#prayforjapan

The heartache and loss of the Japanese people in the aftermath of the 9.0 magnitude earthquake, the tsunami it triggered, and now the potential nuclear meltdown are almost impossible to describe.

Below, the following bloggers offer insight and perspective on this massive tragedy:

When faced with tragedy on such a massive scale (over 10,000 people killed, thousands missing or unaccounted for, 500,000 homeless or displaced, billions in damage), it is easy to turn away or shut down. However, let us not forget the stories of those who are grieving, even as they search for loved ones.

Yomiuri Shimbun /AFP/Getty Images: This woman was calling out the names of her family in the city of Soma in Miyagi prefecture earlier today (March 14, 2011).

How to Help:

  • CRASH (Christian Relief, Assistance, Support and Hope) Japan: “A network supporting Christians to do relief work in Japan and around the world.  CRASH equips and prepares churches and missions to be there to help their communities when disasters strike and coordinates Christian volunteers to work with local ministries in the event of a disaster.”
  • Evangelical Covenant Church: “Covenant World Relief is responding to the devastating earthquake and tsunami in northeast Japan with our sister denomination, the Japan Covenant Church.”
  • World Vision: “World Vision plans to distribute relief supplies to meet the daily needs of quake and tsunami survivors. We will also focus our efforts on responding to the emotional needs of children, who are the most impacted after such a traumatic event.”
  • Presbyterian Disaster Assistance: “This designated account supplements the One Great Hour of Sharing (OGHS) offering to enable a significant response for relief and disasters in Japan.”
  • Asian Access: “Pray for Japan, for the Church and for us as we prepare to come alongside the Church and other partners to deliver aid and respond with well-prepared teams as the opportunities arise.”

As untouched as the turn signal in an Asian woman’s car

The title of the post probably makes absolutely no sense to you, but once you see it in context I’m sure you’ll understand it. Some of you may even chuckle about it. However, I’m not sure it’s the laughter that I would find offensive. Most-likely, it is the fact that people still have the perception that it’s funny because it is rooted in truth. Before I get to explaining this further, let me take you back about 40 years. Let me share with you a tv commercial from the 1960’s about a baby that wants to eat some glape jerr-o. Again, you probably don’t get what I just described, but after watching the video below you will:

Was it funny? Was it offensive? Are your feelings neutral about it? Continue reading

what the Gospel looks like in Taiwan

Missiologist and researcher Ed Stetzer (and a group of pastors) are on a Taiwan vision trip. They’ve observed several things that make the Gospel obviously and visibly different than what the Gospel looks like in a typical mostly-Caucasian majority-culture American evangelical context.

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Ed blogs in Ancestor Worship and Taiwanese Christians about an interview with Robert Young in this video — Contextual Response to Ancestral Worship (7:37)

And, this video in blog entry, Meeting and Learning from Pastor Chen (6:18)

Does this suggest that the Gospel should look differently among Asian Americans?

In this blog post, I’m using the term “Gospel” broadly, in the sense of how the Gospel and its implications is lived out in particular contexts of an ethnic and/or racial grouping. And in so exploring and forming, even the language and terms used to explain the explicit and implicit theologies may need adaptation too.

Is Francis Chan…

… on his way to becoming the next Rob Bell? (Sorry, couldn’t resist tipping my hat to the last NG.AC post about Francis Chan. You know which one.)

Flannel, the folks behind the Nooma series (featuring Rob Bell) are launching another DVD series called We Are Church featuring Francis Chan. From their site (you can read the full post here, and watch a short clip of Francis talking about it):

…you might already know that Nooma was the beginning of a much bigger vision – a vision that encompassed working with many highly creative speakers to communicate the way of Jesus to the world.

Early last year, we committed to pursuing the larger vision and began a search for additional speakers to champion new projects.  The search process included wonderful conversations with ministry and seminary leaders, publishers, Christians bookstore executives, authors, pastors, and more that helped us identify well over 100 candidates… in the end, we felt God leading us to Francis Chan.

