Archive for the 'pastoral' Category

22
Aug
08

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?

18
Jul
08

Pastoral Confessions: Being Ourselves

TWO FACE

TWO FACE

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]

10
Jul
08

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]

01
Apr
08

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

Links:
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

28
Feb
08

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.

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.

09
May
07

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.




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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