Emerging from the Chinese Church

Adventures in Church Shopping

August 31, 2008
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So…  this issue is nothing new in any ethnic church culture…  so why bring it up?…

Because it’s been on my mind and has recently become more and more personal.

 

Let’s look at both sides of the coin:

1.  A person leaves the church because the church is stuck in old ways, leadership has its own agendas, no community, not being challenged enough, etc.

2.  A person stays at the church because it believes that loyalty to community is key, loving your neighbor/enemies needs to continue, trusting in the leadership “God provided”, it’s the same everywhere else, and etc.

So after I’ve briefly and wonderfully shown you a concise and comprehensive perspective on reasons to leave/stay at your church even while there are many problems that can bring you to leave (full sarcasm intended), what conclusions can be drawn?

 

Conclusions:

1.  Nothing left to do but Church Shop – Now some may not call it this per se, but realistically, the nomadic Christian is looking for a community they can “call their own”.  They are wanting to be challenged and grown to mature in their faith.  They want to actually EXPERIENCE God in their midst and not just KNOW ABOUT Him.  But… there are of course some who are just looking for their needs first, wanting to worship a god of their choosing.

2.  We should start our own church – Got nothing better to do?  Are you a freshly graduated seminary student looking for the thrill of starting up a church, making your own ecclesiology (basically “doing church”), and essentially moving away from your past culture or “older generation’s” dictations?  This is probably the BEST model for those who are seeking change, wanting to see the body of Christ done “right” and ultimately doing community in their vernacular (cultural understanding).  But…  fear the “WE GOT IT RIGHT” syndrome that is prevalent in young pastors/leaders nowadays.  And seriously, do we REALLY need another church not just a block down the street but practically churches side by side each other geographically???

3.  It’s all messed up anyways, just stick it out here – Probably the best answer for those who are in a part of their life where things are more comfortable or “settled down”.  Not to say that people who find this conclusion don’t deny that there’s something messed up in their church, but they figure it’s all a depraved world out there anyways, just stick with it.  This is probably the mentality of some people who don’t have anymore “fight” left within them.  Maybe they’ve been battered down so much they just want to go somewhere and worship their God quietly, by themselves, and don’t want to get into any debate or trouble.  But…  how long can you keep going through the motions?  When is your boiling point gonna explode?

 

Finally, my own thoughts on the matter…

I’m tired, very tired of this enigma of “the church”.  I would rather spend my life and my energy to be the church with those who want to follow Jesus radically in this postmodern, multi-cultural city of Toronto.  I am tired of the easy answers.  I do not believe Calvinistically believe God holds things in His hands so leaders in the church can say all is well.  I also do not believe in a liberal way that we are the hands and feet of Jesus and that the ONLY way things will ever get done is through human innovation or ideals.  What I do believe, is we ALL need, not just the seminary students, better theology.  Knowing who God is, who Jesus is, who the Spirit is, this will be our guiding light.  But we must also be convicted of the reality of the Kingdom of Heaven, here but not yet.  Living out the gospel message, challenging ourselves not to stay stagnant and nominal in our declaration to follow Jesus.

In general, I’m tired, I’m sick, that was my shpew, hope I don’t sound TOO jaded 😉


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Emerging Culture & Chinese Born Canadian Christians

August 19, 2008
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So my boss asked me to share in staff chapel where most of the pastors, at my unusually large chinese megachurch, just share some spiritual insight.  I decided to just say what was on my heart via a PRESENTATION on Emerging Culture & CBC Christians.  I wanted the pastors at the church to see what was affecting the CBC Christians and why there was such a large disconnect between them and the local chinese church.

I asked a few people to pray for me and I presented many things.  I largely borrowed a lot of emerging culture info from Dan Kimball from “They Like Jesus but Not the Church” and Tim Keller’s article on Post-Everythings, but I also shared my own insight towards why the emerging culture just simply did not connect to the traditional model church.

Surpringly…  MANY of the pastors thanked me afterwards.  I don’t know if it was because they were just expecting the regular “sharing” but got a boatload of info about emerging culture instead, but ya, there was certainly a different “glint” in their eyes!  Now, there are even email chains going around about continuing the discussion and presenting it to higher levels of leadership.

You know what?…  Maybe I’ve just become a really big pessimist but I don’t think much will come out of this.  

I think it’s been so long since I’ve heard anybody making strides in this area…  I just feel like I’m just going to get my hopes up just to get shot down or that this is just going to be forgotten soon…

Y’know, on the flip side, I’ve encouraged some people in my own ministry (worship ministry) to seek church membership at our church…  and surprise, surprise… the membership class made them feel even WORSE about the direction of the church.