I have enjoyed the Nooma series with Rob Bell – the content, aesthetic, communication style and length (seriously, let’s keep our Bible study DVDs under 30 minutes!) have been a good fit for our church community.  I am looking forward to seeing what they do with Francis Chan, if they can capture the energy and passion of his live delivery.  Francis’ short film Stop & Think has a similar vibe (and clocks in at a very reasonable 15 minutes!) — a good sign for the future of this partnership with Flannel.  Stop and think for yourself below.

If this We Are Church series has a similar impact as the Nooma series, perhaps Francis Chan will become a household name in the way Rob Bell has. While I’m sure that’s not Francis’ goal — by all accounts, he is a genuinely humble follower of Jesus — I would love to see an Asian American find a platform like that to speak to both the church and our culture.

For Asian-American Christians, The Elephant In The Room…

The following words below are my thoughts alone, and not representative of NG.AC.

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I’ll say it outright. I believe one of the most important things that needs to be addressed among Asian-American Christians is the fundamentalism that pervades our expression of Christianity, propagated especially by the likes of John Piper and his brand of neo-puritan protestantism. Also, I will leave Tim Keller out of this. I think he’s much more reasoned and intelligent with his faith.

Some personal history…

My college church was multi-ethnic in name, but Asian-American in reality. It was also typically conservative in its theology. So naturally, John Piper’s work was standard summer reading. Desiring God would be found on our proverbial recommended reading list, as well as his “secondary” work of Let The Nations Be Glad and Future Grace. However, it wasn’t till my post-college church (very similar in demographics, but more puritan in theology, in comparison to my college church) that I had celebrated and defended the neo-puritan theology that Piper preached. I remember listening to sermon after sermon on my iPod and watching his sermons on the One Day DVDs with delight. Regardless of how embarrassing this is to tell, I even once cheered, yelling “PIPER!!”, when his face came up on display at a 7.22 event I went to about 4 years ago.

However, it was when a white-American couple came to our church that the foundations began to shake. Knowing they were fervent and passionate Christians, seminary-trained, and experienced in overseas missions, I was saddened to hear that John Piper considered their faith as secondary due to their being Arminians (Methodist). Here, in front of me, were two upstanding and wonderful Christians, who were actively being judged and pitied by someone I had looked up to so much. A conflict of interest began to take form within me.

But it was only when I had left my post-college church that I learned the notion of theological idolatry, this idolatry that i had committed for 7 years…

I consider theological idolatry an active assumption of God-ordained certainty regarding one’s theological worldview. One commits theological idolatry when she assumes her interpretation of Scripture is incontestable, as defended by self-referencing biblical arguments. It is this theological idolatry that I believe Asian-American Christians who subscribe to Christian neo-puritanism (i.e. new fundamentalism) engage in. Brothers and sisters, we must exercise humility.

Recently, John Piper’s rhetoric has been crossing my path upon reading about his relative disdain towards multimedia and hateful judgment towards homosexuality. It is these things along with his theological views of gender, culture, and God’s sovereignty that I believe are negatively affecting Asian-American churches.

Drew Tatusko wrote of Piper’s comments to the ELCA:

This sort of “theology” tries to divine God’s pre-destined program for us by picking and choosing natural events that appear to confirm a pre-existing ideological condition. It’s not theology, it’s insurance to justify one’s own ideology.

It is not theology, but idolatry. It is extracting what you want God’s will to be from nature rather than attend to that progressive revelation which may, and likely will, send this sort of Pharisaism asunder. For that is what we learn from Jesus. The more you think you have the Gospel cornered, the more you are relying on your own divinations and ideas. When this happens, as with learning anything new, one is less attentive to revelation. One becomes more attentive to one’s own whims and God looks just like you – an epiphenomenon of your own foolishness and absurdity.

I agree with Tatusko. Furthermore, although I cannot say that it is Christian fundamentalism alone that is driving many 2nd-gen Asian-Americans away from the church, I firmly believe it is one of the key motivating factors. Kelly Chong, an Asian-American sociologist and professor, wrote an article in 1998 surveying the 2nd-generation ministry of two Korean churches in the Chicago area. These churches embraced a very conservative theology, while exhibiting behaviors of conformity, exclusivity, and judgmental behavior towards others not like them. 11 years later, things are changing, but not changing quickly enough to where I can confidently say things are healthy these days.

