Emerging from the Chinese Church

CBC’s: They Like “Anything” but the Church

December 2, 2008
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chican

Well, some of you don’t know, but I am currently in the process of finishing my 2nd Last Term @ Tyndale Seminary in Toronto, Ontario, Canada while also concurrently finishing course work at Robert Webber’s Institute For Worship Studies in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Hence the lack of blogging)

My latest project (already late, haha) from IWS is a proposed VIDEO INTERVIEW project that I’ve decided to pursue in regards to what Canadian-Born Chinese People think of the church, God, Jesus, the whole sh-bang.  I am very curious to ask either Christian or Non-Christian, what their view on Christianity is.  Now all I need is more some specific questions to ask.

I’ve sort of taken a liking to Dan Kimball’s “They Like Jesus but Not The Church”, model of interviewing people in California and trying to find out what Californians think of the church, Jesus and etc.  What are the questions about Christianity that is on their minds?  Tim Keller has done the same thing in New York.  As well as Mark Driscoll in Seattle in his infamous Q&A sermons.  I guess I’m trying to find out, to the best of my knowledge, what do Torontonians think…  even though we are probably the most diverse city in the world in culture, language, etc (except or possibly Dubai).

I’m writing this blog today to ask you all (who still peruse this blog), what kind of questions do YOU think are appropriate to ask this emerging generation to figure out their take on Christianity and even CULTURAL questions to try to understand better their (my) emerging culture.  My initial belief is that ANYTHING is better than the local church right now for CBC’s…  maybe I’ll be surprised!  But ya, just to clear up, since this task of looking at Torontonian Culture is so huge, I’ve decided to focus more specifically on my cultural group, the Canadian Born Chinese.

If y’all help out, I promise to post a youtube version of the project once I’m done (which will be mid-late december).

So please share your thoughts 😉

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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…


Pondering a Return from Hiatus

October 15, 2007
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Well, I’m back! (sort of) After a friendly e-mail from David Park I’ve been pondering whether to come out of “hiding” and blog again.

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Visiting Vancouver… Pondering…

I think to be honest, I kind of stopped blogging for a few reasons… but not to bore you with all of them, the main reason was probably that I didn’t really want to share my thoughts online… I know, it sort of defeats the purpose of the blog, but I know I’ve been going through a lot in terms of learning, whether it was on a practical basis, theological basis, or simply just to stop talking to much and just trying to BE what God was calling me to be. Writing a blog like this has given me a space to rant and to join in community with online bloggers (especially asian christians who feel they are in transition in their thinking) but I have also felt helpless, even hopeless at times on my end.

Many times over the summer I’ve felt the urge to blog, to re-tell my stories in the chinese church, but as you all can see, in the end, I chose not to blog whether it was because I was too lazy or because I felt uneasy to share it online I’m not sure. I have some drafts of stuff I’ve wanted to publish online, but have never published it. Maybe it just feels like in the end I feel nobody’s listening… nobody’s really “conversing” for the betterment of the Christ’s church…

Okay, I’m generalizing, but at times, it did feel very hopeless. But on the flip side, here is what I have been attempting this “fall semester” at my church.

Because of the enormous size of my church (well, not so large on the english service side), I’ve decided to put my energy into the Worship Ministry that I am currently leading and on staff for. Although I am very concerned with the development of musical talent and spiritual growth of this ministry, ultimately, I hope through addressing some of those things, we can establish a sort of community that can be visible in the church. I wonder if that’s TOO subversive? I’m not sure? I’m just trying to enact what I can in my own personal sphere of influence.

The other reason I have not had much time for blogging is because I have been more and more active in my own side hobby in playing in bands and (sometimes) writing music. I don’t know if it’s really “postmodern” of me, but I am pretty tired of the modern criteria of the asian community to be a doctor, lawyer, comp sci programmer, etc. Why can’t we asians tap into our creative side anymore? Creative without the hippyness? I attend a church which is located in the heart of suburban Toronto and most people are wrapped up in their career and friends, any hint of creativity seems to have disappeared because it takes to much effort and time. OF COURSE it takes time and effort! But that is our worship to God! Our sacrifice! (or at least mine…).

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Tuning my Strat and still pondering…

Anyways, after this long ramble of a blog, I hope y’all have gained a little perspective in my so-called chinese-christian life. I’ve been wrapping my head so long about what needs to change in this setting, now I’m just trying to actually do what I’m called to do and try to hear what God is saying in all this. I want to follow Jesus, but it’s so hard when there’s not many people are vocal about it around you…

Please respond so I can legitimize keeping at this blog!


Losing Face & Finding Grace

June 14, 2007
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Wow!

