Category Archives: Events

Census 2013: NZ no longer a “Christian” nation, more Buddhists than Baptists

Some might argue that it never was, but the results from the 2013 Census has been released.

For the stats geeks you can see the tabulated data here: http://www.stats.govt.nz/Census/2013-census/data-tables/total-by-topic.aspx

I’m sure someone will create pretty infographics in time, but for now here are some stats that caught my attention:

  • 2 out of 5 respondents (41.92%) identified as not religious (1,635,348, up 20% from 1,297,104 in 2006); a further 12.17% (474,642) objected to or did not answer. This means that for the first time in NZ census history, this group is more than the total that identify as Christian (to compare, in 1956 over 90% of respondents identified as Christian)
  • Less than half of respondents (48.18%) identified as a Christian denomination (1,879,671, down from 2,062,752 in 2006) – note Stats NZ’s definition is pretty big-tent and includes Jehovah’s Witnesses (0.46%, 17,931) and Mormons (1.04%, 40,728)
  • Catholics are now NZ’s largest religious denomination at 12.62% (492,324, down from 508,812 in 2006)
  • Next highest is Anglicans at 11.79% (459,771, down from 554,925 in 2006) – a huge drop of 17%
  • Presbyterians at 8.11% (316,329, down from 385,350 in 2006)
  • Baptists were 1.4% of respondents (53,496, down from 56,175 in 2006)
  • Pentecostals at 1.17% of respondents (45,777, up from 36,372 in 2006).
  • Increased numbers who responded as Hindu (90,018, up from 64560 in 2006), Muslim (46,194, up from 36,153 in 2006) and Buddhist (58,440 up from 52,392 in 2006) – global missions can be found locally. And there’s more (self-identified) Buddhists than Baptists.

Any other thoughts? You can browse the Census results at your leisure here.

Taipei so far

We're currently visiting relatives in Taipei, Taiwan.

It's Cheryl and E's first time in Taiwan, while the last time I was there was 8 years ago. Back then, I was 20, single, still in uni, and still a baby Christian, as it were (Here's a photo with my brother Henry on the right, and my aunt-in-law in the middle).

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Here's some things (in no particular order) we've learned about Taipei so far:

  • it's not as hot as Malaysia right now!
  • we have really caring family here: my two uncles and aunty have been gracious and hospitable, while it has been nice to walk the streets of 台北 with Henry again (who speaks and reads Chinese very well now, and is an expert on the city)
  • food is cheap – lunch boxes for NZ$3-4, pearl milk tea for $1-2, delicious breads and buns for 80 cents each
  • lots of new and unplanned situations to test us as a family – there's nothing like the stress in the middle of a foreign city to reveal areas of character to grow in, such as pride, poor communication, indecisiveness and lack of servant leadership. Praise God for that
  • there's lots of unexpectedly cool restaurants and spaces and places – we're often surprised at what we find when we walk around a corner (for example, Henry took us to a board games café)
  • their public transport system is fast, efficient, and includes trains, buses, rental bicycles, and a 5km-long gondola line
  • they have a massive tofu section in their supermarkets. In fact, the supermarket we went to was so big it was all underground, had an electronics section the size of a JB Hi-fi store, and had a sushi making area
  • also at this supermarket they sell cat bread (bread shaped like a cat) – E was quite torn on whether to eat it or not (for about 10 seconds)
  • the East-West Bannan (板南) MRT Line – E goes on and on about bananas every time we talk about it
  • everyone here understands at least 2-3 different languages/dialects

Taipei life in photos

These photos aren't so much touristy locations, but just snippets of normal Taipei life.

The streets are bustling with life here. Street vendors offer food to hurried workers on their way to work (in many families both the husband and wife work, and usually don't get home till 7-8pm).
Subway stations are pretty convenient. We're staying with my uncles and aunty on mum's side. They own an apartment in the CBD, and the closest station is a few minutes' walk.
About 50 cents for each one of these. They were tasty!
Cheryl enjoying browsing the street markets (this shop sells everything hair-related).
Riding the subway. When people see E on my back they try to offer their seat, but then I tell them that E really likes holding the hanging straps. Also, it's relatively rare to see young children out and about in the city (Taiwan has one of the lowest birth rates in the world); several shopkeepers have given E free stuff
The view from the Maokong gondola (Taipei city with the 101 tower in the background). Since it's part of the public transport system, the fare is NT60, or NZ$2.50. Beat that, Skyline Gondolas!
This place just sells handmade buns and mantou. Delicious.
U-bike rentals (www.youbike.com.tw) – it's such a cool idea, you can use your public transport swipe card to rent a bike, and return them later at any of the U-bike racks dotted around the inner city. The first half hour is free and after that it's NT10 per half hour (less than 50 cents).
Enjoying a morning bike ride along the river.
This is interesting – there are random garden plots dotted around the inner city. My uncle explained to me that developers who own land in the Taipei metro area inevitably want to build tall buildings. So the government has a rule that if you leave the land as a nicely manicured garden for a few years, later on you are entitled to an extra couple of floors in your high-rise.