Friends, my request is that when we preach, teach, encourage, and admonish, we do so with humility and fear and trembling. There is a philosophical notion which states that when we say ‘God’, God escapes our assumptions. Likewise, when Meister Eckhart prayed, ‘God, rid me of God,’ we must do the same. I believe it is imperative that we Asian-American Christians practice theological humility and be militaristic, instead, about love, (hey, militarism and love co-exist easily with Asian-Americans) grace, and justice. This is not a call to teach watered-down theology or preach a culture-neutered gospel. Rather, it is a call to do what Asian-American Christians have the worst time doing while following in the way of Christ, loving the world as Jesus did.

Let’s repent and change our ways, for the sake of our future generations.

How intergenerational worship can be creative and inclusive

The Next Gener.Asian Church conversation kicks off with David Park talking about his and Dan Ra‘s experience at the 12th annual Korean Worship & Music Conference.

Listen to this conversation (running time=14:17 min; powered by podOmatic)::

This was the first time that this conference had an English track, and it was fascinating to hear how the Korean-speaking and English-speaking could harmoniously worship with one another and learn from one another.

How do you define church?

Before I address the question from the subject line, let me state this: I am not quite sure how the intersection of church and Asian-American culture can really exist in the same sentence. I feel as if I’ve killed off some brain cells pondering this question.

steepleHow do you define church?

Can we come to a clear consensus as to what church is so that we can then explore the context of church and faith from an Asian-American perspective?

When I spoke with Daniel So yesterday I began to wonder if our perspective should be the church focusing on Asian-American awareness and cultural issues or if it should be used as a way to compliment American culture at large from a third culture mindset, as Dave Gibbons discusses in his book The Monkey and the Fish: Liquid Leadership For A Third-Culture Church.

Should we be defending our right to gather as Koreans, Chinese, Vietnamese and Hmong or rather should we be reaching out to other Asian cultures and inviting them to begin the process of being a third culture church? Can we be critical of the American church if we don’t first look to engaging other Asian cultures within our church settings first?

Again, the question to ask first is, how do your define church?

I’m no longer yellow…now I’m brown?

I just read something that disturbed me. I’m trying to determine why. As a Japanese-American pastor I have felt the need for a multi-cultural church here in Sacramento, California. Diversity is almost non-existent here on Sundays. When the workplace, schools, restaurants and malls have people of all races living together, why must Sunday be so segregated? So, when I saw an article in the July/August issue of Rev! magazine celebrating diversity in the church in America, I was kind of excited. It was encouraging news to me. The article cites that:

The big news is that white congregations in this country now have more Latinos, Asians, and African-Americans than ever before. Compared to a decade ago, fewer congregations today are 100 percent white.

On its own, that may be encouraging news. In combination with the title of the article, I am feeling kind of dirty. The title of this article celebrating diversity in the church is “The Browning of Our Churches.” I just went from excited and encouraged to disturbed and a little outraged.

After living much of my youth wishing I were white and about 6′ 5″ tall like all of my friends that didn’t get words of hate and violence directed towards them because they were in the majority, I have finally embraced the fact that I am yellow. Not only embracing this, but actually thankful that my experience isn’t the same as my white friends (nor my African-American or Hispanic friends). It gives me a different perspective as well as allowing me to see myself in a different perspective. As an Asian-American, I am not a pastor or church planter, but to some I am viewed as the Japanese pastor. Okay, I accept that. Now, after going through all of this I get to read in a magazine that I’m not yellow. Now you’re saying I have to be brown? I have to be blended in with other racial groups that aren’t white and conceived as living in one happy melting pot. <Insert sound of the needle on the turntable being screeched across the surface of the record> What? Did I just get my Asian taken away and replaced with the color of mud? You know, when you mix water and dirt together it forms a thick, goopy, non-descript brown goo. You can’t see the elements that went into it, all one sees is brown goo. Do I really want to be like mud? How did we go from melting pot–where distinguishable ingredients can be seen and tasted and combined to form something delicious–to mud?

