Drinking Deeply

Thursday, April 13, 2006 at 12:41 AM

Asian American Church

So I promised I'd post this, sorry for the delay. Been a bit busy.

This post will contain why I am opposed to the idea of an Asian American Church.

First off, I need to define what exactly I mean by Asian American. Now, since this definition is one that I am working with, it may be a little bit imprecise, and it also may not be what other people are thinking when they think of an “Asian American Church.” Please bear with me, correcting me and asking for clarifications if necessary.

What I don’t mean when I say “Asian American” is I don’t mean a congregation that has its primary worship in Chinese, or a congregation that has its primary worship in Korean, or something like that. I believe there is a biblical warrant for having churches for this purpose, as one of the commands for our preacher is to speak so that the congregation can understand. If we’re preaching in a different language this surely cannot be done.

I also don’t mean all those churches that are, forced by the population living nearby, primarily Asian American.

What I do mean by an “Asian American” Church is a church in which the preaching is done primarily in English, the population of the area is fairly diverse, but the congregation is almost completely second generation or first generation Asian American, and the idea of being “Asian American” is part of the purpose of the specific church. I would include within this list those churches that explicitly have the label “Asian-American” within their titles. They maintain this identity implicitly or explicitly as “Asian American” Christians.

This is what I mean by Asian American Churches.

I tried my hardest to think of a biblical reason why someone would want to have an Asian American Church, and the only thing I could come up with was Paul’s statements in 1 Corinthians 9 in saying:
19For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. 20To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. 21To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. 22To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. 23I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.
But this to me seems like an incredibly weak argument for Asian American Churches for one big reason. Paul here is talking about laying aside his rights as a Christian. He is willingly setting aside and submitting himself to something that he, as a Christian, is free to refrain from. In all honesty, I do not see this as a rationale for people to have Asian American Churches, especially if someone was Asian American him/herself. Maybe it’s possible for someone to use this mentality, I don’t know.

Thus I conclude that, barring this one exception, Asian American Churches are extra-biblical at best.

At worst however, it becomes unbiblical. Using the exact same passage as our standard, do we see Asian American churches reaching out, laying aside their identities as Asian Americans in order to reach out to those who may not share the same culture but may share the same Father? Are they willing to make sacrifices, living in a place foreign to their culture in order that all may be won to the Gospel? Or isn’t the Asian American Church in direct contradiction to this concept? Desiring to build an oasis around them in order to preserve status quo, in order to preserve a culture that other people do not understand, and that Jesus never says to bring with us when we come to the cross. Don’t we lay aside our rights as citizens of this culture for the far greater right of becoming heirs of the Kingdom of God? Why do we maintain an extra-biblical desire to hang onto our culture? Might this become an idol? Is it an idol?

Yes, it is awkward to not share things in common with those who may not be Asian American. It is weird to call the father of one of my friends by their first names. But how much greater is it, how much more awesome can it be, when I am able to pray with and embrace that same person as a brother instead of as someone who is twice removed from my circle of friends, once as a parent and once as a different culture.

Does not the Gospel of Jesus reconcile races and nationalities?

No, I do not apply this completely. I am, presently a member of a fellowship that is sponsored by Korean Central Presbyterian Church. I am also, at home, a member of a church entitled Chinese Christian Mandarin Church. I am there because that is where I’ve been placed, and I see my gifts being utilized, stretched, and grown there. But I do see hope. One of my pastors mentioned that he has brought up the possibility of changing our name and removing the Korean. It saddened me that this was tabled and ignored almost immediately, but I am grateful that it is a question in someone else’s mind at least.

May God be glorified as He will be, when every tongue, nation, and nationality bends its knee to Him, worshipping the Lamb of God, as One Body, in One Voice, proclaiming One Lord and Savior of all.

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Blogger William said...

There is a part of me that feels just like you do, interestingly enough I'm at an Indonesian Church, even though I'm ethnically Chinese. My thought is that this is an evolution. Just think that 60 years ago, certain Asian ethnicities would not get along...this is one small step for man to the next step of full racial reconciliation. Are we even there yet?

I wonder if this Asian American phenomenon is solely a product of living in the USA. Do Australian Chinese separate into separate English speaking churches of Australian Chinese?  

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Blogger mxu said...

That is defintely something I never considered. Thanks for the comment!

And I think you pose an interesting question. Does any of my other 3 readers have any idea?  

