Archive for the 'Christianity' Category

22
Oct
08

A Coffeehouse Theology Brew

A few weeks back I mentioned a new read titled, “Coffeehouse Theology: Reflecting on God in Everyday Life” by Ed Cyzewski. For readers of this blog and any student of scripture I’d recommend you picking up this book.

Today the Coffeehouse Theology Blog Tour makes a stop at ABCpastor. What a privilege!

Theology is one of those words that seem to just belong to the professionals and the spiritual elite, not for the average person in the pews. The thought of doing theology could simply be intimidating to the average church-goer. Perhaps it’s the suffix –logy (the study of) that makes it seem like something you go to school for and major in or maybe it’s just the idea of studying something that makes people want to stand at a distance from. Oh well. Coffeehouse Theology as the title suggests helps us see that theology is really for everyone, anyone and is something we can and should do especially if we are seekers of God. Everyone has an opinion of God and live accordingly to what they know or believe. Instead of dialogue we’ve drawn lines that separate us. The question we need to ask is what has shaped our particular view of God and theology. Then moving forward what should shape it? As I was reading through this book as I read everything else I’m constantly looking for how this fits into my Asian-American context.

We must consider that we all have lenses for how we view the world and God. Arriving at this self awareness is not easy. I deeply appreciate Ed’s focus on adopting ‘Contextual Theology’ so we become aware of our unique perspectives as well as limitations due to culture. Many Christians may believe they’re not affected by it but we cannot escape culture. We’re shaped by it. I think this is where doing theology becomes dynamic connecting us with our personal history, the historic and global church as well as other spheres of life. Ed illustrates this interconnected dynamic more concretely with a contextual theology web diagram. With Ed’s permission I recreated it here to help you.

Theology requires great humility from us. For those who have long held onto their beliefs and convictions the task of theology requires their willingness to be pulled out from the comfortable warm water they have been wading in and squirm out in the wide open sea. As we discover the weight of God’s truth and glory, submit to his values and mission I believe we experience transformation. Theology is far reaching and much more influential than we may realize. It must serve the mission of God and not simply fill our heads with more knowledge or just satisfy our questions. Then we may begin to embrace those different from us, become a little less homogeneous. Perhaps less White, less Chinese, less middle class or what have you. Instead what gives way is a new humanity as Paul speaks of in Ephesians 2:15 to a diverse church comprised of traditional Jews and Gentiles. Consider also what we find throughout Acts on the tensions between these two groups and the Gospel renewal we see in and through the life journey of Paul the Apostle.

In considering the culture of the Chinese Church: Ken Fong, Sr. Pastor of Evergreen Baptist Church in LA once told a story that conveys what we often experience in the Chinese Church as he had confronted his parents in their expression (maybe even wishes) of their family as one big happy Chinese family. The thing is, Ken Fong is third-generation Chinese-American and he barely speaks any Chinese if any at all. Additionally the changing racial dynamics of his family necessitates that they can no longer call themselves a “Chinese” family. Likewise, at what point do you stop calling yourself a Chinese church when those who come are increasingly less Chinese in appearance and understanding? I understand the pride and sense of heritage but is culture shaping us more than our theology then?

Ed recounts a story of an encounter he had with an Asian seminary student discussing the difference in how they each relate to their pastors/elders. In the Asian church we just don’t spout off to our pastors/elders. He writes,

“…neither culture has a corner on respect for elders, but each culture will inevitably read the Bible through a different cultural lens. And both cultures present opportunities for sin. In extreme cases, the Asian approach could be used to ignore younger generations, while the American approach could be disrespectful to elders and leaders. This raises an important point about culture. Every culture has opportunities and challenges.” – Thanks Ed!

We need other voices to confront our blindspots. Ed makes a good point that we tend to think that our American theology is “theology” while we give every other form of theology a qualifier, such as “Latino theology” or “Asian theology”. Again we need to step outside of ourselves and swim out into unfamiliar waters. Ed consistently helps the reader consider other voices in the Global Church be it through his own experience or through some other source. This is such a critical component in theology and it will be ongoing as culture changes. What I find most fascinating about this is that theology becomes a communal activity. Other voices may help deepen our love for God and help us better navigate through our faith journey. Amen to that. BTW Charles Lee has a great post (Changing My Religion) about processing our faith journey. I love the discussion that is happening there.

As I mentioned before any book that contains the word “coffee” in the title should do remarkably well. It has an instant cool factor. Truthfully the cover is also pretty cool looking. There’s even napkin sketches. Praise for Coffeehouse Theology and Ed Cyzewski!

