Maybe it’s just me, but there seems to be a tension of sorts when we discuss Asian American Christians. For one, the immigrant churches are not happy that their children don’t consider the mother church “home”. Church leaders and pastors would be deeply saddened, or should be, when they hear what I hear from more than a few young, professional Asian Americans. Namely, “I don’t see what the point of dealing with all the politics and the rumors and the dating scene. I just want to worship and get fed spiritually. It’s not that I don’t want to go to an Asian church, I just don’t see the need to put up with all that other stuff.”
Defenders of ethnic churches would bristle at the notion that the annoying social dynamics of the immigrant church are that different from the dynamics in any other church in any country. And they probably are, to some extent, right. Our generation is perhaps to a flaw, intolerant of the disciplined Christian life. The younger generation is quick to point out the bulk in church bureaucracy and accusing their parents of putting the “hip” back in hypocrisy, but scarce to prove that they themselves carry any weight at all, fluttering from church to church or without nary a reverent moment from the sanctuary to the fellowship hall. English Ministries around the country buck at notion that they are treated as thirty-something-year-old children, while the “adults” point back and accuse the congregation of financially barely being able to sustain itself.
Put that together and you find a less-than-vibrant immigrant church for young adults, a vibrant parachurch, and a great frontier of the unknown, the space between college and childbearing, where our churches can barely touch and our small groups only know in part. They are occupied: furthering their careers, exploring relationships, developing hobbies, and stretching their wings out in for what many of them consider their first time independence. It only seems reasonable that they grow weary of episodic churches with their baggage and vestiges of their parents’ constant bickering or life appraising (“Judy drives a new 5-series”; “Michael went to MIT”; “Peter got married to a nice Korean girl”). I can see their point when they say they just want to go to church. Perhaps there anonymity is a good license to carry, if but for a season.
So we hope that they find church, mourn that the immigrant church loses out even if it’s for a season, but we don’t know what to do there to bridge the gap. More importantly, if there is something really to be said as to why they should come to an Asian American church, do we know how to articulate it well enough to attract them? Since very few churches can “push” their goods out (to use marketing terms), how do you “pull” them in? Do we love ’em and leave ’em? Or do they love us and leave us?