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Is Francis Chan a sell-out?

Is Francis Chan a sell-out?

Let me backtrack to explain where this comes from.  I had the chance to attend the last day of the Orange Conference here in Atlanta.  The Catalyst people produce this conference geared for leaders of youth and children’s ministries.  Lots of NorthPoint people, lots of Southeast evangelical Christianity folk.

I arrived late to the morning session and slipped into the back of Gwinnett Arena, and the first thing I noticed is the sea of whiteness.  I’ve been to a good share of conferences:  Willow Creek, NPC, even a couple Emergent events, but this gathering of over 3000 people (my estimate) was easily 99% white.  When I had a chance to look at the conference guidebook, I saw that the ENTIRE planning staff is white.  (For a taste of what I saw, click here for the 2008 highlight video.  Chan makes a cameo in there.)

My problem isn’t with white people getting together like this; my problem is how oblivious people were to the monochromatic gathering.  And I base their ignorance on the language– both on stage in the general sessions and in breakouts.  The presenters do not hesitate to speak for the whole church, failing to acknowledge that they are really speaking for the white church in America.  This tendency to generalize their experiences betrays a lack of awareness that their skin color has shaped their faith.

Which brings us back to the opening question.  Francis Chan has been making rounds on the Christian conference circuit: Student Life, Catalyst, NPC, among others.  The underlying reason being he brings a touch of diversity (he even admits this in an interview).  The problem is he’s not yellow!  When we long for diversity it is to see GOD’s activity in a different context so that it might challenge our faith.  I’m not doubting the truth of Chan’s messages or teaching; just reading the synopsis of his new book sounds very convicting.  But none of his theology springs from his life as an Asian-American; I haven’t read the book, but I used Amazon’s search function and couldn’t find one occurrence of “Chinese” or “Asian.”

I don’t really think he’s a sell-out; I believe Chan is living faithfully to what GOD has called him to be.  But I do think Chan is being used by white evangelicals to alleviate their unwillingness to engage race and faith.  Chan is welcome at these conferences only because his message could come just as easily from a white male.

Sometimes a little diversity is worse than no diversity.

Addendum, June 6: I take back some of the incendiary language in this apology.  Does that mean I should delete what has already been written?  I really don’t know.  Anyway, please read both posts before commenting.


188 responses to “Is Francis Chan a sell-out?

  1. Interesting. I wonder if Francis is aware of the distinctions. I think you’re right, I don’t think he’s a sell-out. At the same time, I’d like to see these virtually all-white conferences seek to add some true racial diversity, not just in appearance, but in culture and perspectives.

    Along a loosely related note, I think one of the things that really bothers me is that many so-called “multi-ethnic” churches really only have one culture. They may look multi-ethnic in skin tone, but the congregation seems very much the same in terms of experience (e.g. dissatisfaction with their previous/parents’ churches which happen to be immigrant/bilingual).

    • Eddie ⋅

      He is not a sell out. Jesus never implied if your chinese to preach to chinese. We are all one as a body of Christ regardless of color. Asians, blacks, white, hispanic, whatever you ethnic back ground is they have the same opportunity to go to these conferences as any other. That is the problem with all of us who are non white(blacks, asians, hispanic, native americans and others included) cry about racism and selling out when you are more racist yourselves. Take the log out of your own eye before you begin trying to pull logs out of other peoples eyes. Until you get past the asian thing or the its a white thing you will never move forward. You have a racist heart my friend. I am hispanic and Francis Chan has been one of the biggest influence in my Chirstian walk. Yeah a chinese man. The Word of God is for every race. You need to get your heart right. Believe me God knows your racist heart. Until you get rid of it you can best bet you will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

      • YoRichie

        Preach it Eddie! I have been trying to tell these cats this kind of thing since I first saw this post and following the comments.

        Any form of separatism is a schism and a break in the body of Christ.

      • hey eddie, how nice of you to join the conversation.

        just to respond and let you know that we’re not completely thoughtless nor do we take well to your accusations of racism (especially with little to no self-reflection). the question being asked here is not that Jesus asked the chinese to preach to the chinese, but rather, can the chinese preach FROM his ethnicity and FOR his ethnicity? ironically, this is not as racist of a post as it may appear, because we’re asking whether or not Chan will speak for a people group, not against one.

        we’re not saying Chan doesn’t already bless white folk, hispanic people, or whomever. it’s easy to like him and admire the work that God is doing through him and appreciate all his gifts, that’s not in question here. we’re simply asking whether or not FC will stand up for his own people. And i don’t know if he doesn’t already, he very well may; but the more he grows in public acclaim, it would be great to hear him take issues that are close to heart of asians in america seriously. asian american women for instance show the highest rates of suicide of any demographic. asian american teens have unusually high rates of depression and alcohol abuse. immigration reform is another issue. hepatitis is another issue. sure, these issues might be somewhat universal, after all depression is not a race-specific thing, right? but if it’s hitting a particular community harder than another, then it makes sense to me that a Christian who understand those particularities would speak up for them, doesn’t it?

        for instance, you mentioned you’re hispanic. now if you preached the gospel to everyone besides hispanics and never addressed issues that the hispanic community wrestles with or acknowledged the current problems that face that community; what does that convey to other hispanics? whether or not the gospel is for all of us is not the question. whether or not we are one in Christ is not the question. rather, we’re asking how does race affect your witness to the gospel? not so we can put others down or get back at white people or whatever, it’s whether or not we can be somewhat self aware so that we do not create barriers within the people we call home. which it might not matter to you, or others who don’t see value in Chan’s Chinese background, but considering that there are tens of millions of asian americans here and a billion or so more asians around the world, it could matter that FC speaks to such issues as an Asian American Christian. it matters to us and we would like to think it matters to him, and furthermore, we would like to think it matters to God.

        we’re asking two questions here: 1) is FC being used to represent more diversity than is actually present? 2) will FC speak in a manner that reflects this awareness of culture. we feel that he can do this without compromising the gospel. what we are concerned with is his ability to compelling say that God loves the nations, tribes, and tongues of the world when he scarcely acknowledges his own.

      • Eddie, your perspective is one that is obviously shared by many others. At times, I see the merit in your views as well. However, the scope of ethnic ministry is far-reaching and it applies to people regardless of skin color. As you mentioned being Hispanic, are you aware of the issues relevant to Hispanics within the church? Being that most of Mexico is Catholic, a lot of Mexicans have crossed the border into the US and brought with them a lot of culture, yet that culture is mostly unknown outside of Hispanics. For instance, because of the culture of family-first in Mexico, it has made the transition for young Hispanics joining gangs to be easy and culturally relevant in their minds. Most, if not all of these young gang bangers believe in God & Christ as Catholics. However, they do it for the false sense of belonging into a community that knows their culture and heritage and to be strong and stand up for themselves. If other Hispanic people that formerly lived the gang life didn’t choose to walk way and then minister to other Hispanics in gangs or about to join a gang, who would reach these people? How can a white guy–with no clue what being Mexican in America or why gang life is so prominent in the Hispanic culture in America–be relevant to a 10 year old Mexican-American kid that has grown up idolizing gangs and wanting so bad in his heart to be in such a strong community?

        Whether I like to admit it or not, there is a strong need in the Asian community to provide a safe and relevant place for them to be a Christian and worship in a culturally relevant place. Same for other ethnic groups coming into America. While English is our language, is it fair to say to our fellow Christian brothers and sisters who emigrate to the US to give up worshiping corporately because they don’t understand English? Also, just because I studied Spanish, should I as an Asian-American be someone to start a Spanish language church to help connect with Mexicans coming into the US that don’t know English? Sure, it might work–they may understand the gospel message I proclaim in Spanish, but can I really relate to who they are beyond their ears that hear the words?

        While there are definitely some racially segregated and hostile churches that have issues with judging others, for the most part I think the heart of the people and leadership of the ethnic churches in America are in the right place. It’s just that times, as well as culture are rapidly changing. We can either hang on to what we know and see millions of people conflicted and eventually find faith irrelevant, or we can find a way to connect with all of God’s people in ways where they hear and see Christ in a relevant setting where they can find peace and joy in who they are, rather than out of place or unspoken to.

    • Trinity ⋅

      I take great offense at the fact that you think that white people are promoting their whiteness in the church, wherever that may be. It is not like invitations are sent out and stated that only whites are invited. If the Asian culture, or the Black culture, or the Hispanic culture, etc, wants to go they can go. Nobody will turn you away and in fact you most likely would be surprised at the Christlike inclusiveness that you encounter. I am white and go to a mostly white church but there is also an Asian percentage that come and this has to do with the demographics. You will notice that there is a natural bent to go to a church where the culture ones ethnic identity is most prominent. There is nothing necessarily wrong with this unless it is being exclusive. Korean churches have mostly Korean, Black churches have mostly Black, etc, etc. I once asked a Korean if we could attend his church and he said we were too white. Go figure.
      So I challenge your thinking that we should be segragating the church. If Francis Chan feels comfortable in a church that has mostly Indian or Middle-Eastern or Hispanic then more power to him. He is promoting Christ then and this is the ultimate identity that he associates himself with, and that is exactly what Christ would do! Stop finding ways to exclude and use your energy instead to promote unity in the church.

      • actually trinity, if you had read a little bit more closely, the reason that we’ve taken “great offense” is that it appears that white people are promoting diversity in their conferences/churches when there is none.

        secondarily, we are asking if francis chan is a sellout, that is abandoning asian churches / issues.

        we’re not promoting exclusiveness by the way, but i’m sure it may sound that way since most of the time when people talk about “church”, they tend to be talking about their own churches. but as a minority, i’m working for a unity that includes diversity, not dissolves it.

  2. daniel so

    Danny and David — Just in case anyone thought NG.AC was getting soft, how’s this for a provocative post? 🙂

    I definitely appreciate this insight:

    “The presenters do not hesitate to speak for the whole church, failing to acknowledge that they are really speaking for the white church in America. This tendency to generalize their experiences betrays a lack of awareness that their skin color has shaped their faith.”

    I’m guessing that Francis Chan’s ethnicity has informed his sense of faith & identity development, but I hear what you’re saying about the tokenism effect. I heard Francis speak to a big group of mostly white college students and, while he was trying to make a point about perspective, he was busting on Chinese people for being so short. The punchline was something like, “I not so tall — you so short!”… and the explosion of laughter from the mostly non-Asian audience was disconcerting, to say the least. The only nod to his ethnic background was a short joke with busted Engrish. Sigh. It’s too bad, because much of what he said that night was really great stuff.

    “Sometimes a little diversity is worse than no diversity.” — I’ll have to think about that one for a bit. Again, I think I hear what you’re saying… pretending to be something seems worse than just owning up to what’s really going on (especially in terms of diversity). But then part of me says, you have to start somewhere, right? Hmmm….

  3. nick ⋅

    yeah, i’ve wondered the same thing about chan. i wouldn’t feel comfortable calling him a sell-out either…he’s probably not disingenuous about his identity. it wouldn’t be surprising if race-consciousness just wasn’t a salient part of his upbringing. which, unfortunately, would make it so much easier for him to crack on asians to generate some easy laughs from whites. i’ve known a few AA’s adopted by white families who often resorted to the same kind of humor in white-dominant contexts. they never had the toolkit to think about their identity or had any close conversation partners to sort out their experiences of oppression, so race served a more utilitarian purpose — to defuse social tension.

    but with regard to racial diversity in evangelical circles, i have even more questions about groups like Together for the Gospel and the Gospel Coalition. the types of minority speakers they’ve typically trotted out have been pretty silent on racism, or in the case of Thabiti Anyabwile, who would like to jettison terms like “blackness” and “whiteness” from ecclesial discourse, rather unhelpful in their attempts to address it. i wonder why people like John Perkins, Soong-Chan Rah, Brenda Salter-McNeil, or the late Tom Skinner –embraced by other evangelical institutions like InterVarsity and the Evangelical Covenant Church– never get an invite from these folks.

  4. Lon

    I totally hear the heart behind this post. It’s definitely a huge critique of a large cross-section of the church in America today…

    two thoughts at the moment tho…

    – sellout seems like a really harsh term… even if to backtrack and say probably not… but it did get me reading

    – and does Chan ‘owe it’ to Asian-Americans to speak out or be more overt about his heritage? we all need influential voices and advocates but i wonder if it’s a burden that ought to be placed on every superstar who’s ‘one of us’… ie. when people say obama ain’t black enough.

  5. Hmm. Puts him on the radar. Haven’t heard of him prior to this. I wonder. If his message is genuine, does it help anything to deconstruct him in this manner? He may not circulate in our circles but still, does he got something good to say? I wonder.

  6. sue ⋅

    years ago i attended onnuri church while i was in korea as an exchange student. ironically enough, during that one year of college, i had the most genuine non-korean friendships out of my whole college experience. ministry at onnuri was exciting…and i juggled (badly) many different commitments. fortunately, a leader and friend who had put in her dues at onnuri, mercifully looked upon me and pointed out that there would be lots of good things i could get involved with in korea, but i would have to choose the best. the consequence was that many good things fell to the wayside.

    so, i look at francis chan and see the tensions caused by being a “token asian” in a fairly white-christian world, and get that being “that guy” isn’t ideal, but believe he has chosen what is best. chan has shown me that hearing from God, and advancing the kingdom in whatever context is most important.

    as for “being used by white evangelicals to alleviate their unwillingness to engage race and faith,” that’s a strong statement that can hardly be substantiated. i’ll have to remember to ask God about that one when i die.

  7. “being used by white evangelicals to alleviate their unwillingness to engage race and faith”

    I think this is an important claim that can be substantiated. Just look at the roster of much conference speakers @ so-called “emerging” venues… or the leadership of ecumenical evangelical movements. To date, despite the trend that the “emerging church” is rapidly becoming neither white nor American, evangelical leadership continues to be both. So to pepper in the occasional black, or asian, is less of an attempt to accurately represent the growing global evangelical constituency and more of an attempt to retain the status quo of privilege and power.

    So while I don’t know much about Chan as an evangelical leader, I can say a few things about those who are attempting to use him as a token for their less than genuine attempts to engage the changing evangelical populace.

    • also, wayne, i’m not sure how you “know” how “genuine” their attempts are… did you ask them yourself? or are you just speculating…

      appearances can be so deceiving

      • It’s not about knowing who’s motives are genuine or not. I don’t even know where you come up with that question.

        What we’re talking about is simply:

        American evangelicalism is no longer simply a white phenomenon. Why isn’t the “face” of American evangelicalism reflecting that?

  8. did you see my mug in the booklet? got some asian flavor in there…


  9. Pingback: Twitted by djchuang

  10. Joe Suh

    Wow, what a provocative title 🙂

    I attend Francis Chan’s church – Cornerstone. From what I can tell – he is comfortable in his Asian American identity, which isn’t easy in the context of the mostly white congregation he teaches… in one message, I recall him saying something like “It’s not weird that I’m Chinese. It’s weird that all of you aren’t”

    To further highlight his ethnicity would unnecessarily distract from the message that he’s called to deliver imho.

    “But I do think Chan is being used by white evangelicals to alleviate their unwillingness to engage race and faith.”

    Obviously Francis Chan doesn’t feel that way. But he does have a problem with these conferences – he hates the idolatry and attention he gets as a speaker, which is part of the back-to-the-Bible approach to church he’s advocating for the American church.

    As an Asian American myself, I feel like he’s effectively bringing a radical Gospel-centered message specifically for American Christians. Whose scope includes (but is not limited to) Asian Americans.

    – Joe from

  11. It’s kind of ironic because being Korean and involved somewhat actively in what you term “white evangelicalism”, it’s been difficult to actually get connected to other Korean-American pastors. Could I be experiencing some warped reverse discrimination? 🙂

    Is Francis a sell-out? Probably not.

    Is there a big conspiracy among white evangelicals to “use” Francis to alleviate their unwillingness to engage race and faith? I have a hard time believing this…at best, it may be subconscious…or just ignorance. Can’t imagine the majority having total mal-intent.

    Nevertheless, thanks for bringing this topic up. As a person who has felt like fish out of water in both the white and Asian world (a third category?), I think it’s healthy to bring in conversation about these kinds of thoughts.

    Have you tried to invite someone prominent in leadership in white evangelicalism to enter a formal conversation with you in this type of format? Might be interesting…

  12. White in Hawaii ⋅

    Speaking at a “white” Christian. I saw Chan speak here in Hawaii, and I was one of the few whites in the audience. I felt like his message hit us all equally, He did speak about how he liked speaking here becasue everyone looked like him (paraphrasing). Our congregations over here are primarily asian (to include my husband and “hapa” children), we have never realy felt race to be an issue. Although, on the mainland my husband did notice the differnce. I don’t beleive he is a sell out, or just reaching out who is there.

  13. Andy ⋅

    “But none of his theology springs from his life as an Asian-American…”

    Should our theology be based off our ethnicity?

  14. Penny Hunter ⋅

    I’m also concerned about the “whiteness” of the church leadership events I’ve seen over the past year. Even the events that people view as innovative and progressive are still largely white and male. Our family comes from a purposefully multi-ethnic faith background – not always easy, and often messy as we try to overcome our stereotypes and learn about the role of culture in faith. We know that “Asian” is a broad category with many cultures within this job application check box. We also know that African American doesn’t begin to describe the countries of origin of many of our brothers and sisters who appear to be “black” by most whites.

    I have heard Francis speak on several occasions. I appreciate his willingness to step into situations where he may be the only non white on the speaker team. But even more so, I appreciate the straight up, hard to hear message he delivers. I don’t know what happens behind closed doors, but I hope he challenges the leadership and gatekeepers of the conferences where he speaks to consider having not only the speaker team, but the worship team, the organizers, the sponsoring orgs, better represent the beautiful diversity that is the Body. Until that happens I don’t think we’ll see the diversity in the attendees either.

    I don’t buy the argument that there isn’t diversity in leadership at national events because the talent isn’t there. That hasn’t been my experience.

    On another note. My family has been on the receiving end of great generosity from brothers and sisters in the faith who come from ethnic backgrounds other than ours. These are friends who have invited us into their circles and, gasp, have even given us the microphone. Two years ago a group of first generation Korean American students invited my son – the only caucasian in attendance – to speak at their missions conference. He felt very much at home. But, I don’t think he “sold out” so they could feel good about bringing in a white boy. We also have been invited to participate in Charles Lee’s Idea Camp and have even shared the platform at his church. He generously gave us access to his sphere of influence even though we’re white. For this I’m grateful.

    My spiritual life has been enriched by the teaching of a multiplicity of leaders — from many backgrounds, from many continents and from many faith traditions within the Church. I wish everyone could experience this. And, I have the great hope that as people enter into this discussion with humility and openness that we will see some progress.

  15. Well said Penny…I love how you mentioned gender in passing. Wonder what’s more foundational…gender or ethnicity. So many things to consider.

    I ask because I don’t fully know (to all readers)…how do your churches address gender issues in an ethnocentric setting? Do you feel more passionate about ethnicity or gender? Both? Why or why not?

    • daniel so

      Charles – Great questions. That is exactly where we live in our church community. Since my wife and I pastor our church together (and we’re both Asian American), we’ve spent a lot of time on both questions of ethnicity and gender.

      Most of our churched members come from very conservative/borderline-fundamentalist, mostly Korean church backgrounds — so, the patriarchy is laid on pretty thick. We’re not trying to “convert” anyone to an egalitarian stance (although I do believe that a faithful reading of Scripture leads us to conclude that women and men are both called to all forms of ministry and leadership); we’re just trying to encourage everyone to be more honest about our biases and to be willing to engage Scripture deeply.

      For me, there has been a direct connection between ethnicity and gender. Recovering my sense of God-given identity as an Asian American has led me directly to what the creation narrative in Genesis reminds us, that God made both women and men in His image.

      • You are so articulate Daniel 🙂

        I think you hit in on the head…these two issues are directly connected as well. I would be interested in seeing how you process this in your context. Also, love to hear about the insights you’ve gained through the creation narrative.

  16. great conversation.

    this reminds me of when years back, charles barkley told everyone that he “isn’t a role model, he’s a basketball player.” when in actuality, of course, he is both, whether he likes it or not. in the same way, isn’t FC both a gifted speaker/preacher and asian american? what does it say when he rarely acknowledges issues that matter to asian america? does christianity ignore such petty matters?

    i don’t think that white evangelicals are conscientiously oppressing minorities or women by making tokens out of guys like FC, but i do think there’s unwillingness to have the difficult conversations of deep and profound racial reconciliation. i do think that matters of immigration and race have trouble making the agendas of evangelical pulpits even though i think the Biblical mandate is quite clear on how to treat the foreigner and the stranger.

    there also seems to be a convenient separation of identities when we look at a guy as though his ethnicity is an incidental, but then if he had done something bad, we’d probably identity the individual by his ethnicity FIRST. (think VT tragedy).

    and i love the ambiguity in the title, are we saying FC is selling out the faith? oh no. i don’t think so, but what does it mean to sell your ethnic identity? does it have any value at all?

    i feel like we could ask the same question about history, does history matter at all? why delve into things like celtic christianity? or re”new” monasticism? or “ancient” liturgical practices? nobody seems to mind those cultural expressions of faith – why does it seem so wrong when we ask if an asian american can worship in culturally redemptive ways?