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Blogger ts said...

the church i attend currently could be considered an "asian american church" though we're not really tied down to any specific ethnicity. we started as a pretty much entirely thai church, but have grown diverse as our pastor's english improved and we drew in "anchor" people who made others feel comfortable.

basically, based on my experience, it's true that birds of a feather flock together. i know many white people do not feel absolutely comfortable in our church simply because during fellowship we like to eat asian food and many of the leaders are asian.

but i agree with mickey in that it is probably not a good idea to attach the "korean," "chinese," or whatever prefix to your church's name ... in fact, that's not really biblical at all unless you're actually specifically targeting those people.

interestingly, rick warren's ministry toolbox this week includes a short message from warren about "targeting for evangelism":
http://www.pastors.com/rwmt/default.asp?id=254&artid=9325&expand=1  

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Blogger cwu said...

yea, i know some caucasian brothers/sisters that feel weird going to an asain majority church and yet a lot of my asain brothers/sisters wouldn't feel that way (maybe some), and i'm not saying that their racist, but i guess it's out of their comfort zone. i guess it's cause i live in texas. i don't know how it is in cal.

& commenting on william's comment, i just want to say that i would never have considered that thought either. i guess it's b/c i've lived in america all my life that i never really thought of conflicts among asain ethnicities. but from what i hear from my chinese/indonesian friends, the conflict among the chinese and the indonesians is quite strong to the point that chinese people change their last names.  

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Blogger cwu said...

pardon my grammatical errors  

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Blogger William said...

Hey Hey, some good discussion here. I think a lot of Asian Racial problems stem from the old world and they bring that over to the US sometimes, but hopefully not anymore..."Migrations and Culture" by Thomas Sowell document some intersting trends on those peoples like Arab and Jewish middle men merchants going to other coutries, doing well and having hostilities raised. I'd venture to say that is the case of Chinese merchants into Indonesia...also Indonesia is Muslim the largest of the Muslim nation, so if your Chinese and a Christian whoa watch out...but my church is here in America, and I love it that people wonder why I am serving at an Indonesian Church. Its simply where God has placed me!  

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Blogger William said...

oops, T. Sowell documents the case for Chinese hostility in Indonesia due to Chinese businessmen doing well...  

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Blogger BigTo said...

I like your thoughts on Asian American Churches. I find myself agreeing with many of your takes, but I struggle with how we should reach out to this population of people who seem to gather so well together. I pray for a more international church, one that will represent heaven. Yet find it hard to bridge the gap between Asians and their struggle to feel comfortable in an "American Church"

This is why I am trying to promote a blog that pushes these types of discussions. I would love any feed back and discussion on this topic. (excuse me for plugging my blog. I would just love to hear more of all of your thoughts)

asianreact.blogspot.com  

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

What about African American churches? Or unofficial Caucasian churches? Or "cowboy" churches? Why aren't people in THOSE churches being asked to make sacrifices to reach out to people outside of their comfort zone?

Or could it be that those churches--perhaps implicitly and perhaps imperfectly--nevertheless minister to their congregants because of the cultural similarities?

I believe that there is a legitimate need for ministering to Asian Americans in their own cultural language, which includes the ways people relate and interact with each other. And I believe that Asian American churches, whether they are multi-gen Asian churches, English-speaking Asian American churches, or even unofficially Asian American churches (like Redeemer in NYC), can really reach out to Asian Americans in this way...

It could be something as simple as having a place where Asian Americans can feel they belong and identify with other Asian American believers, and can learn about and grow in God. And hopefully learn and grow in ways that we as Asian American people need to learn and grow...  

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Blogger mxu said...

Anon - The statements I made are equally applicable to those churches that are focused towards those who are Caucasian or African American. I chose Asian simply because I am Asian and I go to a dominant Asian church.

I am not condemning those churches that are primarily of one race or ethnicity, but those that use that fact as an excuse not to reach out to other ethnicities. This is often done implicity but not explicitly and I'm merely pointing that out. Yes, cultural churches do make it more comfortable for those of that culture to join, but the dangers are clear and we as members of such churches should be aware and conscious of that.  

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Blogger William said...

Well Anon raises an interesting question...I took a course from a Mexican American Pastor who was preparing his people to reach out to Muslims because of the shared words in Arabic and Spanish...that there would be a common ground...I'm guessing that many of us in this discussion will find that we are members of Asian churches at the moment with a vision for multi-ethnic churches...but along Anon's line of thinking, I think we should be more accepting of the Asian American church that mschoo writes (the English speaking one) because there is a niche to reach unchurched Asian Americans in their cultural context and language...BUT couldn't you reach them in a multicultural setting? Perhaps in Acts when the appointed a group of men to take care of those widows...we appoint a group to take care of this specific group of Asians?  

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Blogger mxu said...

Well, maybe I restricted myself too much with the initial post.

The danger I pointed out (not being willing to set aside our own culture in order to reach all) is certainly a danger not only for ethnic churches but also for churches as a whole.

But that doesn't change the call for us as members of the universal church to lay aside our rights, lay aside our culture, lay aside who we are, in order that we may win all.  

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