Nepali Primer released

Recently I’ve been working my way through creating Primers – short PDFs containing collections of annotated links – for the countries of South Asia. These are being offered through Gumroad. The newest release is a primer on Nepal.

What’s the purpose?

If you just scan Twitter, Facebook, or Google News headlines for these countries, you’ll only get what’s current at the moment. That only tells you what’s happening now: it gives you no clue as to why it has happened, what the context is (a common event or a rare outlier), where it fits into the stream of things, and what’s likely to happen next.

To understand countries and the events that happen in them, you need to go deeper than the headlines. The Primers are designed to help you do just that.

What’s in the primers?

I’ve taken an ethnographic template and filled it out with links to resources. Think of this as a kind of ‘museum’: a curated collection of material that will educate you about the country and its peoples.

Some of the links are large data sets, some are studies, some are photoessays, some are books. Some are free, some you’ll have to buy (I’ve tried for about a 60/40 mix of free/buy).

What do I hope you do?

I hope you get the Primer for the country you’re interested in, and read the material it links to! I hope you widen your view of the world.

At the same time, I’ve tried to limit the number of links, to help you avoid “paralysis of analysis.” You don’t need to know everything before you get started trying to do something to bless the country, and the Primer is (an admittedly imperfect) boundary on what you need to know.

The one thing the Primer won’t do is give you specific links to people who are doing work. To get introduced, you’ll need to get in touch with agencies and churches that have a vested interest in the country. To find them, you can start with prayer networks – or simply by emailing me.

Where do I get the Primers?

Visit the Resources page.

Why do I have to pay for them?

We need your help to offset the cost of creating them (information isn’t free to produce), and to create more. (And if you’re a Patron, you’ll find them all in the Patron Dropbox Folder).

Life among the unreached, 5

1. “Afghanistan’s playgrounds.” Reuters Photoessay.

2. “What it means to be poor by global standards.” Pew Research.

3. “Boko Haram resurgence deepens humanitarian crisis in Niger.” Reuters. Also: Deadly bomb blasts rip through Nigerian bus stations.

4. “Cameroon says two suicide attacks kill 13 in Maroua.” Reuters. “…what appeared to be the deepest incursion by Boko Haram militants from neighboring Nigeria…”

5. “Are Muslim countries really unreceptive to religious freedom?” Washington Post. YMMV.

6. “South Sudan: the displaced find sanctuary on holy ground.” Al Jazeera. The holy city of Waat.

7. Busan, Korea’s 2nd city, in photos. Lonely Planet, via @jkpittman. Is Korea unreached? It’s a huge mission sending country, but still about 70% non-Christian and many are unevangelized.

8. “Adults before their time, Syria’s refugee children toil in the fields of Lebanon.” The Guardian. Having fled Islamic State and crossed the border, a lost generation skips school for a life of back-breaking hardship.

9. “Ethnic Yao minority women brush their [famously long] hair near a creek in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.” Economist on Instagram. More than 80,000 tourists a year visit the area.

10. “I don’t: South Korea’s Singletons.” Economist. 40% of South Korea’s adults (16% of South Korean households) are single (33% of women with degrees are single). Two reasons: exhorbitant cost of marriage, and so many daughters aborted in the quest for sons that 1 in 7 men lack a marriageable partner. See also Telegraph on China’s “50 million women shortage.”


Church, defined

When my organization, ActBeyond, reports statistics about churches and believers, it’s because we have spreadsheets and lists of those entities, and we use the following definitions.

Baptized believers: A person from the people group who has made a profession of faith in Christ (Romans 10) and has received baptism. The baptism has been verified.

Group: a regular meeting to learn to obey the commands of Jesus (not necessarily baptized believers!) and/or baptized followers of Christ. DBS and T4T formats are typical of the group meeting process. These are “seeker-oriented” groups – they do not always become churches, and are not counted among church numbers.

Church: A group of baptized believers who regularly meet and carry out the functions such as described in Acts 2:37-47, have recognized leaders, and have self-identified as a church.

Some movements do not define a church as a church until it starts another ekklesia.

