Key Series: Why we need Asian Americans to be Asian Americans

Read this insightful series by DJ Chuang about why we need Asian Americans to be Asian Americans. It is a powerful introduction to many of the conversations we have here at Next Gener.Asian Church.

As DJ writes in his initial series post:

All to say that our American society needs more Asian Americans to be Asian American. It is to say that at this state of the union, we have too few. We certainly don’t have too many. We’d do well to have a few more to stand up and represent. We’d do well to think through and have more robust conversations about what it means to be Asian Americans. We’d do well to allow the richness of our Asian American’ness to overflow and not hide it under a bushel.

The disclaimers DJ writes at the outset are, alone, worth the price of admission:

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Artist Spotlight: A Journey of Worship and Justice, Part Two

In our NG.AC community, we want to highlight stories of people courageously answering God’s call to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God.

Daniel DK Kim’s journey of worship and justice has led him and his family to commit themselves to fighting human trafficking in Mexico City for the next two years. They left today (with answers to prayer from the very start). Read the second part of our two-part interview with DK:

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What is the connection between releasing your new EP thefirst and your family’s commitment to fight human trafficking in Mexico City?

This EP is my first-ever studio project and I am still baffled and dumbfounded that it is complete, in print, on sale and in the hands of people who love it. It has been a dream come true and the way it happened was so sudden and unexpected, I can once again say that it’s because of God’s goodness this came about. It’s nothing short of a miracle.

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Artist Spotlight: A Journey of Worship and Justice, Part One

Daniel DK Kim just gave up his dream job.

As the worship leader at Newsong Church in Irvine, California, DK has been living out a personal dream.  And yet, on June 15th, DK, his wife Sadie and their young son Micah will be moving to Mexico City for two years, “to do our part in the abolition movement while working with and raising up a generation of indigenous artist/activists in the city to lead the charge… until we see the end of slavery.”

In our NG.AC community, we want to highlight stories of people courageously answering God’s call to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God.  As you can see from DK’s story, which we will share in two parts, this awakening to the intimate connection between worship and justice is both beautiful and challenging.

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How would you describe the connection between worship and justice in your life? What have been some pivotal moments in shaping your understanding of worship and justice?

Photo by Scott Hodge at The Idea Camp in Irvine, California

I’ve been a worship leader since I was 15 years old, but it wasn’t until recently, in 2007, that I began to feel discontent in the way that I viewed and experienced worship.  So much of our worship can become self-focused and self-indulgent if we forget about the call beyond the mere words of any song. I began to discover the synonymy of worship & justice in a few key passages of Scripture.

Isaiah 58 is a huge one for me: the challenge to consider what true fasting is made me think about what true worship is. “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the chords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?”

I began to see that my worship was just ritual if I didn’t take it outside of a fifteen-minute set list.  I wanted desperately to do something about this unfolding realization but didn’t know where to start.  All I could do was pray.

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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.

2 on the Young Influencers List

Brad Lomenick of Catalyst (described as “a leadership development company in Atlanta“) complies a monthly list of young influencers. Having heard John Maxwell define “leadership is influence, nothing more, nothing less,” these lists notes young leaders in our generation. In the mix are two Asian Americans:

  • Charles Lee – Charles is the cultural catalyst and pastor at New Hope South Bay in CA, a founding member of Just One (addressing poverty and slavery), and a professor on the side. [September 2008 edition]
  • Eugene Cho – pastor in Seattle of Quest Church. Also soon to launch a new organization focused on global poverty. You can watch a video introducing the idea here. [July 2008 edition]

Good to see these two acknowledged in this list. Having met both of them, they’re doing some great things. I’ve also met a number of other Asian American leaders in my journey, and perhaps some of them will be recognized in a future list.

It’s one thing to be a leader in the Asian American community. It’s a different thing to be recognized as a leader in mainstream multiethnic America. Just as it is one thing to be a leader in the Christian subculture versus being a leader in the mainstream of society.

By the way, Charles Lee is also playing “point” in coordinating The Idea Camp, February 27-28, 2009, in Irvine, California. This $0 registration hybrid conference may well be a “game-changer” in the church leadership conference world. I’ll be there — drop me a line if you’re going.

On AsianWeek…The Necessity of Faith

Thanks Bruce. Now that Reyes-Chow is the moderator for the PC(USA), he decided to pass on the Faith Perspective column at AsianWeek to someone else. I took a first shot at it this month.

Enjoy here or on the original site…and feel free to comment there.

