top priority for next generation churches

April 9, 2007

There has been many conversations about the value and need for an intergenerational Asian American church, one that keeps the 1st generation immigrants together with their 2nd generation children. I’m pretty sure the majority of Asian churches fit this ministry model and philosphy, which is also reinforced by the Asian cultural value for intergenerational family life.

Yet, there are new kinds of churches needed to better minister to the 2nd generation English-speaking Asian Americans, 3rd generation, 4th generation, and so on. Strategic thinking is surfacing among denominations like the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) — their article titled Strategies for Korean New Church Development calls out the urgency:

The need to develop Korean American churches for English-speaking second generation Koreans is more pressing and urgent than ever. Post-graduate young adults are the rapidly growing segment of Korean population in the United States. Many of them who used to by youth members in their parents’ churches are dropping out of the church life. In spite of no language barrier, they often find the Anglo churches unfit for them primarily because of cultural differences. They seldom find Korean American churches that meet their spiritual and social needs. They are crying for help and the first generation Korean Presbyterians should act fast to facilitate and develop programs to address the special needs of the children of new church development members. New church development for English speaking Korean American young adults is the top priority!

We envision that the future Korean American churches for English-speaking second generation Koreans are multicultural and multiracial churches. We encourage our sons and daughters to reach out and invite all people to their community of faith. We also encourage them to be servants of the Lord not only for Korean American churches but also for multicultural or non-Korean congregations.

In Hong Kong, the Chinese Coordination Centre of World Evangelism made this announcement, “Launching English Ministry at CCCOWE“, in their most recent CATW (Chinese Around the World) newsletter — here’s the pertinent excerpt:

Globally speaking,while most of the emerging Chinese church leaders are English-speaking, CCCOWE deems it a vital and urgent task to launch English ministry. Aiming to foster communication with the English-speaking generation, help raise the next generation of leaders, and nurture ministry partnership with them for the sake of world mission, CCCOWE has established an English Ministry Department in January this year.

There are myriads of Chinese Christians scattering across the globe who speak different languages as mother tongues, and we do prayerfully hope this huge group could be mobilised for world mission in the years to come. However, since English-speaking ones account for the vast majority of Chinese in Diaspora, CCCOWE resolves to first develop pertinent ministry to serve this particular group.

The above are 2 examples of sizeable organizations thinking strategically for the next generation. Are there intergenerational churches thinking this way, and intentionally developing new churches and church planters for the next generation? Are there 2nd generation Asian American Christians thinking this way, to participate and support in new church startups?

BTW, I’ve informally gathered a list of Asian American church plants (and churches reaching 2nd gen Asian Americans; I’m finding that many of these churches prefer a multiethnic label or no label at all) to get a better sense of what’s happening around the country.

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Comments:2 Responses

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eugenehor
November 5th, 2007

As a member of the cccowe english task forcem let me make a few comments. Over the last 9 years I’ve been an advocate for English ministry within the Chinese church. From encouraging emerging ABC (Australian Born Chinese) and ARC (Australian Raised Chinese) leaders to return and serve in English ministry in the Chinese church, to sharing my insights with English speaking leaders on how to work well with Chinese leadership by adopting a ‘missional’ strategy i.e. seeing themselves as missionaries and working with a missionary paradigm. While my views on the need for English pastors to adopt a missional strategy hasn’t changed, I am beginning to wonder if this alone will stem the exodus of English pastors from the Chinese church. As I’ve traveled and surveyed the landscape of the Chinese church it doesn’t take a genius to work out that only a handful of English pastors actually ‘last’ in the Chinese church whether Australian Born Chinese or North American Born Chinese. Many leave jaded, disillusioned, angry and cynical. Others leave to plant churches, take up new church positions or join para-church ministries.

Speaking to Chinese leaders the refrain I constantly hear is the need for more English pastors (because of the constant exodus of English pastors from the Chinese church). Alongside that I also hear the most common solution put forward, that if there were better dialogue, communication and understanding between them and their English pastor all would be solved. Would anyone care to introduce me to an English pastor who has served in a Chinese church long-term because there was better dialogue, communication and understanding between him and the Chinese leadership of the church?

The reality is that there is an exodus of English pastors from the Chinese church. It’s happened in North America and continues to happen. And the only reason why we haven’t seen it here in Sydney is purely because we haven’t got as many English pastors in the Chinese church. Here in Sydney, I can count on one hand the number of ABC’s and ARC’s who have been English pastors serving more than 5 years in the same Chinese church. It’s too early to tell what will happen with our English pastors serving in the Chinese church in Sydney. But what I have observed is that Chinese churches in Sydney are not too different from Chinese churches in North America. Will we see an exodus in the years to come? Only time will tell.

