Monthly Archives: October 2015

Christian Singles – Looking for Love in All the Right Places?

Enter “christian singles” in Google and it returns more than six million links. A while ago I did a keyword search of the most popular search engine queries with the word “christian.” I found that “christian singles” came top, followed – surprisingly – by “christian t-shirts,” “christian debt counseling” and “christian gifts.”

I had no idea that catering to Christians looking for love was such big business.

My interest was aroused some years ago when I moved to a new church and found that a prominent member ran an introduction service (not specifically aimed at Christians). So I visited some of the Christian dating service websites.

The initial impression of course is how commercial they are. I guess that’s to be expected. It’s clearly a competitive business.

Do they work? Certainly the testimonials are impressive. Here’s one:

It’s rather crazy… I did this on a moment-to-moment whim, just scanning around to see what this type of site was all about, purely on impulse. I signed up for the trial and 2 days later, met him. I’d never been in a chat room, never seen personals ads, never done instant messaging. It’s been 6 weeks now and he’s on his way to come meet me. We’re pretty sure marriage is in order, and it appears the Lord has been working in some beautiful ways. I never thought this kind of thing could be safe or reasonable for Christians, but it seems to be possible after all. Thanks for making this service available.

Here’s another:

Yes I met my soul mate on the site. He sent me an e-mail on the 25th of Feb. and I didn’t return it until Feb. 31 because I was so frustrated with the site, because I had sent e-mails and I was just ignored, so when I received his I took my time to return it. I was so glad that I did because he is all that I had prayed for. The Lord has blessed me richly because he is a wonderful man. We emailed for a while then I gave him my number and we talked and got to know each other better. I think that we got to know each other better this way than if we were together all the time. We have a wedding planned, anyone and everyone from the site is welcome.

(Of course, not every Christian single is looking for marriage, and the website provides some extremely useful resources on the single life.)

Finally, on a personal note, another testimonial.

I met my own wife (she’s Korean) more than 28 years ago (pre-internet days) through an introduction service (not a Christian one). She had been praying to meet a Christian man to marry. She got me instead. I wasn’t a Christian back then. Six-and-a-half years later I came to the Lord.

Canaan Hymns – The Sounds of Christian China

One of the unexpected joys of doing research for my novel “Brother Half Angel” – set in China, and the first of my Brother Half Angel series of international thrillers – was discovering the gorgeous and moving Canaan Hymns.

These are Christian hymns, to be sung in church – in China.

So they are somewhat different from the hymns we sing in our Western churches. Different from our traditional hymns, and different too from our modern praise-and-worship music.

How different?

The best explanation I can give is that they carry a slightly sentimental tone to them, a sense of nostalgia, with unpretentious melodies and lyrics that speak of the beauty and majesty of China and of a simple life spent in the presence of God. They are slow, melodic and a little dreamy. They are not deeply theological. They will not be to all Western tastes.

When I lived in Japan I became a big fan of the Taiwan singer Teresa Teng, who died tragically of an asthma attack at the age of 42. She specialized in folk songs and romantic ballads, with a voice that was once described as conveying “seven parts sweetness and three parts tears.”

That’s what the Canaan Hymns sound like.

But just as moving as the hymns themselves is the story of how they came to be written.

One night in 1990 a young Chinese peasant girl named Xiao Min, unable to sleep, found a song flooding into her consciousness. Over ensuing weeks and months more songs arrived, unbidden, often while she was at her work in the fields picking cotton.

These were songs about God, about His great love for the Chinese people, about the Christian life of prayer, worship, joy and sacrifice.

Traveling evangelists realized the songs were a direct inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and began to spread them throughout the country. Soon Chinese believers everywhere, especially those in the underground home churches, were singing these songs whenever they worshipped.

Over the years Xiao Min received many more songs from God, until their number reached around one thousand. They were named the Canaan Hymns.