Links
Ed Cyzewski Blog
Ed Cyzewski Writing Blog

Introduction at the OOZE
Post on Emergent village
Blog Tour Schedule

29
Sep
08

Coffeehouse Theology

Just received my copy of a newly released book, Coffeehouse Theology: Reflecting on God in Everyday Life published by NavPress by my buddy Ed Cyzewski [inamirrordimly.com] from Biblical Theological Seminary. I heart Ed and you should too. I don’t deserve it but I get a nice little acknowledgment in it. Thanks Ed! And thanks Marla [coffeeshopjournal.com] for letting me know before I got my copy. Check out her blog for thoughts on third spaces.
I’ll be doing a review of Coffeehouse Theology soon. There will be a blogging tour of his book [link for schedule]. I think it’ll be a great resource to help the Christians apply theology to everyday life. Ed’s already written two study guides. Christians need to think or perhaps think harder but very often they don’t know how to when it comes to everyday issues.
Regardless anything containing the word “coffee” is cool and sells well.

I recommend picking up this book and reading it with a cup of fine coffee from onevillagecoffee.com, a socially conscious roasting company started by another abcpastor friend, Scott Hackman.

19
Jun
08

NT Wright on The Colbert Report

Stephen Colbert Surprised By Hope

First of all, I love Stephen Colbert. It has become a nightly ritual for me and the missus to watch The Colbert Report in our zombie-like state before we haul ourselves up a flight of stairs to our bedroom.
Colbert with sharp wit portrays an ultra-conservative pundit. He has great guests as well. Tonight, NT Wright, the Bishop of Durham who served as the Canon Theologian of Westminster Abbey. He talked about his new book, “Surprised by Hope, Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church.” Colbert made this comment that Hillary Clinton was thinking along the same lines for her next book also… I was rolling. Yesterday I was delightfully surprised by Wright’s appearance. But the whole episode was one of the best Colbert reports ever.

Wright is one of the most important theologians of the 21st Century and he is funny. His new book really addresses having a truncated eschatology particularly in the Western church a theme we’ve been trying to wrestle through in my message series, “Heaven On Earth.” Most Christians have an inadequate and incomplete view of heaven, that it’s merely a future happening or simply what happens after you die. That deeply affects the way we live out the mission of the church as well. Wright’s response is that heaven is God’s “kingdom” that has already been inaugurated by Jesus and that the Church needs to live the resurrection now joining God in his re-creative work.

Links
Check out the full streaming episode here.
Episodes are available the day after they air.

Jake Bouma has posted the entire transcript of the interview on his well-designed site.

02
May
08

Are You A Jerk?

Are you a jerk?

Here’s some weekend goodness. This made my week. Sometimes I’m a complete @$$.
Thanks Dave!
[NextGenerAsianChurch.com]

19
Feb
08

Pastoral Confessions: I Pee Sitting Down.

Now when I’ve got to go I’m faced with some critical decision making or at least I can’t go without thinking about Pastor Anderson’s exhortation. After all, there are 6 references of this in Scripture! It used to be so easy, standing up or sitting down was just a matter of what’s more convenient at the moment. Not once have I ever considered how I should obey God in this area of my life…except perhaps the few times walking around street in NYC and the urge comes upon me.
I will never be the same again.
And what am I teaching my son about biblical manhood?

A lot of bloggers are having fun with this one. If you want a more thoughtful view of this passage read Bo Lim’s post. If you want to see something irreverent see Eugene Cho’s post.

I do want to do a series of posts on pastoral confessions. Perhaps this is a good way to start.
Obviously, pastors are fallible creatures.
Seriously I can’t pee without thinking about this now.

10
Jan
08

White Stone Gallery

The White Stone Gallery (formerly Lime Street Gallery) is a new deal in Manayunk featuring “Biblical Fine Art” or modern art with scriptural meaning according to their website. During January 11 – February 24 the gallery will exhibit a collection from various international artists under “Faith”. ABCPastor favorite, Makoto Fujimura, is among the featured artists. And the work is also available for sale from what I can tell on the site. Not sure if there is an opening reception tomorrow for the artists but I’m very curious about this whole set-up.
So if you’re in Philly…

Last month they had an interesting Nativity Exhibition that included an artist from China utilizing Chinese silk embroidery.

Nativity Exhibit

WHITE STONE GALLERY
4219 Main Street [Manayunk]
Philadelphia, PA 19127

or if your idea of Christian Art is more in line with VeggieTales, the new movie, “The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything” also opens in theaters tomorrow.