  17. Penny Hunter ⋅

    Great read on subject: Winning the Race to Unity – Is Racial Reconciliation Really Working – by Clarence Shuler

  18. David,

    Hey, appreciate the post. I just have a few thoughts.

    1) I don’t know Francis that well, but have done some stuff with him (College Briefing at Forest Home in CA), and the church I used to pastor a college group (Bel Air Pres.) was pretty close to his church. He has always been great to work with…awesome guy. Huge heart. Lots of my college students attended his Sunday night service as well. So rather than a sell out, I think if anything he is also trying to take the opportunity to speak at these conferences when invited…maybe hoping that his presence may someday change the diversity at mostly white conferences.

    2) I’m a 34 year old white male, and I know that I too…as much as I want to be really diverse, still end up gravitating towards conferences where I look around and people are mainly white males. Or I gravitate towards conferences that are mainly male, and I wonder about the gender discrimination at these conferences and within churches as well. And then I often attend conferences where everyone is 35 and under, and I wonder about age discrimination. So I’m pretty guilty, even though I’m trying to be a part of more diverse communities.

    3) I think that we can all do better at being more diverse in our theological readings and understandings of scripture and theology. If we are honest with ourselves, most of our theology was written by white European men, and so we must do a better job of reading more African, Asian, Hispanic, Women, etc. theology. It’s quite naive and egocentric of us to think that our American understanding of theology is the “right way” or the “right understanding.” We have a lot to learn.

    4) I would like to see more conferences have diversity within the planning committees, on stage, and leading workshops. Just not ethnic diversity, but ecumenical and gender diversity as well. But I know it starts with me as well…so if that’s something I desire, then I need to model that in my own life as well.

    Anyways, those are just some thoughts…..

    Rhett Smith

  19. Johann ⋅

    If the message Chan is preaching is Jesus then he is getting it right. 100%.

    It does not matter if Chan is a sellout to the white establishment (he is not, BTW) but if he is sold out to he true gospel message of the salvation of Jesus. Skin color & ethnicity are important but not the MAIN point. Chan is doing a great job representing Jesus so if he messes up on the ethnic issues that’s ok. Let’s not major in the minor issues – and questioning if Chan is a sellout about his ethnicity is taking the focus off the important point that Chan is an effective agent of change for Christ. Focus!

  20. DK ⋅

    I’m loving this dialogue and it’s something that I am constantly thinking about. First of all, I’m a big-time Francis Chan fan. Anytime an Asian man can step into a predominantly “white” arena and gain big-time “respect”, I’m all for it. We can keep the focus on the message and not the messenger. What I have the most trouble with though, is the fact that Asian American worship leaders and singer/songwriter types are silently enduring their own version of discrimination, marginalization, and exclusion. I feel that I am a part of this group and go through bouts of bitterness and even anger with the whole situation. The speaking circuit has Francis Chan. What about the musical arena?

    I even wrote to Worship Leader magazine one time to bring up the fact that all of their articles, ads and interviews featured Caucasian worship leaders and pastors. The editor wrote back, acknowledged that they were aware of the disparity and (oh, the irony!) told me that they are featuring Francis Chan in a future issue to address the “whiteness” of the magazine! LOL (and I never “LOL”).

    I am faithfully going about my calling as a worship leader, singer, and more importantly, song-writer but I always wonder when these conferences, magazines and record labels will actively seek out the hidden jewels buried underneath the overlooked puddles of yellow in America. And for the record, I love white people and hope that one day, the vast majority of them would give a damn about someone like me.

  21. djchuang

    Whoa… hot topic, provocative title, gushing flood of comments. Musta struck a nerve. I’m very uncomfortable when the comments steer towards guessing at someone’s motives or intentions — no one knows but God.

    Here’s a couple of thoughts: Is the Gospel race-neutral and/or ethnic-neutral? If the evangelical theology we’ve inherited via the Reformation and American seminaries were ethnically and racially biased, what would/ could a multicultural evangelical theology look like?

    I have noticed that some (many?) English ministries that reach 2nd generation Asian Americans also do not address ethnic or racial issues. This suggests that both “white” organizations and English-speaking Asian organizations are going about ministry in pretty much the same manner.

    In that Francis Chan interview, to the question, What was your childhood like?”, Francis answered, “I came from Hong Kong, so I had to deal with switching cultures. I felt like I didn’t fit in anywhere, not at school, not at home.” And, to the question, “You were never close to your father?”, Francis replied, “No, he was just a very authoritative figure. Typical Asian father—demanded a ton but never really spoke with me. I don’t remember any conversations we had.”

    The above shows that Francis is well aware of life in a Chinese/Asian-American (family) context. That doesn’t necessarily show up through-and-through in his teaching ministry — and it doesn’t have to.

    And, looking at the fruit of Francis’ ministry at his home church and speaking circuit, it’s without doubt he’s bearing fruit. And from what I can tell, he has a great reputation, as Rhett (and others have) vouched.

    A question to consider: should someone rise up and address the racial/ ethnic issues embedded in the American evangelical church and the conference circuit? I think so. It doesn’t have to be Francis.

    • daniel so

      DJ – As always, you highlight great questions and some of the key issues to consider. Thanks for linking to the Francis Chan article — helps bring clarity to this conversation.

  22. Steve

    Dave, your observation about American evangelical Christian conferences is right on. Take for example the Next Conference (formerly known as New Attitude). These white evangelicals put on conferences as if to speak for the entire American church not realizing that there are others (evangelicals) residing in multiple locales who think and live in very different cultural contexts.

    My suspicion regarding why Chan gets invited to these conferences is because, like you said, he brings diversity to the table. But I think it’s also because Chan appears and is seen as one of them. Maybe he’s the “model minority,” someone who has assimilated into the mainstream culture. In my assessment, the “model minority” label is merely colonialism disguised linguistically. For whites, the model minority is non-threatening, non-foreign, someone who is one of them. And yet I think you’re being too hard on Francis. I don’t know his background, but I’m sure his upbringing played a big part in making who he is. Some people assimilate, some don’t, and it’s harsh to criticize someone for selling out given the fact they’ve had a typical white, suburban upbringing. With that said, it would be problematic if someone like Francis speaks for the whole of the Asian American church or even is seen by white evangelicals as the go-to representative for that demographic.

    I’m not saying every white evangelical thinks this way, but the only way to overcome this is for Asian Americans to realize they too have something positive to contribute to the whole of American evangelicalism. The American evangelical church simply won’t catch on to these issues if Asian American evangelicals don’t push the issue of race to the fore (for example, see Edward Gilbreath’s Reconciliation Blues). This can only be done if Asian Americans realize the rich cultural heritage and tradition they reside in. Like you, I would also argue that it is from this particular context that Asian Americans can theologize and help the American evangelical church realize the richness of this way of doing theology, that Asian Americans don’t always think like white people, and live very differently. I think the church would benefit greatly if the table is enlarged to encompass multiplicity, something the American church has never been good at.

  23. I’m a 34 year old white guy. I have heard Francis Chan speak at Biola chapel back in the 90s, Forest Home, Hume Lake and at conferences like Youth Specialties NYWC and Catalyst West.
    I’m not sure if Asian Americans will think of this as good or bad, but when Francis Chan speaks I never even consider his ethnicity but every time he speaks I am drawn closer to God. He has an incredible way of causing everyone I know to long to love Jesus more. That’s why I love Francis.

  24. Ashley Choi ⋅

    I find that this blog has run-off of what is simply a sheer lack of effort to research the topic of said controversy for concrete information to unabashedly peg an individual with such a tremendously inaccurate accusation.

    The title of the blog itself is stating a very preemptive stereotype without researching the context of such premeditated accusation, as well as objectify Francis Chan with simply a circumstantial speculation specifically to a few speaking engagements. It just doesn’t make sense to connect an “all white conference” and “mono-chromatic gathering” with “Francis Chan is a sell-out”… and I have hard evidence as to why.

    I have attended several different churches while at UCLA and my years after UCLA and still in the Los Angeles area for my work in film and media. I sought God at Bel Air Pres, Cornerstone (Francis Chan’s church), Calvary Church in the Pacific Palisades, Rock Harbor, Harvest Rock, Mosaic, etc. and I’m well versed in theology, philosophy, and politics. I am also a Korean American that’s been raised in white communities all my life. So therefore I have less of a mental bias in distinguishing “white churches” from the rest, or notice the division of a “white church” and an diverse church. For me what mattered most were the level people revered God and respected each other.

    All the churches were great, BUT I gravitated towards favoring Cornerstone out of all the churches BECAUSE of Francis Chan. He pastored his people like I have never seen a pastor pastor his people before for such a large church.

    This man leads by example and both physically and spiritually leads his church… especially in giving! In fact his heart for his faith in God and love for his people to walk in the ways Jesus calls them to, convicted him to personally choose take a salary cut where he would only receive 1/3 the salary he would typically made so that the church would practice and walk out the act of giving. This is one added reason to support why he speaks at so many conferences.

    He still has to provide for his family. I believe it is the Lord’s blessing upon him to have the jobs of speaking at all these conferences because it’s not extra pocket change for Francis… it’s his manna and provision that he’s receiving in faith that God would provide through all the sacrifice.

    And as for Francis Chan speaking at a all white conferences and all white churches… well I think he truly has the humble authority to speak in front of what we stereotype to be wealthy caucasians AND anyone for that matter.

    My beloveds, have you heard his sermons??? He tells it like it is at his church. He gave a sermon on the topic of being “lukewarm” years ago that dug deep and placed a holy conviction in people to truly walk out a life closer to God through self examination of their hearts and faith in God. Francis has a beautiful gift of grace to tell such raw and honest sermons in such humbleness without sugar coating the issue.

    I would encourage people to simply not look at conferences as “majority white”, “majority asian”, “majority diverse”, etc… I don’t believe it’s the intention of the conferences to herd in people by ethnicity or color, but the people’s personal choice to be at certain conferences. And typically the conferences seek out their speakers, so it would be strange for Francis to turn down the heart and desire of the conferences that reach out to him to give wisdom and wise counsel to Jesus’ sheep through the gift and calling the Lord has commanded of Francis.

    With that said, let’s break it down even further: Francis Chan just speaks at conferences that focus on God and house the people of God.

    But another important note in regards to the comment of “selling out” – Francis isn’t naive, oblivious, or undiscerning to how people and churches can become stuck on such a track. I believe it was back in 2005 or 2006 that he took a few months off from Cornerstone because he was NOT okay with the fact that it appeared much of the congregation only came to hear him speak. And so as not to “sell out” he took a sabbatical to seek God and confirm he was to continue at the church at such capacity… and also to encourage the church not to idolize one teaching pastor.

    With all that I’ve personally witnessed… I consider Francis Chan to be a beautifully amazingly transparent, honest, and humble man who God has anointed with an awesome gift of wisdom and teaching His people, all His people, benefit from.

    In fact I think Francis Chan has been victorious in challenging and beating the monster named Sell-Out at it’s game.

    Check him out for yourself.

    Bless you!


    • I think francis stands vindicated by ashley and many of the comments above. as mentioned before I wondered if it was necessary to deconstruct him in this manner. alas, the critical eye can sometimes make an idol of the hermeneutic of suspicion.

      But there is one deconstucting that still must take place, namely the ethnic hegemonizing of religion in america, thus the critique of these and other conferences (essentially the “system” that is american evangelicalism). you can’t bring one chinese guy on board and say “hey we represent!” I think that’s what’s so insulting to so many people.

      • Ashley Choi ⋅

        Yes, I understand your stance Wayne… but what can conferences do when Asian (and other) ethnicities choose to attend Asian majority conventions rather than solely on topic, location, and God? Francis is Chinese-American at a White-American conference. I’m Korean-American and often go to Regular Conferences that are diverse with all different ethnicities, but majority White-American conferences because often the Korean conferences or Asian conferences (wonderfully) provide for an obvious need regarding factors of communication and comfort barriers for people more comfortable with their native language. And I simply don’t need that, or search out for “Asian Friendly” or “diverse” conferences because that doesn’t even cross my radar!

        Though if I started smelling Kal-Bi maybe I’d start drifting towards the majority Korean Asian conference… 🙂

        I have never ever ever felt discriminated or misunderstood at any of these conferences. So what is this whole Asian division and “sell-out” bitterness criticizing? I don’t understand the need to criticize all these efforts. I don’t find any of this insulting and I don’t think the conventions are singling out Francis as a campaign to call themselves diverse… BUT INSTEAD, it appears that the people on the outside are antagonizing them and twisting the situation to be so manipulative.

        I think those conferences just contract Francis simply because he’s really good at what he does.

        Jaeson Ma speaks at the Campus Crusade for Christ’s huge winter conference and he’s just as loving and faithful as Jesus disciples us all to be. None of these efforts are falsely prophecying and making people jump off cliffs. I hope we are all more encouraging.

      • Ashley Choi ⋅

        Sorry… I meant to say “Francis is a Chinese American at what is considered a PREDOMINANTLY White-American” conference…

  25. I met Francis for the 1st time years ago when I was a counselor at a Chinese Baptist church youth camp and he was the main speaker. We reconnected when he was speaking and I was singing on the mainstage at Spirit West Coast – Del Mar. So I’ve seen him in an Asian and white setting. I’ve been happy to see him acknowledged as a great speaker regardless of his skin color. (I can go off on the whole Christian music diversity issue but that’s another conversation)

    I host a talk show for Christian youth network, JCTV, and I believe to my programming director’s credit (he’s white, btw), he purposely wanted a mix of 2 males and 2 female hosts of various backgrounds. Now, did I get the job because I was Asian? He told me I was one of the best people for the job and it was a bonus that I was Asian because he wanted the diversity.
    My program director recently asked to book Francis Chan as a guest and he did so because he thought he was a fantastic speaker. I will admit that I try to pull more women and Asian speakers on my show because I want to see people like me represented since I saw a lack of it growing up.

    Through my music ministry, I’ve had the opportunity to lead worship, sing and speak for every ethnic group in various parts of the country from NYC to Ashland, Ohio (lots of corn fields). I definitely notice differences between all white, all black and all Latino churches. There is a lot of truth that Sunday is the most segregated day of week. I’m thankful that I’ve had a part in helping to bridge cultures though my various ministries. I’ve also seen in the last 10 years that this generation who will be the future leaders are increasingly multi- culturally aware. I once met some youth from Alabama who knew more about Chinese culture than I did.

    Over the yrs, I believe God has revealed more and more of how my Chinese Americaness is part of my life’s testimonies and I’ve been increasingly outspoken about the issue of identity. However, I’ve also realized unless one grows up Asian, it’s harder for one to understand what the cultural differences are of growing up Asian American. If I’m in predominantly white, black or latino church, I will mention my ethnic background but I try not to over emphasize it because I have noticed that if I go too “Asian” in relating my experiences, the audience is unable to relate. It may actually reinforce certain stereotypes or put up a dividing wall. Of course, there are things that relate across cultures and those are always most effective when communicating.

    In this politically correct world, I think most white people don’t want to be accused of being racist and so they have taken the “let’s ignore race” stance subconsiously. However, in my opinion, whether diversity happens in a token manner or as a reflection of the church, the fact that it happens is good.

    • Larissa, thanks for the comment. I think you speak for an emerging consciousness in Asian American Christians that are asking difficult questions our parents never asked regarding church. I appreciate your perspective and really respect your work. I have heard wonderful things about you and heard more than a few of your songs. You are ridiculously talented and I’m glad that you’re getting to use your gifts in a variety of arenas.

      The conversation about race and culture is not intended to be divisive within the church. Rather it is to help us all realize how much we need each other to portray a better and bigger image of God and the kingdom. I think we want to take our purpose and distinctiveness seriously because we believe God took those differences seriously when knitting us in our mothers’ wombs. So thanks for your words and your encouragement. The question is not really about selling out, but I think we’re just holding people accountable to think of the people we represent, whether they be other artists, ethnicities, etc.

  26. Scott McClellan ⋅

    Honestly, I’m not sure how to read this post and as a generic white guy I doubt I have anything of value to add to the conversation about ethnicity in the American Church. What I can say, however, is that ever since I read this post last night, I’ve been torn up inside. My wife and I adopted our infant daughter from Vietnam four and a half months ago, and for the first time I’m confronted with the apparent reality that there are some people within the Church who will be willing to publicly criticize her if she doesn’t grow up to be “yellow” enough, or if her theology doesn’t sufficiently “spring” from her “life as an Asian-American.”

    Is there anything my wife and I can do other than raise her to weather such judgment and celebrate her identity in Christ?

    • Scott, you are wise to add a degree of complexity to this issue with your daughter.

      I feel your pain. When Asians are critqueing whether or not one has “sold out” or not, it’s not necessarily to say that something is deficient within the person, but whether or not something has been lost for everyone who shares your daughter’s beautiful almond eyes. I think of Esther in the Bible, who “for such a time as this” spoke on behalf of her people. What would have happened to the Jews if Esther had no sense of identity and only a sense of identity in Christ? Salvation may have come from somewhere else, but I believe that the biblical witness takes seriously every characteristic and particular endowment we have as images of God. That is why incarnation matters. And if anything, your daughter will teach you that people are judged, oppressed, mistreated, and dismissed for the color of their skin and the shape of their eyes even today in the wonderful country that we live in. It doesn’t say anything about her identity in Christ, rather I think of it as an opportunity to step up and declare shalom in ways that the church in America has been slow to do.

    • daniel so

      Scott – Congratulations on your adoption! In a world where so many kids are orphaned and alone, it is encouraging to hear stories of adoption.

      My wife has worked with many Asian adoptees (into mostly non-Asian homes) and, from her experience, those who grew up in homes where their ethnic identity was either ignored or repressed really, really struggled. I believe it’s a step in the right direction to acknowledge that *all* people come from a cultural perspective, even “generic white guys” 🙂

      Speaking from my own experience, growing up in the midwest in a predominantly white town as one of the few Asian Americans, I think that if you can help your daughter to celebrate and be confident in the fact that she is made in the image of God (including her Vietnamese heritage) it will help her to understand more deeply her identity in Christ. As many Asian Americans could probably tell you, it’s a truly terrible thing to grow up feeling like one’s ethnic identity is a mistake. I think Jesus frees us from the no-win binary of racial identity being either ignored completely or becoming the only thing; in Christ, we are freed to become the people (racial, ethnic, cultural heritage and all) God made us to be.

    • Scott McClellan ⋅

      David and Daniel,

      Thanks for the encouraging us to embrace our daughter’s cultural heritage and identity–we have committed ourselves to do that to the best of our ability and with the help of any and all available resources.

      My fear and frustration stems from the fact that my daughter will grow up in a Church (not a world, a Church) in which other Christians are prepared to publicly assault her cultural and ethnic loyalties. Frankly, that has nothing to do with declaring shalom.

      If anyone would like to dialogue about what it would look like for a diverse group to come together to plan a diverse conference, please send me an email. And we don’t have to invite Francis to speak if you don’t want to.

      • interesting. i don’t know if it’s just that it is hard to detect the tone in which your comment is written or if i’m being overly-sensitive, scott.

        i’m not sure if what we’re saying here about francis chan, a very public and prominent figure who says very little on asian american issues, seems to imply that we would “publicly assault [your daughter’s] cultural and ethnic loyalties”, does it? if that is the case, i apologize.

        i hardly consider the blogosphere representative of “the Church”, but i will say this. in some way, through this blog post, you are reading some thoughts about how some asian americans feel about our ethnic identity in light of history and how we relate to the Christian faith. i’ve noticed a few whites commenting in defensive tones, but this isn’t a full frontal attack on whites and racism, especially on the personal level. this is really meant to be safe space for asians to voice what it feels like, not as a rant against white people.

        in any case, even the post is less about chan than the title belies, it’s more on a systemic level of how we as asians are suspicious of tokenism and have a sense of loss about asians who reach prominence but do not speak in ways that strengthen or enable people who perhaps shared in the experience of what it feels like to be asian in america (some have said it is to be a perpetual foreigner). it simultaneous conveys the message that ethnicity doesn’t matter and supports the individualistic American ethos. but as an ethnic minority, i have trouble thinking that way. the things that i have privileges to do now are because of other asians who suffered before me and before them (re: exclusion acts in early 20th c. and japanese internment camps in WWII, etc.) if i should succeed and act as though i accomplished great things because of my individual talent, then wouldn’t i be ignorant of that cloud of witnesses in some sense?

        if your daughter were to read this post, i suspect that she would not think of herself as “less vietnamese”, she will already have that posture as a default (i can say that out of personal experience). rather i hope she would ask how her being vietnamese might matter in the best possible sense. my hope is that it would enrich her story. that it would help her own her faith because people that both look like her and don’t look like her can proclaim Jesus as Lord and Savior, and they will say so out of their distinctiveness not of some cultural homogeneity. don’t know if that makes any sense, but hope it helps and if you want to do such a conference on diversity, i’d be glad to participate in some way. but i’d recommend CCDA if you’re interested.

