Archive for the 'Asian-American Christianity' Category


Research on Bay Area Chinese Churches

Just a quickie during my oil change at a Honda dealership. I came across this informative news thanks to DJChuang on L2Foundation on some findings on Chinese churches from the Bay Area Chinese Churches Research Project. They will report their findings at a 3 day conference in the Bay Area with pastors and church leaders. Register online before November 3rd for complimentary free access.

Here’s some highlights.

  • There are over half a million Chinese in the six Bay Area counties. Between 1990 and 2000, the Chinese population increased by 45%, compared with a 12% increase in the total population.
  • In 1950, there were 15 Chinese churches in the Bay Area. Our 1996 Study listed 158 churches, a ten fold increase. In 2008, the number churches had risen to 194.
  • In 1996, total attendance at worship on a typical Sunday was 21,435. In 2008, that number had risen to 29,960.

We need a collaborative effort like this on the East Coast. I’ll get back to that thought after I pick up my car.


ENGAGE Speaker Series: Worlds Apart? The Joys and Challenges of Serving in the Asian Ethnic Church

Worlds Apart? The Joys and Challenges of serving in the Asian Ethnic Church.
There is an old age concern about the challenges of serving in the second and third generation Asian ethnic congregation. Through anecdotes, spiritual reflection and exploring biblical thoughts on the joys and challenges of serving in the traditional Asian ethnic church. We will seek to show how God can redeem this often broken part of ministry.

This seminar will be given by Peter Ong, Associate Director Pastoral and Laity Ministries. Peter Ong grew up in Queens as a child of immigrant parents. He is an Associate Director of PaLM and is developing a Laity project to equip and serve Asian American leadership through fellowship, training and mentoring. Peter served with the Chinese Christian Herald Crusades’ Herald Youth Center for seven years before joining the staff at Pastoral and Laity Ministries. He also currently serves on staff with Living Faith Community Church in Flushing as the Director of Gospel Community and also as the Director of Youth Ministry.

Date: Tuesday, September 16th, 2008
Time: 7:00 pm-9:00 pm
Place: Overseas Chinese Mission, 154 Hester Street, New York, NY 10013 (corner of Elizabeth St.)

Please RSVP to or call at 212-202-3264.

Pastoral and Laity Ministries presents their Fall 2008 ENGAGE Speaker Series. After participants’ replies to  last season’s ENGAGE Speaker Series, they are hosting a series of talks/seminars and conversations on cultural, generational distinctives and issues serving in the Asian American ethnic church. Please forward this to your fellowship groups, leaders and congregation.


Asian American Families Are A Health Risk

Insight from UC Davis psychologists in TIME article, A Family Suicide Risk in US Asians? highlighting the all-so-important role of family for Asian Americans and how it affects us more negatively to the point of suicide than any other factors do like poverty or depression.

The question is, what are the triggers?
Is it conflict? Is it control? Is it this weird sense of honor and expectations?

I think very often the church reinforces some of these triggers. The Chinese church system more often than not is set up to create moral upstanding citizens that write big checks rather than Christ-followers that are willing to be transcultural [Thanks Seth Kim!]

Layers I say. We’re like onions, full of layers [Thanks Shrek]. The Asian-American identity is full of layers. Our identities are so wrapped around the family and weird cultural expectations that it affects our spirituality like nothing else.

Ken Fong, Dan Hyun and I were having this discussion once on the who’s more repressed, Chinese or Koreans? What do you think?

Also Related
Asian American women and cultural pressures [via]


Is Your Church More Chinese Than Christian?

More Chinese Than Christian?
photo credit by phil of

I just recently discovered Andrew Lim and this nice piece he wrote from down under.
Is your church more Chinese than Christian?
From the article, 7 key identifiers for when Ethnicity supersedes Christianity
1. When the church becomes an excuse for a social club for a particular ethnic group

2. When ethnic/cultural unity is more important than gospel unity.

3. When ethnic-cultural values override Biblical virtues and Biblical truth.

Formally put: “In the Gospel of the Kingdom of God, Jesus has given us a culture-transcending and a culture-transforming dynamic which confronts ethical categories of all societies and ethnic groups. The Gospel calls into question all social mores and moral codes.” Informally put: God’s virtues trump our values.

4. When church is restrictive and exclusive.

5. When church becomes insular and inward focused.

6. When church becomes homogeneous, rather than heterogeneous.

“People like to become Christians without having to cross racial, linguistic, or class barriers…It takes no great acumen to see that when marked differences of colour, stature, income, cleanliness, and education are present, men understand the gospel better when expounded by their own kind of people. They prefer to join churches whose members look, talk, and act like themselves.” (Understanding (1980), p. 227)

This states in brief what has become known as the Homogeneous Unit Principle (HUP). Although it sounds obvious to anyone involved in evangelism, it has had significant consequences for the church. It has influenced the development of many churches with a heart for mission. As churches move more towards making mission a priority, the more they will have to deal with cultural issues that interfere with or distort the gospel, and so the more the HUP appeals. The problem with this approach is that homogeneous evangelism tends to create a homogeneous church.