10
Jan
08

God Without The Fuss

Joel Osteen, GOOD Magazine
I’m surprised that there hasn’t been much talk about this article in the blogosphere. What I’m referring to is an interesting piece of writing from GOOD Magazine (Dec Issue) on America’s favorite pastor with the pearly whites. [link: “God Without The Fuss“] It’s titled so appropriately. Isn’t that what people really want? God without the fuss? Well they’re getting plenty of it because America is in no short supply of Jesus junk. Osteen is American Christianity at its best. What I find interesting is how a non-faith-based magazine is able to point out what’s missing from America’s most mega megachurch.

“He’s so careful not to offend that he won’t…discuss whether or not his non-Christian followers – and there are many – will make it into Heaven. ’I feel like it can almost divide the audience I’m trying to reach,’ he says.”

“Missing from Osteen’s message, however, is Christianity’s darker side: Heaven and Hell, sin and salvation, suffering and sacrifice.” – Thomas Golianopoulos

For as long as I can remember pastors, leaders, and church folk in general around me have always wondered about this fellow without directly calling him out. They’ve watched his aired programs and some have gone all the way to Houston, Texas to observe him live. It’s not what he says as much as what he doesn’t say and this article calls him out on that.

He appears to do all the right things. He’s charismatic. He does appear to be having his “Best Life Now” with a picture perfect family and a successful church.

Enough about the smiling pastor and his megachurch. However we may judge we must also ask ourselves, what are the messages and values that we communicate from our pulpits? What do we teach our congregations through the songs that we sing? Are we really all that different from the Osteen way?

Quite often today it seems like we don’t deal quite adequately enough with Christianity’s “darker side”. More importantly we don’t talk enough or at all about the way of the cross – discipleship, sin, restoration, forgiveness and mercy. We don’t address the issues of sex, money, power in our lives honestly nor frequently enough.

Going to church ought to mean the place and people we exercise faith thinking and living through and with. Leaving a church does not involve unmet needs or desires but rather about calling and being missional. Jesus didn’t promise that we will be without troubles on this side of heaven. BTW, Jesus doesn’t just love you.

God without the fuss is just prozac.

14
Aug
07

costly commitment

eugene cho who has been following the south korean hostage situation very closely and raising questions as to the lack of response from the press and evangelical world has been noted in an article by christianity today posted august 13 responding to the hostage crisis. it was a mere few sentences that have nothing to do with all that eugene’s been in an uproar about. they were just using his good name.

i admit the article disturbed me. it actually kinda pissed me off. not only did it come across – to me at least – that the article just used eugene cho’s name citing that he “served on the staff of the 25,000-member Onnuri Presbyterian Church in Seoul” but the article reflects a certain problem that i see in christianity. in light of events, it almost sounds from the article that christians or missions sending agencies like the saemmul church that sent the hostages are now fearful, almost regretful – once bitten twice shy. it almost even sounds as if all the attempts to go out in the name of Christ that appeared to have failed are laughable and foolish. it sounds as if christians don’t know what they’re doing or probably that God doesn’t. at least to me these things make us collectively sound foolish, naive, ignorant even though in reality many have considered the cost and moved forward not just in obedience but love.

sure many situations that we find ourselves in are unexpected and not very favorable. that’s usually a given in missionswork. it is a costly commitment. the cost of the journey, the time, the preparation, and leaving behind possessionas, a professional life, family and friends all have some numerical value attached. the loss of life however is a cost that may be too unbearable for many to accept, christian or otherwise. a single life is priceless. but what about a single life given for others? isn’t that what the very foundation of the christian faith built upon? isn’t it the christian life?

i think we play our christianity too safe.
i think christians are too positive about life here on this side of heaven.
what do we offer the world? cheap versions of music, film, art, and literature that on a spiritual level are like products made in china but then again anything that has the label “christian” must be ok. we provide preaching that feed our self-loving hearts with ways to “improve our lives”. we build up churches like mega-cinema-plexes rather than people.

are you tired of cheap imitations? are you weary of the world yet? the world is not a nice place. life is negative. how can we be positive when there are wars (beyond just iraq) and people dying here, there and everywhere? we don’t get along be it a matter of race, religion or otherwise. our best efforts can be easily frustrated. our legacy may stop with us. in our churches we have squabbles over the smallest things when even our best worship are mere shadows of heavenly things (hebrews). it’s all hebel, says the writer of ecclesiastes. we’re dreaming the wrong dreams for our lives. christians ought to be the most disillusioned people in the world – that is to have no illusions about it. it’s a messed up place. we’re not ok.

all his life he had done all the right things. but something wasn’t quite right. he knew who to go to scratch this itch of a question he had – what must he do to find favor with God? how can he inherit eternal life? he approached Jesus with the utmost respect, calling him the “good teacher” but the teacher was not impressed. Jesus went straight for his heart and asked this young, rich kind-of-a-big-deal to give away everything he had, give it to the poor and then, “come follow him”. he turned around and walked away.
Jesus still holds his hand out today and asks us the same question.

what makes us think we’re safe?