 

Claire’s wedding, clear teaching, Cornerstone

When the invite for our friend Claire’s wedding came through, I had just applied all my annual leave for an upcoming family holiday to Taiwan.

Yet we eventually decided to travel down to Christchurch for it (Saturday morning in, Sunday afternoon out). Stayed at a motel on Riccarton which my brother-in-law David kindly booked for us (he also acted as chauffeur with a rental car that had no power steering!). Here’s E riding in the back:

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Claire is very dear to us as one of the earliest people we met from the Christchurch, Evanglican, YLC crowd. She moved up in 2011 to brave the Auckland traffic, start a city job, and fellowship at HBC. Over the next two years she loved, served and encouraged us lots, and was a regular in our young adults home group. So in the end I was glad to have made the wedding!

claire-enters-wedding

Nathan and Claire’s wedding was beautiful. Nick Duke the minister did a great job officiating and giving a gospel talk. I always appreciate ministers that make the effort to explain terms that Christians take for granted. He did a good job bringing a clear talk from chapter 5 of Paul’s letter to the Romans.

The wedding cake and refreshments afterwards were really nice too – E loved the berries in the fruit punch, and got very hyper after eating an adult-sized serving of wedding cake!

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Each time we’ve made it down to Christchurch we’ve visited a church in the evangelical Anglican network. I come away from each one (St Johns, St Stephens Shirley) refreshed, encouraged and brimming with lots of “aha! Why didn’t we think of that” moments.

So the next morning we visited Cornerstone‘s Community Church, the morning church plant that Campus Church are seeking to establish.

We worked out how to get there with the address supplied on their website and some signposts that were put up outside the High School that they meet at. Really appreciated the good signposting!

cornerstone-worship-leading

Encouraging service leading from another one of their interns, Chris. Also enjoyed the clear and uncomplicated music leading from Matthias their music guy. I personally learnt and enjoyed some new songs, particularly the Trinitiarian “Praise the Father, Praise the Son” by Chris Tomlin. Also pleasantly surprised to hear Steve and Vikki Cook (Sovereign Grace Music)’s “Hide Away in the Love of Jesus” work well congregationally. Here’s a verse:

Come, guilty ones weighed down with sin
Hide away in the love of Jesus
The freedom you long for is found in Him
Hide away in the love of Jesus

Hear Him calling your name
See the depths of His love
In the wounds of His grace
Hide away

Definitely noticed the song choices were supportive of the gospel and of the themes of the sermon. I actually missed Pete Collier explain 2 Corinthians (took E to the nursery, which was welcoming and well looked after), but Cheryl said that it was helpful.

Praying that they’ll be able to reach out to the Riccarton community (they “officially launch” in November) and be used by God to win new followers for Christ.

cornerstone-community-people

Overall it was a nice visit, we made it onto our flights back (just!) – though at times revealed my irritability, impatience and lack of love with Cheryl and E.

It’ll be good to be back worshipping God together with my church family this Sunday though. (Though come to think of it, it will be the only Sunday in 5 weeks that I’ll be at HBC – man!)

Christianity alone tells us this

Tribute in Light, 9/11/03

“We don’t know the reason that God allows evil and suffering to continue. But we know what the reason isn’t. We know what the reason can’t be. It can’t be that he doesn’t love us. It can’t be that he doesn’t care.”

Why?

“Because he got involved with his Son. Christianity alone tells us that God lost his Son in an ‘unjust attack.'”

— Rev. Timothy Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian in NYC, from his sermon preached on 16 September 2001, following the tragedy of 9/11.

Praying for those who, years on, may still experience much earthly sorrow.

(HT: John Starke)

My seminar at STAND 2013 on hymns

God was kind to allow me the opportunity to present a seminar on hymns during the most recent STAND conference. I previously shared on the STAND website some of the reasons why I did this seminar.

If you’re interested in listening to it, here’s thelink to the recording, here are the notes, and here’s the slides that went with it:

 

Personally I think it went OK, though I typically don’t speak well in settings when I’m nervous, and I also wish as follow-up everyone who attended just listen to the more detailed and helpful lecture series by Kevin Twit. I hope more practice in future will help me to be a clearer and more helpful speaker.

But I had a patient and understanding audience who asked good questions, both during and after the seminar. I’m especially thankful that people were genuinely interested and there was a good group of young adults present and challenged to consider what hymns really are, why they’re worth passing on to the next generation, and some ways we could do that.

For example, I chatted with someone from a Reformed Church (she said they sing both psalms and hymns psalms only) who commented how helpful it was to discuss this topic. In addition, I heard afterwards that it gave a few young adults good food for thought on using and singing hymns, so I thank God for that.

As usual I prepared too much to say in too little time. If I could do it over again, other things worth mentioning would be:

  • More specific ways of using hymns in personal and family worship
  • How to use tunes we know to sing hymn texts we don’t know (this can be really fun and rewarding to do)
  • some good examples of hymns that have been set to more accessible music

Anyways, where to from here? Probably just keep on learning and passing hymns to the next generation… like this…

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