      • daniel so

        Scott — I will echo David’s comment above. If you are feeling defensive about this conversation, please understand that no one here is attacking you or your daughter personally. I believe David offers a very clear explanation of the key issues above.

        As a parent myself, I have been raising my daughter to be confident in her God-given identity. If her experience growing up is anything like mine, she’ll probably be criticized from both sides — either she’s too Asian or not Asian enough. We’re trying to raise her to understand, celebrate and be confident in her whole God-given identity; as she develops that trust & confidence, then those kinds of criticisms won’t really matter.

        However, as David wrote above, although this post is about an individual (Francis Chan), it’s really about systems, cultures and institutions. In that sense, this has everything to do with declaring shalom — how can we claim to live under the rule and reign of Jesus if we willfully ignore these very important questions. I don’t think this conversation has been a “public assault on cultural and ethnic loyalties,” even though there might be frustration being voiced. If that’s how you are hearing it, I would encourage you to look a little deeper.

    • Ashley Choi ⋅

      Don’t be torn up Scott. When majority Asian American conferences make themselves “White friendly” then maybe there’ll be something to say. I have issues with Asians being too unhealthily culturally prideful to the sense of judgmental and egotistical against another’s way of living and breathing in Christ.

      I personally was raised Korean and chose to leave the Korean and Asian ways about things because the lack of effort they make to integrate with black, latino, and caucasian groups was just not my cup of tea.

      Be blessed. And I’m excited for your child to live a life without a racist eye, but hopefully a compassionate one that understands the depth and complexity of humanity across ethnic divides.

      Ashley Choi

      • i totally respect your opinions ashley and i agree, koreans have a long way to go in terms of reaching across racial barriers, but i think some of the sense of exclusivity comes from a protectionist instinct in being a recent immigrant community (most koreans came as a result of immigration reform in 1965) that there is heightened sense of anxiety of being a foreigner in someone else’s land.

        but you speak for a great number of asian americans – who are “fast track” assimilationists as opposed to “slow track”. and i assure you that plenty of criticism about korean ethnocentrism happens here as well, we just don’t have anyone with quite the visibility of a francis chan :). in any case, what i’m hoping to see is a greater sense of self-awareness on both sides, whites and asians, of how we live and breathe in Christ. here’s the question that always plagues me when it comes to diversity — what is lost when i don’t acknowledge my experience and cultural heritage? when i close my eyes and go to a typical korean-american worship service…i don’t think i’d be able to tell if they were white or asian, just by listening. but if i were to close my eyes and go to an african-american church, i would know without opening my eyes. that distinctiveness adds to the richness and diversity of Christian worship, doesn’t it?

        all i’m asking, is what is lost? i’m not saying that asians are better or entitled to be ethnocentric or judgmental, i’m just asking, what if we’ve been trying so hard to worship in what we thought were “right” ways, we were not true to the self that God created? just a thought. i don’t want you to think we’re just puffing ourselves up to put others down. that’s not the goal, the goal is to join the table with our distinct voices intact, so that people can appreciate the Christian community for it unity in diversity not in some sort of cloning or colorblindness.

      • Ashley Choi ⋅

        Thanks David. That was a great note. I understand the extensiveness and depth of both “sides” of this open-ended “dispute”.

        It appears that Francis Chan has such visibility because of his ability to communicate. He is a great American English-speaking teacher. From what I know, each ethnic circle leans towards a certain unwritten method of humor, process, and communication, which could possibly add to the limitations in exposure…. not because they’re not good enough, but simply because they cater to a certain peoples that need such a shepherd.

        I think he is true to himself and how God created him to be. God provided him the territory of America and gifts of great communication. So I sense the forefront identity for Francis in this case is simply American teaching pastor who is a bold Chinese person lifted up to receive and endure such a burden.

        In every way I respect the my ethnic background and am ever so fluent and studied in Korean culture and politics because you’re right, I represent something greater than myself and I’m thankful for it. But being that my land, my home, and my country truly is English speaking America – that is the platform from which I stand and observe from.

        I suppose my concern in all this is that Francis Chan is being scrutinized as possibly being “not Chinese enough”… but I think he’s perfectly Chinese because he’s not in denial of his heritage. He’s just living in where God has called his life to be now. And I pray that the Chinese people, who share in a part of his identity, would step up in support of such a good and holy man who’s opened doors for Asians to be seen as something much more than a language and utensil barrier. I believe Francis is helping Asians become a more comfortable and noticeable norm in society.

        Again, I’m not offended by the different perspectives and arguments. I just am trying to add to view this manner with a more panoramic eye.



  27. hour9 ⋅

    Scott, I appreciate your questions and especially your humility towards the situation. It’s refreshing.

    I don’t know Chan or have read his books or heard him speak. But, I do have some thoughts on the issue.

    1. Isn’t this what “we” (Asian-Americans) wanted? Someone that looks like us to hit the limelight, “make it” so to speak. I would even go so far as to say that the AA community is either totally inspired or completely jealous of his success as an AA, especially an AA male.

    2. Model minority responsbility? So now that Chan is “famous” is it his responsibility to speak on behalf of all AA Christians and to mention his AA race whenever he speaks? I dont think that’s true. Of course he has the opportunity to bring some AA cultural contexts to light, but like DJ said earlier, it doesn’t have to be just Francis. In the book Outliers, Gladwell does a great job of talking about some Asian cultural contexts. I’m pretty sure he doesnt have much Asian heritage, if at all.

    3. Being great, but only for an Asian? This is a side issue that I think can be prevalent in the AA culture. Some AAs think, “I’m way better than anybody I know. I must be great. I should pursue this whole-heartedly.” Translation: Because I’m better than my AA brothers and sisters (anybody I know, we tend to flock together), I must be a superstar. Why do we let those who we think are great AAs become the pinnacle of excellence? What do we measure each other with and ourselves with?

    I wrote a post on my blog about being an AA male if anyone wants to check it out.

  28. eugenecho

    goodness gracious. lots of interesting thoughts. my two cents:

    i don’t know francis personally. love his heart and passion.

    but i think one of the reasons – amongst the fantastic points about diversity, multiculturalism, and the lack of diversity – is that asian-americans don’t want to lose francis chan. he’s one of the lone faces in the larger ‘meanstream’ evangelical western christianity and i think many feel like they are losing him (or have already lost him) – accurate or not.

    the phrase ‘just focus on christ’ is too uni-dimensional.

    to focus on christ is to acknowledge that god in his sovereignty created us uniquely and beautifully. to love all people w/ the gospel is glorious. to have an inclination/heart/voice for a particular group (a la Paul with his love for the Gentiles but yet, he never stopped loving his Jewishness and the Jewish people) isn’t sinful, wrong, or to be avoided.

    francis should have the freedom to pursue that which god calls him to but for many asian-americans, it’s hard to let go when you’ve only got couple that look like you…

  29. Wow. Very interesting discussion. My beef is not with Francis Chan (never met him, but like his stuff), but with the white evangelical conferences that will co-opt his message and use it for their own means. The problem is not with the individual — the problem is with the system.

    I’m assuming Francis Chan is just speaking what God has placed on his heart. It’s Western, white cultural captivity that tries to frame or limit his voice (and other Asian-American voices).

    Author, The Next Evangelicalism

  30. I’m a 30 year old, married with kids, white male, living just north of Atlanta, in the armpit of Suburban Georgia. I know I’m in the heart of the “Bible Belt” and that Atlanta was once referred to as the “Capital of the South” (and to some, still is). I know that I live in a region of the U.S. where multiple prejudices still exist, and ethnic diversity is rare – even though I live in one of the top five “cities of diversity” in the U.S. (ironic isn’t it?) – I blame our depravity for the lack of understanding and inter-cultural fellowship.

    But even amidst this… here’s the thing… I don’t understand this argument/discussion. I never have. And perhaps I never will. I try. I earnestly try. I do. But I continually fail. And it’s not just in an Asian-American context, it’s in every ethnic context. I simply don’t get it.

    Since when does our nationality, race, gender, etc. matter? Since when is it important to our obedience to God? To our following Christ? To our empowerment by the Holy Spirit? Since when have we been called Red Children of God, White Children of God, Yellow Children of God, Black Children of God, American Children of God, Asian Children of God, Persian Children of God, French Children of God? Spanish Children of God… I’m chagrined by the fact that Sunday is the “most segregated day in America.” But I digress. Because I’m “white” I’m classified as an ignorant racist.

    Maybe we should study James 4 a little closer.

    Maybe it’s because I’m “post-modern” and I grew up with an appreciation for diversity. Maybe it’s because I’m educated. Maybe it’s because I’ve traveled around the world. Maybe it’s because I was born in another country while my father served in the Air Force. Maybe I was brainwashed by someone that wasn’t a “generic white guy” growing up. I don’t know. But what I do know is I have rarely ever classified someone by their gender, skin color, or their ethnicity. In the rare cases when I do classify someone this way, it’s usually for lack of knowledge about the person I am describing. I was raised NOT to describe people this way. I was raised to love everyone. I was raised to get to know people… not WHITE people, or YELLOW people, or RED people, or BLACK people.

    I don’t claim to be perfect, nor do I claim (especially) to be righteous… but I’m somewhat proud to say, looking back over my life, my friendships, and the people who have come and gone in and out of my life – I see clear evidence that God is good, and that inter-cultural fellowship is a blessing from God. I have met an incredible degree of people from all shapes, sizes, colors, creeds, et al. And I thank God for that.

    I now serve as the Campus Minister for a college ministry at the State University near where I live – and I thank God that the ministry in which I am privileged to serve, I have a great multitude and blessing of mixed culture and diversity. Perhaps it’s a reflection of my own values, or perhaps I’m just lucky. Who knows.

    I don’t understand this argument/discussion. I just don’t get it. Please, someone. Enlighten me.

    • wow, dan. thanks for sharing your frustration and being so open and honest.

      let me just start by saying, i am not accusing you of being an ignorant racist white guy. and i don’t question your open-mindedness, level of education, variety of experience, servant heart, diverse friendships, mixed campus ministry, good intentions, or faithful discipleship. this issues is not about whether you and i can be friends (and we really should get together some time as we are in the metro atlanta area anyway).

      what we’re talking about here is a systemic level of racism that is quite insidious in that it is in the very assumptions about how we live and what we think of one another. it’s racism working in the “powers and principalities” mode, not the james 4 mode. and it’s the way our various cultures and ethnicities “remember”. if you ask when do these categories matter, it matters because race and power have been longtime bedfellows, and the church has historically been known to jump in bed at times. and this affects certain assumptions about God’s love and justice because of the way city planning, school zoning, predatory financing, immigration legislation, police treatment, gentrification, media portrayal, white flight, disaster recovery, and church leadership were and are being put into action. in other words, you and i don’t have to be racists for systems of racism to continue to exist and oppress.

      but the reality is that whites in this country, consciously or unconsciously, willingly or unwillingly, still have a sense of privilege and power that many minorities do not. whites are more likely to be in leadership roles, be outspoken, assertive, presumed to be right (unless it’s a math contest), and perceived to be more attractive because whites tend to define what is normative in american culture and church. that’s why it’s far more likely for you to say that you can disregard other people’s race and dismiss the differences, but others rarely have that luxury. again that’s not to say that you’re not open-minded to others, or that you’re a closet racist, it’s just trying to convey that systemic racism means that you may have a sense of entitlement that you can go anywhere, be anything, speak to anyone, change anything, leave anytime, all with no fear or repercussion, but not everyone feels that way. and sometimes, it’s just because of the color of their skin. and if this still doesn’t make sense to you, i don’t know what to say other than that you should write a book because gallons of ink has been spilled on the fact that these issues are enormous in scope and do matter because of the historical/sociological impact on faith and identity. maybe you have the solution that we haven’t heard, but in the case of this post, my hope is that we find an answer that reflects more awareness and public acknowledgement that chan might be a token, that there is such a thing as western cultural captivity of the church (check out the book, “the next evangelicalism” by soong-chan rah). but please know that this is a much bigger question than whether you as an individual are racist or not.

      • Hey David,
        I hear what you’re saying, and I agree largely on the issue of systematic racism. But my frustration stems from a lack of “our” ability (as a diverse population) to move past it already (caucasian and non-caucasian); but it’s obviously going to take 2-3 more generations of cultural fusion and blending and even then, will we get there? Who knows; I hope so.

        My post was/is more about “us” and less about “me” in the sense that I am constantly lost and frustrated in the absurdity of the existing racism, and the existing martyrism, from both sides. I completely acknowledge, and am hurt by the mere possibility that anyone was ever asked to just “fit in” etc., or told that their ethnicity was of no value. It’s one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever heard. But at the same time, isn’t it a two-way street, rarely replaced with honest dialogue and listening? Don’t we all fail to recognize each others value and calling, cast in the image of God?

        “Chan is being used by white evangelicals to alleviate their unwillingness to engage race and faith. Chan is welcome at these conferences only because his message could come just as easily from a white male.”

        I would venture that Chan is welcome at these conferences (a) because his colleagues (caucasian or not) value his writings/teachings/theology, and (b) an incredible amount of lay people, from many ethnic backgrounds have gobbled his writings up for the same reasons. Not because he’s a token for diversity. So, when Chan shows up at the national AME conference, or the Brazilian Church Revival – will he be the token “yellow guy” there too? Or will it be okay, because the monochromatic crowd is a different color?

        I also must add that if I’m “more likely to be in leadership roles, be outspoken, assertive, presumed to be right (et al)” or if I’ve ever had “a sense of entitlement that I can go anywhere, be anything, speak to anyone, change anything, leave anytime, all with no fear or repercussion … ” it only derives from my Myers-Briggs Type: ENTP / Type-A personality, not from my being white/male.

        I’ve met several non-white, non-male ENTP / Type A’s, and they’ll go anywhere, be anything, speak to anyone, change anything, leave anytime, all without fear or repercussion just as much, if not more than I – because I’m a white male.

        I’m not going to be the white male martyr and cry injustice – because I do believe there is a certain amount of healing, correction, and affirmative action that needs to take place to equal things out. I do think that cultural heritage and perspective ought to be celebrated. I don’t however think it should be legislated. The day that race/gender/ethnicity are removed from any and all “qualifying statements/documents” will be the day that world truly becomes diverse.

        Instead of crying about it, why don’t we do something about it? I’m in. Are you?

        p.s. :: i loved the subtly embedded math joke. 😉 We should definitely meetup. And you know what’s cool about the word caucasian? the last five letters. and yes, you can totally deduct me 5 cool points for that one. i’m comfortable in my nerdiness.

    • daniel so

      Dan – I think a very simple place to start is by recognizing that *every person* has a cultural perspective – that includes Asian American and white people, along with everyone else.

      Much of James 4 centers around humility and understanding. In this particular conversation, if you’re willing to listen to the stories of others, you might hear that many Asian Americans grew up hearing messages (even from the church) such as: you don’t belong, your ethnicity means nothing, why can’t you just try and fit in, etc. I think empathy and understanding can begin if you can grasp how hurtful that is — and recognize that many Asian Americans cannot “return” to an Asian culture that was never fully theirs either.

      So, when Scripture tells us that we are all made in the image of God (including our ethnic backgrounds), perhaps you can see how redemptive that is.

      I think I hear what you’re saying above: “I was raised to love everyone. I was raised to get to know people” — This is a wonderful perspective. However, this does not mean that you should ignore or obliterate a person’s ethnic background. While it’s not *everything*, neither is our ethnic heritage *nothing* — inevitably, our culture shapes who we are and is vital to understanding people, if you really want to get to know them.

      I’m not saying that this is what you mean, but I grew up among mostly white friends who, with good intentions, would say things like, “I don’t even think of you as being Korean.” While they meant it as a compliment, it’s actually quite insulting (for all the reasons listed above).

      I think Eugene Cho’s comment above can help enlighten you, as you asked:
      “to focus on christ is to acknowledge that god in his sovereignty created us uniquely and beautifully. to love all people w/ the gospel is glorious. to have an inclination/heart/voice for a particular group (a la Paul with his love for the Gentiles but yet, he never stopped loving his Jewishness and the Jewish people) isn’t sinful, wrong, or to be avoided.”

  31. Danny Yang ⋅

    francis chan is NOT a sellout. perhaps the post started too harsh, but honestly this was the question that crossed my mind as i sat uncomfortably at the orange conference. i tried to clarify my respect for his faithfulness to the gospel in his life. my beef is more with conference organizers that book him under the thinking that chan represents asian-american christians.

    and that’s one of the themes in the comments that i yearn for christians to understand: that the gospel is not culture neutral. but evangelicals (which includes most AA christians) were not taught that the gospel finds expression in culture. if you’re curious at how evangelicalism perpetuates white culture, dr. rah’s book is great.

    what might an AA speaker talk about? well, part of the problem is in the prior paragraph; most of us were raised on evangelical theology as universal theology, and never bothered to think about the particular expression of Jesus among AAs. two byproducts: AA theology is tremendously underdeveloped, and AA youth who abide by this evangelical theology are more likely to be depressed than AA youth who never step into a church.

    and when we do begin to find our voice, and we begin to testify to Jesus’ unique salvation at work among us– will we still be welcome?

  32. Only Won

    There’s some truth to Danny’s original post. I don’t think he was really ripping
    on Francis though. I haven’t met him or heard him speak, but have heard many good things about him. I think its the same with everything else & not just Christian speaking engagements. Being the first Chinese/Bilingual hip hop artist as well as an actor, I’ve noticed this in movies, work, school, and music industry. They find one Asian that most likely had a connection and had a particular attribute that non-Asians feel an Asian should have.

    Is Francis the only good Chinese Christian speaker? Is there no one better? I doubt it. He’s kinda the Asian face of Christian conferences. Even with affirmative action defeated, it’s still here and the Asian Christian speaker quota is now met. Sometimes I feel that way too as an artist. Am I selected to rap at an event full of Blacks just to showcase someone different? In my day job there are only a couple Asians at my engineering company? There’s no shortage of Asian engineers I’m sure. I don’t think it’s intentional. But the non-Asians that are hiring tend to like people like them so all the Asians hired are very Americanized and act…well…”white”. I do speak perfect english and enjoy American things as well as embrace my Asian culture. The only time we’ve hired someone that wasn’t like me was if there was a job overseas.

    But, it’s really up to us to speak out. I hate Asian jokes and I hate it when an Asian makes Asian jokes to make non-Asians laugh. But I have also seen White speakers make White jokes to Asian congregations to make them laugh…and Black speakers make Black jokes in front of white congregations….and Latino…etc. You get the point. Maybe we feel more affected by it cuz we’ve spoken out about it the least and it’s done more often with the Asian race than others. Maybe this is a lesson for all of us…token or not. If we get the stage, we should take it with grace, honor, dignity, and integrity and use it to bring up others like us. Then we don’t have to worry about selling out.

    • Eddie ⋅

      Yeah right. For his title to be Is Francis Chan a sell out? And then to turn around and say i didnt say that. He difinetly implied it. How many people do you think just read the title and turned the page? I did the first time.

