Archive for the 'pastoral' Category


Choosing Who Runs With You

So Obama’s decided who the next VP would be and he had this to say;

He said he was looking for not just a partner but a sparring partner. “I want somebody who’s independent, somebody who can push against my preconceived notions and challenge me so we have got a robust debate in the White House.”

Quick Thought:
What if OBC/Senior Pastors used the same philosophy for how they consider and partner with EM/ABC pastors?


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]


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


Pastoral Confessions [i]

abc pastor pez dispenserMy boy Todd Hiestand tagged me awhile back on this and I’ve been hesitant lately as to how transparent I want to be in this medium. But I think it’s important for folks to understand pastoral ministry. I want to post about it here not really to simply confess but reveal that the office of “pastor” is in desperate need of understanding and some reform. In a way this is my Lenten journal.

I’ll try to do 5. Here goes number 1.

1) I don’t have all the answers.
That scares me at times but this admission may scare others more. After all, I’m Pastor-Man…
There’s so much pressure on pastors in the immigrant church perpetuated by our cultural notions of honor and shame to have all the answers and look like we have it all together. Sure I have time to devote to exegesis, study and meditation on Scripture. I went to seminary for theological training and even received a honorable recognition upon graduation. I’ve followed Jesus for some years. I do have a mix of answers, opinions and convictions but there are things I don’t know and things I’m still wrestling through.

Providing answers is no easy task for pastors. It’s a little tricky. I think we like to be and people want us to be PEZ dispensers of spiritual knowledge. There are some who are gifted to do this, like Tim Keller, who has recently written a new book that provides answers for these contemporary times. Let’s not compare ourselves now. The truth is that many pastors and leaders really do not know how to deal with people. Prescribed reductionistic biblical answers don’t cut it. People have the tendency to quickly turn answers into legalism or permissiveness.

In times of great change and uncertainty people are hungry for answers and solutions from someone to help them navigate through it all. They want guidance, security and support. They’re looking for that great leader. Hillary, Obama, McCain?

How should a pastor lead in these times? We’ve seen many models of pastoral leadership based on power and authority. We’ve witnessed it from the pulpit in the preaching and application of the Holy Scripture. We’ve even seen the results. We all have blindspots. If we’re really honest, even our theology has blindspots.

Don’t get me wrong. Credibility and competence are important to this office. In obedience we seek to make disciples of all nations, teaching and demonstrating the Gospel of life. The Apostle Peter exhorts us to always be ready to give a reason for the hope that we have. I’m speaking of a position, attitude and ultimately a heart issue that is poisonous. It’s self-righteousness. It’s not the way of Jesus. The perpetual downward pull of Jesus defies and disrupts all patterns of life. It messes with what we think we know.

Just look at the life of Job. His closest friends tried to provide answers for his affliction. They were “miserable comforters”. At the end of it all Job still never received answers for his cross. God remains God and we’re reminded that we’re not. His life has become hope for us.

I believe our task in teaching and in leadership is to “comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable” or quite simply lead people to the reality, significance and power of the cross. I must believe that and live it out daily myself.
I must do all this with utmost humility.

“I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained. Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you.” – Apostle Paul in his letter to the Philippians

I’ll journey with you. Walk with me.
We’ll seek to do life together the way it ought to be done as the Spirit leads us into all truth.


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.


30 Days on the Chinese Church

I’ve been really enjoying the journey of one pastor and his experience serving a Chinese church through its development. I know many Chinese churches are in this critical juncture right now of deciding what it needs to do with their church body and the English speaking ministry. It can go in so many directions. This is one of the reasons why I started abcpastor which was to explore these issues and more.

Check out Pastor Ken’s Reflections – 30 days on the Chinese Church and chime in your thoughts. We really need more dialogue on these things. I’ll be exploring some of these issues myself here too. Slowly but surely. I’m a slow blogger. Like many, I do intend to do more. Just how does DJ do it all? That man will never cease to amaze me. I think this blog and this series is interesting because we can track the journey of a church through its transitions and the blogger/pastor behind it. The POV is not coming from an ABC pastor but an AB-pastor.

I’ve been admiring (even envying) some of the progress that I’ve seen in the Korean churches lately with the advancing of many of their English speaking ministries (EM). There’s a great deal of God-stories to be heard. The Chinese church is at a different stage than the Korean church in America because the immigrant/mother church continues to receive a steady flow of immigrants from various provinces in China. Different socio-economic backgrounds and different cultures tied by the immigrant experience and the Chinese language. Under the roof of the Chinese immigrant church building houses a variety of people groups and even congregations – cantonese, mandarin/taiwanese/fuzhou/etc., the english speaking (Chinese/ARC/ABC/non-Chinese/non-Asian). Older church bodies (like mine) that have been around much longer may have received individuals from all the different immigrant waves. Many churches (particularly smaller ones) have just one CM (Chinese Ministry) and a coming of age EM (English Ministry). The mission of these churches tend to be to reach and nurture all of these groups and generations as one church body. Though there are various governing structures and models the Chinese church is excellent at reaching these new incoming immigrants but has difficulty reaching/retaining those already in America or very clearly “American.” Often the church experience is full of tension and difficulty. Many of these churches 1) don’t know what to do with the direction of their EM or 2) its just not a priority or 3) the governing leadership (typically overseas born chinese, OBC) have a different vision than the EM have for their congregation. There may be other reasons as well. This is what I commonly hear.