Go to YouTube and you can find examples, as well as some documentaries about the hymns and about the composer Xiao Min.

Here are some of the lyrics for “Dark Night,” one of my favorites:

In the dark night, flowers are more fragrant.
In the dark night, footsteps become surer.
A journey in the dark is nearing its end.
Stay true to God.

Listen to it here, and experience, as I have, the warm feelings of love and compassion that percolate from these tender and very special hymns.

The Pentecostal Shaman

Springtime, a few years ago, and some determined birds were making a nest in the eaves of our house, right above our front door. Their droppings were everywhere around our front steps, and thanks to water restrictions then in force we were not supposed to wash paved areas around the home.

I mentioned the birds at our weekly Bible study, and one of the Chinese ladies said: “Oh, that’s very good luck.”

Then she quickly added: “If you’re superstitious.”

I had already seen the conflicts that members of our Bible study group – all Asian except me – sometimes experienced between their religious practise and the customs of their home countries.

Sometimes we need to think about what is really a religious practise and what is simply culture.

My wife is from South Korea and I have spent a lot of time in her country. I often think that one of the reasons for the explosion in Christianity in post-war South Korea has been due to the Korean church’s appropriation of local culture.

When I visited David Yonggi Cho’s Full Gospel Church in Seoul – the biggest church in the world with something like 800,000 to 900,000 members – an elder pointed to a large Korean magpie that had built its nest on top of the high church gateway. “That’s very good luck,” he told me.

In South Korea, it is still not uncommon to seek out shamans for guidance about sickness, money, jobs and many other concerns. And in particular, for help in finding a husband or wife.

I attended three Full Gospel Church services, and after lengthy prayers at each, Dr Cho announced that particular people in the congregation had just been healed of various ailments. He has explained in one of his books how he teaches women to visualize exactly the sort of husband they want, in order to be successful.

Buddhism teaches the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path. Dr Cho’s church teaches the Fivefold Gospel and the Threefold Blessing.

There have been suggestions that Dr Cho is a Pentecostal Shaman. But I wonder, how much of our own Christian practise is shaped by the culture around us?

Do You Need Your Youth Pastor?

Some years ago I was chatting with local Baptist pastor Dr George Lazenby, still then preaching each Sunday at the age of 90 (he has since gone to be with the Lord). He told me that he was writing his autobiography.

Knowing Dr Lazenby as I did, I had no doubts his story would be provocative, and so it has proven. He gave me permission to publish the following excerpt, about our society’s – and the church’s – fascination with youth.

We are living in a time when the ageing population is now seen as a threat. The next generation may well make demands that the present taxation system cannot carry. Which seems to fly in the face of the belief that we should retire earlier than was the case when 65 was the usual age for retirement.

This is not to say that retirement should follow that pattern, but that it appears to be a waste of what experience can give. And this attitude has somehow spilt over into the church.

The emphasis today is on youth, and pastors for youth are seen as essential. When seeking a pastor, few churches would be likely to consider a man in his sixties.

Some of the most impressive preachers I have listened to have been old men.

I shall never forget hearing Dr. A.J. Gossip preach in Glasgow in 1938. He made his way slowly up the stairs leading to the pulpit. He seemed so frail. His thin white hair covered what seemed to be a small face lined by age.

But when he preached!

I could do no more than listen entranced at the way he opened the scriptures. Age had not diminished his preaching ability – it had enhanced it.

Reading Christian newspapers, I am continually confronted by churches seeking youth pastors. As far as I recall, I have not read one which focused upon the needs of the elderly in the congregation.

People over the age of 50 often comprise the greater part of the congregation. They have their special needs. Many are facing the closing years of life – and with it the prospect of sickness and death. To their needs many churches seem deaf.

Subjects that come within the category of ageing and death would be regarded as morbid and consequently avoided. The elderly are left to work things out for themselves without hearing what the word of God has to say about these matters.

Why must the emphasis be so frequently on the needs of youth?