  33. sue ⋅

    wow, just caught up on the last 45 (epic) comments. so much thought provoking material…hard to really digest at one quick pass. although there are many comments i’d like to respond to, i think i’ll bring up a new topic that i didn’t see addressed, instead. just for fun.

    it actually jumps off of my earlier comment (5th/6th from the top) dealing with this part of the post: “Chan is being used by white evangelicals to alleviate their unwillingness to engage race and faith.”

    this blanket statement made me uncomfortable, b/c i have personally helped put on conferences by the white folk who have invited chan to speak, and can say with certainty that they did not sit around a table trying to cook up ways to be more diversity hip, landing on chan as the great solution for bringing in some color minus real talk of race/faith issues. nor did they say, “wow, we found a guy that talks like us and about stuff we like; and sweet, he’s asian, so thats a check for diversity!” these men and women pour their hearts into their respective visions for making His name known and raising up disciples to lead transformed lives. i think enough people have attested to chan’s heart to do the same; it was a simple case of like minds/hearts aligning.

    people have stepped up to vouch for fracis chan’s character (although, i am not sure it was completely necessary b/c despite the controversial title, danny yang was ultimately not questioning chan as a legit christian), but DY was really sticking it to the conference planners, so i felt it was only right to do some vouching of my own.

    yup, it just got personal…but to not take it there would be to deny the very real relationships i have with these people, who i have prayed, struggled, and done life with.

    i don’t doubt there are some people out there who might have done some “alleviating of their unwillingness, etc, etc,” but to stick all the white evangelical conference organizers into one bucket is unnecessary and half baked. most importantly, how does one truly know the motivations of any heart unless clearly expressed, and even then there is question.

    there is so much more i could say, and no doubt, i’ve not made the most articulate, organized speech of my life (apologies for poor grammar, typos, and sarcasm), but it is what it is. and now i am done.

    • sue!!! excellent point. i think you’re absolutely right to stick up for friends and organizers of the conference. and this is where unfortunately, i think DY is just asking, does this conference prove that point? even if the truth is “no”, we could always imagine a diabolical, hypothetical, “you never can tell~~” attitude and that just sucks. which is why people are upset here, right?

      my only pushback, especially when it comes to issues of race and the evangelical church is that no one ever expresses the motivations of their heart. that’s the problem of silent racism, or institutionalized racism – we are hardly aware of our own hearts, therefore we can’t articulate it, we just do it.

      and to be fair, it’s not just white people who are seeking to dominate others or whatever. there is a very weird psychological effect (similar to stockholm, which thanks to “it’s always sunny in philadelphia,” has gotten play in pop culture) where minorities want to imitate, impress, and become like the dominant majority. in other words, asian americans want to “look good” for “whites”, we want to defend a system that could do this, especially when we as asians are great at playing the game. that’s what we do in every other social circumstance. but i suppose the real test would be whether we could get minorities who have a high sense of identity speak from their point of view and be accepted by the evangelical masses, a la a soong chan rah.

      because to this day, even though MLK is considered the most powerful preacher/prophet of the last century, most evangelicals say, “yeah, but he cheated on his wife.” and while that’s true, it takes attention away from the fact that many “evangelicals” didn’t lift a finger to stop the oppression of black americans, which i think is clearly against christian ethics as well.

  34. Dk

    I find it funny that my earlier comments were completely ignored, further proving the point that us Asian American artists/worship leaders just don’t matter enough in conversations like this. Perhaps I need to start another website/blog to voice my thoughts… Oh wait, I did… . Something to consider for further thought: Asian Americans have successfully legitimized the speaker/preacher types as a fulltime gig… Music people? Just like we were told when we were growing up, you’re not going to matter unless you drop that guitar and go to seminary to become a “true” minister of the gospel. This will one day be a topic that more people care about but sadly, I am one of the few who care at this point in time. Wow.

    • hey dk,
      sorry you felt like you got ignored. but don’t take it personally, there were a lot of comments, all going a lot of different directions! larissa lam commented and i believe ashley works with entertainment, so i certainly perceived that people were vouching for more than pastor/speaker types here.
      i hear you on the artist/worship leader tip. and i’ve definitely blogged about it here as well. i think we need representation from all around, but you’re right, this post is kind of consumed more with the speaker circuit/conferences, and of course the namesake, francis chan. but here’s my question for you as an artist/worship leader, what IS different about an asian american worship leader? is it in content? or theology? or lyrics? or style? i think that’s the difficulty that we all have articulating here.

      and the DY’s original point was that francis chan doesn’t articulate anything particularly asian american, he doesn’t bring anything new to the text of scripture. he just assumes that scripture is culture-neutral. that is highly debatable, but worship really isn’t, i think. worship definitely arises as an authentic response which is why chris tomlin couldn’t write the same songs kirk franklin writes. negro spirituals have a depth to them that is distinctive from traditional western hymns. but what may i ask does an asian american worship leader bring to the table?

    • Ashley Choi ⋅

      DK, I’m not sure where your processes connect because I’m not really following. I read your last post and what was written was not in a way that catered to dialogue.

      I respect artists, and like David Park mentioned, I work in film and music and therefore I have utmost respect for the complexity of the craft and devotion to the passions of the arts.

      Now with that said, I’m not following how/why you promote an entirely different platform when this post is regarding the post posted. I think that’s why there wasn’t much of a response to your comments simply because your comments didn’t really appear to comment on the topic in any way that was controversial or needed more verification, justification, or clarification. Which is not bad… but I think that’s wherein your answer lies in regards to you not feeling attended to with this particular blog article.

      I hope that helped unpack and sort your feelings in regards to feeling ignored on this post, because that’s not the intention of any of the bloggers on here. I’m impressed with how actively they respond with such care and concern.

      So in regards to the comments you’ve posted, they’ve mainly seemed to stray from the topic of this blog and into a sort of self promotion (which thank you for sharing your information and your passion for worship ministry). So the point that you’re possibly right on is to have a separate controversial and/or provoking blog on things regarding worship ministry for people to consider.

      At times every ministry seems overlooked. I feel ya. I work in entertainment and music with all the A-listers and media moguls out there. It’s its own monster of a culture (from vanity to cocaine) and I testify Jesus by my ministry in which the Lord has called me to in media. I don’t get recognized for it, but God knows and I love that these people tangibly experience God’s love and grace that I’m called to give sacrificially without expectations.

      Thanks for serving the Lord, brother.


  35. Dk

    Thanks for your thoughts guys! Keep at it.

  36. Bbee

    Hello Dk:
    I appreciate your comments, but I question why you are such a big fan of Francis Chan. Is it his theology that you like or with which agree? His teachings appear to be an extreme form of Lordship salvation theology well beyond what even John MacArthur teaches. This issue is discussed in more detail at:

  37. Pingback: Reflections On: Soong-Chan Rah’s THE NEXT EVANGELICALISM «

  38. DYdaktix ⋅

    Wow. What a great conversation. I’ve never heard Francis Chan speak, but many of my friends like him. And I’m grateful that there is an Asian American role model that is getting the props that he seems to be getting. I think about all the hard working Asian Americans who have made in-roads to what it means to be Asian American. People such as Bruce Lee, Eric Shinseki, Kristi Yamaguchi, Jin tha MC, Michelle Rhee are all people who come to mind when I think about Asian Americans reppin’ hard.

    God is calling, and Asian American Christians are responding. I just hope and pray that there is room at the table for us, when God invites us there.

    I’m going off topic a bit here, but as a seminarian graduating soon, I am struggling with the harsh realities. I had a conversation with a black classmate about possible opportunities, and we both wondered if we would be seriously considered for a pastorate at a predominantly Caucasian church. We both didn’t think so, but it gives me hope when pastors like Francis Chan and Eugene Cho pastor churches that aren’t predominantly Asian American. I don’t want to hide in the Asian American ghetto, but at the same time, the institutionalized racism is hard. It makes me wanna run back and hide. But then am I contributing to the problem?

    One last thought: the RCA and the CRCNA and the PCUSA are all seriously considering the Belhar Confession. I wonder if more evangelicals, especially those of us from confessional traditions would embrace this confession of Unity, Justice, and Reconciliation.

    • thanks for the belhar confession.

      definitely feel you on working at caucasian churches. i know of asians who do it and honestly, it’s a good time to add diversity to the conversation. even in my case, where i’ve been attending a predominantly white congregation for a couple of years now, just the presence of asian americans has created space for such a discussion to take place. on the one hand, i think whites feel the group has become “very diverse” while on the other hand, i am wondering why it never comes up in conversation. i think that racial reconciliation is a long hard road and requires hundreds, if not thousands, of difficult conversations on both sides of the fence, dominant majority and ethnic minority. so no matter where you land, you still have to move people towards consciousness all the while trying to embody grace and truth at the same time, which is very hard. especially for me, the matter of race is a visceral one. growing up in the south, i’ve had a lot of experiences that have instilled anger and bitterness in me, and even as i try to intellectualize it here on the blog and press on it as an important issue, there are times where i react in ways that i go back and ask myself, ‘where in the world did that come from?’ but that being said, i think racism is bigger than me and it is real, i didn’t imagine it or create it, and in that sense i believe it is a worthy endeavor as we step forward in the church to address it and speak truth to power. so keep pressing into this tension. it’s good for the body of Christ, i believe that with all my heart.

  39. sue ⋅

    perhaps this will be what many here have been holding their breath for..

    • interesting. i’m not sure i “get” the point of the conference. but interesting. i didn’t know i was holding my breath for such a conference, but perhaps i should have been? are you in on the organizing on this one by any chance?

      • sue ⋅

        oh, my bad…i have a tendency to throw those cliche phrases around without thinking…just thought the conference could be something exciting for the aa christian community. theres no telling for sure, but the speaker line up includes an asian, and it seems like a different sort of conference…doesn’t focus on current ministry trends as it does on new creative possibilities. more room for culture discussion, perhaps. i dunno…i should probably come up with more intelligent, polished comments to match the caliber of discussion here. again, for all its worth, this is my comment…it is what it is!

      • sue ⋅

        oh man, i am so sorry for hijacking this thread, i just realized i didn’t answer your question–no i am not affiliated with Story at all. last group i worked officially with was passion, but john and i have friends at orange, and he was there holding down the blogger’s lounge.

        and by the way, john did an interview with ben arment of Story on, in case you were interested:

  40. The ethnic make-up of the conference FC was speaking at ( had to do with more with location than anything else.
    Last time I checked, the south does not have a large Asian population.

    When attending The Idea Camp ( in Irvine, CA this past year, I found that there was plenty of diversity among the speakers and those in attendance. The conference was a reflection of the city it was hosted in.

    FC is not a sell out.
    The South is just not that Asian.

    • daniel so

      Anthony – I don’t think we met in person, but I recognized your name from The Idea Camp. A couple of quick thoughts about your comment:

      First, although geography definitely plays a part in the demographic makeup of who might attend, it’s not a limiting factor for determining who will be speaking from the main stage. For example, at this year’s National Pastor’s Convention, there was a distinct lack of diversity from the main stage — and it was hosted here in San Diego. While SD might not be the most diverse town, it’s easily accessible from most of Southern California (which is, as you know, pretty diverse).

      Second, I’m glad that you mentioned The Idea Camp. Diversity was built-in from the initial concept (and not just for its own sake). As Dave Gibbons said during a talk there, creativity often springs forth when we purposefully intersect with others who have different perspectives. Charles Lee, the creator of The Idea Camp (who has commented above), spoke directly about purposefully creating a place where people of different backgrounds (age, gender, ethnicity) could collaborate for the Kingdom. Unfortunately, as the original poster and many commenters have noted, this does not seem to be the case for many church/ministry conferences.

      Third, and a significant point here, I think you might have misread the original post. It wasn’t just the lack of ethnic diversity in the crowd at Orange that was the point:

      “my problem is how oblivious people were to the monochromatic gathering. And I base their ignorance on the language– both on stage in the general sessions and in breakouts. The presenters do not hesitate to speak for the whole church, failing to acknowledge that they are really speaking for the white church in America. This tendency to generalize their experiences betrays a lack of awareness that their skin color has shaped their faith.”

      Hope that clears up some of the main issues of what we’re talking about here. I know it’s a lot of comments to work through, but reading through them will help you see what this conversation is really about.

      • I understand that you feel the conversation is really about something different.

        However, when things like this are stated:
        “I arrived late to the morning session and slipped into the back of Gwinnett Arena, and the first thing I noticed is the sea of whiteness. I’ve been to a good share of conferences: Willow Creek, NPC, even a couple Emergent events, but this gathering of over 3000 people (my estimate) was easily 99% white. ”
        I wonder if the 99% white demographic has more to do with location than anything else.

        I’d like to think that it is not just the white church in America that needs to partner with the families of the children who walk through their doors. From my perspective, that was what the Orange Conference was about. Encouraging families to take an active role in the faith development of their children is a concept that should be colorblind.

        I’d also like to think that a crowd can be diverse, even if it is monochromatic. The assumption that all white churches are the same seems to be what you’re implying… and that’s quite the claim, agreed?

      • You have a point, Anthony. It’s true that the majority of Asian Americans are located in California and Hawaii. Oddly enough though, the South is not totally devoid of Asians. In fact, Gwinnett County, where the Orange Conference took place, is 9.2% Asian (from 2007 stats). And there are roughly 300 Korean American churches in the Metro Atlanta area alone (and that’s just one of the Asian ethnic groups) for a population of upwards of 75,000. Again, throw in Chinese, Vietnamese, Hmong and Filipino populations and other Asian ethnicities, and I’d say that Atlanta doesn’t fare too poorly when it comes to diversity.

        If as you point out, one of the goals of the conference is “creating opportunities for families to invite their neighbors to a relevant and engaging environment at your church – to see what happens to their own faith when they begin investing in those around them.” I’d have to say that Gwinnett Co, having one of the fastest growing Asian American populations in the country, clearly some of the neighbors should be Asian, especially in Duluth, GA. So in this case, i think the argument against the Orange Conference being more than coincidentally white is wellfounded. Obviously, we don’t assume that it was malicious, or exclusivist by intention, we’re just stating a fact that it then seems unusual that Francis Chan would be a keynote speaker, since the audience was overwhelmingly non-Asian. This might suggest that Francis Chan may not represent Asian Americans, right? And if this were the case, as the original post suggests, he might be unknowingly a front of diversity when in fact there is little. That’s the point of the post, really. Although I’d have to say that the comments begin to riff off this theme substantially.

        As for your second point, that even White crowds are diverse, I concede, that we generalize the range of White church expression as though it were monolithic. But on the other hand, you would also have to concede that whatever range there is, it is still considered normative for all churches. So when you speak of “colorblind,” it is clear that the one color that we all still see is very much, White. Now I don’t want to reiterate what a number of previous posts have already stated. This is not indicative of a lack of good intention or spirituality or political correctness, or at worst some accusation of racism on part of the organizers and participants; rather this brings up the assumptions that we have about a silent, assumed posture of our Christian circles that regardless of the diversity we see in our schools, workplaces and cities, our churches still remain very slow to a profound discussion of race and we often calm ourselves with simple tokens, gestures of progress, but we never discuss them or question them. And it is that silence that assumes things are fine the way they are.

      • Penny Hunter ⋅

        ATL is one of the most diverse metro areas in the Nation (see link above that includes stats on Asian population in ATL and the diversity of the Asian communities.) Just over half of the population is white/non hispanic. So, the lack of diversity at the conference has little to do with location. To attract a community of people that represents the breadth and beauty of the Body, leadership must also represent the breadth and beauty of the Body. This takes deliberate effort.

      • daniel so

        Penny – Thanks for linking some hard data here about ATL’s demographics. I really appreciate what you said above about making deliberate effort towards the “breadth and beauty of the Body.”

    • daniel so

      Anthony — David and Penny have addressed your point regarding the diversity of Atlanta below. As it turns out, ATL is actually a pretty diverse town. It’s not enough to say that they demographics of those in attendance is simply due to the host location.

      Once again, though, you have missed the point of both the original post and the subsequent dialogue. If you need to clarify with Danny Yang (the original poster), I would suggest you contact him directly, but your quote above is only the introduction to his main point (please re-read the fourth paragraph of the original article). The issue was not who was attending the conference, but that the speakers from the main stage presumed to speak on behalf of the entire church and failed to recognize that they, too, were speaking from a particular cultural perspective.

      Re: your second point — no one here is arguing that only the white church needs to partner with families. In fact, quite the opposite — there have been several critiques along those lines of ethnic churches here in these comments. Again, reading through this comment thread would probably help. David Park has offered a great response to this point below as well.

      Re: your third point — I agree that even crowds who might appear to be the same based solely on skin color are quite diverse. One of my deeply held theological convictions is that each individual is made uniquely in the image of God. So, actually, you’re completely wrong in assuming that I implied that all white churches are the same. Part of the whole point of this conversation is to say that EACH one of us (Asian Americans, whites, etc.) comes from a unique cultural background/perspective. Danny Yang wrote this very clearly above: “This tendency to generalize their experiences betrays a lack of awareness that their skin color has shaped their faith.” I would also encourage you to read David’s response to this point below.

  41. Andrew Kim ⋅

    I’m getting in the game late! All the good stuff has already been said. But I’d like to share my perspective. I am a member of Francis Chan’s church (what’s up Joe!). For most of my life, I’ve attended Asian American churches and have been on pastoral leadership in an Asian American church in Los Angeles. I want to share a couple points:

    1.) Francis Chan is authentically living out the gospel in the community God has placed him in. He’s not about bragging so I’ll do it for him. He recently brought home a homeless woman who was pregnant (has now given birth) and her three kids to live with his family. He recently was given $500,000 from the royalties from his book. He placed the money in a fund that he can give to charities from but he can’t even get himself an In-N-Out burger from.
    If anyone wants to call Francis Chan a sell-out… they would be totally right because he is sold-out for Jesus. He lives what he preaches. This should be the litmus test in the church not whether or not one is Asian enough.

    2.) It’s interesting that the “brothers” in the Asian American church who criticize Francis are themselves myopic and ethnocentric. Inclusion in American Christian leadership cannot occur without participation. Face it, we are content with being members in a 99% Asian American congregation… it’s comfortable. We get lunch after service. We love having our yearly outdoor picnic service. But invite the Hispanics living in the apartments across the street to our services? How about the homeless white person camping out in the trash area of our church to come inside to service? No, we are happy with our middle/upper class, college educated, Asian culture churches… We like to use terminology like, “targeted outreach” to justify us reaching out to only our kind. Francis Chan makes us uncomfortable because an Asian American pastor is actually reaching out to non-Asian Americans and is successful in doing so. What a sell out. I guess I’m a sell out too.

    • mezuzah

      I”ve been away from this blog too long…but I thought your comment about lunch after service was funny and true.

      FC spoke at Youth Lab in Fort Worth two years ago, and he’s criss-crossed back and forth through these parts. The one thing I noticed is that his illustrations and stories have a universal appeal.

  42. sue ⋅

    i’d like to make a quick point regarding the conv bouncing back between anthony prince and others: i too considered making a point of atl’s diversity, but then remembered people who come to orange come from near AND far, yet far would still mostly include people of the south. given that, think his point of the south v. CA demographics still holds.

    in addition to that, i want to say that in an ideal world the “silent racism,” and disparity that chan is asian and most folks at orange were not would be addressed, b/c despite what one’s opinion might be, its an interesting topic. BUT i believe orange strove to focus on their mission of family/youth ministry. and again, choosing what is best for one self does not mean things not chosen are not good. although i am no authority in any shape, way or form, i have not come across asian american ministries pumping out vision for family ministries. and to get on the radar for a big conference like orange, you really do have to be making waves.

    my suggestion? if there is an aa youth/family pastor out there whose sole ambition in life is to enhance and grow their family ministry + they are 100% on board with the orange mission/philosophy, then said pastor should try to get connected with orange staff, build conversation/relationship. its quite amazing what can come out of genuine conversations of people seeking to build something together.

    what will probably never work: disgruntled aa christian contacting folks at orange to pick a fight about how they may not be intentionally racist, but by including chan on the speaker roster, they contributed to the silent racism that they practice even if they had done nothing at all.

    any who…i used orange as an example b/c i know what they are about, and the more obvious reason, b/c DY mentioned them in his post. does anyone else have any proactive, kingdom building suggestions of how to move this conversation beyond debating how francis chan isn’t asian enough or how the white evangelicals aren’t nonracist enough? (yes, i know that was an over simplification of the 75 comments…but i think we all get my point).

    • daniel so

      Sue — Just a quick response. I’m certainly not trying to antagonize you here, but I think Anthony’s point about the South not being diverse is irrelevant. The main thing here is not who is attending these conferences (although that is important); it’s about the voices from “the main stage” and assuming one particular culture is the normative standard for everyone else.

      I think you highlight a great way for any Asian American pastors, youth pastors, leaders, etc. (or anyone else, for that matter) who might be interested in connecting with conferences like Orange or Passion to do so.

      I’m all for “proactive, kingdom building suggestions” — While I don’t think anyone is trying to pick a fight with Orange, I don’t think we can brush off this discussion either. Even if no one ever contacts Orange (which, honestly, probably wouldn’t be very fruitful anyways), discussing these issues can be proactive and kingdom-building. To dovetail off of something David mentioned above, if we are seeking to join in God’s mission of building Shalom in the world, we need to be honest and clear-eyed about both personal and institutional/corporate sin.

