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Excerpt from chat with Peter Ong

exportjoy: do you preach mostly for chinese congregations or a variety?
Peter Ong: mostly for asian american but I have been known to preach at other conferences
exportjoy: i see. there are truly integrated asian american congregations in your area then?
Peter Ong: I have seen one so far but that is something that I am committed in developing. i was part of forming a youth ministry in a church where the immigrant and ABC youth was truly integrated
exportjoy: so would you say that you have more exposure in chinese american circles?
Peter Ong: yes, but recently connected with korean american circles
exportjoy: do you ever feel as though it is difficult with crossing over into other culture's churches?
Peter Ong: I think it is a matter of being missional towards a culture and celebrating that
Peter Ong: I remember this moment when this 8 year old girl told me that God is Chinese
Peter Ong: I asked her how did she come up with that
Peter Ong: she said I am made in God's image and I am chinese so God is chinese
Peter Ong: then I asked her what about samantha? (samantha is black)
Peter Ong: she looked at me… and said… God is brown
Peter Ong: I liked that. not theologically mind blowing but there is something to be said about cultural expressions (or the heart language) of a people group and to enter it with a sense of wonder and discovery of how they express the gospel in their culture then it is not so hard to negotiate that…
exportjoy: and you haven't found that difficult to do even among other asian churches?
Peter Ong: not particularly, because I really believe that God appoints people of authority and we are to submit and respect them. I haven't met too many leaders who are "evil" but mostly misunderstood
exportjoy: i would agree with you there. and it does take people like yourself to be bridges within the community
Peter Ong: i really have strong convictions about leaders. i think a lot of American born pastors have undermined their ministries by not honoring that not being strategic about their ministries within a cultural context
exportjoy: wow, please feel free to expand. what are some good ways to be strategic?
Peter Ong: being missional…
Peter Ong: doing things the "chinese" way, I think there is a confucian element to our culture that is not biblical and that is something one has to be careful about
exportjoy: what confucian elements do you mean?
Peter Ong: prestige, academic achievements, money, morality versus graces, being moral, conservative mindsets, keeping the old… but I think that if we see things in their lens and helping to work under that understanding there are ways of negotiating
Peter Ong: i am an ARC so my chinese wasn't that great when i started ministry, but I took time to learn so that I can speak to my senior pastor in chinese because i should respect him and the culture and i aligned myself with leadership who I could communicate better with so they can be advocates
Peter Ong: and I am being honest. I had trouble with some of the way they did things but I honored them as long as I trusted that the leadership had God's glory in the big picture…. that is critical….i trusted my pastor completely but I didn't think he did things along the way that were ethical or even biblical but it was very chinese so I accepted it and in two years, he gave me more support and more resources because I submitted and made alliances with key people who loved God and loved he church
exportjoy: i think what you've shown is a powerful display of patience and of reaching back to the older generation
Peter Ong: I think that it was important for healing
exportjoy: that's really powerful. in what ways would you say the chinese culture has strengthened your faith?
Peter Ong: I think my faith has strengthened my chinese culture. I understand so much about the chinese thinking so that I can minister in that community and to my kid's family
Peter Ong: parents was desperate to find someone who can minister to their kids and to listen to them…
exportjoy: i would agree with you that many in the 2nd generation are not as patient and have tendencies to undermine the 1st generation churches. but you know, that's not only a chinese american phenomenon, it's occurring in many churches where they are seeking faith not only in terms of their own culture, but in the middle of the larger, American, post-church, postmodern culture as well
Peter Ong: well, I think that for that instance it is fine to move on and with the blessing of the church to plant that church but the next movement is going to be the emerging immigrant church that will require a newly defined postmodern matrix
exportjoy: do tell~
Peter Ong: because the world is changing very quickly
Peter Ong: america is seeing more and more immigrants come; we can't ignore them
Peter Ong: and start to pioneer a new vision for church
Peter Ong: i think we need a global perspective when we think of the modern church we can't just focus on the postmodern matrix as we know it but rather be prepared to engage in a diversity of ministry perspectives that will require a missional mindset but the mission is not OUT there but coming to us
exportjoy: i agree.
Peter Ong: so we have to prepare and celebrate that "chinese" side
Peter Ong: but I also feel for the post church crowd who have no connection with their culture. I think we are beginning to do that in NYC to look at this new emerging immigrant community that is going to be there always no matter what you do
exportjoy: but would you say that we have or are equipping leaders to engage in that?
Peter Ong: I am excited to see the next generation of Asian American leaders and I see them so engaging and open and loving God and loving the church…. and there is a heart to return to orthodoxy… while being innovative forward thinking….
exportjoy: yes, we must strike a good balance there like you mentioned earlier, we must be strategic about this
Peter Ong: and intentional…
exportjoy: and prayerful

About David Park

Christian 2nd-generation Korean American; Atlanta Georgia; more details to come.

2 responses to “Excerpt from chat with Peter Ong

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  2. djchuang

    Good conversation! Wish I coulda been a part of it, perhaps in the future. With the changing tides of immigration and cultural shifts, there’s a compelling need for all kinds of churches across the spectrum: ethnic Asian churches for the immigrants, international churches for the global citizens, pan-Asian churches, and multi-racial churches too. It seems to be an uneven disparity for the burden of being missional to be placed on the 2nd generation, when it seems to me that the Gospel calls for every believer to be missional, regardless of generation or cultural preference.

    Perhaps the term “missional? used in this chat could be substituted with “missionary?? My sense is that being missional is to engage a cultural context and to [selectively] challenge its assumptions (adapting and reformulating), while being missionary is to serve within the contraints of a cultural context, to respect and to celebrate it, without challenging it (evangelizing and establishing).

    With the challenges of ministry within an intergenerational church, it’d be awesome to see both generations being mutually missional, and empowering each other to reach all kinds of people just like the Bible says that we are supposed to do. 🙂

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