Also, because of the distinctive focus on obedience-based discipleship, combined with studies of Acts 2 and other passages on the responsibilities of the church, some movements will not define a church as a church unless they are feeding the poor, healing the sick, helping the widows, etc.

Finally, we emphasizing discipling whole “households” – pre-existing social units – to faith, rather than grouping strangers. In these situations, leadership is typically already present in the group, and then enhanced by God’s giving of gifts, etc.

Islam has the largest number of under-30 believers in China?

Christian Today has a post up with this headline.

The lead statement says:

Islam has the largest number of young believers in China, new research has found, despite the growth of Christianity in the country and an atheist government.

The China Religion Survey 2015, released by the National Survey Research Centre at Renmin University of China,  found that 22.4 per cent of Muslims in China are under 30, with Catholicism following closely behind at 22 per cent aged 30 or under.

(My emphasis added.)

The article is getting some linkages and was referred to me by a friend involved in ministry there. It appears to me the lead is unclear, and in its unclarity, wrong.

I think they said “largest number” when they meant something more like “largest percentage” or “largest share.”

Let’s do the math:

Muslims in China number at most 24.4 million.
If 22% are under the age of 30, then under-30 Muslims number about 5.3 million.

Catholics probably make up about 20 million (both Asia Harvest numbers and the World Christian Database agree on that).  The study cited seems to suggest Catholics also have about 22% (slightly under Muslims) of their membership under 30. So Catholics would likewise have slightly fewer people in absolute numbers: 22% of 20 million = 5 million.

But Protestants number 84 million.
If even 10% (half) were under 30, then under-30s would equate to 8.4 million.
If 20% are, under-30s would be 16 million, or 3x the number of Muslim under-30s.

It’s not likely that less than 5% or so of Protestants are under the age of 30!

This article in Breitbart goes further:

The study, conducted between 2013 and 2015, found that 22.4 percent of people under 30 years old identified as Muslim, while 22 percent identified as Catholic. Buddhism and Taoism were the two most popular religions among people over 60 years of age.

Now, precisely how many people does “22.4% of people under 30” equate to? The UN has China’s population by 5-year age group, as of 2015: 0-4, 91.2 million; 5-9, 85.2 million; 10-14, 78 million; 15-19, 82.6 million; 20-24, 107.8 million; 25-29, 133.2 million. Add these together: 578 million. 22.4% of them are Muslim? About 130 million. That’s about 6 times the total number of Muslims in China right now, or about 10% of China’s population. If they were all under 30… that would be a massive people movement, and how would that be ignored and suddenly discovered in a research study today?

Anyway, the Breitbart report cites this Global Times report, which says “Islam has the largest number of young believers, with 22.4 percent of them aged below 30.” So Breitbart gets it wrong through unclear writing.

However, I think the Global Times report is wrong too, since it claims most religious Chinese are younger. There are 1.4 billion people in China, and if 578 million are under 30, that leaves about 900 million who are over. A good chunk of those would be Buddhists and Taoists, and you have to count them as religious. Without doing extended analysis, my money’s on there being more older religious Chinese than younger – invaliding the Global Times statement.

What I think the original study was saying is this: of all religious groups, Muslims in China have the highest percentage of members (not the highest absolute number of members) who are under the age of 30. Or, more simply stated: the average age of Islam is younger than any other group. I haven’t seen the original study yet, so I don’t know for sure, but this is about the only thing that isn’t immediately falsifiable. Muslims do tend to have a higher birth rate, which would skew toward a younger population.

Another possibility: Muslims in China may very well be the fastest growing religion among Young Chinese, too. Small groups do tend to be faster growing than large groups, so this would be unsurprising. Rapid growth when small is not maintained when groups become large, however.

This just goes to show that we need to be careful in how we say these kinds of things, and just think for a moment about what’s being said.

Long Reads, 2: Fermi Estimation, Accuracy v Precision, Muslim apostates, more

1. Fermi Estimation for Startup Business Models. How to estimate any metric when you don’t know yet. “Focus on the one thing that is most likely to move a needle by 10x instead of 2x.”

