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NBA Team Owners And Leaders in Christianity

NBA logo I love this game. I absolutely love this game. Admittedly, I have no reason to love this game — I can’t jump, can’t run, can’t shoot, can’t pass, can’t block — put simply, I’m really not that good at the game of basketball. In fact, it’s a curiosity to my wife who has raised an eyebrow and said to me, “Most people participate in hobbies that they’re good at, honey.” To which I could only shrug and say, “I know, but what can I do? What are you telling me, don’t participate in anything? ” (I have a strange masochistic streak where if I cut myself down first, it saves everyone time.)

And that’s OK. I blame my genes or memes, whatever. I have accepted the fact that it will be many more years before Asians can exert any influence in the game of basketball. I can only name 4 Asian NBA basketball players off the top of my head:

Yao Ming, Ha Seung-Jin, Wang Zhi-zhi, and Yuta Tabuse. And only one of these guys is a starter, the others are marginal at best.

The notion that there would be an Asian head coach or even team owner is ludicrous at this rate. And I dare not even think of it really, at least not something that would strike me as a real issue to be brought up. But in reading a chat transcript on ESPN the other day, I came across a question that made me think of what the ramifications were.

Derrick Concord NC: How many african american owners will be in the NBA by 2010?

SportsNation Brian Windhorst: I think everyone is hoping more than one. But Bob Johnson hasn’t exactly been thrilled so far with his investment in Charlotte.

I never thought about this from the perspective of an African-American fan/player/executive in regards to basketball. Black athletes dominate the sport, there is no doubt. They are ubiquitous in every facet of the game except ownership. And that absence is a curious one.

What does this have to do with Asian Leaders in Christianity?

The way Christianity is shaping up to look globally, it is most likely to look very different from the Western, white Christianity of the last, oh 2,000 years. The faces representing Christianity will, and must increasingly be, Latino, Asian, and Black. Some of the world’s largest and most vibrant Christian communities are in China and Korea. South Korea, I’ve heard recently, has surpassed the United States in the number of missionaries that it sends out.

Don’t get me wrong, I admire the movers and the shakers that I see: Rick Warren, Rob Bell, Tim Keller, Andy Stanley, John Piper, Mark Driscoll, et. al. and perhaps I need to put my ear to the ground a bit more in terms of seeking these Asian leaders, but I long to hear their voice and to hear their perspective of what Christ can and will do in the world. I know I’m not entitled to it, but if Asians will be ubiquitous in every aspect of the global church but not in leadership, it is a curious absence.

About David Park

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

5 responses to “NBA Team Owners And Leaders in Christianity

  1. Pingback: Panda’s FishNet » Blog Archive » Thoughts and Questions

  2. John Lee ⋅

    Who is to blame for the lack of Asian(-American) leadership in the American church?

    David Park’s analogy of the racial imbalance in the NBA brings to mind another racial imbalance, this time in a Manhattan church – Redeemer. Here is a church in which 33%-50% of the congregation is Asian, yet fails to have a real Asian presence in the church leadership stratum. (Yes, there is one Asian pastor, but he seems more token than anything else, hope that’s not too harsh).

    Among the Asians in the congregation are brilliant, intelligent, articulate leaders in almost every other field: medical, financial, scholastic, entrepreneurial etc. etc. Yet there is an absolute paucity of Asian leaders in the church heirarchy. And it’s not just Redeemer. Think of all the Chinese churches, for example, which need to hire a white pastor for their English congregation. What? There’s not an Asian American pastor to be found?

    Who is to blame for this? Some argue that it is subtle racism, that the whites have been keeping down the asians in the church sphere. I don’t buy that. Even if there is subtle racism, it certainly hasn’t kept Asians from rising to the top in other occupational arenas where racism just as surely exists.

    It’s got to be Asians themselves. They have the brains and ability; but instead of channeling these gifts into serving the church, they have instead used them to succeed in other occupational arenas. If you’re smart and graduate from Harvard summa cum laude, you go to law school or med. school etc. You don’t go to seminary. Seminary is for the intellectual B- student who is a little clueless as to what he wants do in life. Disagree? Go to any seminary in America, speak with ten asian-american students, and at least 8 out of 10 will fit this profile.

    Who is to blame? The Asians themselves.

  3. elderj

    wow john that’s a pretty harsh commentary on seminary students, and not so reflective of the AA seminarians I know or have met, but then again what do I know?

    perhaps there is the racism of just what “Christian leadership” is supposed to look like, which is invariably like a suburban white male pastor acting in suburban white male ways.

  4. Fair enough John, I think that there is more than a bit of responsibility that Asians have in terms of stepping up to leadership. You touch on a few issues here though that I think are really worthy of mention.

    First, Asians do categorically value white-collar professions, both due to economic and aptitude reasons. So the fact that most of them do so in lieu of ministry, is not really my issue. However, I find that most Asians in ministry do not work together in the areas of reconciliation or speak outside their particular context. In fact, in criticism of many Asian pastors, I believe that they start their own churches in order to create their own soapboxes. I have seen churches split time and again, because two pastors could not co-exist, when all the while, the neighborhood in which the church exists has no idea because their church makes zero impact on the surrounding community. So they consistently insulate themselves in both exposure to leadeship and being leaders.

    Secondly, I think that unrepented for, certain cultural aspects serve as obstacles to biblical leadership. Take our trusty punchbag, Confucianism for instance. Many Asian pastors will not cultivate nor acknowledge budding leaders because they are younger or different. That’s just one example, racism amongst Asians is another issue here as you can see in another post.

    Lastly, I think that while Asians have been quite prolific in the business of church planting, we have not been as good about making disciples (this is actually a thought my father gave me, so apparently it’s not just a 2nd-gen criticism). Therefore a lot of those indecisive seminary students you mention are actually people who want discipleship but have never really had it – but they want to be godly, so they go to seminary. It is a void of leadership that has caused that, not the product.

    We need Asian American leaders who will adddress these inside the church with a heart of healing the next generation lest we stay inside the small box and sabotage the hopes of Asian Christian leadership altogether.

    Excellent comment John, yikes, I’m glad I’m not a seminary student yet. But if it helps, I do blame myself.

  5. eugenecho

    i’ve learned that power and influence is rarely ever given away. that’s why the gospel of jesus (the kenosis that paul refers to in philippians) is such a mind boggling thing. no one is going to prepare the way for asian-americans. we need to pursue it – writing, singing, preaching, teaching, leading, painting, sculpting, theologizing – while completely mindful of the our eyes set upon the Cross and honestly in tune with all human depravity that makes it so difficult to relinquish power when WE have it.

    i am often reminded about how even the GREAT FRODO, when it all came down to it, could not resist the power of the Ring. So, as Asian Americans grow in influence, leadership, voice, and power, how will we wield in such ways that they KeNoSis.

    hope i’m making some sense…

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