Archive for the 'books' Category


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!

Ed Cyzewski Blog
Ed Cyzewski Writing Blog

Introduction at the OOZE
Post on Emergent village
Blog Tour Schedule


Me No Speak

Me No Speak ChineseMe No Speak Chinese

On your way to Beijing? Thailand? or Japan?
Here’s a great travel companion if you don’t speak the language.
Me No Speak provides a way for travelers to simply point and speak rather than trying to use phrases that we can totally muck up. They currently have three pocket size editions in Chinese, Japanese and Thai.
I love the idea of being heard without saying a word. Their nicely done website gives you travel tips too!


the fortune cookie chronicles

fortune cookie chronicles

Are Chinese restaurants more American than apple pie?
Jennifer 8 Lee thinks so in her new book, The Fortune Cookie Chronicles: Adventures in the world of Chinese Food. Here’s a quick review.

Did you know that there are twice as many Chinese restaurants as there are McDonald franchises. Somewhere around 40,000 in the United States there are more of these than the number of McDonalds, BKs and KFCs combined. How about fortune cookies? Are they Chinese or Japanese? I guess that depends on who you ask. Whowouldathunkit?

The Fortune Cookie Chronicles is a fun and insightful read. A must-read in the ABC curriculum. If you thought Chinese food and what goes on in the kitchens of Chinese restaurants were a mystery before….

We’d break open the fortune cookies for the message inside, rarely eating the cookie. The cheerfully misspelled, awkwardly phrased, but wise words of the Chinese fortune cookie sages gave me comfort. My parents’ bookshelves were lined with Chinese philosophical classics like Confucius’s Analects and the I Ching. For a girl who could not untangle the thicket of Chinese characters in those opaque and mysterious books, the little slips of insight represented the distillation of hundreds of years of Chinese wisdom.
Then came a shocking revelation.
Fortune cookies weren’t Chinese.

The Fortune Cookie Chronicles Official Site


The Keller Effect and The Largest Asian-American Church

Tim Keller The Reason for God

I’ve finally gotten around to reading this profile of Tim Keller in a recent Newsweek in the wake of his new book, The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism, which I hope to pick up soon. It’s a decent article that gives insight into the Redeemer experience. Ed Stetzer’s interview with Keller is a great accompaniment to it.

Like many I have benefited so much from his teaching and leadership. I can appreciate Rick Warren and Hybels. They’ve all raised the leadership bar in the church and the way we “do” church. But Keller and Redeemer Presbyterian Church engages Asian-Americans like no other.

Those of us who minister to Asian-Americans should take a look into what Redeemer is all about. The number of Asian Americans that attend Redeemer services are phenomenal. Worship services are held primarily in an auditorium at Hunter College. As the article points out, there’s nothing sexy here. The congregation is led by chamber musicians and hymns. The service is simply done. It’s a sharp contrast to the high production efforts found in other megachurches that lean more on the experiential.

Standing at the microphone is a man more than six feet tall with a shiny bald head and wire-rim spectacles, looking more like a college professor than a megachurch pastor. This is the Rev. Tim Keller, a Manhattan institution, one of those open urban secrets, like your favorite dim sum place, with a following so ardent and so fast-growing that he has never thought to advertise. He rarely speaks to the press.

The experiential difference in Redeemer is Tim Keller. If anyone has pulpit credibility he has it in spades. His messages are essentially reformed, intellectually engaging and hold a high regard for Scripture. Redeemer is the place for people who are hungry for answers and knowledge. There’s no filler or fluff. They go to hear Tim Keller speak and they get what they want. Perhaps what they may find more appealing about Keller is a more holistic commitment to the Gospel and a God-sized vision for the city. He is engaging the heart of many of the changing shifts that we need to wake up to in the church, increasing urbanization, glocalization, and social justice. Shalom.

The Keller Formula

He is helping other pastors use his “formula,” if you can call it that—orthodox Christianity and challenging preaching, with an emphasis on social justice and community service—in cities like Amsterdam, São Paolo, Berlin and Paris. Keller believes that young urban people too often face an unsatisfactory choice: the dispassionate formality of the established churches or the fire and brimstone of the conservative evangelicals.

The Largest Asian-American Church
That formula resonates with many Asian-Americans Christians and it’s part of a great escape. Many of them who attend Redeemer have migrated from the immigrant churches they’ve grown up with. I’ve heard it said and I forgot where that Redeemer is the largest Asian-American church by the sheer number of Asian-Americans that attend and not because it has set out to be one. I don’t have any hard figures but with five services in a city with one of the highest Asian populations in the country and an inclination for excellent teaching it’s very possible.

Similar to what the article suggests, they migrate because of negative experiences or perhaps that there was something missing from that experience of church. That missing component could be a more holistic view of the Gospel that’s not simply just about personal salvation. They may find the structures of immigrant churches cumbersome and their felt needs not being met. For some, attending Redeemer provides a certain anonymity while getting your dose of God and good teaching. You go, you leave, you’ve done church.

Redeemer Presbyterian Church
Newsweek: The Smart Shepherd
Ed Stetzer On Tim Keller and The Reason for God [1] [2]
The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism (Hardcover)
Reason for God Website


This Is A Bust

This Is A Bust Cover
Award-winning author Ed Lin has a new book out called, This is a Bust.
Haven’t read any of Lin’s books but the stories are based in Jersey and New York City Chinatown. This is a Bust is a murder mystery in 1976 NYC Chinatown through the eyes of a Chinese-American cop.
Here’s a description through Kaya<

A Vietnam vet and an alcoholic, Robert Chow’s troubles are compounded by the fact that he’s basically community-relations window-dressing for the NYPD: he’s the only Chinese American on the Chinatown beat, and the only police officer who can speak Cantonese, but he’s never assigned anything more challenging than appearances at store openings or community events. Chow is willing to stuff down his feelings and hang tight for a promotion to the detective track, despite the community unrest that begins to roil around him. But when his superiors remain indifferent to an old Chinese woman’s death, he is forced to take matters into his own hands. This Is a Bust is at once a murder mystery, a noir homage and a devastating, uniquely nuanced portrait of a neighborhood in flux, stuck between old rivalries and youthful idealism.

Sounds like pretty cool stuff. I’m more won over by the book cover. It’s a picture of the old Pagoda Movie Theater on East Broadway, one of the few great movie houses in Chinatown. These theaters showcased Chinese kung fu and comedy flicks. I remember watching movies at the Music Palace on the Bowery as a kid. Classic nasty theater floors. Dubious characters. Silhouetted gang fights in the middle of the movie screen.

This has got to be one of the best covers I’ve seen in a long while. Brings me back.

If you’re around NYC tomorrow (Thursday, January 17), Ed Lin will be reading and signing This Is a Bust at the Museum of Chinese in America at 7:00pm. 70 Mulberry Street, 2nd floor (at Bayard Street). $3/5 members/non-members. To RSVP for event, and for more info on MOCA programs, you can call 212-619-4785 ext 106

[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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