Luke 21:16-17
You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death. All men will hate you because of me


John 12:25
The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.

outgoing links
follow eugene cho’s following the south korean hostage crisis
read eugene cho’s post on costly commitment
read the christianity today article: costly commitment.

christianity today poll:
Are Missions to Dangerous Places Irresponsible? (screenshot taken 10:58am 08-14-07)
Christianity Today Poll

08
Aug
07

China: The Largest Christian Nation…In The World

Many folks have long considered America to always have been and still is a Christian Nation. Now there are many arguments surrounding that. One can argue about our values being much closer to those of the Bible than other countries. Others would argue, what semblance of biblical literacy do people still have in the most literate place on earth? Many are just referring to the sheer number of people who call themselves “Christian”. We then ask how many of those are true believers versus being culturally Christian? Well for sometime now the experts have been keeping their eye on countries like Africa, South America and of course China because of the massive number of “conversions” reported. The axis of faith has shifted to the margins, to the poor of this world. Forget the West and the idea that America is still the center of God’s redeeming work the Holy Spirit is vibrant in these other parts of the world. They are doing “more” than we are. Their numbers inrease daily. They are developing strategies to reach other parts of the world including the US. The Spirit moves with or without us. Let’s just focus on China for now. Right now, it’s somewhere between 80-100 million Christians and growing rapidly. If we simply consider mere numbers China would be the largest Christian Nation in the world by mid-century according to experts.

Looking merely at numbers and their implications, Michelle Malkin posted her find on the rapid rising of christianity in China – 10,000 Christians a Day

Ten thousand Chinese become Christians each day, according to a stunning report by the National Catholic Reporter’s veteran correspondent John Allen, and 200 million Chinese may comprise the world’s largest concentration of Christians by mid-century, and the largest missionary force in history. If you read a single news article about China this year, make sure it is this one.
I suspect that even the most enthusiastic accounts err on the downside, and that Christianity will have become a Sino-centric religion two generations from now. China may be for the 21st century what Europe was during the 8th-11th centuries, and America has been during the past 200 years: the natural ground for mass evangelization. If this occurs, the world will change beyond our capacity to recognize it. Islam might defeat the western Europeans, simply by replacing their diminishing numbers with immigrants, but it will crumble beneath the challenge from the East.

Rabbit Trail:
Commentary from Asia Times, Christianity finds a fulcrum in Asia
Original Source, The Uphill Journey of Catholicism in China

What is God doing in China? What are the implications? Numbers are what people think about first and most. It’s really much more complicated by that. This year actually marks 200th anniversary of the first protestant missionary to China, Robert Morrison. Missions to China actually goes back before Morrison to the 1500s with the Jesuits and prolly even before that. The process of the work of God in China has shown us many things not only about missions but the growth of the church (i’d rather not say church growth) and personal discipleship. It has caused us to reconsider our methodologies and even our securities.

Christian Statistics (according to Adherent 2005) – Top 10 Largest National Christian Populations

Also Read:
Christianity and the Chinese People, posted by DJChuang on L2Foundation’s blog
Jesus in Beijing: How Christianity Is Changing the Global Balance of Power by David Aikman
Also on David Aikman and China in The Weekly Standard, China’s Next Big Move
The Back to Jerusalem Movement
Back to Jerusalem, Three Chinese House Church Leaders Share Their Vision to Complete the Great Commission
Christianity Today on the Back to Jerusalem Movement

Consider:
Chinese Mission Convention 2007 [CMC], Valley Forge, Pa
also CMC Youth Program – ACHTUNG07

07
Aug
07

accept Jesus haiku

i came across this today from haiku circus by artist ken sakamoto and thought it be fun to share it. count the syllables as listed in the corner. all haiku circus comics are in haiku.
i tell ya, smart asian american comics.

doesn’t evangelism come across this way at times?

pac man jesus




abcpastor
[american born chinese pastor]
seeks to be that third place for those who are american born chinese [abc] in ministry.
[i]
here we may explore issues unique to the chinese church and doing ministry in that context
[ii]
expand the intersection of asian american culture and christian faith
[iii]
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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