      • sue ⋅


        i think you read too much into my comment. i wasn’t trying to brush off the conversation, i was just thinking 70+ comments later, maybe ideas of how to move forward could be suggested.

        also, i didn’t say anyone was picking a fight with orange. just created two hypothetical situations-one positive, one negative. i can see, however, how you might think i implied that whats going on here is a “fight.” but, nope…not what i’m saying at all. i have been using a semi off hand, sarcastic tone, while talking about personal feelings–can make for confusing presentation, so apologies for that.

        lastly, you’d be surprised how responsive big organizations can be. really…you shouldn’t have such a defeatist attitude (if’ you’ll allow me a joke)! i have a wonderful personal story about this if you want proof. perhaps you just meant that orange isn’t your cup of tea. to which, i would say, sub in whatever conference you would associate yourself with and/or like to see diversity addressed.

      • daniel so

        Hi Sue — Thanks for the thoughtful response. I definitely agree with you about finding positive, proactive ways of building the Kingdom. I would never want to define myself by what I’m against but, rather, what I’m *for*.

        No worries about the tone with which you’re writing — the interweb is a terrible place for conveying anyone’s tone.

        Yes, I have had several really positive experiences with big organizations. For example, I saw you mentioned Passion above, and I have nothing but respect for them. My wife and I have had occasion to work just a little bit with them and Louie and the Passion gang have been great.

  43. Bo

    David, as always great conversation. But I do wonder if the post could have been framed differently with a different rhetorical strategy. As the posts have demonstrated the very notion of a “sell-out” is problematic as it perpetuates unhelpful categories to think about these issues. Here I recall the accusations if Obama is black enough.

    Second, if Chan is being used by white organizers to perpetuate a false sense of diversity there is something he can do about it in protest if it is in his personal interests to do so (I’m not saying he must – he is free to determine what he believes to be worthwhile causes for the kingdom): Not speak and publicly voice his dissent. This is what Mary Ann Glendon did by declining to speak at Notre Dame’s graduation in protest of the platform.

    As for him having to speak at these conferences to support his family – sorry I’m not buying that. I’ve heard he lives on little but that was a deliberate choice he made with his church.

    Last point then I’m out. The last national evangelical movement that took racial reconciliation seriously was promise keepers. Now they’ve fizzled out for a number of reasons but it does strike me perhaps there is a reason why diversity is ignored at these conferences.

    • Bo, always love it when you comment.

      Obviously, the title of the post has been problematic, and I see the similarity of calling out Obama by the Black community, but of course, who could call Chan out on these terms if not Asian Americans, right? Perhaps the rhetoric could have been more congenial, but you know how Asian Americans are, if the language were softened as per usual, then no one would perceive that racial reconciliation is an urgent felt need in the AA community, if not by all AA’s.

      If it is the case that Chan does make those points in private circles, I think that would be great. It’s just that we have heard zilch, whether it is on the Sichuan earthquake or immigration issues or anything really. So if it is the case that he sees AA issues as part of what he brings to the table, it would be nice to know that. Gibbons is at least conversant on those issues and of course, Ken Fong even moreso.

      Your last point is quite telling though. Are you suggesting that the issue of race and diversity are conference killers? Hmmm…fascinating.

  44. As I understood the format of the post, by replying to the original thoughts (and not using the option to reply to any one comment that followed) I assumed that I could begin a discussion that addressed an issue brought up by the original author.

    I apologize for not recognizing the conversation that was already taking place.

    I stand corrected and, on a personal note, I think that the conversation taking place on this post has been both gracious and thought provoking. Thank you for sharing your thoughts in an open forum like this.

  45. Pingback: Asian-American Christians, part 1 |

  46. elderj

    I don’t have much to add here but geez and wow!!
    I don’t know who Francis Chan is at all really, but I think lots and lots of Asian American Christians are largely selling out having been convinced that they’ve not really arrived unless they are accepted by whites, and that their churches are less than legitimate unless they are multiethnic. I don’t feel that way at all. If I lived and died my entire life within the context of the Black church, I would not feel at all deprived or spiritually bereft. I never wanted or needed the approval of Whites to legitimize my worship or spirituality or conferences and I am not impressed or flattered by their acceptance of me. Indeed I could spend the rest of my life in the Korean church, and would be quite fine, if that’s where God called me. And I will be there as fully Black as I am now.

    It grieves me greatly when I see Asian people running after the seal of approval of White folks. It actually sickens me. And while the ethnocentrism and racism of many Asian folks needs to be challenged, the self-denigrating apologetic posture of many Asian Americans needs to be challenged as well. At the very least put up some pictures of Asian Jesus in the church for crying out loud!!

    /end rant

  47. coicoy ⋅

    “Sometimes a little diversity is worse than no diversity.”

    Please explain. I don’t see how this is justifiable.

    • dannyyang ⋅

      if the diversity is merely tokenism, then it’s better to have no diversity. Rah provides a great definition: Tokenism means that people of color are invited to strengthen existing systems and further the captivity to the dominant culture (p120). this type of diversity misleads people into thinking they are breaking race and culture barriers when in fact white dominance is being reinforced.

      i do thank sue for her comments; i confess that i judged too quickly. conference organizers may not enlist chan to meet a specific quota; they simply identify with chan’s message. i do hope that participants recognize that chan hardly represents the asian-american christian experience.

      • coicoy ⋅

        thank you for clarifying. yeah, if that definition of Tokenism is what’s happening, then there’s a problem. I would argue that the cultural power systems in that scenario should never exist in the church. If they do exist, then Chan’s position is only a symptom.

        However, I also don’t think that means that Chan in a token position is worse than no Chan at all. He’s clearly capable of recognizing a potential token state, and opening up a dialogue with the leaders.

        I’m a “white American,” but I also am in a Messianic Jewish rock band. I’m 1/16th Jewish, on my mother’s side. My European concoction includes a mixture of heritages. The fact that I like metal and hardcore music such as The Chariot and Zao is divergent from most other folks in my culture. Last week, at a local high school battle of the bands, the only Asian-American band I saw also happened to be the only metal band.

        So, I’d agree that Chan probably doesn’t represent the Asian-American Christian experience. It would unnerve me to think that the Christian leaders (and conference participants) think that. But unless they are talking about redemption, the experience is likely a distraction, regardless.

        I also do recognize that cultural experience does affect how people worship and fellowship. That’s true of every ethnicity and culture.

        Lord, lead us to the right paths.

    • It’s very justifiable.

      It’s like getting a diet coke with a super size McMeal and calling it healthy.
      It’s like one black dude in a cast of Caucasians and all of a sudden it’s “diverse”.

      It’s like faith but without works. But still calling it faith. Somehow.

      • coicoy ⋅

        Then the fraction of diversity is not the problem, it’s *the lie* that the fraction represents more than it does.

      • “Then the fraction of diversity is not the problem, it’s *the lie* that the fraction represents more than it does.”

        well said.

        “cultural experience does affect how people worship and fellowship. That’s true of every ethnicity and culture.”

        Amen. I think that’s what elderJ’s onto above. Sadly there are few distinct expressions of “asian” worship that aren’t just imitations of the dominant culture. I think of the Korean prayer meetings but I find that ethos so hard to preserve with succeeding generations (I am a case in point).

        I wonder what worship looks like in a Messianic Jewish rock band. But that’s rad. Keep it up.

      • coicoy ⋅

        what I mean is that Chan’s being there is not better than Chan not being there. I’d rather have the one black dude than no black dude, even though it’s not “diverse.” If I was health conscious, I wouldn’t go to McDonald’s or even drink soda, but it’s true that there are fewer calories in a Diet Coke. There is no inherent problem with the Diet Coke or the black dude. There is a question of, “why isn’t there more?” But the inclusion is not a step in the wrong direction, unless someone truly believes those small changes make for the final steps.

      • coicoy ⋅

        didn’t see your reply just now.

        the Messianic Jewish rock is funny, because it’s an aberration in that culture! haha. we have a link on youtube, which I can send you.

        I hear ya about there not being “distinct expressions of “asian” worship that aren’t just imitations of the dominant culture.” I didn’t really realize that. It looks like there’s a nice group of striving people here, which will probably help that progress. What would people want it to express? (<- no answer required. just a question.)

      • DYdaktix ⋅

        Some things that I’ve noticed that Asian Americans seem to add to the witness of the Christian church in America, in my experience i’ve seen lay ownership. For better or for worse, As/Am seem skeptical of professional ministry, yet want to get involved deeper in the life of the church as lay people.

        I wonder if God is raising up an As/Am denomination much like the African Methodist Episcopal church? What do y’all think?

  48. Pingback: Is Francis Chan A Sell Out

  49. Chico Woo

    I posted on my blog about my thoughts about the whole Francis Chan sell out issue.

    I would like to add this question to the mix. Why are we putting the responsibility of conference attendance on the conference promoter instead of the potential attendee?

    I’m Korean so I will speak on behalf of the few Korean pastors that I know. They don’t like going to these conferences. I have offered to purchase tickets on their behalf to go but they still will not go. I believe there are a couple of reasons.

    1. They would rather go to a more mystical conference rather than a practical conference. If you go to these Holy Spirit / Charismatic conference they are packed with Koreans.

    2. First generation Korean churches in America follow the trends of the Korean church in Korea. Korean churches in Korea follow the American church trends.

    3. Koreans pastors like to hang with other korean pastors. Nothing wrong with that but it makes you isolated. Which means you become insulated to from all that God is doing in Kingdom.

    4. Koreans pastors dont like to go to white conference where lunch is not provided. if you go to a Korean pastors conference they all provide lunch.

    • djchuang

      Chico, thanks for your comments, and insights about Korean pastors’ preferences. I’d be curious to learn more about how the Korean churches in Korea are following American church trends. My (few) sources familiar with the Korean church in Korea have described Korean churches in Korea to be rather traditional, and not doing contemporary and relevant worship music and creative ministry methods. In that context, I think it’d be K-pop style music.

      • Chico Woo ⋅


        Sorry I did not see your reply in the mountain of comments.

        From my observations. In the last couple of years, the church in Korea has been changing. A couple of factors are contributing to this:
        First it is the power of the internet. Second, a new breed of young people who are embracing the rainbow of movements that are coming from America. Third, as the economy in Korea is improving many churches are inviting US church leaders and and holding seminars. In the past, speakers going to Korea had to pay for everything and acted more as missionaries. Also as movements that were hot in the US begin to cool they begin to go overseas. Last, Korea in a nation of constant quick change and they are rising from a third world status to embracing their place in the global economy as a world power. This has translated in the church where change is not only sought but demanded.

        I have seen churches in Korea singing Hillsong songs just a couple of months after they are released in Australia. One of the reasons for this is a worship leader name Scott Brenner. He has sown his life in South Korea and his quick translation of the songs and his dynamic worship leading have sparked churches to embrace contemporary worship.

        Hope that helps give more clarity.

  50. Geoff Chang ⋅

    A few questions

    1) Why so much emphasis on the Asian-American race/ethnicity/culture/etc… ? Whatever happened to Galatians 3 or Ephesians 2? Aren’t we a new creation? Didn’t Christ create a new humanity within Himself? So why do we revert to the world’s way of talking about things, rather than see our primary, fundamental identity as Christian, rather than Asian-American?

    2) If this our primary identity really is in Christ, then shouldn’t our goal be primarily about what God thinks, not what man thinks? This question of being a “sellout” was so popular in high school because for many people, that’s a time when the fear of man ruled in our lives. Yet, we are not called to be ruled by a fear of man, a fear of being called a sellout, but rather a fear of God. Faithfulness to God is what matters. Therefore, like Paul, I should think that all of us would count our AA heritage rubbish, for the sake of knowing Christ. Like Paul, all of us would as soon leave an apostate AA church, to fellowship with a Christian church, even while grieving for our AA brothers. Why? Because we ought not to be ruled by a fear of man, but ultimately we serve God.

    3) On the issue of tokenism, shouldn’t we not presume to judge others’ motives? Shouldn’t we rather be encouraged that brothers do desire to take small steps towards diversity? If we only acted when we could achieve perfect obedience, none of us would ever take any action. But in God’s kindness, He uses our small steps of obedience to help us in further acts of obedience, so that our hope might be in Christ and not ourselves.

    4) And even if by some way, we were able to see into other men’s motives. Shouldn’t we rejoice that, regardless, the Gospel is preached (Phil. 1)? If some men, with tokenism motives, invited you to preach to a sea of white, single young adults, would you not swallow your pride and preach the Gospel boldly, praying that God would use you to expand His kingdom? I would much rather these conference planners ask Francis Chan to preach, even if out of tokenism, than they ask another person, whom I’m less confident would preach the Gospel.

    • Ooh, I’m gonna try to be nice here, but there are so many (troubling) holes in what you’re saying brother…

      What you’ve effectively done is reduce our faith to an individualized experience – something that transcends human experience and is ethereal, spiritual, otherworldly, gnostic. Now I don’t think you intend to downplay culture, but allow me to up-play it just a bit more.

      I would go so far as to say that you cannot have faith w/o culture. The entire Acts 15 passage on the Jerusalem Council is a narrative of the intersection between faith and race. The writings of NT Wright and The New Perspective wrestle with this dichotomy of faith and culture and attempt to re-visit the idea of a faith that was formed in a Jewish identity. The whole point is not to say that faith is trumped by (Jewish) identity but to recognize that our faith (which happens to be TRANS-cultural) is at the same time embedded and transferred in cultural and ethnic norms. I would even go so far as to say that our faith is adorned by culture. Culture is what makes faith “beautiful”.

      Brother Geoff I challenge you to expand your definition of faith to include this dimension of culture and ethnic identity – and much of the mundane of life for that matter – culture, identity, formation – these are part and parcel of our faith and can’t be extracted.

      • Geoff Chang ⋅

        Hi Wayne,

        Thanks for your thoughts and for responding kindly, even though you might strongly disagree with my thoughts/questions. Some responses:

        – I certainly don’t believe in reducing faith into an individualized experience. Far be it for me to do that! I am a strong believer in the importance of the local church, the covenanted body of God’s people, united around what Christ has done for them in his life, death and resurrection. A Christian with an individualized understanding of his life and faith is likely self-deceived and in great danger. God’s design is for His people to be in community with other Christians… even other Christians who have very little do with one another, except for their belief in the Gospel. It’s in this way that the wisdom of God is put on display to the watching universe (Eph. 3).

        – And it’s exactly this body of people that ultimately matters. This is not to deny the significance of race, the bond that exists there, the affections for those who share our culture… but it’s to understand that in Christ, there is a far more significant union that exists, to Christ, and to one another.

        – Which is why I’m perplexed at why AA Christians would question whether or not Francis Chan considers himself “one of us”. One of us Asian-Americans? Why not one of us God’s people? Well, obviously, they’re meaning the former, but if we have been united to Christ, why wouldn’t the latter be our more significant identity?

        – So, bottom line, is there a way for us to appreciate/be thankful for/rejoice in/celebrate/defend/preserve our AA heritage, all while recognizing that it is not our ultimate identity, but rather it’s our union with Christ and with His people?

    • djchuang

      Geoff, thanks for adding your comments here. Good of you to mention Galatians 3, which follows Galatians 2. Certainly our salvation and identity is in Christ, hallelujah for that! Now what does that mean for how we then shall live and behave in a multi-cultural community?

      In Galatians 2:11-14, Paul strongly confronted Peter because he used to eat with the Gentiles, but when the Jews showed up, Peter moved to be with the Jews. This was a subtle racist move (whether intentional or unintentional, it still caused others to make a racist move). This was not in line with the gospel. The Gospel involves more than articulating the good news of salvation and believing our identify is in Christ alone. To live out the implications of the gospel means that behaviors must radically change, like in the area of race relations.

      Let’s suppose the Apostle Paul attended a conference about the Gospel, and all the speakers were mostly born Jew and one was a circumcised Gentile. What might Paul say to the conference organizers?

      • Geoff Chang ⋅

        Hi DJ… thanks for your input. I’m not sure what Paul would say. I think the answer would depend on the circumstances. If this conference were out in Rome, and there were plenty of other gifted Gentile brothers and the organizers were intentionally excluding Gentiles, then I think Paul would have a problem. But if the conference was in Jerusalem (i.e. something like the Acts 15 Jerusalem Council), and the Gospel had just begun to go out to the Gentiles, and there weren’t many Gentile pastors who were there, but rather all the mature, gifted preachers were Jewish, I think Paul would’ve been quite fine with an all-Jewish cast. In other words, I don’t think there’s an absolute requirement for a certain level of diversity in a meeting, in order to be free of sin, but each case will be different depending on the circumstances (and obviously, on the heart).

        I appreciate you pointing me to thinking through this as an implication of the Gospel. I certainly agree that the Gospel brings radical implications to our behaviors, especially in areas of race relations. My point is that, sadly, we are too easily prone to pride and other sinful expressions in this area. In calling someone a sellout, in accusing others of evil motives, are we not being more like the world, rather than those transformed by the Gospel? So I’m not saying this conversation shouldn’t happen… There are many good things that need to be said and many ways in which Christians need to grow in this area. But using a provocative title like “Is Francis Chan a sellout?” seems to be a divisive way to start the discussion. So going back to my initial post, shouldn’t we be humbled, thankful and encouraged by the ministry of our brothers, whether Asian or not? Is there a way for us to discuss the implications of the Gospel on race without sounding like the world, but rather reflecting humility and gratitude and grace?

      • dannyyang ⋅

        hi geoff,

        sigh… i guess when i’m being accused of sin i get the urge to write a little bit more. i’ve confessed elsewhere that i was too quick to judge the conference organizers. sue was helpful there; i assumed they pick chan to diversify their line-up, when their choice is probably more an alignment of theology and ministry philosophy.

        i do defend the “provocative” title, because that’s where the line of thought starts; chan’s presence provides a point of reference to dialogue about race, the gospel, and white evangelicalism. i don’t slander or insult chan; i point to his faithfulness to the gospel in his life, and the positive impact it has had in the world. the links provided to the interview and the book allow chan to share his own testimony of Jesus Christ. and i will defend my belief that chan does not represent AA christianity, which i don’t believe is an insult.

        but, this post and the response to it, does show a reluctance among AAs (and whites) to acknowledge the role race and ethnicity play in the construction of our theology. to answer your last two questions: i have no problem celebrating the work of other believers. as i mentioned in the post, i just want white evangelicals to acknowledge that they speak for their own context, and not the church catholic, when the conference is 99% white and the organizing team is 100% white. i’m glad northpoint and francis chan are effective at reaching white suburbia because i wouldn’t be. as for your last question, i don’t know how this sounds like the world. are critical observations antithetical to the gospel?

  51. What color is a spirit? What nationality is a spirit? What race is a spirit? What of those is the Holy Spirit? God deals with the spirit man, not the shell we live in.

    This post saddens me actually. Nice trendy headline to catch some attention; yet it in a round about way, it is backbiting.

    We who are trying to live out this life as representatives of Christ in human form do not really worry about race and all have equal voices in the Story of God’s interaction in our Story. Despite what the world sez and speaks around us, race SHOULD NOT matter one bit. Yet.., we all are constantly pelted with race this and race that. There is no color in the Body of Christ. We are all a mosaic of God’s Love if we allow our lives to be that.

    The only thing I see Francis being a sell out for, is for Jesus!

    And.., that my brother is a good thing.

    • Rich, I don’t think you get it.

      you think it’s so simple. That faith is everything and skin color is nothing. 100 yrs ago they drove the Chinese and Sikhs out of my town in riots. The pastors didn’t lift a single finger. Do you really think faith has nothing to do with it?

      I came back from a speaking engagement to have a late-night dinner @ a Denny’s. Some white high school hecklers gave me the “asian treatment” and the manager decided to confront us, the table of asians – all grown men, instead of the rowdy punk kids.

      At a prominent seminary they were having a discussion on racial reconciliation. When the topic of segregation @ lunch came up, a white seminarian said, “YOU should come over to OUR table”.

      i can’t believe your statement that “race should not matter one bit”. I’m frankly shocked that anybody really believes this anymore. Then do you claim to be 100% “colorblind?” Cmon. Every human being has deep prejudices and for you to assert that race is not even an issue in ministry is to reverse hundreds of years of civil rights, justice and reconciliation all done in the name of our Lord Christ. Brother, I think you need to come over to our table for once.

      • Wayne,

        With all Love bro…, the implication is that it should not matter; not that it does not. Obviously it does, but the point of this conversation I think should be – how do we erradicate it?

        Also.., I have been at your table even as a white man. I grew up as the only white kid within a 6 block radius in an predominantly black neighborhood. Took a lot of crap and got into a lot of scraps as a young man. As a retired navy guy, I have been to a lot of places all around the world and I was judged by just being American and white in some of those places. We were poor when I was younger, and in high school, I was shunned and picked on because of my cultural status? In the Navy, each race had it’s own little groups and because of my love for people I always tried to fit in with all groups; but many times, I was again shunned or left out because of my skin color or heritage. So…, “our” table is and can be felt in a myriad of ways.