7. One Final Story St Andrew’s Cathedral and Asian Bible Church. You have to ask Andrew about what this means.

this isn’t anything new or profound. we need to be reminded that we’re all in danger of doing these things whether we’re ethnic based or not.


Pastoral Confessions: Being Ourselves



Do you know your pastor? I mean, do you really know your pastor?
There is a serious disconnect with the public recognition and expectations of the pastoral office and the family life that comes along with that. Sure I can understand the congregational psyche of looking to the pastor as the “one” as if they’ve achieved some level of holiness. Someone’s gotta be able to show that this Christian life is possible. Is that realistic?

Yes, possible while stumbling through all the way to those pearly gates.
Thankfully, our hope is not in a sinner that’s been called out to be called “pastor”.

The playing field has leveled out. People are people regardless of rank and gender. We’re in this together. We’re all together on a mission to heal the world. We are the priesthood of believers. The way we think and talk about individuals has to be retooled. I’d like to think we’ve changed and have come so far as the church but I guess that’s why we’re always 20-30 years behind the times. Same old thinking about roles, gender, sin, mission, evangelism…I could go on.

Pastoral authenticity is so crucial to today’s sensibilities. We’ve got to be real and discerning not talking heads. Not someone who’s out of touch with personal pain and suffering. Not someone who thinks they’re always right and they’ve got all the answers. Yes, above reproach but not infallible. Jesus-ish just not Jesus.

We’re not the standard for living. If that’s the case then why don’t members in our congregations take a serious pay-cuts? Don’t use us as the standard for what to watch and read, asking if we read Harry Potter or watch this show or movie.

Then add in the mulit-dimensional factors like marriage and parenting as if any of us have done this before we’ve been married. My boys will be boys. Perhaps like me and perhaps not. For their sake, better not.  Include the nuances of Chinese culture and you have foreboding doom following overhead. With all these unrealistic perceptions and expectations, being a pastor in the Chinese church or not is a nearly impossible task. Pastors are destined for disappointment, implosion and isolation. There’s so much inner turmoil with no outlet for confession because of shame and honestly, pride. Ah, to be merely mortal.

“The Church can be a thankless employer, with poor boundaries between private and public space, vague practices about holidays and days off, laughable job descriptions and few opportunities to congratulate oneself on a job well done and completed.” – Jane Williams

I’ve always appreciated Archbishop Rowan Williams but I think I loving his wife more right now. She just outted us all in a new book called, “Marriage, Mitres and Being Myself.” Amen and thank you.

She writes how the spouses of church leaders are expected to entertain guests as well as raising children and following their own careers, and admitted visitors to Lambeth Palace are sometimes “shocked” at how untidy it is.

In the Chinese church there’s this thing about pastor’s wives, it’s like having a two-for-one deal. They’re expected to serve almost just as much without the pay and recognition. It’s interesting that she is also called not by name but a title, “See-Moh”, literally, “pastor’s wife”. My church doesn’t practice this ;).

Is it too much to ask to simply, be myself? or at least for my wife to be herself?

How appropriate that I’m writing this as The Dark Knight is being released today. There’s a narrative in there for us as pastors. We are our own dark knights struggling with inner conflicts. We know about shadows and light. I want to be Superman but I’m more Bruce Wayne than Clark Kent.
I love the marketing campaign…Why so serious?
We really do need to take ourselves less seriously and just live.

Also related
Pastoral Confessions: Should I stay or Should I go now?
Pastoral Confessions [i]


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.

Also Read Related
Pastoral Confressions [i]


We Need To Talk: A Conversation about Homosexuality & the Asian American Christian Church

The topic of homosexuality and the Asian-American church doesn’t ever really get discussed but it may gain a little more traction with an event hosted by Evergreen Baptist Church in LA (EBCLA). We need to talk about it but I’m not sure if we even really think about it and I’m speaking mainly of pastors. The topic is without doubt relevant for a Second Gen or Asian-American church but for the immigrant church it’s a doozy. Overall, we’re very unaware of how it affects us and our ministry until someone shares openly that they are homosexual. In the immigrant church the shame-based culture is very prominent in comparison to 2nd Gen/Asian-American churches. The difficulty remains in that Immigrant churches kind of exist more or less in a cultural bubble. Additionally they are all at different stages of development. Once the EM (English Ministry) is established the topic may arise because it is relevant to their families and friends. These children of the church are looking for real answers and real faith from their spiritual leaders and parents. However much of the experience of second generation in these immigrant churches is negative as they tend to have more conservative or fundamentalist leanings of absolute certainty and clarity to moral issues in American culture. Either way we’ve got a long way to go and we may not be able to be silent about it for much longer regardless of being in an immigrant church or not.

I’m glad Ken Fong is leading the way here (the pioneer that he is). My friend Henry Mui is also planning to bring something to the Bay Area this summer. I hope to get more details on that soon.
What’s going on East Coast???
We need to talk.

