny how even non-church goers understand and accept the Christian church as  part of being people’s normal everyday life.  If the church were to collapse or close  in a rural community, there would be a marked void in their life because they will feel that something is missing.  I think this is due to how the church has remained somewhat integrated into the life of small communities.

In the urban setting, religion is hardly and rarely a part of people’s everyday lifestyle.  If a church is not sitting there in front of their face, it can very easily go unnoticed and be forgotten.  Furthermore, the impact of the Christian church is minimal and hardly felt in the midst of the busy and changing marketplace.  If an urban church were to suddenly disappear due to deconstruction to make room for a new condo and business developments, most people won’t even notice.  They will have forgotten that a church had even existed on intersection of Main Street and Central Avenue.

How is your local church integrated into your community (rural or urban)? Would there be an impact in your immediate community if your local congregation were to burn down or suddenly disappear?

[ next post touches on society’s approach to finding a connection with their spiritual lives. ]

Missional church: Church When the Maps Have Changed

Alan J. Roxburgh, one of premier authorities on the missional church today spoke at Montreal Diocesan Theological College at a clergy conference, Sept. 26-28, 2010. There were seven lectures on the topic: Church When the Maps Have Changed (link).

Lecture #1 | Lecture #2 | Lecture #3 | Lecture #4 | Lecture #5 | Lecture #6 | Lecture #7 (round table discussion)

________________________

I also recently picked up one of Roxburgh’s books at a pastor’s study conference earlier this month, and I look forward to reading it when I get some breathing room.

  • Alan J. Roxburgh and M. Scott Boren.  Introducing the Missional Church: What it is, Why it Matters, How to Become One. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2009.

Why I don’t want to be a “cool” Christian

These days, many evangelical churches are noticing a lower attendance of young people.  Young people are not returning to church after they leave home–either for college or to live independently.  Why is this?  Wall Street Journal has an article written by a twenty-something author Brett McCracken, author of Hipster Christianity: When Church and Cool Collide (Baker, 2010).  McCracken says:

As a 27-year-old evangelical myself, I understand the concern. My peers, many of whom grew up in the church, are losing interest in the Christian establishment. Recent statistics have shown an increasing exodus of young people from churches, especially after they leave home and live on their own. In a 2007 study, Lifeway Research determined that 70% of young Protestant adults between 18-22 stop attending church regularly. Statistics like these have created something of a mania in recent years, as baby-boomer evangelical leaders frantically assess what they have done wrong (why didn’t megachurches work to attract youth in the long term?) and scramble to figure out a plan to keep young members engaged in the life of the church.  Read entire article

He makes a very good point here.  Pastors, especially the young hip ones on the internet, look all slick and cool, but are their churches keeping our young people or losing them after they see through the slick and glitz?  What do young people want? Do they want authenticity or the slick glitzy cool “Christianity”?

It seems to be that evangelical churches are going down the same pathway that mainline churches have gone in the past, that is, trying to be relevant at the expense of failing to preach/teach the core of the gospel.  Is this “coolness” a factor in the church’s decline of young people?

Our churches are so good at teaching a human-centered theology but struggle with putting Christ in the center of our teaching and preaching.  We like talking about self-improvement, but we don’t like to talk about what’s wrong with us and how we need Christ. If evangelical churches continue walking down the same dangerous road, evangelical churches will eventually turn into dying churches within 10-20 years. Let’s hope this doesn’t happen. Just give me the pure gospel straight-up please.