        The point I am making is this, if we follow Paul’s model and Love Unconditionally, does it really matter what people do to us? What matters is how we react and if we react in Love. Thus my point about being “color blind”; I know it is not easily done, and I know it stinks being on the receiving end. However, we have the Spirit of the Living God residing in us (Rom. 8:11); and we are called to a higher standard than the world. This is where I think Francis Chan comes from. He let’s that Spirit guide his actions, words, and Love for humanity – not his culture heritage and background. For again, if we listen to Paul, we are all “aliens” in this world – no?

        Anyway.., Much Love to you bro, and I totally appreciate your feedback!

        In His Love,


    • dannyyang ⋅

      richie, thanks for sharing your experiences. it’s good that you can sympathize with the experience of the other; however, for us, there is no option to stand up, leave the table, and join the ruling majority. we’ve been strapped into our chair. i also suggest that you might misunderstand the broader implications of what wayne is saying about coming to our table. the push for multi-ethnicity usually involves whites asking others to join their church rather than the flip side. for an interesting example, look at campus fellowship groups; as asian-americans started to dominate IV and campus crusade, the white students all left. the solution to bring back whites was to create separate ministries for AAs, so that whites could have the “main” fellowship back (see the book “God’s whiz kids”).

      as for the “alien” in the world– i wholeheartedly agree and would recommend another book, one already mentioned in all the comments above– dr. rah’s book, “the next evangelicalism.” he explores how evangelicals have accommodated white, western culture into the church and failed our vocation to be “aliens.”

      • Geoff Chang ⋅

        For some reason, your response to my comment didn’t have a Reply button so I’ll reply down here.

        Danny, if I accused you of sin, then I must apologize. I can’t read your heart and I shouldn’t be claiming to know what’s going on there.

        But I do think that it is unwise to speak about “sellouts” and “tokenism”, just because, not only is it using the world’s categories (i.e. that’s how my non-Christian friends argue and talk), but even on a practical level, it’s distracting. You used those terms to get our attention, and it seems like most of the commenters here who disagreed with you got hung up on those points, when that wasn’t even your main point. In reading your comment, and then going back an re-reading your post, I finally saw that your main point is that Chan doesn’t have a distinctly AA message, which actually makes him an appropriate speaker at white conferences (though this means that conference planners shouldn’t “use” him for diversity).

        So brother, if I had realized that was your main point and you were only using the other stuff to get our attention, I wouldn’t have gotten so hung up on it…

        … instead, I would’ve questioned this notion of an AA theology. =)

  52. P.S. At the exponential conference a couple of years ago, I sat in on the Multi-cultural/Multi-ethnic track and listened to a lab by Mark Deymaz and he had us run through and exercise and replace Jew and Gentile with White and Black. Try it with White and Asian or whatever and Asian. It is a real eye-opener!

    Much Love!

  53. Cricket ⋅

    Hi, there!

    Fascinating discussion. I can’t help but be impressed by the thoughtfulness & Christian charity on display here. I hope you won’t mind a question from a “minority” within this minority conversation: I am female, northern European, what some would call a Traditional Roman Catholic. I have a very dear friend, a young man from Singapore, who feels called to the Catholic priesthood. He has made an extremely favorable impression on our local Bishop, who would certainly offer him a full scholarship to the finest seminaries in the U.S. However, my friend has chosen to return to Singapore for seminary studies. His long-term plan is to become a parish priest there one day. He says his reason for wanting to return to Asia is that American “white people” aren’t likely to respect an Asian person who occupies a position of leadership in the Church. This makes me very sad. Certainly, I don’t feel that way! Can any of you help me to understand? Thanks & God bless!

    • DYdaktix ⋅

      I am an Asian/American seminarian, and I can totally see your friend’s perspective. Last year, I was hanging out with a Black classmate, discussing whether he’d take a call at an all white church. His answer: They wouldn’t offer him a call. I asked him why: He gave me a very poignant answer: It just is that way.

      I agreed with him, and I believe that it’s similar for Asian Americans. I have classmates who have sadly relayed to me that their congregations would never hire a minority to lead them. This to me points to systematic racism definitely is at play.

      When His Holiness JP2 died, the popes who were favored to be the next Pope were all European, if I remember right.

      Given these challenges, I understand your friend’s desire to work in a familiar context, and in a place where he can exercise the call God has placed on his life might make sense.

      I don’t know if that helps, please let me know if you need clarification.

  54. R Phillips ⋅

    I am a white man living in South Korea. So I do understand your yearning for a familiar cultural experience. But maybe conferences like this ask Chan to come simply because his message is convicting and breathes truth into the people who need it most, the so-called white church in America.

  55. Richie

    Should not the conversation be just an acknowledgement of what is or what perceptions may be; but also a conversation of what should be and what we are responsible to do as believers as a whole, not just based on the color of our skin – no?

    Do you think Paul as a Jew going to the Gentile churches and speaking or abandoning the Jews because of his calling by God to go to the gentiles was a “sell out”? Does it matter that Paul was responsible for the Asian continents even hearing the gospel? I mean he was not Asian, but a Jew? Do you think that Paul because he might feel unwanted or might be perceived as not being respected would run and hide to another corner of the world so as to avoid the ridicule or strange looks of others? No.., he relished in the fact, that it was not about him or his race – it was about the message that he delivered in Love, Grace, and Mercy; and he always gave the Glory to God.

    I’m sorry – but I just do not think that there is any room for racism/separatism when it comes to the Body of Christ. Now does it happen? Yes, and it must be confronted in Love, Mercy, and Grace. For a priest, a pastor, a missionary to decide to go somewhere soley based on perceptions of Race, totally leaves out the power of the Holy Spirit to do His work in a fallen world that needs reconciliation. God does the work! We do not choose to go anywhere – He sends us there. Paul loved his Jewish brethren and even mentioned that he would give his life for them to know the gospel and go to hell himself – but he knew his calling, and that was to the Gentiles; not where his heart wanted him to be.

    Anyway…, I apologize for going on a bit…, but we really need to start looking at the world and people through the lenses/goggles of Jesus and stop filtering those with our own thoughts, ideas, and perceptions; the filter should be the Spirit of Jesus. That filter eliminates the color of race – and replaces it with the Colors of His Spirit.

    In His Love,


    • Hey Rich

      I’m feelin everything you’re saying brother. After all, we are called to live in the power of the spirit which transcends all bounds – and I believe this power must be real, tangible – it’s gotta mean something and not just be theorized or talked about.

      However I still do take (minor) issue with the last sentence that the Spirit eliminates the color of race – (sorry, not to nitpick) – but I wonder about this. Last Sunday we meditated on Rev 7:9 and I was wondering what the scene in heaven would look like – would we be a melting pot mass of uniformity? The sense I get is when we are “glorified” all of our ethnic distinctions will be preserved – like it or hate, this is our skin for eternity. So while the colors of the Spirit will come to the fore in the end, I don’t think it will be at the expense of skin tone. In other words, our ethnic heritage is deeply valued by God and will be into eternity. That’s my thought.

  56. Pingback: Asian-American Christians, part 2: Is Francis Chan a Sellout? |

  57. stephen leung ⋅

    Just a few thoughts (from an Asian-American ministering in a marginally multi-ethnic context, if that should matter.): [Much of this has been said in one form or another, but I feel it worth restating.]

    1. I find the assessment of anyone “selling-out” to be difficult without over-simplifying the particular context(s) in which FC or anyone else is speaking/teaching on a given occasion. Is anyone saying that he is to steer clear of largely homogeneous contexts of any sort (especially if they aren’t Asian or Asian-American). Side note: good communications requires proper exegesis of the audience. In a given context FC or anyone else might or might not offer statements that he or she would to another audience.

    2. Because a person could be identified with or belongs to one demographic group, does that mean that their “representation” or calling must or mostly should be with or to that group? What if they belong to multiple demographic categories as most of us do? Should FC primarily exhort/participate 3rd culture ministry leaders? IMO, that’s probably the crowd he would most naturally gravitate towards?

    4. Is the attention/evaluation conferred on FC a form of (perhaps inevitable) discrimination? If John Piper (just to offer a random example) were not white, would he immediately have additional scrutiny or burdens placed on him, and, if so, would that be appropriate? Conversely, regardless of his ethnicity or other demographic identity, could it be that FC is well-regarded primarily because he responsibily and honestly reads Scripture and convincingly brings it to bear on the defecits which stem from our ruptured repoire with our Creator that we encounter existentially? Or, are we saying it first and foremost comes from his ethnic identity?

    5. Because FC, or others, belongs to a particular demographic group, does that mean he or they must necessarily embrace or extol theology (even that which is difficulat to square with Scripture) from those in their demographic group, and also eschew good theology that has been mapped and articulated by dead white men? I know it does not have to be either or, but is there some magical formula for the amount of theology one imbibes based on their own demographic identity? For example, do women have to possess a perspective that is at least 50 percent uniquely informed by women theologians? Would it be held against them if they did not?

    Well, that’s more than two cents. I think I will go and listen to some FC sermons now.

  58. Kenny

    Tons of great thought generators here.

    One thing struck me in Danny Yang’s post above: He has yet to read the actual read Francis Chan’s Crazy Love – instead he opted for the e-lazy route of searching the limited preview available on Amazon.

    When I heard Francis Chan this summer at JAMA Philly, his message was big enough to woo the thousands gathered there – but the fact that that venue was specifically Asian-American says nothing about his connection to his Asian-American heritage or the concerns of this specific demographic.

    His success with the Asian-Amer audience in that stadium as well as the reason why the “white evangelical” big conf. circuit is “using him” has nothing to do with his ethnicity. In fact, I’d argue that it is because he is a great orator and his preaching is theologically clean and centered. The result is that everyone walks away amazed, inspired and one more step closer to the big J.C.

    When I had a chance to chat with him during a break before one of the small-group sessions, his authenticity shone through as well.

    I cannot vouch for him personally after meeting him during a single weekend conference. But I can tell you that the CONTENT of his preaching is the key.

    I really suggest that everyone reading this thread checkout some of the actual original source content from Francis Chan before making any further judgments – whether they are correct or not. Here’s some links to help:

    Cornerstone Church:



    Crazy Love Book on Amazon:

  59. Pingback: Asian-American Christians, part 3: Who Am I In Christ? |

  60. nick ⋅

    Geoff, I’ve heard you voice numerous times your quarrel with the idea of an Asian-American theology. And I hear loud and clear your frustration with “worldly” ways of claiming racial identity before our participation in the new community of Christ’s body. But I wonder if you think that theology historically has been a neutral enterprise, undertaken without any racialized subtext — and that when someone like John Piper or D.A. Carson is doing theology, they’re doing it in some pure fashion. Or that racism has been more or less eradicated in society through legislation and now only exists in our hearts and in worldly ways of speaking of race, so we should simply call ourselves “Christian” and be done with it. Forgive me if I have misread you here, but I think race matters and continues to matter both structurally in society and discursively in aesthetics, interpretations of history, philosophy, and theology — and that such Christian ways of engaging the issue superficially gloss over this deep brokenness in the world and in the body of Christ.

    In addition to a short sociological text that I think should be standard reading for any American evangelical, Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America by Michael Emerson and Christian Smith, I would encourage you to read two books that point to race as a theological problem that persists in discourse and in our failure to remember history rightly: A Violent Evangelism, by Luis Rivera, and Race: A Theological Account, by J. Kameron Carter.

    Perhaps contextual theologies such as AA theology might be seen as “holding the mirror” to white theologians and unmasking their claims to be doing neutral theology in a vacuum apart from historical and societal realities.

  61. gar

    Wow, I just spent the better part of an hour reading through this whole post + all the comments. .. my thanks to all the contributors for the very thoughtful, honest conversation. It gave me a lot to think about.

  62. Pingback: Am I a sell-out too? :

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  64. Fenella ⋅

    Better question: Who are you serving? Its not about Francis Chan. It never was and never will be. Its about the God that he serves.

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  66. nadine.w

    I think this is really more a critique of the white church than of Francis Chan. I think this is a critique of Catalyst. Why not present this issue to them? Send them an e-mail with this blog on it. I think you might find they would like the feedback. I’m caucasian myself but definitely see and have felt where you’re coming from…not about Francis Chan but about the caucasian church community. (I love Francis Chan!!)

  67. Richie

    Ok.., enough is enough already. I think I hit this blog post up about a month ago. I am just stunned that this church race issue is still being bantered around.

    Do me a favor and replace all the Jew and Gentile words with Caucasian and Asian or Korean or whatever references in the book of Ephesians and tell me what your thoughts are then.

    I think anyone person or group who puts themselves or their group as inferior or superior to another is a “sell out”! Christ came to reconcile “ALL” things to himself. Reconcile is another word for “create harmony” or “restore friendship”.
    The church is SOOOOOO much bigger than any one group – let’s get a grip already.

    Forgive, forget, and move on! Christ did it for us – Matthew 18 states very clearly that he expects the same of us. Just read the parable of the King and the wicked servant. It is our “heart” God wants – not our skin!

    Ok.., I’m done venting – feel much better now. 🙂



    • I’m sure you do feel better Richie. But I want to suggest that the reason that this race thing won’t go away is because we in the church don’t do its due dilligence with this matter – listening to one another, forgiving, and asking for forgiveness. here’s the thing, this is a real gift, this kind of conversation is where we can critique one race with another, and to discover that we are both subverted by the Gospel. but yet our race and culture tries to captivate the Gospel so we don’t even see how we try to limit its transformative power. that’s why we need this discussion, not Jew or Greek as dominant, but constantly reminding the other that there is another. because we can’t break those categories Rich. In fact, I would say those very categories are necessary and can be redeeming, but failure to acknowledge them at all, to be done with it and call it rubbish? (not that you called it that) that’s denying the very gift/critique/call to confession/opportunity for reconciliation offered through this. i, for one, am fascinated by this ginormous body of comments. what does it reveal? from asians and non-asians alike?

  68. Richie


    I actually did not and do not feel better. Until my fellow brothers and sisters and I can look at each other without color – I do not think I will feel much better about this issue in general.

    The friend who linked me to this post lives in Sacramento, CA. I met him as a classmate and his Asian and I am caucasian. I do not believe my friend looks at me any other way than as a brother and a friend. His race and his color have no affect on how much I care and love him. It is important with respect to my understanding of how he may think about certain issues, etc.., but it does not change my Love for him and his story.

    Resolution/reconciliantion of this issue starts one person at a time and repeating the cycle over and over; with each and everyone of us loving our fellow man as Christ loves us. This is all I am saying in a nutshell I suppose.

    Was Paul a sell-out for taking the Gospel to the gentiles? I think the fact that Francis Chan is able through the power of God to transcend race and culture and be accountable to God alone is a wonderful thing. Who are we to question what God has called him to do?

    I suppose that is another thing that initially bugged me about this conversation.

    • colorblindness is not the goal. it is a handicap in real life and it is a handicap in the church. we were created with diversity and i believe we should be vibrant in those differences especially under Christ. i don’t question your love for an Asian friend, that’s really not the point here. my point is that categorically, we stand for much more than just our individual selves, we stand as representatives of a particular people and a particular history. As those things collide with the gospel, i don’t think those particularities are washed away, but rather we understand even those differences missionally, with respect to our witness both to our own people and to others unlike us. and no, paul did not “sell-out” because he acknowledges his jewishness even to the gentiles. he is self-aware. i admire francis chan as well, but my question is not whether he is palatable to whites or Christians at large, but what do non-christian Asians see in him? does that hinder his witness if/when he doesn’t acknowledge a fundamental identifier as his race or ethnicity? why doesn’t he acknowledge racial injustice? does he not think it exists? does he not want to consider himself Asian? if he denies the humanity of Asian culture and ethnicity, then why would they be interested in hearing about a gospel that assimilated him?

      these questions aren’t meant to be condemning of chan or his walk with Christ, they’re just questions with implications for Christian witness. and i don’t think it’s as simple as one person at a time. we need both advocacy and individual friendships. we need life vests and life boats. i have white friends too, but i need more white friends who speak on behalf of minorities and immigrants, refugees and orphans. to the dominant majority, we may just be a platform for outreach, but for many people of color, that’s our family. we lived the immigrant life. we need kindhearted people who don’t think that color is such a big deal to care about people of color who DO think their color matters because then that is a stronger testimony that God loves us both. this is not a me vs. you matter, or even a francis chan vs. me matter, this is about what all of us together say about Jesus.

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  70. Dan ⋅

    Shalom fellow workers in Christ,

    I am extremely late in this conversation, and perhaps some will be annoyed that I am attempting to place a twig into a stale campfire… I personally don’t know FC and probably will never get to know him. Neither am I a California man, although I have resided here for half-decade. I grew up in Korea (up to 8), lived 1/3 in Maryland, 1/3 in Michigan, 1/3 in California, and now in the UK (Wales, more specifically). Therefore, perhaps I can add a little color to the ongoing conversation. I will attempt a phenomenological analysis of the situation at hand:

    (1) FC symbolizes a particular cultural phenomenon in the Asian-American community; the issue of assimilation. Or rather, if his “pace” is appropriate (i.e., did he achieve the ideal balance between diversity and universality).

    (2) Most “white” audiences would lean towards appropriate, while most “asian” audiences would lean towards inappropriate.

    (3) Most (although there wasn’t much female representatives) asian women would lean towards appropriate with some reservations (along with other members under FC’s headship and perhaps many Californian/Hawaiian Asian men who live in heavily asian populated areas).

    I would like to provide a rejoinder to asian women in particular, but also to asian men who have mainly lived in California/Hawaii.

    (1) To Asian Women: have you ever considered the fact that asian men are socially “less” accepted in the white, cultural milieu? Granted asian women are subjected to various stereotypes, but in general, they have less problems assimilating into a male-dominant, white society. This is a given fact given human contingency (boys like girls!). This may have influenced your relatively positive assessment of FC.

    (2) To Asian California/Hawaiiian Men (who defend the icon FC): have you ever considered the fact that asian men in other parts of North America readily have to deal with being the “only asian in town.” For many, being “color-blind” is a mythical ideal given all the suffering they had to endure. They are less likely to give the mark “appropriate” to FC.

    Just some things to consider…

  71. Piet ⋅

    Hi brother, just a quick note!

    In Christ there is neither jew or greek, man or female, black or white or yellow.

    In Christ there is a new creature – unlike anything else before! Awesome hey!

    Well, that goes for culture and traditions – none of them, not even my upbringing has ANY bearance whatsoever upon who I am in Christ. Yes, I can refer to this and that, but none of that even comes close to the issue.

    There cannot be a predominantly white or yellow or black culture – the church’s culture is shaped by the Holy Spirit for kingdom purposes. Hence no distinction should be made. If I am in a white, yellow or black church, I’m in the Body. I’ll respect them, love them, let issues wrestle with me, I may even disagree completely and that is fine as God allows differences of opinion (Paul and Barnabas had a HUGE fallout over Mark and left each other).

    So if the meeting is predominantly white, well heck, someone has to turn red in sun and blue in the grave. Is it yellow? Praise God for people who can eat all the rice! (joke 😉

    But never make it a racial issue.

    In Christ we are all one; how we live in community will differ. Jews in the US will predominantly live different from those in Jerusalem. The surrounding differs, the food differs, the money differs, the culture differs.

    Point is, we should be transformed into the exact same image of Christ, from glory to glory, not into better Chinese or White guy, but Christ-Containers! I’ll be white to those who want white, black to those who want me black. As example, Eminem is probably a good example of someone who allowed himself to be “transformed” from white boy to black gangsta. So what? Eminem is Eminem. If you like rap and swearing, it doesn’t matter if he is black or white.

    All rascism or sexism is thinking you’re better than the guy or gal next door. Well guess what, before God we all have sinned and come short of His glory!

    On another note, if it bothers you that some people are excluding certain races, don’t attend that church. But don’t slander them either. If what they do is from God, you slander Him. If it’s not, they’ll go to waste.

    Let’s lift up Christ and and get renewed minds.

    By the way, loved your post, and the fact that you apologized on some points, wow,that rocks dude!

    God bless ya!

    Your bro in South Africa, somewhere where the lion roams .. 😉

  72. Piet ⋅

    By the way, when I stayed in England for 2 years I met some wonderful Chinese and Malaysian people, which lived in such a diverse community that it didn’t even got noticed!