How then does the Chinese church effectively minister to all these different people as one church body?
I have my thoughts, let’s hear yours.
I’d like to see where this series goes too.


working the angles

rhap·so·dy ::.  1. Exalted or excessively enthusiastic expression of feeling in speech or writing. 2. A literary work written in an impassioned or exalted style. 3. A state of elated bliss; ecstasy. 4. Music. A usually instrumental composition of irregular form that often incorporates improvisation.

just keep on swimming. keep on swimming. i feel like dory. life is anything but normal or regular. i keep on going, working the angles. there is no formula but discipleship demands one thing, to emphasize the centrality of attention to God. i think that this can be done through three angles. while eugene peterson (one of my heroes, o regent and vancouver stills woos my heart) calls this trigonometry for pastors, i think it basically outlines the life of a disciple, afterall, God is interested in building a kingdom of priests not simply worshippers, or merely people who like to sing and feel good about themselves. (1 peter 2:5,9)

three basic acts: “so basic, so critical, that they determine the shape of everything else. The acts are praying, reading Scripture, and giving spiritual direction. Besides being basic, these three acts are quiet. They do not call attention to themselves and so are often not attended to. In the clamourous world of pastoral work nobody yells at us to engage in these acts. It is possible to do pastoral work to the satisfaction of the people who judge our competence and pay our salaries without being either diligent or skilled in them… The three acts constitute acts of attention: prayer is an act in which I bring myself to attention before God; reading Scripture is an act of attending to God in his speech and action across two millennia in Israel and Christ; spiritual direction is an act of giving attention to what God is doing in the person who happens to be before me at any given moment.” (Peterson, The Contemplative Pastor, p.2)

The acts—prayer, reading Scripture, and giving spiritual direction—are acts of attention to God in three different contexts: oneself, the community of faith, and another person.

What can I give back to God for the blessings he’s poured out on me? I’ll lift high the cup of salvation — A toast to God! I’ll pray in the name of God; I’ll complete what I promised God I’d do, And I’ll do it together with his people. ~ bono citing psalm 116 from the message bible before “where the streets have no name” at the elevation tour

more from the man :: “If we get our information from the biblical material there is no doubt that the Christian life is a dancing, leaping, daring life.”Eugene Peterson

now dance with me. anybody? hello?

more working the angles ::.
[our munchkin at 12 weeks]


and yes, it’s a boy!


in·teg·ri·ty redux ::

n. incorruptibility, completeness, honest

another reason that i value integrity so much is that of reliability. my wife needs to know that what i say is true and reliable. for example, like when i will be home for dinner so that when she cooks her fine meals it will be warm and ready for the both of us to enjoy together. we will be both be blessed. but if i did not come home at the time that i said i would, the food would be cold, my wife would then be disappointed, frustrated, hungry. she is not honored here. i want to be reliable and effective in my commitment to love her.

in a way like my wife, God desires reliability, truth in the innermost, honesty; to be true to his word and walk in steady obedience. i’m not talking about legalism here or religiosity but sincere love in a life that is not duplicitous. you can’t say that you love God and not walk as Jesus did by failing to love your brother [1 Jn]. the effectiveness of the xian life and God’s glory is at stake.

we need deep integrity in our jaded culture. cynical and weary with reality shows we see alot of duplicity, it’s probably not that much different in many of our homes. people have let us down. we don’t know who is reliable around us. we are suspicious when others display kindness. but a person’s true character will reveal itself in time with stress.

“captain, hull integrity is holding…” an illustration through star trek (i’m a closet trekkie).

in battle, as a ship takes hull damage, its effectiveness decreases. the ship loses its ability to maneuver or increase speed. at dock, the outside of a ship may glow with aesthetic beauty and give the perception that it is sound but there can be rust, loose screws and other oversights that can contribute to fatal results when in operation. the slightest turn can rip a ship apart. going too fast will be too much to handle. formal or emergency repairs need to be made for full structural integrity.

likewise, the stresses of life will reveal our weaknesses, the truth of our hearts. God is light and reveals our weaknesses so that he can make us whole and complete. often God uses the stresses of life to reveal our duplicity and offer us the opportunity for repairs. that’s grace. without it we’d be sinking ships beyond repair. he desires for us to come to him in honesty, no pretenses. he desires for us to live in integrity so that the world can blessed in truth and love. so we live with integrity – being honest, not rewarding wickedness but holding up righteousness, and steadfastness to our promises [ps 15] – because we love him and we love others.


in·teg·ri·ty ::

n. 1. Steadfast adherence to a strict moral or ethical code. 2.The state of being unimpaired; soundness. 3. The quality or condition of being whole or undivided; completeness.

to me, integrity is plainly about doing what you say will do. it really is about love. i admire and value people who follow through on what they say they will do; people who have a steadiness to them, who keep their promises even when it hurts. i desire it so much for myself that i writhe when i compromise even slightly. many times i find that what i dislike about myself in these terms i’m more sensitive to see it in others. i’m more critical and have little tolerance for those who fall short. talk about removing the plank in your own eye before removing the speck in others…grace…grace.

i once heard a wise man say that all you really need to look for in a mate is integrity. i really believe that, especially in a man. you see if they say they love God, then they’re committed in every area of their lives to do just that. if they love God, they will surely also love you according to his word. they will follow through and be committed to figure out this marriage thing biblically. the marriage will be sound. they will still probably fail at times as we often make many mistakes along the journey but they will understand humility, brokeness, grace.

i know people look for lots of things in a mate. they’re all nice things and as valentine’s rolls around, even romance is nice. beauty fades. times get hard. life is unpredictable. so only one thing really matters in my book – integrity, it’s a commitment to love.

he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”

29″The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.[5] 30Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.'[6] 31The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'[7] There is no commandment greater than these.” – Mark 12

[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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