The article cites multiracial Americans as the driving force behind the browning of American churches. Standing proudly as the token people of the mud are Tiger Woods, Vin Diesel, and Mariah Carey as contributors to the public’s acceptance of being multicultural in the church. Um, what public are we talking about here? The Caucasian public? Seriously, on any given day when I may think it might be confusing to people to see me–someone born in Osaka, Japan, adopted by a Caucasian Father and Japanese mother, and brought to California at the age of 4 while growing up in a country suburb where 99.9% of the residents were white–all I have to do is look to Tiger Woods. Not only are people confused by his appearance, but at times he seems confused about who he is. Everyone wants a piece of Tiger and look to him as a representative of their heritage. Now the American church wants to embrace him as their poster child for what a great job they are doing at attracting different races of people into their white church. Woo hoo! Oh yeah…sorry to be the bearer of bad news here, but I have not been in any conversation (ever) where people have looked to Vin Diesel or Mariah Carey as representing people of color or multiracial.

Of course, Dave Gibbons and Newsong are dragged into the mix because they are not a white church. Newsong is cited in “The Browning of Our Churches” as the largest church in the Evangelical Covenant Denomination, which I challenge the accuracy of. However, rather than share the merits of how Newsong is reaching Asian-Americans and that they have diversity on their leadership team, it is being used as a glorious example of how a church in a denomination founded by Swedish immigrants can be predominantly non-white and how there is hope that the American church can become more multicultural too. Why didn’t they cite an example of Tim Keller and how the congregation at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in NYC is multicultural and predominantly Asian? I guess you can’t use a token white guy in an article about being multicultural.

For the first time in my life and in my ministry I am starting to get what all the discussion is about amongst Asian-Americans and the American church. When we strive to be in unity and all working together as the body of Christ, it is a beautiful thing as it is what heaven will be like. However, when we as non-white people are used as a sign that we are blending in and being less-distinct and more homogeneous that is where I have to draw the line. For the first time I am drawing the line rather than trying to walk both sides. I feel as if I am becoming less confused.

When we are being invited to worship in the American church, yet are being played according to their rules, I take issue with that. When the American church invites diversity into the congregation, yet has Caucasian leadership and allows no voice to the people they are trying to reach, I take issue with that. When it’s more about being multicultural because it is cool to be multicultural, rather than being multicultural because you want to celebrate diversity , I take issue with that.

Today I take a stand. I refuse to be brown for the sake of conforming. I am yellow and if you want me to come to your party, you’d better give me a valid reason. Invite me because you want to hear my voice and know my struggles, not because you want to make me a statistic and show me off to your less-multicultural church friends.

A post-racial church for the next generation

Can a church become post-racial?” Efrem Smith tackles this question over at Theooze.TV:

The embedded video is a preview. Watch the full video at Theooze.TV, and see the discussion already going at the comment thread there.

Also see this response to this video was posted at the Storrs Community Church blog (the church is located in Storrs, Connecticut):

… My immediate response to seeing the question, “Can the church become post-racial?”, was one of frustration that we are bandying about the wrong word and at the wrong time, when every well-being statistic you can look at across the country shows extreme white privilege and a sizable racial/ethnic gap. This is not by chance. It shows up in almost every category. And its a direct result of slavery and our policy making and community building that favored Whites over anyone else. It’s most likely not intentional racism from anyone nowadays, but racial inequity nonetheless.

… The church is not separate from culture, but quite collusive historically. Hence, we see similar inequities within. We’re not talking about overt, Jim Crow racism (i.e., race relations), but rather the scaffolding in our communities, however unseen to some/many.

Emerging Church in Korean

The book by Ryan Bolger and Eddie Gibbs, Emerging Churches: Creating Christian Community in Postmodern Cultures, is now available in Korean!
Emerging Churches, in Korean
Link to the Korean online bookstore where the book’s for sale.

Curious how Koreans in South Korea, and in the United States, would read this book to join the conversations, and what emerging churches in a Korean context would look like.