    Want some great teaching on grace? You gotta check out Joseph Prince from Singapore on

    Side note: his mom is a chinese lady, his dad an indian. Think that will go a long way to cross the cultural border 😉

    • Piet ⋅

      And another note just to say I love you all 🙂

      The community in England, Sheffield, was so REAAAAAAAAL! Man, I made some bbq meat, we ate roll-ops, lost of soup with chinese stuff like a certain type of mushroom (this I can tell you, chinese people know how to love food, and help others to share the experience!)

      We gathered literally every day! That was our home, our friends; we had so many different ways of speaking, relating, eating, but it never was even in question!


      May God our Father open our eyes anew to just love and accept each other unconditianally – and ENJOY the rich treasure locked up in people

      • Piet ⋅

        PS: my brothers from Zambia (that’s Africa, dudes) even made us some grilled mopani-tree worms. Delicious and
        cru-u-u-nchy 🙂

  73. Pingback: Is Francis Chan… « Next Gener.Asian Church

  74. jeff

    Fascinating that people want Francis Chan to represent their struggles of identity of being Asian American over his obedience to follow the Lord’s calling of preaching the Word.

    Francis Chan, like other visionary pastors of Asian descent that include Ken Fong and David Gibbons, are beholden to being obedient to the Lord without any agenda of race or other factors and need our constant prayers and support.

    It has been stated that Asian Americans have unique problems such as depression, though articles have documented that Latinas have similar issues – as noted at;jsessionid=33BDC4DDCC8D8CC0F4320680244EB2D8.live4i

    Stating issues that separates Asian Pacific Americans from the general public is contrary to the unity that the Lord is providing. In addition, one would have great difficulty in identifying what is an “unique” Asian Pacific American issues since they differ greatly from Korean, Filipinos, Chinese, Vietnamese, Cambodian, Thai, Hmong, Japanese, Hawaiian and other communities. Immigration, parents, generation gap, language, crime, education, assimiliation, gangs, poverty and other issues face every community.

    Individual pastors are there to directly address one’s personal issues.

    In response to third generation Asian American churches, I struggle on the purpose of its existence where location (community is mainly one ethnic group) or language are issues. In Southern California, it is common that White and Black churches (among other communities) have fast-growing numbers of people of Asian descent (up to 25-30% that can total to 300 to 400+ people) that seek to hear the unadulerated Word without being unnecessary tainted with “Asianness.”

    I believe that we, as Christians (who happen to be of Asian descent), should seek and support leaders whose first priority is to be totally obedient to the Lord.

    • Jeff, i appreciate your comments but there are a few things I have a problem with.

      in my opinion, we’re not talking about first priorities here: obedience to the Lord is critical and central to our life of faith. but i’m puzzled by the notion that you think that God’s purpose in the formation and creation of ethnicity and race has no significance with regards to living out that obedience. do you think that Moses just happened to be of Hebrew descent raised in the house of the Pharaoh? do you think the call of Mordecai upon Esther to remember her ethnic roots was contrary to the unity that God was trying to bring about between the Persians and the Jews? do you think the very prophecies of Jesus Christ as a savior to all people just happened to be from people of Hebrew descent? do you think it was just coincidence that Paul was a privileged ex-rabbi who then goes to preach to the Gentiles? rather than seeing culture, ethnicity, and race as great gifts from the very hand of God, do you see them as mere incidentals? do you see them only as limitations and obstacles to the gospel? if so, i implore you to see how other cultures (outside of the western white hegemony you seem so loyal to) have added and can add depth and width to the gospel. when the people of the nations step out in obedience, they redeem culture, they don’t dissolve it. this is not a matter of unnecessarily tainting the gospel with “asianness”, it’s a matter of the gospel redeeming and enriching asianness, not for our own sake, but for God’s sake. if anything, the very thing that helps un-adulterate the Word is another perspective of a people have encountered Christ.

      furthermore, your reductionism of the problems that are present in the APA community to universal problems with universal solutions is insulting. do you think doctors diagnose cancers with the general moniker of “cancer” rather than “acute myeloid leukemia”? or “retinoblastoma”? do you think they apply some generalized treatment with no regard to the specifics of the patient and the disease, including the very details of ethnicity and race? there is growing literature that takes ethnicity and race into account in counseling matters and even business matters. do you think the church can grow in the depth of its reconciliation without such exploration?

      individual pastors who have no sense of larger community and belonging only address personal issues. what we’re asking here of francis chan is not that he resolve my issues with asian american identity as you seem to imply. rather, i’m wondering if he can speak beyond personal issues to speak from, for, and to the greater community that acknowledges the particulars that we share.

  75. jeff

    Thank you for detailed responses, I appreciate your thoughtfulness.

    I would be interested in learning what are issues that are exclusively Asian Pacific Islander American, especially the wide spectrum of vastly different background of the different Asian ethnic communities (ie – Korean, Cambidian, Chinese, Indonesian, Japanese, Vietnamese, Hmong, Filipino, Thai, Samoan, SE Asian, etc.).

    I am concern that people are utilizing ethnicity and race to separate people while continuing the oft-described infamous legacy that Sunday displays the greatest amount of segregation. Having worshipped at White, Black, Jewish, Hispanic, Asian and Asian American churches – the same claims are made within every community. I submit that we share the same universal issues/obstacles – though the specific solutions will always differ for a wide variety reasons stemming from history, geography, family/parental background, economic status, education, language, medical isses and countless more.

    I would like to highlight, since you have placed a great emphasis on application, that my focus is on the general issues/obstacles/problems – not specific application resulting from the above-listed factors.

    Your “cancer/medical” comments made me reflect on a friend’s (a long-standing leader of a large and prominent AA Christian organization) comment that there is a specific “Asian American worship style.” Having witnessed a decline of numbers in many AA mainstream churches while noting the fast-increasing AA attendance during the music worship in White/Black churches, it reflects (IMO) the strong need

    In addition to incorporating ethnicity and race into account in counseling matters and even business matters, other factors (such as listed above) are always needed to address specific and personal problems that universal in nature.

    Can the “church” grow is always an ongoing issue. My Faith is based on the fact that Jesus can (and has) for myself and countless others have the everlasting capacity for reconciliation for those who seek it. Pastors/Churches often have troubles understanding life outside their respective communities (ie – White, Black, Hispanic, “Completed Jews” and even Asian/Asian America) that highlights the need that our relationship with Jesus should be our first priority.

    Responding to your comments on Francis Chan, his only priority is his obedience to Jesus. Can Jesus provide him the ability to speak the issues that you want him to address – yes. The question could be your acceptance of the answer(s) that the Lord has been providing you that range from no, yes or wait.

    In response to “God’s purpose in the formation and creation of ethnicity and race” – He has a purpose for every part of His Body that differs from others. My common theme is that Jesus should always be the answer (admittedly simplified reply) since churches and Christian leaders will always fall short. Acknowledging that Christianity is not a “white” religion (can one ever image a light skin/blue-eye person with blond hair living in the hot sun of the Middle East), Jesus didn’t make a mistake in creating the many different type of communities within His Family – though His Children often use various means to separate/elevate themselves (as noted throughout history).

    Having the privilege of traveling throughout the world – the passion and one people’s faith has been observed (for good and bad). Since people in Asia and Europe often speak multiple languages/dialects (as oppose to the United States), your loyalty to your self-described “western white hegemony” is noted.

    I look forward to hearing from you where it states Scriptures that “it’s a matter of the gospel redeeming and enriching asianness, not for our own sake, but for God’s sake) or anybody “….ness.”

    Since Scriptures provides us the common denominator to effectively discover what God is seeking, I hope that this will be our common platform since the sole purpose of my participation is to discover what God wants to do for His People (since people like Keith Green/Gary V/Pastor Chuck Smith/Pastor Jack Hayford/Josh McDowell have been my role models)

    • hey jeff, i feel like we’re going in circles here a little bit.
      you’re right to point out how difficult it would be to articulate issues exclusive to each asian people group, considering the diversity within the label, asian. i’m not advocating that we go to the extent of outlining the theological weight and purpose of each nation-state, however, i think there must be some value to them if they are preserved even until the end as references to nations and tribes in revelation, the eschaton, indicate. i can’t tell you what their worth is, but i believe that each culture can and should seek to respond to the encounter of Christ rather than adopt the worship of someone else wholesale, which is what typically is assumed in a consumerist, modern worldview.

      as for the segregation that you’re concerned about, i agree with you there is a tension, but i think your concerns are more for unity that comes out of assimilation rather than unity that comes out of a deep reconciliation and diversity. the reason why these ethnic churches exist is not because of a rebellion to unity in the body of Christ, but rather out of a self-preservation and self-formation at the hands of imperialism/colonialism. in fact, i would go further and say that these different bodies contain an alternative narrative and understanding of the gospel that critiques and subverts the christendom / triumphalistic / monolithic reading of the bible of the dominant majority. the unity that you say is the hallmark of Christian fellowship is the destination, no one would refute you on that point, but there is (and should be, in my opinion) a hesitation, a questioning and reticence when that unity is rushed or washes over the differences and distinctions that absorb the testimonies of encountering Christ from a particular cultural perspective. the unity of which you are suggesting doesn’t take seriously the embodiment of how Christ has shown himself in/to/from a particular people, but instead wants to wash over it with “western white hegemony”.

      in that sense, i would agree with you, we have yet to see the formation of asian american worship that has any distinctiveness. but that only reflects our identity crisis as an emerging generation in the shadow of 1965 immigration reform begins to take responsibility for our faith and the viability or liability of our ethnicity. and again, i think it remains to be seen whether or not, or how much, our ethnic heritage is baggage or insight into the gospel, but my critique is that it should not be tossed aside because it is viewed as inefficient. in that sense, i take issue with you that an asian american form of worship should not be fostered for the mere argument that it won’t grow. the excavation of whether or not there is something within our heritage or culture that is worth redeeming can ONLY be done by us, the dominant majority will neither support it nor encourage it, so in that sense it may sound exclusive, but it is not. i would assert that the gifts that we can bring to the table is exclusively our work for the whole of the church, and therefore it is inclusive, not exclusive. thus, our work of reconciliation begins with the priority on our relationship with Christ, but does not end there. we must go deeper and that is where my critique of the church is emphasized.

  76. jeff ⋅

    Thank you for your comments, it has been an interesting read.

    Often applying specifics will short-circuit “going in circles” – as a result, could we utilize this pattern to identify specific conclusions?

    Issues that apply to the many communities of Asian descent range from generation gap(s), parental problems, language difficulties, immigration issues, cultural differences, suicides, social/dating/sexual issues, peer influences, crime/gangs, poverty, school/education/studies/grades/college-related problems and maturity/growing up. Ironically, every community has these issues – though the application in each personal example. Pastors’ first priority is to address the issues while the rest of Christ’s Body and prayers identifies the appropriate path(s).

    Though there are various empowering churches with Asian American congregations (Pastor Ken Fong’s Evergreen Baptist, Pastor Mike Lee’s Young Nak. Pastor Dave Gibbon’s New Song and others), many churches have preserved the existing “culture” as the means to maintain their respective “comfort level” – their top priority while “motivating” the younger generation to “adopt” their methods – hence many AA youths leaving. At strong churches, the encouragement is to respond to Christ’s leading. This has led to fast-growing population of worshippers of Asian descent at churches such as Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa (along with its “sister” churches), Vineyard Fellowship, John MacArthur’s church and various others that numbers from 300 – 450+ that are thirsty for the Word.

    Scripture calls upon us to test everything, from teaching to applications to actions. One might respectfully submit that strong teaching/churches/leaders embraces differences and distinctions resulting from testimonies of encountering Christ from a particular cultural perspective – whether they are from the White, Black, Hispanic, Asian, rich, poor, etc. At these strong churches (some previously mentioned) don’t taint their messages with “western white hegemony,” but seek to discover what God wants them to speak. Your personal issues of race will not be heard from the pulpit, nor should it be. Some “leaders” take this to extreme by stating that since Chinese people are not used to raising their hands in worship, just slightly sway. Many other “assumptions” and “stereotypes” are prevalent at many. “GI” (good-intentioned) churches, that has prompted many to leave.

    Why is there a need for the “formation of asian american worship that has any distinctiveness?” You’ve stated “our identity crisis as an emerging generation in the shadow of 1965 immigration reform” which is an interesting assessment. One might want to discover people such as Ng Poon Chew (1866 – 1931) who was the first graduate of San Francisco Seminary that was an effective English-speaking advocate for civil rights (fighting the Chinese Exclusion Act’s ramification – visit for info) and the fact that the Chinese Exclusion Act was repealed in 1943. There are many other examples.

    Considering that you take issue that an “Asian American form of worship should not be fostered for the mere argument that it won’t grow . . . there is something within our heritage or culture that is worth redeeming can ONLY be done by us” – one could ask you what makes it so different? When one worships with Eric Ouyang of “Future of Forestry” / “Something Like Silas” or The Katinas or Pastor Oden Fong – one doesn’t see Asian, Black, White, Hispanic, Jew, Gentile, etc. – people see somebody worshipping the Lord.

    I understand your words and intentions. I just don’t feel the need to separate myself by announcing that I am Asian, just like others don’t announce that they are of a different ethnicity. Maybe some encouragement to discover that the history of Asian Americans is a long-standing one that started in the early 1800s that might start at visiting

    My best wishes for your ongoing journey of being comfortable and empowering as a person of Asian descent.

    • wow, we are really coming at this from different angles, jeff. i “get it”. every community deals with these issues, so what? we’re all the same? culture is nothing? race is meaningless? do you think that worshiping the Lord is colorless, odorless, flavorless? do you think there’s Christian food, that is devoid of any cultural ingredients?

      the very churches and authors you mentioned previously only serve to prove the point that many asian americans are so deeply embedded in western white hegemony that they have lost their identity. which is fine by me if that’s what God has called them to, but do you see how that can be repulsive to someone who associates christianity with western cultural captivity of the gospel? our unquestioning assimilation actually harms our witness to our asian brothers and sisters. particularly when the words/liturgy/prayers/theology are plagiarized, unexamined, rote and inauthentic to our communities. further, i would argue that blacks and latinos (and messianic jews) have a far more sophisticated nuanced response in worship, even if they do end up in the same worshipful posture. but the point is that they maintain a sense of origin, of belonging, and of story that makes the church catholic richer for it.

      you also proved my point with ng poon chew, a great example i might add, of someone who understands how the gospel is the very ground for such social change and engagement with culture. he didn’t just meditate on the Word, he acted upon it in ways that arose directly out of his identity.

      here’s my point, i think you’re entitled to be an asian who is silent about your ethnicity; so is francis chan, for that matter. but i think there is a growing generation who would like an alternative that doesn’t get swallowed up in multi-ethnic (colorblind) crowd, who want to be vibrantly themselves, but do not have a place to tread that middle ground where they are not antagonistic to either side, mono- or multi-, but seek to enrich their cultural identity to keep diversity a true palette, a divine kaleidoscope, not a facsimile of whiteness.

  77. jeff ⋅

    I am still looking for specific issues and info to discuss – if finding tangible alternatives is your goal.

    Note: Music worship at places such as Vineyard, Calvary Chapel, West Angeles Church, Faithful Central and others were/are vibrant and joyful with a wide spectrum of multi-ethnic people united together. Ironically, at many Asian American churches – they fit your description of colorless, odorless, flavorless and ineffective.

    I might conclude that confidence in one’s culture/background/ethnicity greatly limits having a Western White hegemony causing one to lose their respective ethnic identity.

    It should be noted that Christianity is not a “White Religion.”

    Re: Ng Poon Chew – is an exception since the vast majority of the Asian American churches/parachurch entities don’t strive for social change and engagement with culture. Asian/Chinese American churches didn’t take the lead then, nor now.

    Your “assumption” that I am silent is incorrect. Usually someone who is lacking in confidence needs to pronounce at every opportunity that they are separate and different while needing attention.

    I hope that you will embrace that people want to be independently “vibrant” because of who they are individually in this multicultural/cross-cultural world.

    Since I live in Southern California, a “Minority/Majority” state, being a version of “whiteness” (as described in your last correspondence) is something that is very hard to relate to when one lives on the West Coast or Hawaii.

    I hope that you will soon find the security, self-esteem and opportunity to be in a situation to experience all that the Lord has placed in front of us without the burden is any particular aspect is “Asian.”

    Your stated issues is something that’s been discussed for many years. Since Asian Americans have been here since the early 1800s, fought in the Civil War, WWI and WWIi while Chinese raised/Wellesley graduates have spoken to President Teddy/Franklin Roosevelt – I hope we have progressed far enough to not use race as a reason why we are not getting what you perceived that AAs need.

    In parting, I wish you the best in discovering your ethnic identity that provides you the freedom to embrace Christ 150%. Maybe talking to Pastors Ken Fong or Dave Gibbons, or Christian community leaders such as Hyepin I’m or talking directly to Pastor Francis Chan can provide you the invaluable insights that you seek.

  78. Pingback: on behalf of my asian kin-folk… i’m sorry «

  79. Lee ⋅

    Hello all,

    I’ve read about half your comments and found Ashley Choi’s first comment to be incredibly in tune with what Christianity is all about. The thing is, many are making speculations are what’s already been done instead of what’s to come. And we don’t know what’s to come. Remember, where Francis is right now and what he’s doing is not his choice. He’s even stated in one of his videos that God called him to Simi Valley to wake up an incredibly comfortable and complacent area to the Gospel. He’s simply obeying where God has called him and instructed him to do. Who knows? Maybe when God opens a door for Francis (and others) to round up and speak in a predominately Asian American setting for His Kingdom sake, He’ll do it. But many of us, including the guy who wrote this post, should really stop trying to analyze what Francis should or shouldn’t do. But as for now, it’s really all about God’s timing how things should fall in place. Hey, there might even be a fierce and awesome conference to behold one of these days where a handful of Asian and non-Asian followers of Christ stand the stage before the audience of the world and preach what glorifying God is really all about. But that’s only something God knows…

    It’s obvious that many have forgotten how mightily sovereign God is, hence his specialty: possibility.

    • dannyyang ⋅

      just one note: as the guy who wrote this post, i don’t try to analyze what chan should or shouldn’t do. i would think that’s clear from this line in the entry, “I believe Chan is living faithfully to what GOD has called him to be.”

      i am analyzing what white evangelicalism should or shouldn’t do, which is to ignore the lack of diversity in their gatherings and yet not qualify their theology and practices as white, and usually suburban. that of course is the profile of simi valley.

  80. James M.

    No one is a sell out by doing and saying what God wants them to. Remember that no one OWES other members of their ethnic group anything; they owe only God and are called to do His will only, whether it includes ministering to particular group, such as Peter did early on to the Jews, or not. Not for us to judge another person’s calling.

  81. I am a white American Christian woman, and I feel called to overseas, cross-cultural ministry. I’m not exactly sure what God has called me to yet, but I could foresee a situation in the future where since I would identify with the group to which God calls me, someone could accuse me of rejecting my roots. You just have to do what God calls you to, and I think that Chan is acting according to his calling. He has a message that is needed, especially the way he’s delivering it, and especially to those who have had power in the church and are using as an excuse to not love.

    I believe that God created each of us with the face he wanted us to have, in the culture where he needs us, in order to tear down the walls that humanity has built to divide “us” and “them”, whether that’s in a monocultural or a diverse way.

  82. Nate ⋅

    There’s no such thing, Biblically, as the white church, the black church and the Asian church. There is one church, one bride of Christ and the Bride multi-colored and multi-cultured…. Of course Francis Chan’s theology doesn’t stem from or be influenced by the fact that he’s Asian! Theology cannot be based on race or color or creed or code…that’s philosophy. Theology is God defined and scripturally inspired and explained. The basis for a man’s theology is scripture and God….not race.


  83. Pingback: If Francis Chan is a sellout, I have no clue why |

  84. Pingback: The Faces on the Stage « InterSection

  85. Judy ⋅

    The problem is he’s not yellow!

    Someone educate a white girl. What do you mean by this?

  86. bernie ⋅

    Our theology should spring only from scripture alone. Sola scriptura

    • Dwayne ⋅

      While our theology indeed does come from scripture alone, Jesus still was born, raised, spoke, identified with (to some extent) and used Jewish terms and spoke from a particular cultural perspective. That perspective is also needed to understand many of the things He spoke of while on the earth. Yes, His words transcend culture (His words are spirit and life), but He still used a cultural narrative to speak to those within that culture. To say that culture/race is totally irrelevant is akin to denying Jesus came in the flesh. Incarnation demands a cultural expression.

  87. Pingback: Are Asians Sell-outs? « InterSection

  88. Robert ⋅

    God says there is no distinction between Greek and Jew……etc….so why do people keep looking at the world through their race/gender/ethnicity specific glasses? Why does it matter what color anybody is?