There are many reasons why English pastors leave the Chinese church. I have met godly faithful English pastors who have been treated so badly that I have often wondered whether those in leadership in their church are believers. But I have also met Chinese pastors who have had to deal with culturally insensitive, proud, self-serving English pastors. Sometimes the breakdown between English pastor, and OBC leaders or OBC senior pastor in the Chinese church is a godliness issue that stems from our human sinfulness. But for many others the issue is not a sin or godliness issue.

While godliness issues lead to the breakdown of relationships, much of the conflict, disagreement, differences also stem from different values in ministry between English pastor, and OBC leaders or OBC senior pastor. It’s not so much a godliness issue, but a breakdown caused by two different paradigms of ministry. Some people call it a cultural issue. I think it’s more than a cultural issue, which is easily solved. We’re called to bridge our culture to be all things to all people to win them – this also applies for English pastors who are called to do the same within the Chinese church in their relationship with both OBC leaders and OBC senior pastor. This has been at the heart of what I have often called adopting a ‘missional’ mindset as an English pastor working in a Chinese church. Relational cultural issues are easily solved. But differences in values in ministry, differences in paradigms of ministry are much more difficult to solve. Ministry cultural issues are not so easily solved. It should be obvious that in the Chinese church there are effectively 2 different cultural groups: English speaking Chinese who are locally born and raised, and Chinese speaking overseas born and raised. And these 2 different cultural groups because of their culture will have different values and paradigms for ministry. An English pastor can be all things to all men in his relationship to OBC leaders or the OBC senior pastor in the church. But what happens when there is a clash of values and paradigms for ministry with his OBC leaders or the OBC senior pastor in the church?

Does being all things to all people to win them or working missionally with OBC leaders or the OBC senior pastor mean putting aside his values and paradigms for English ministry? Should an English pastor sacrifice his values and paradigms for English ministry and adopt their values and paradigms for ministry? It’s not a matter of telling an English pastor to be humble, stop insisting on his rights and consider others better than himself. Because what of his relationship to those under his care in English ministry? Isn’t he also called to be missionally faithful to them? Isn’t he called to be all things to all people in meeting the needs of the English congregation as well? Isn’t he called to pastor those in the English congregation in a culturally relevant and appropriate way, with values and a paradigm that will meet the needs of English ministry? What the Chinese church needs to realizes is that there are different values and paradigms for ministry between Chinese and English ministry.

I can sum it up best in a conversation I’ve often had with English pastors when I’ve said, ‘one the one hand, English pastors are employed to grow the English ministry of the church. On the other hand, the expectation is that the Chinese church also expects the English pastor to grow the English ministry the ‘Chinese’ way by adopting their values and paradigms for ministry.‘ The reality is that if the Chinese church and her OBC leadership think they can build and grow a better English ministry than their English pastors, they should do it; and they should also stop lamenting that their English pastors are leaving the Chinese church. Or they should let their English pastors do their job, their way.

What frustrates me is that every time I hear of an English pastor leaving or there is a fall-out, the Chinese church laments the lack of perseverance of its English pastors; it laments the short-sighted view of its English pastors; it laments the lack of cultural sensitivity of its English pastors. Yes, there might have been lack of patience, love and godliness, even sin on the part of both parties. But if the ‘exodus’ problem lies with the calibre of English pastors, then from my perspective there must be lots of English pastors who are lacking in perseverance, short-sighted, and culturally insensitive. Because there’s more leaving the Chinese church, than there are those coming back and staying on in the Chinese church. Maybe the exodus of English pastors is saying more about the Chinese church and it’s leadership than it’s English pastors. These days I am finding it more and more presumptuous to think that what we need are better English pastors. One might just as well argue that perhaps we need better Chinese churches, better OBC Chinese church leadership and better OBC senior pastors.

I used to say that what we need are English pastors who are able to think and work missionally with Chinese leadership in the church. I still believe we need that. But what I have never said is that while there is a need for a missional horizontal relationship between English pastors and their Chinese OBC leadership and senior pastor; there is equally a missional horizontal relationship between English pastors and their English leadership and congregation. What people don’t realize is that these two missional relationships are often totally at odds, because they represent not necessarily two different theologies, but two different approaches to ministry, two different values in ministry, two different paradigms for ministry, two different perspectives on how to do ministry.

