Pastoral Confessions: Should I Stay or Should I Go Now?

LT in Worship

Don't I look so holy and spiritual?

A handful of resignations in English Speaking Ministries of Chinese Churches have come across my attention in the past month or so. Just a couple resigned under favorable conditions. Sadly, the others were typical of the struggles we hear about in this context.

About a month ago, my co-pastor, Greg Hobaugh had resigned for an amazing opportunity, Dean of Students at Westminster Theological Seminary! So if you go there or planning to go there, tell him I sent you! Really…big kudos to the man! It was a very quick transition out. In his leave you can imagine the weight of responsibility that I feel now which is why I’ve been slow to post. We’re all very excited for him. I confess, I ask myself very often along with other pastors in this context, “Should I stay or should I go?” Are we getting anywhere? When is it a good time to go? (If you’re from my church and reading this…I’m not going anywhere anytime soon)

Not all Chinese Churches are the same but overall who has an encouraging story to tell? There have been a bunch of new seminary grads that haven’t been able to get themselves in a position because Chinese Churches are looking for an EM Pastor with experience. The only positions they may be considered for is a youth pastor position if the Church has even thought that far to consider that an option. It’s usually a stepping stone. Working for a Chinese Church is surely a long obedience and a serious calling. We’ve only talked about just getting in the door thus far not what’s behind it. It’s a pandora’s box. These guys are trying to get in where so many have said, I’m out.

Wayland Wong (a name you should know – he’s like the grandaddy of ABC Pastors) who also shared recently at a PALM meeting has always encouraged ABC pastors to stay and endure the long haul. Every time I see the man, “keep at it kid, keep at it” with his big grandaddy smile. Steve Chin, an ABC Pastor in Boston, jokes about outliving the leadership. I think it’s how he became Senior Pastor. I used to go by that. I mean c’mon, really, the elders are how old now? Time is precious to me. I want to make the most of it but it has always been a part of my philosophy of ministry to go the long haul no matter what the circumstances. The Chinese Church needs ABC pastors but I confess that more frequent than not I still struggle with that nagging question, what’s better, to stay or to go?
If i stay there will be trouble. If i go there will be double.

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7 Responses to “Pastoral Confessions: Should I Stay or Should I Go Now?”

  1. 1 Joey Chen
    July 10, 2008 at 5:34 pm

    Laurence: honest post. Good questions that need the discussion of other ABC pastors. I believe you hit the essential point of the question you raise when you said: “Working for a Chinese Church is surely a long obedience and a serious calling.”

    I think the question of calling is key. Unfortunately the question is often glanced over too quickly in seminary training, and rarely revisited in church staff circles. I’ve been a youth pastor for about a year now and I know what gives me hope and preservation is knowing that God has called me here. Now, I haven’t had the tenure of many other ABC pastors, but I know ministry has beaten me up this year and will continue to push hard. I have to always go back to the call.

    What’s behind the door? A pretty bad road. Why do I stay? Because God continues to show me where it may lead.

  2. July 10, 2008 at 8:31 pm

    Dude, how non-Asian of you to talk about these kinds of things outside of the family 😉 OR are you simply living the new reality of a Asian-American 2.0 postmodern pastor simply trying to be faithful to calling and urgings of Christ? Me thinks it is the latter. Keep it up!

    And yes, you do look holy!

  3. 3 chaulks
    July 11, 2008 at 5:12 pm

    hey man,

    Good questions to be raised for anyone in EM, 2nd Gen, ABC, etc.. ministries to be thinking of.
    my thoughts on it have been venturing more on the 1st gen side of the partnership. you touched upon it in your last line… stay for trouble or leave for worse.

    Any immigrant church needs to come to a decision on what their strategy and purpose of English Ministry is to be in their church. Of course this is a whole lot easier said than done; esp with all the indirect talk and posturing that often goes on in Asian churches. I do wish that the leadership of the immigrant church, esp if it is dominated by 1st Gen folks, would own up to either a self-focused desire for the EM to minister to their OWN and not merely pay lip service to the idea of a church within a church, or interdependent or any other system that is miles away from fully being realized. Such candor would be at the very least, refreshing (though I’m not holding my breath for it!) and would at least give any new or young EM/2nd Gen/ABC leader a clear picture of where they stand. Perhaps this would mitigate some of the frustration our brethren have been experiencing. Like Joey mentioned, its about calling… and candid grasp of the situation and what God has called us to will help us thru the stormy periods.

    hey, its been too long, let’s catch up.
    got some ideas for us to possibly collobrate on.

  4. July 17, 2008 at 10:14 pm

    awesome post. say it out loud, cuz everyone’s thinking it.

    I’ve recently begun rethinking this “must have experience” requirement. I actually think it’s a good requirement because most environments I’ve seen, the pastors are just thrown in there – sink or swim. there’s little or no mentoring/collaborating/living life together/accountability with the other key layleaders. However, if there ARE those pieces, I wonder if the “experience” is merely preferred, not required. and pastors are shaped as well as shapers.

    I think we ABCs have such a unique calling. it’s a ministry that is more strategic and yet more frustrating, more rewarding and yet more discouraging, more targeted and yet more complex. It will take a special kind of person with a special mix of experiences, cultural savviness, and gifts to bridge the gaps (ABC to OCB AND ABC to community). And, bro, you got it.

    and no you don’t look holy. you kinda look like you’re holding in #1

  5. July 18, 2008 at 11:43 pm

    LT — Amazing thoughts! Thanks for sharing with such honesty and, yes, hope.

    I am feeling what you’ve been writing 110% these days. There’s something sad (and I don’t say that in a finger-pointing, condescending way but more in sorrow) about 1st gen Asian immigrant churches and their inability (or complete lack of desire, honesty, etc.) to raise up leaders from the next gen.

    I agree with chaulks above — it would be nice if churches would at least be honest about wanting EM’s to take care of their own, rather than paying lip service with some lofty mission/vision statement about why their EM exists. This is the murky water in which I’m barely staying afloat.

    I’m okay with suffering if it feels like there’s a point, something redemptive in there. I must confess, though, these days it feels more like aimlessly banging my head against the same old wall.

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[american born chinese pastor]
seeks to be that third place for those who are american born chinese [abc] in ministry.
here we may explore issues unique to the chinese church and doing ministry in that context
expand the intersection of asian american culture and christian faith
or simply expose what goes on in the mind of this abcpastor

this may be a bit ambitious or even naiive but i do hope that through the posts we can bring together different faith communities, passions for the advancement of the Gospel and the equipping of the body of Christ.

if you are an abc pastor or have any suggestions or would like to contribute to make this space evolve, just comment.


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