  89. jeff . . ⋅

    Some people in this blog are trying to “find” their “Asianness” through the church. We should pray for these people because the Lord doesn’t look for things separate, He provides things that prompts us to work together.

    Francis Chan has been the focus/target of this blog without fully knowing who he is, despite having countless sermons that are available for free via his podcasts. In addition, in my interview with various strategic West Coast Asian American leaders, Francis took the time to read my many questions while answering the ones he thought were appropriate, despite now knowing who I was.

    Let’s extend our prayers to those searching for their own identity while hoping they will find it when they look in the mirror while finding/discovering that the Lord is standing behind them – whatever decision one makes

  90. jeff ⋅

    Appreciate the words “To say that culture/race is totally irrelevant is akin to denying Jesus came in the flesh. Incarnation demands a cultural expression.”

    There seems to be two topics of discussion, discovering oneself as an Asian American within a church setting and is Francis Chan a “sell-out.”

    Regarding Francis Chan, it is disappointing to have an assessment from sources that have limited knowledge of his teaching, despite being widely available through his many sermons that can be found online. It might point to a bigger issue, which is the second subject of this thread.

    Regarding culture, the Lord’s Word does apply to all cultures, but Christ’s goal is seek ways where all His People will come together. Finding one’s culture by having a separate “religion” catering specifically to any ethnic group is contrary to what is within Scriptures.

    It is ironic that some feel that attending a non-Asian church will automatically lose one’s individual ethnic ability.

  91. This post is ethnic theology at its worst. Truth is truth; truth is not pigmented. We have much to learn from Christians around the world, but we need not throw our ethnicity around like a badge of honor or think an Asian-American is substandard because he doesn’t harp on his ancestry.

    • wow, completely missed the point there, didn’t you? ethnic theology at its worst? i suppose you don’t consider white to be ethnic then…

      do you think ethnicity is just about ancestry? that’s where you show your colors, professor. ethnicity is a present reality and yes, as a God-purposed and designed particularity that resonates all the way to the eschaton (read revelation), i believe ethnicity is oriented towards the future as well. which is why when we ask the question of francis chan, it is a legitimate question for asian americans to ask of him. we’re not asking him to throw his ethnicity around like a badge of honor, we’re asking him not to throw it away altogether. what is up for debate is not the truth, but the ways in which we allow the truth to confront us and redeem all that God had once called “good” and “very good” even. and if you think evangelical christians are at the forefront of racial reconciliation and humbly unraveling the knots of imperialism, white privilege, western cultural captivity, and racism in our congregations, you are sorely mistaken. and what aggravates me is that you assert that we have much to learn from christians around the world, but you scoff at the notion that asian american christians might have something to say. sure, we’d rather keep the consciousness of asians as a faraway land, somehow exotic and “other”. and you would call me myopic for focusing on my ethnicity, but i assure you, my myopia enables me to see your warts clearly too, that’s how close i am. we’re not questioning francis chan’s understanding of the unpigmented truth, we’re questioning how that truth relates to pigmented people. we’re not calling him substandard, we’re asking if he thinks he is. because if doesn’t think he is, he should’ve stated the obvious by now and we would have heard him.

  92. jeff ⋅

    It appears that David fears that, unless there are references to AA culture (along with Black, Hispanic, Indian and other cultures) the message is useless. It is understandable that David needs to be in an environment where the AA references are in great abundance. Most AAs have placed their highest priority on discovering what the Lord has for them, personally.

    David has his views on “ethnic theology.” In my personal experience, I’ve had prominent Chinese pastors were allowing White missionaries share that they were saving the primitive Asian/Asian Pacific Americans. Within many churches in Southern California, it is not unusual that American churches have pastors of various ethnicities. However, within an Asian American church – it is rare that a non-Asian pastor is on staff.

    David Park states “I believe ethnicity is oriented towards the future as well.” Many people believe that the future will be a multicultural/cross-cultural world. It is everyone’s hope to focus what we have in common (Christ) rather than what separates us (different standards, presuppositions, etc.)

    It is interesting that David Park questions Francis Chan while admitting that he doesn’t know much about him, despite many of his sermons that available for free via podcasts. If David truly wants answers, he would listen to his sermons.

    Francis Chan doesn’t throw away his ethnicity. When I was conducting interviews regarding the current status of churches that are populated by members of Asian descent, the vast majority of pastors that were asked declined. Pastor Chan read all my questions and responded. David states that he would have heard his views, which is odd since David has not taken the time to listen to his many sermons. People understand that David is entitled to his views and hope that when he is truly seeking answers on Francis Chan – they are readibly available if he is interested.

    David’s words “allow the truth to confront us and redeem all that God had once called ‘good’ and ‘very good’ are interesting. Churches that places their Asian ethnicities over their Christian Faith generally have not thrived because these “pseudo churches” have morphed into “community centers” where their ethnicity has top priority. Ironically, many of these Asian ethnic churches don’t know much about their Asian American history (visit for more info). What these “ethnic” churches represents is a place where people with common/family history gather where minimal conflicts exists.

    David Park states “evangelical christians are at the forefront of racial reconciliation” without acknowledging by many that Sunday mornings are a time where the greatest segregation takes place.

    David Park states “we have much to learn from christians around the world, but you scoff at the notion that asian american christians might have something to say” – yet he scoffs at people such as Francis Chan who doesn’t fit his definition. There are great pastors of Asian descent within AA churches (Pastor Ken Fong, Pastor Dave Gibbons, etc) while a fast-growing number are flourishing within American churches who embrace great leaders – no matter what color their color skin.

    David Park states “we’re questioning how that truth relates to pigmented peoplem.” The answer to his question is yes. This example might help. At a Chinese American outreach concert, Oden Fong and Brian Duncan/Sweet Comfort were ministering. Oden preface his songs by sharing stories that people of Chinese descent understood. However, both preached the Word the exact same way!

    What is sad is that many Chinese/Asian American churches have leadership more interested in continuing ways that they are comfortable (no matter what the results) and ignoring the Christian needs of the congregation.

    It would be interesting to learn of David Park’s assessment of the recent partnership of Bel Air Presbyterian with the Japanese American Union Church in Little Tokyo. This partnership has brought excitement and growth to this dormant church. Is Pastor Habino a sell-out? My opinion is that he is a visionary whose focus on providing any means to help the growth of their Christian Faith. The experiment has been very successul, despite the cultural differences. They have found that they many more things in common and far outweighs the differences. If a conservstive and elderly Japanese church can work with a prominent American church, one would think that David could in the near future.

    In conclusion, it is obvious that David is in search of something that he cannot define – his Asian ethnicity. Let’s pray that his top priority is finding what God has in store for specifically him.

    • thanks again jeff for your patronizing and condescending tone, not to mention your poor analysis and personal attacks.

      in the future, if you keep directing your comments toward me in that fashion and not add to the topic at hand, consider that your last comment. if you can’t be respectful of others, you can do that in your own space.

  93. Cricket ⋅

    Hi all,

    Finding this whole thread very educational, northern Midwesterner of northern European extraction that I am. (Who’s also blessed with a number of Asian friends, BTW.) “Jeff” recently posted the comment, “Within many churches in Southern California, it is not unusual that American churches have pastors of various ethnicities. However, within an Asian American church – it is rare that a non-Asian pastor is on staff.” Would anybody like to try to explain to me why this is? Thanks!

  94. So Francis Chan isn’t really the topic of discussion. It seems that the focus is more on the assumption that much of American church ministry is done in “white” fashion or to reach the world with a “white” or “American” world view. There is a lot of truth to that, but it certainly isn’t the purpose of any conference to make it that way. More ministers from different culture and color just need to join in efforts and work together more. There are a lot of black conferences. There are a lot of white conferences. No one is trying to make it be that way. It is just a natural pull to join in an endeavor with someone who you feel understands where you come from.

    If a church or conference or gathering is to be me more multi-cultural and multi-racial, then they must purpose to have leaders from different ethnic backrounds as well as different worship styles of music. Sad to say, it is a typical American response to say, “what are you talking about?” “I’m offended that you are making this a racial issue”. Friends that is just a way to excuse trying to understand a different, cultural perspective. It isn’t about making this a racial issue, it is just raising awareness that if you don’t purpose to reach a culture, then you simply won’t reach them.

    First of all, I am a pastor of a church in Portland, Oregon. We are Revolution Church and we are a very diverse church family. We have people from many cultures and many colors that have many different backrounds. I am intrigued by the discussion because I recently had a friend leave our church because we weren’t “black” enough. What he meant is that there wasn’t enough focus towards reaching the black community. My response to that was this: “Our focus is to reach this community where God has planted us.” Plus, we are a new church so it will take us some time to do better at reaching everyone, but it is our purpose to do that. You see, each community or neighborhood has its own culture and color of people. Francis Chan doesn’t have to feel obligated to speak up for Asians or represent Asians in what he does. He has to reach the culture and community in the area where God has placed him. By the way, I am an Asian American. I am Chinese, Vietnamese, and English. God bless!

  95. jeff ⋅

    Some interesting information to consider that might provide some additional insights and perspectives while considering the status of Christians of Asian descent:

    The need for more Asian American Christian leaders was the topic of an article that can be found at

    In Southern California, a meeting of Asian American Christian leaders in California called “The Gathering” meets only every four years.

    Celebrating the non-Asian leaders/pastors at places in Southern California such as Evergreen Baptist Church, NewSong Church and few others – non-Asian leaders at Asian American churches are few. People such as Oden Fong have been leaders/pastors at “White” churches such as Calvary Chapel at Costa Mesa since the early 1970s – along with other examples seen at Vineyard Fellowship and other places during the same period of time.

    People such as Hyepin Im (of KCCD – Korean Church for Community Development) should be acknowledged as an Asian/Korean leader who have provided Christian leadership by her direct participation with the Obama Administration, handling racial conflicts affecting L.A.’s K-Town and other issues.

    As per a report from a Northern California Chinese/Asian Christian organization, the Chinese communities are the most passionate and the most athesist-minded group.

  96. jeff ⋅

    To David – it is sad that by directly addressing your comments, as I have done with others, with extra care to lift your concerns with prayer has solicited your reactions.

    Everybody understands that facing the truth often exposes a raw nerve that results in various whiplash responses. As shared previously, I still asked people to pray that you will able to receive the answers the Lord has waiting for you. Since you have initiated the thread that started with your position on Francis Chan, supplying additional information to make a more-informed analysis of your request (along with other subsequent) often is the best way to find answers.

    I look forward to your identification where my words accurately displayed a “patronizing and condescending tone” – along with your perceived “poor analysis and personal attacks.” If addressing specific topics and/or accountable to one’s words makes one uncomfortable, that is something that I cannot help.

    Sadly, it appears that specifically addressing your comments with answers (in the spirit of Christian love) is something that you are uncomfortable with.

    I welcome other opinions within this open forum of the spirit and nature of my responses. Everybody acknowledges that accepting truth often is hard.

    Still with love and compassion while seeking what the Lord has planned for all our futures.

    • very well jeff. what else can i say? i pray for you as well.

      it is rare to have people give an honest opinion of one’s character and thoughts. i’m glad that you’ve clearly expressed that i’m very much in need of prayer and devoid of love for other people. those things are very true. i am a man in need of much prayer. if you look over the body of work expressed on this blog, and not just this one post, you’ll see that i have wrestled with this matter and its many dimensions for a long time, and i have been humbled by many and encouraged by others. this is a complex issue and i assure you i don’t give “whiplash responses” as often as you perhaps think. what bothers me most about your comments in particular is that you seem to think that this is a very simple issue without need of nuance and that my questions and adamance for thoughtful ethnic identity are misplaced and counter-gospel. perhaps you know something that i don’t jeff, but from where i sit, these matters of ethnicity, assimilation, identity, racism and reconciliation are not as clear as you make them out to be. i don’t have problem with accepting the truth, it’s the pretentiousness that you convey when you say that you have the “truth” and i am somehow refusing to accept it.

      we’ve had several rounds of discussion and we don’t get close to being on the same wavelength (and i don’t know why i keep doing this) but i want you to know that while i’m certainly insistent in the particularity of asian american identity, voice, and theology as distinct from the dominant majority, i am not militant nor am i doing this out of adolescent angst. i’m not anti-multi-ethnic worship, nor do i think that anything that doesn’t AA cultural references as “useless”. you go too far when you put words in my mouth as you have before. also, you are wrong to presume a sense of inadequacy or unwillingness to live in harmony with others. i am married cross-culturally, i worship at a multi-ethnic church, and by most accounts, i’m quite content in my asian identity. i’ve listened to hours of francis chan’s sermons. i have been a youth pastor at a korean church. i have been pursuing these matters of culture and faith for many years now and you make it sound like i’m an idiot (a less holy one at that), like i just fell off the potato truck.

      listen jeff, i’m fine with disagreeing with you. but please, don’t insult my love of Christ or my intelligence or my sense of ethnic identity or my pursuit of God’s purposes for my life. don’t patronize me. and if it makes you feel better, i have no beef with francis chan. sure, i’d like him to speak for asian americans given his visible platform and his face, but i’m fine with it. he’s doing great work regardless. i don’t think he’s the anti-Christ and i don’t pray for his demise. and for the record, i’m very happy for people like pastor habino. and i hope you can accept that truth.

      • elderj

        It’s gettin’ hot in here!! Fa’ real tho’!!

        +1 David on the responses and everybody else too. Certainly this post has generated a lot more responses than many, thought I’m not sure why, or rather I’m pretty sure why, but wish it weren’t that way. Ethnicity and race discussion of any kind make evangelicals nervous. Isn’t this focus a distraction from the “gospel,” why do we have to focus on race, and the more we focus on this the worse it is, so can’t we just move on?

        Well, I wish the artificial construct of race were not a salient reality, and I wish we didn’t have a history of segregation and legalized discrimination in this country and I wish that racial stereotyping and racism hadn’t accompanied the proclamation of the gospel during the great missionary movements of the last two centuries, and I wish that Euro-American norms of behavior and ways of doing church had not become conflated with the “Christian” way, and I wish that we all were perfectly reconciled in actuality as we are spiritually in Christ, and I wish that I didn’t have to consider the impact on my children of being raised Black in a world that devalues Blackness, and I wish ten thousand other things, but wishing doesn’t make it so and further, in the sovereignty of God, he has allowed the present situations to exist and to persist.

        It is God who confounded the languages and dispersed the people at Babel for their disobedience to his command to fill the earth and thus ensured that linguistic and ethnic diversification would take place with the subsequent result that cultures would develop along different lines. It was God who established the boundaries and the times for all people so that they would perhaps seek after him. It was God who at Pentecost inaugurated the miracle that the proclaimers of the gospel were enabled to declare the glories of God in divers tongues rather than those who were foreigners being granted a miracle of translation, it was God who made me (and all of us) thus, and how can the pot say to the potter, why did you shape me thusly, and it is God who declares the vision of people of every tribe, tongue, and language worshiping around the throne in resurrected ethnic bodies at the end of time. And it was God, whose incarnation we celebrate, who chose to bless culture by inhabiting it as a 1st century Hellenistic Jewish carpenter, who spoke a language, and used cultural idioms of his people, and who by his specific participation in one group became the messiah to all.

        This stuff matters to God and it always has; from creation till eternity still to come, and we as his followers wrestle with it. Imperfectly, and with clouded vision, “as through a glass darkly,” but wrestle nevertheless so that we might more fully live in light of the glorious gospel of which we are all inheritors. I need to listen to David, and hear him declare the works of God through his own story, his own culture, his own Exodus / Exilic narrative, and I need to know that his story is not his alone — for we are not only individuals but we are families and groups (ethnos) in God’s view — but I need to know that his story has a people and a legacy and a journey behind it.

  97. Annika ⋅

    It appears that Francis Chan is working in line with what he is called to do. Yes there may be problems in the Chinese American community but there are plenty of problems in the community of every ethnicity in this world. The gospel is the only means to transform people and race has nothing to do with it. People need to recognize that they are sinners, that they fall short of the glory of God, that Christ died to save their souls from death, and through accepting his gracious gift of salvation they might be able to spend eternity with God. Only from that realization and change of heart can people really be changed. It has to do with the sinful heart of humanity and only the Gospel can change that. So, it really doesn’t matter if Francis Chan is not reaching out to the Chinese community. Maybe that is not what he is called to do. What does matter, is that he is reaching out and sharing the Gospel to people with the hopes that they might be saved from spending eternity in hell. When Christians get caught up in such minuscule issues that divide and tear down, they are missing the point. This world is passing away. Each heart beat, we get closer to death. What matters is the souls of the people in this world, and that the Gospel is being preached. The main issue is that pastors and people are working towards reaching the hearts of the lost. I’m not saying this to undermine the needs of the various ethnicities or minorities in America. I see that there are problems in many ethnicities. I live in southern California and it is very obvious that many minority populations have great needs and cycles of destructive behaviors that need special attention. But may God raise up people (regardless of race) to come and reach out to those people in their needs.

  98. jeff ⋅

    To David Park
    Your described struggles with your ethnic identity are recognized, as noted by your responses that periodically hit your “hot buttons” that solicited certain sentiments. The issue, at its core, is simple (IMO). Application(s) of the answers provided during one’s “one-on-one” relationship with God is definitely not easy because we are all unique and different that requires His timing.

    “Ethnicity, assimilation, identity, racism and reconciliation” exists with all immigrant communities. Many of the problems within English-speaking Asian American churches are problems that all churches face.

    I do not pretend to (as you have written) to have the “truth.” I am curious which statements prompted your reactions, though it is understood that directly responding to your comments probably is not something you are seeking.

    You are correct that I have a simple Faith, though it has been augmented by my studies of apologetics with teachers such as Josh McDowell. I hope that all your described past experiences and education (that far exceeds mine) will eventually provide the means to find the answers you are seeking.

    To “elderj” – when iron sharpens iron, sometimes it results in “heated” responses from some of the participants.

    I agree that often ethnicity, race and/or stereotyping/racism serves as a factor of separation by becoming the highest priority resulting in clouding one’s vision of what God wants to provide us on a personal basis.

    To “Alpha Hayward”
    “if you don’t purpose to reach a culture, then you simply won’t reach them” is a thought-provoking and insightful viewpoint. A possible alternative way to view this is that a church/ministry must reach out to meet the needs of the people they are trying to reach. Maybe a more “on-point” answer to your listed question then could be the following: what needs am I not meeting with people, who happen to be Black, within your comgregation.

    To “Cricket”
    In many English-speaking Chinese/Asian American churches, their selection of pastors/leaders could provides a tangible indication of the importance/priority they place on ethnicity vs Christian leadership

    To “Annika”
    Within the general Chinese/Asian American Christian communities, there are few problems considering the many requests he’s received to speak. He is called to be a pastor to the people attending his Simi Valley church and to all people. He has guided Cornerstone (his church) to have a great focus on evangelism, as noted by the expenditures of the church’s resources.

    Merry Christmas to everybody!

  99. Meg ⋅

    Um.. So are you calling the people that go to those conferances racist??? My youth minster went to that confrance you are talking about.. Any mesage anyone gives most of the time could have come from anyones mouth.. And I went to something he taught at and he mentioned growing up.. And I think was just rude!

  100. Meg ⋅

    Oh and it could have just been white youth minsters cause you have no clue what the students those men were teaching… Plus I like the fact he doesn’t talk about his race cuz he is giving a message on what he thinks god wants told not a message on his Asian culture but you can say what you want to but think about what non christians that see this will think! Were supposed to be lights in this world but instead are debating peoples intentions which only God knows so ask God or the person your talking about!0

  101. Meg ⋅

    Oh and fc might just consider America his people concidering that’s were he lives oh and I went to a student life camp and he did talk about his life and childhood.. Just saying..

  102. Amazing to me that this posting is still receiving attention and is now at 187 with this post.

    Listen folks, both asian and non-asian – Christ came to reconcile ALL things to Himself. Why is that such a difficult thing? I am Irish, English, French, German, and recently found out Portuguese and I am a Pastor, so…, whom do I hang with? Whom do I reach out to? Whom do I call my community or body? It is whomever God puts in our path.

    One Lord; One Body; One Love! Just start living it out and stop fighting over the scraps – cuz all of stuff is like filthy rags anyway. Stop fighting and start LOVING – let Francis do his thing. If that is what God called him to do, then let him be. He is in my humble opinion doing what God has called him to do. Jonah did not want to go Ninevah either, but God had him go. We are not always called to do what we think WE think we should.

    I dont’ want to receive any more follow up comments to this, so.., please remove me from that if you could. It is a bit ridiculous at this juncture. Thanks!

    Peace and One Love.


  103. Pingback: When is someone a “sellout”? | Step By Step: Daniel K. Eng

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