I think the president should be an atheist,” my sixteen-year-old cousin said plainly over the breakfast table. She is my cousin from my wife’s side of the family, who is Indian American — Hindu Brahmins — steeped in politics and well aware of problems at the intersection of church and state, or at least mosque, temple and state.

She was responding to my question of what would make a great president. It surprised me that she viewed atheism as the foremost and presumably a desirable requirement for political leadership, particularly as her devout Hindu father sat at the table across from me, a Korean American Christian.

Yet, I think I understand what she’s getting at. Religion and spirituality are personally good things, but in politics and real life, they seem to be what economists call inefficiencies. And we’re too pragmatic to tolerate these persistent inefficiencies, aren’t we? We value stoicism and precision. Religion, while perhaps not the opiate that Marx considered, can simply be dismissed as impractical for many of us. We were raised on criticism and discipline (arguably, a religion of a different sort), which leads to the question: What place does something so impractical as faith have in Asian American life?

Pragmatism has a cost as well, which is also to say faith and spirituality are not all bad. Life and love cannot only exist on spreadsheets. It’s possible the richness of our spirituality, while not always efficient, could deepen the ways in which we Asian Americans express ourselves. Asian spirituality tends to emphasize the individual meditative and self-control aspects (it’s little wonder the individualistic American consumerist culture latches onto piecemeal religious practices), but do Asian Americans enrich the greater community compelled by our faith? Asian Americans have always been viewed as wonderful technicians, professionals and creatives, but when do we inspire the nation by our acts of compassion and justice?

I wonder if Asian America could produce someone who exudes confident and competent leadership in the spiritual sense. Does our penchant for the practical and profitable lend itself to the formation of an Asian American version of a Martin Luther King Jr., or aMother Teresa, or a Mahatma Gandhi? A Bono or an Albert Schweitzer? Asian Americans are spiritual in the privatized, mind-your-own-business sense, but have we the conviction and strength of character to alter the public landscape because of our beliefs?

I’ve found faith and spirituality a compelling dimension of Asian American culture and life requiring further exploration, not because atheists or theists need to be convinced otherwise, but because faith has yet a meaningful role in private and in public. The answer is not simply to toss our faith aside, but to understand where we can integrate spirituality in our own lives and in the lives of others in inefficient, yet significant ways.

Presbyterian 2.Oh!

Congrats to Bruce Reyes-Chow, who was elected moderator of the 218th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) on Saturday, June 21st!

Here is a great quote from Bruce at the GA:

…nothing is too hard or too wondrous for God. If the church steps out in faith rather than clinging to survival, to be more intent on being faithful than on being right, to be together based on our common covenant in Jesus Christ rather than by property or pensions, then we will be able to live into a future in which we are a vital and vibrant presence in the world.

Bruce is pastor of Mission Bay Community Church in San Francisco and is a prolific, insightful blogger. It looks like the banner of his blog can now read “pastor/geek/dad/follower of Christ/moderator.”

As a Presbyterian myself, it is a breath of fresh air to see the denomination move away from what can often be an insular old boys’ network and towards a different picture of what the future might be. This is more than just saying, “Let’s start using this internets I’ve been hearing about to keep those young whippersnappers inside the church” — Bruce is fully engaged in culture 2.0 and it will be interesting to see how he can help turn the ship around.

To many Presbyterians, the fact that a young, urban, Asian American church planter could become the new face of the denomination is nothing short of miraculous.

More Fast Company: 3-D Leader

Continuing from that previous post about incompetent management, here is a follow-up from Fast Company that talks about Developing the 3-Dimensional Leader, here are the Cliff Notes. I’ll let you draw the implications to your own context.

I believe that this leadership crisis is in reality a leadership development crisis.

…the traditional methods used to train and educate leaders have not kept pace with the monumental changes taking place in the world. Potential leaders receive essentially the same education as did their predecessors — education that was appropriate to the demands of a different era.

…on-the-job experiences and development frequently do not produce the leadership our organizations need. Many argue that 70% of learning takes place on the job but what is it that our leaders are learning? Most develop a narrow functional-technical perspective as a result of spending their entire career in one area. Many are risk-averse due to the severe consequences of making mistakes, which severely inhibits learning.

The three-dimensional framework calls for the development of an individual’s business, leadership, and personal effectiveness skills:

  • Business Dimension: Mind-sets and capabilities needed to identify and address critical business challenges
  • Leadership Dimension: Fully developed leadership capacity needed to lead the organization confidently into the future
  • Personal Dimension: Personal effectiveness skills needed to achieve excellence, balance and ongoing renewal

Ten Signs Of Incompetent…

The original article (from Fast Company) lists these ten signs to identify incompetent management, but I wonder if it can’t apply to pastors of churches as well. I’ve overheard recently that it’s absurd that we expect pastors to be seasoned leaders when seminaries don’t offer/require them to take leadership classes. In any case, having worked in the corporate world, I think these lessons would be great to apply in evaluating church leadership as well. While I don’t equate management skills to pastoral skills, I think there are lessons to be learned and adapted from here.