I just feel like it’s such a losing cause…  but at the same time, I don’t want to split the generations up just so we can have it “our way”.  I just don’t know what to go for…

…ok maybe I do know what I WANT, but what does GOD want…  For now, I just want to follow Jesus with others who want to go on that journey with Him too…  is that too much to ask?  I’m all for being missional…  I just want to start being missional with brothers and sisters as well, not just those who call themselves “Christians” but those who FOLLOW CHRIST.

 

…throw me a bone God, please…


Booklist at the moment…

August 12, 2008
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Here is my current reading list for anybody curious:

1.  Reasons for God – Tim Keller

2.  Planting Missional Churches – Ed Stetzer

3.  Vintage Jesus – Mark Driscoll

4.  Surprised By Hope – N.T. Wright

5.  Going All The Way – Craig Groeschel

6.  Crazy Love – Francis Chan

7.  Writing Better Lyrics – Pat Pattison

8.  Who Gets To Narrate the World? – Robert Webber

9. The Church In Transition – Tim Condor

10. Conversations: Asian-American Evangelical Theologies – D.J. Chuang (editor)

 

Books Finished This Summer:

1. Generous Orthodoxy – Brian McLaren

2. Ancient-Future Worship – Robert Webber

3. When Necessary Use Words – Mike Pilavachi

4. The Relevant Church – Various Authors

5. I Became A Christian And All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt – Vince Antonucci


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Love: A Freedom to Limit Oneself…

August 12, 2008
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I think a continual struggle I’ve been going through is with the aspect of being still in my chinese culture while trying to follow Christ and what He calls us to do through His Word.  The word “Love” has been a challenging piece of vocabulary in my life and I’m sure in many people’s lives.  Especially being chinese, what does “love” means culturally?  When a chinese father (and I don’t mean a westernized father) “loves” a son, does he converse and wraps his son in his arms?  or does it look more like a father who works long hours to support his son in his education?  Maybe love is when a mother sits down on the bed next to her daughter at night to talk about her day?  Or perhaps it looks more like a mother who cooks, cleans and tells her children to do their homework?

I’m sure I’ve only given some of the most basic and superficial questions, but it’s tough…  I’ve struggled with “love” my whole life.  Is the answer to become more westernized?  Love like my western counterparts?  Even to not just my family members, how do I simply “love” others if my notion of “love” has only been understood in a certain light?

***

So I’ve been reading Tim Keller’s “Reasons for God” which is what I compare to a much more readable C.S. Lewis Mere Christianity.  In the chapter “Christianity Is A Straitjacket”, Keller tackles the notion of absolute truth and the postmodern tendency to show it as a way to create power and authority over others.  I don’t really feel like unpacking a lot of what Keller says in this post, but what I am really blown over is Keller’s take on LOVE in the chapter.

“Love.  Love is the most liberating freedom-loss of all.  One of the principles of love — either love for a friend or romantic love — is that you have to lose independence to attain greater intimacy.  If you want the “freedoms” of love — the fulfillment, security, sense of worth that is brings — you must limit your freedom in many ways.  You cannot enter a deep relationship and still make unilateral decisions or allow your friend or lover no say in how you live your life.  To experience the joy and freedom of love, you must give up your personal autonomy.”

– Tim Keller – Reasons for God

Wow!  that concept alone is probably gonna stir much discussion!  Who wants to give up personal autonomy???  Most people you’d talk to nowadays would attest to love and goodness…  but this kind of love?  a Self-sacrificing love, a love of freedom-loss, a limiting freedom…  this is simply unheard of!

I’ll leave you guys with a bit of sharing of the past while with my family.  My parents have simply been overbearing and wanting me to show respect to them first (as most chinese parents would want).  There is never an attempt to drop their pride or to have a chat with me to “clear things up”.  I’ve realized that more and more, to love my parents, I have had to give up my “freedom” even when I know I’m right.  I love them enough to not go in the OTHER direction…  just cuss em out and give them the silent treatment.  I’ve realized, the only way I can show love is love them with the love of Jesus Christ.  Sacrifice, freedom-loss… go to them first and talk.  Now I know this isn’t the case in EVERY family.  There are some families that the parents are abusive and tear down their children, or perhaps vice-versa…  but those who follow Christ, will always lead by love, not a freedom to destroy.  That is the essence of the gospel that I’ve found.

“Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken.  If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal.  Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entaglements; lock it safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness.  But in that casket — safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change.  It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.  The alternative to tragedy, or at last to the risk of tragedy, is damnation.”

– C.S. Lewis

As Tim Keller eloquently put it, “The love of Christ constrains.  Once you realize how Jesus changed for you and give Himself for you, you aren’t afraid of giving up your freedom and therefore finding your freedom in Him.”


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