Saturday, May 10, 7:00 p.m. @ Sanctuary of Evergreen Baptist Church of Los Angeles []

WE NEED TO TALK: A Conversation about Homosexuality & the Asian American Christian Church. Sponsored by the Christian Social Issues (CSI) group, an informal gathering of Asian American Christians who discuss wide-ranging social issues and how they relate to our Christian faith. Join three old friends – two straight and one gay – who will engage in a conversation that needs to happen more often in order to dispel ignorance, quell fear and hatred, and foster greater understanding. Debate about scriptural interpretation or scientific evidence is not within the scope of this dialogue. It is not our intent to resolve this highly complex issue. Though we may ultimately arrive at different conclusions, at the very least, we need to break the awful silence in our churches surrounding this subject. We really need to talk.

If you have a friend or loved one who is gay, or you are gay yourself, or you are a Christian who is concerned about this issue, please join us in this much needed and long-awaited dialogue.

How Would You Talk About Homosexuality In Church? [DJ Chuang]
• ISAAC Bulletin Board with more details for the planning committee members and background information

• EBCLA Podcast and PPT Slides from Pastor Ken Fong, “Is There a Place for Homosexuals in the Body of Christ?” [slides from part 1 and part 2]
• Ken Fong Blogs: Conviction, Upcoming Forum, and We need to talk.


AALC2008 Blogging Part 3, Hype and Substance

OK… finally getting back into the swing of things here in Philly.
It’s good to be home and back into the thralls of life. Still processing some of the things that occurred at AALC [Asian-American Leadership Conference]. I thought I’d blog more there but the conference was surprisingly short! Before I knew it I was on a plane. One thing is certain, ministry never stops and waits for no one. I was able to catch me some March Madness over the weekend. The coaches were interviewed about what they had done over the season and what they need to do to get to San Antonio. One of them said, “we have to deal with what’s in front of us” and it struck me. Ain’t that the truth! The road to glory is long and difficult. We have to keep on keeping on with the next thing.

I could not help but connect that to some of the things shared by the David Gibbons and Ken Fong. They were both raw and spot on. They spoke about misguided ambitions and discouragement from a pastoral perspective. I think very often pastors/leaders get stuck with “vision” and where they’d like to be that they don’t know how to deal with what’s right in front of them. I think it’s the hardest thing for young leaders to face in the immigrant church. We know where we’d like the church to be but it takes an immense amount of effort to get ‘there’. Also, just where is there anyway?

“Do any of us get to Narnia or do we get stuck in the closet?”
“Is bigger better?”
– David Gibbons

“One of the most frustrating things for people doing full time ministry is the absolute persistence that people have to not changing things or changing the nature of our organization. We’re naive to think that because we’re Christian we’re going to embrace change.”
– Ken Fong

AALC 2008 David Gibbons AALC 2008 Ken Fong

I know things take a long time to move in the immigrant church. It’s excruciatingly slow for a second generation used to a non-stop, always connected, glocal culture. Sure there are many factors at work but I think it’s worthwhile to consider dealing with what God has put right in front of us with fervor. Let’s not get caught up with ecclesiastical porn – wanting what we can’t have, right now. Sure looking at certain churches/ministries out there can quicken our hearts like a centerfold pin-up but the truth is it’s not all roses. Eugene Cho and Gideon Tsang did a wonderful job demystifying the hype and their churches. Sure Quest Church/Q Cafe is one of the hot churches in Seattle. They are doing cool, great things. Eugene painted a beautifully dark road getting there [my pastor is a janitor]. Gideon spoke truthfully about life at Vox Veniae and how messy it really is.

Let’s not jump on everything that looks sexy. There are blessings that are right in front of us that we’re missing.
Prepare for glory~

AALC 2008 Eugene Cho AALC 2008 Gideon Tsang

Eavesdrop on Eugene Cho and Gideon Tsang
[via DJChuang]
AALC2008 Blogging Part 1 and Part 2
AALC2008 Coverage by Daniel Eng: Session 1, Session 2, Session 3


I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For

U2 I Still Haven’t Found What I’<p><p>m Looking For

I just stepped off a plane from LA hours ago and I’m headed to NYC for an event at OCM that will feature Acrobat, a band led by Andrew Au to cover U2 songs for the night, Peter Ong and myself to cover the intersection of faith, love and social justice.

“You broke the bonds and you loose the chains, carry the cross and all my shame, all my shame, you know I believe it…”

OCM Church: I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For


AALC2008 Blogging Part 2

It’s easy to think that Asian-American leaders or ABC leaders don’t care about the immigrant church. That is simply not true here at AALC [Asian-American Leadership Conference]. It’s nice to be around people who give a damn about the immigrant church. They love her. But it’s no secret that many of us are hurting real bad in our immigrant churches. I deeply appreciate AALC affirming leaders where they’re at. The themes of each message ultimately encouraged us all in our calling. Lisa Espineli Chin on rest, David Gibbons on misguided ambitions, John Townsend on boundaries, and Ken Fong wrapping things up on dealing with discouragement. These are all themes AA leaders need to hear and embrace for a life of ministry.

[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.


Feed the Ego

Laurence Tom's Facebook profile

Add to Technorati Favorites