  1. Bias against action: There are always plenty of reasons not to take a decision, reasons to wait for more information, more options, more opinions. But real leaders display a consistent bias for action. People who don’t make mistakes generally don’t make anything. Legendary ad man David Ogilvy argued that a good decision today is worth far more than a perfect decision next month. Beware prevaricators.
  2. Secrecy: “We can’t tell the staff,” is something I hear managers say repeatedly. They defend this position with the argument that staff will be distracted, confused or simply unable to comprehend what is happening in the business. If you treat employees like children, they will behave that way — which means trouble. If you treat them like adults, they may just respond likewise. Very few matters in business must remain confidential and good managers can identify those easily. The lover of secrecy has trouble being honest and is afraid of letting peers have the information they need to challenge him. He would rather defend his position than advance the mission. Secrets make companies political, anxious and full of distrust.
  3. Over-sensitivity: “I know she’s always late, but if I raise the subject, she’ll be hurt.” An inability to be direct and honest with staff is a critical warning sign. Can your manager see a problem, address it headlong and move on? If not, problems won’t get resolved, they’ll grow. When managers say staff is too sensitive, they are usually describing themselves. Wilting violets don’t make great leaders. Weed them out. Interestingly, secrecy and over-sensitivity almost always travel together. They are a bias against honesty.
  4. Love of procedure: Managers who cleave to the rule book, to points of order and who refer to colleagues by their titles have forgotten that rules and processes exist to expedite business, not ritualize it. Love of procedure often masks a fatal inability to prioritize — a tendency to polish the silver while the house is burning.
  5. Preference for weak candidates: We interviewed three job candidates for a new position. One was clearly too junior, the other rubbed everyone up the wrong way and the third stood head and shoulders above the rest. Who did our manager want to hire? The junior. She felt threatened by the super-competent manager and hadn’t the confidence to know that you must always hire people smarter than yourself.
  6. Focus on small tasks: Another senior salesperson I hired always produced the most perfect charts, forecasts and spreadsheets. She was always on time, her data completely up-to-date. She would always volunteer for projects in which she had no core expertise — marketing plans, financial forecasts, meetings with bank managers, the office move. It was all displacement activity to hide the fact that she could not do her real job.
  7. Allergy to deadlines: A deadline is a commitment. The manager who cannot set, and stick to deadlines, cannot honor commitments. A failure to set and meet deadlines also means that no one can ever feel a true sense of achievement. You can’t celebrate milestones if there aren’t any.
  8. Inability to hire former employees: I hired a head of sales once with (apparently) a luminous reputation. But, as we staffed up, he never attracted any candidates from his old company. He’d worked in sales for twenty years — hadn’t he mentored anyone who’d want to work with him again? Every good manager has alumni, eager to join the team again; if they don’t, smell a rat.
  9. Addiction to consultants: A common — but expensive — way to put off making decisions is to hire consultants who can recommend several alternatives. While they’re figuring these out, managers don’t have to do anything. And when the consultant’s choices are presented, the ensuing debates can often absorb hours, days, months. Meanwhile, your organization is poorer but it isn’t any smarter. When the consultant leaves, he takes your money and his increased expertise out the door with him.
  10. Long hours: In my experience, bad managers work very long hours. They think this is a brand of heroism but it is probably the single biggest hallmark of incompetence. To work effectively, you must prioritize and you must pace yourself. The manager who boasts of late nights, early mornings and no time off cannot manage himself so you’d better not let him manage anyone else.

Good Things In ’08!

asian american leadership conference 2008

“encouraging and equipping those who serve the asian american community nationwide”

[From their website]

Over 400 pastors, parachurch leaders, seminarians, and spouses attended the first AALC in 2004. We anticipate more than 500 to attend this second AALC on March 24-26, 2008.

DATE

Monday-Wednesday, March 24-26, 2008

LOCATION

The 2008 AALC will be utilizing the facilities of the Grace Korean Church (Grace International Ministries) in Fullerton, CA

PURPOSE

The purpose of the AALC is to encourage and equip those who serve the evangelical Asian American community nationwide.

SPEAKERS

WORKSHOPS

20+ workshops addressing a wide range of ministry topics

PARTNERS

Churches and ministries are joining as partners in this conference.