What happens when an English pastor’s missional relationships clash? On the one side, this is what English ministry values … on the other side, this is what Chinese ministry values. What happens when as an English pastor your missional values for English ministry goes one way, and missionally what is expected of you and the English ministry from the Chinese leadership goes the other way. It’s not just a matter of godliness, perseverance, short-sightedness and cultural insensitivity. In fact, at that point, when an English pastor finally leaves having dealt with these two missional differences/conflict, they leave because it’s the most godly thing to do (rather than fight); it’s perseverance in that they are continuing to persist in English ministry, just not with that particular Chinese church; it’s not short-sightedness because they are looking to pioneer, develop and grow healthier second generation English ministries, and for some multi-ethnic churches; it’s not culturally insensitive – culturally insensitive perhaps to the Chinese church and her OBC leadership, but culturally relevant in reaching and growing a second generation ministry with similar values and paradigms for ministry.

Why does the Chinese church continue to lament the loss of their English pastors when they keep driving them out? We don’t need understanding, we need real change if the Chinese church is to keep it’s English pastors. The bottom line as I see it, is that if the Chinese church and its leadership think they can better run and grow English ministry than their English pastor, then let them do it. If not, they should empower and free their English pastors to do what God has called them to do in a way that will best reach and grow the second generation.

Everytime an English pastor leaves the Chinese church, rather than lament the loss of English pastors, perhaps we need to lament the state of the Chinese church that has led to the exodus of it’s English pastors. Yes, there are issues of godliness and sin that has led to the exodus of English pastors from the Chinese church. Often the issue involves ungodliness and sinfulness on both parties. But added to that is the issue of the differences in values and paradigms for ministry when it comes to growing and developing English ministry. Being missional as a pastor to an English speaking congregation is often at odds with the missional expectations of the Chinese leadership in a Chinese church.

I used to think, ‘what was the problem with … when he left the Chinese church … was it his inability to work cross culturally … was it his lack of perseverance …’ Having met English pastors in North America, godly ones, mission minded ones, good pastors who have left the Chinese church, more and more I’m asking, what’s wrong with the Chinese church? I have served in my church as an English pastor for the last 9 years. My friend Ying one of the longest serving ABC pastors in the Chinese church has been in his church just over 15 years. I said to him recently, that perhaps it’s not the pastors who have left who are the abnormal, but those of us who have stayed. Maybe, just maybe those of us who have stayed are the anomaly and not those who have left. Or maybe, for us, it’s just a matter of time.

As I reflect on the state of the Chinese church, I am optimistic, not because I think things will change, but because it might just be God’s way of growing his church. The diaspora of the early Christians led to the spread of the gospel, the planting of churches and the crossing and breaking down of cultural barriers as new Christian communities were formed. The diaspora of English pastors from the Chinese church might actually not be a bad thing in God’s economy.

You asked the question, are there existing intergenerational churches or Chinese churches achieving the vision of an intergenerational church meeting the needs of both first and second generation? Are there churches that model the cccowe vision? My observation is that while most Chinese churches are committed to an intergenerational model, the reality is that Chinese churches I’ve seen still run on a Chinese cultural value and paradigm for ministry model. Unless a Chinese church leadership is prepared to make real changes, and allow for the different expressions of values in ministry and paradigms for ministry, both their English pastors and English ministries will always be limited in its future.

Paul C. Chou
November 13th, 2007

Bob Buford started Leadership Network investing in the young preachers in America over 20 some years ago. Peter Drucker gave Bob his advices and a strategy for his work. One of the young preachers benefited from Bob’s work is Rick Warren and many others.

Among the Asians, I believe that we have much common goals and common interests. I would suggest that our community might not realize that one of the lacking is the understanding of our time and the changes that had happened to us. These fast changes require us to have a new mind-set, new knowlege in church administration and leadership, and new tools.

Here I would suggest that a series of book by Peter Drucker Foundation for Nonprofit Management – “The Drucker Foundation Future Series” as a start for us to learn to become a leader of the future; in addition whatever we are doing for such a exciting goal – bring up the next generation of Asian American leaders both in the minstry and in the market to serve our time.

Today, I just picked up the book, “The Leader of the Future”, and read it again. The truth and principle in this book might be of use to us to understand our time, the fast change, so that we may humble to learn and to develop the leader that God has called us to become so that we may bring solution to our situation that had challenged us for so many years.

Peter Durcker’s believe – “Leadership must be learned and can be learned.” May the Lord give us joy to learn and it is never too old to learn!

Jesus asked us to come to Him as little children so that we may learn as little children. The hardest thing to become Jesus’ disciple in “surrender everything to follow Him” is our old value system, the old ideas, the old system that we feel so comfortable and so secure, etc. Are we willing to learn to become a leader so that we allow ourselves and others to live a life that is meant to live by Jesus’ calling of us all.

“It is not about you!’ wrote Rick Warren in his famours book as the central point of his book. Shall we learn to become the leaders of today and future to serve our next generation Asians.

This is the passion of L 2 Foundation. Will you all join us? Be a learner and do who you are!

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