2. Accuracy and Precision are not the same thing. Ted-Ed. Why investing in improving one doesn’t necessarily yield the other, and why both are important.

3. “Losing their religion: when Muslim immigrants leave Islam.” Foreign Affairs.

4. “Islamic Scripture is not the problem.” Foreign Affairs. Good points, comparing to Biblical misuse.

5. “Zen and the art of moneymaking.” Economist. Buddhism & business: local officials make a packet from a religion of self denial.

6. “Signs your team is too strong for its own good.” HBR. Building a strong team isn’t the goal.

7. Summer issue of China Source Quarterly is out: Chinese Christians writing on the reformed movement, the pentecostal movement, eschatology in the Chinese church, and the church in the public sphere.

8. India’s Beef with Beef: the nation’s views on beef consumption are conflicted, but it has no problem exporting it; India is the 2nd largest exporter of beef. Beef bans could cause economic hardship for the nation.

9. Are Muslim Terrorists truly Muslim?

10. The Normal Fallacy.

Quotes, 1

1. “Beautiful obsession is the predecessor of greatness.” and “The obsessed survive and thrive.” Leadership Freak.

2. “Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.” Scott Adams.

3. “When I give food to the poor, I am called a saint. But, when I question why the poor have no food, I am called a communist.” Quoted by Sony Kapoor.

4. “The things you learn in maturity aren’t simple things such as acquiring info and skills.” John Maeda, accompanied by great list. “You find that the world loves talent, but pays off on character.”

5. “He that will not serve the Lord in the Sunday school at home, will not win children to Christ in China.” Charles Spurgeon. Because there’s nothing magical about airplane seatbelts.

6. “Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little.” Edmund Burke.

7. “It’s not your dreams that determine your future, but your habits.” Dr. Calvin Chong.

8. “It is never too late to be who you might have been.” George Eliot.

9. “A faith that moves mountains is a faith that expands horizons, it does not bring us into a smaller world full of easy answers.” Rich Mullins.

10. “When you innovate, you’ve got to be prepared for everyone telling you you’re nuts.” Larry Ellison.

10 Charts this week, 1: refugees, folk religions, religiously unaffiliated, rich cities, Millennials on the church, more.

1. Refugees:
80% of world’s refugees hosted in developing world. Chart.
The desperate refugee flight around the globe. Mapped.
GMI’s beautiful “Stepping beyond the tents” infographic.

2. South Sudan, 2 million forced to flee. Map of destinations.

3. Folk religions make up largest religious group in just 3 countries. Pew Chart.

4. Religiously unaffiliated are second largest group in half the world’s nations (but distant 2nd in many). Pew Chart.

5. Christians & Muslims are largest religious group in 90% of world’s countries. Pew Map.

6. These 7 cities will be among the richest by 2025 (not London, Hong Kong, New York). CNN.

7. Barna asked Millennials why they do or don’t think church is important. Infographic.

8. The rise in non-state conflict. Charted, in years.

9. Where the 1% of water fit for drinking actually is. Mapped.

10. Where the world’s oldest, youngest people live (beautifully simple map)

China Inland Mission owed its success to

Freedom to travel in inland China and full toleration to missionaries and Chinese Christians had been recently guaranteed by foreign treaties; for the Protestant world the four decades from 1865-1905 were a period of growing prosperity and comparative peace; there were, too, in nearly all Protestant denominations large numbers who believed, as did [Hudson Taylor], in the imperative necessity of giving the Gospel to the non-Christian world and who rallied to his support; Taylor, moreover, developed unusual powers of organization and administration. All of these favoring conditions would have been ineffective, however, had it not been for Taylor’s daring, simple faith, utter sincerity, and completely unselfish devotion. This one man, frail in body and of no unusual intellectual powers, called into being a mission which, consecrated to one great task, the giving of the Faith to all Chinese who had never heard it, was to bear witness to the Gospel in every inland province of China.

–“A History of Christian Missions in China,” Kenneth Scott Latourette, p. 385