It’s been like almost two months since I’ve last posted!  I’ve been super busy and just trying to find time to rest since I started my fulltime summer internship.  Currently, my responsibilities include leading the worship ministry and now, the college ministry as well.  I’ve jumpstarted the college ministry in the “attractional” side of things by giving it a new logo, website, and even a once a month night service…  I think dealing with this second generation CBC (canadian-born chinese) college/grad age group is very complex and challenging.

here’s a link to the site:

Kainos Gathering

Anyways, the reason why I have FINALLY re-surfaced in this blog is because for this fellowship group I am helping to lead, we are going to go through some of Tom Lin’s material which is sort of categorized into “Asian-American Bible studies”.   We had a night service (called the GIST btw) and our speaker, Joel Tang, started the ball rolling for this month long series.  This saturday will be our first bible study and we’ll be using material from the book.  The theme will be “Idolizing the Family”.

I think the tough part about using this material is that there are differences in Asian Canadian and Asian American understanding and experiences.  Like you can go further and say EVERY SINGLE PERSON has differences, but I mean like there is some differences in Asian Canadian culture that has still not been verbalized quite well.  Something about our culture has still not been analyzed well enough to… verbalize?  I guess that’s the best way I can put it.  Anyways, I will be using this material and I’ll tell you how it goes 😉

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Good Friday In the Chinese Church

April 23, 2007
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Sorry about the lateness in this post!  This entry is going to be a reflection on the Good Friday services I attended a few weeks ago.

So at 10am on Good Friday, I attended current chinese church’s Youth Service.  The time of worship was done in a contemporary style with the focus on singing praise to Jesus with the main “theme song” coming from Starfield’s “Son of God”.  The first part of the message of the morning was done in a dramatic dialogue based on three different perspectives on who Jesus was.  In the end, reflecting on Christ and the Cross was the gist of the message and I think the youth got the message.  One thing I realized in this service was that young people will always have a hard time sitting still and being disciplined to hear the word of God… ADD is pretty prevalent nowadays!  haha!  But I think the heart of the congregation that day was in the right place and you could see the effort that the leaders put into serving the congregation.  To help them remember the price Jesus paid on the cross was key.  I hope more and more that this group of brothers and sisters can grow in the ways of Jesus.

Later on that day, I went back to my home chinese church at night and they put on a Cantata choir presentation.  I was especially moved by this service as it was more liturgical in nature and because I haven’t sat in on a more “traditional” service.  The Cantata was a chinese composition sung in Mandarin and re-told the story of Jesus at the Cross and the Resurrection.  I honestly felt it has been a while since I’ve truly appreciated something from my chinese heritage that has been a blessing by touching my heart and reminding me of the REALITY of the Grace of God… in MANDARIN 😉  We did communion that night and went out for some food and fellowship with friends afterwards.

That night, I was reminded by God that He is still working the chinese church.  He is still sovereign, still gracious in love and still keeps me in awe and wonder.  Living in the Kingdom of Heaven which is already here but not yet, I hope the chinese church will learn of God’s redemptive plan for them AND for the rest of the world.

To God be the glory.


Chinese Church Good Friday Observations

April 6, 2007
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I’ve gone to my current Chinese Church’s Youth Good Friday service today at 10:00am and I will be going to a 2nd Good Friday Service at my home chinese church later at 7pm.  I will be blogging some of my observations when I get back tonight… not so much for criticism but about what’s going on in two Chinese Church’s at the moment in my context.

Blog you soon 😉


From Reaction to Action…

March 30, 2007
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It’s been a while since I’ve posted but after reading one of David Park’s posts and getting majorly distracted from a Luke exegetical paper, I decided I needed to get back on the blog train 😉

Reading the post and then watching the young chinese guys discourse was quite difficult to take… This is a guy who goes to church and is just frustrated with what Christianity is (at least in his life experience). It’s funny because although a lot of what he said was kinda true and resonates with a lot of 2nd Generation Asian Christians, his reactions to injustice and hypocrisy in the church will probably go unwarranted because of a lack of grace in his words and tone. Sure Jesus spoke out against injustice and corrected others, but I think overall He always gave people a chance to think… the sign of a good teacher, not just someone who WHACKS truth into your face and expects you to take it.  Living, breathing Grace has been a huge lesson I’ve been learning lately. You will never be able to dialogue with others if the BEST you can do, is complain and go on the offensive to what is “wrong”.

Isn’t the chinese culture good at that? I actually remember in my past as a youngster in school, my marks were not the greatest, and I definitely was not the model student (nor am today, haha) but I tried hard when time came. Anyways, I remember the talks I had with my dad… we didn’t have the best of conversations… everytime we talked, he would tell me what I needed to improve on: SCHOOL. Seriously, anytime we talked, “So I was playing basketball…”

The response would be, “So that’s why your school marks are suffering”

If we started talking about my violin and piano lessons…

The response would be, “You got to practice more son… now what’s happening with your schoolwork?”

etc etc etc. Always school! Not so much in a concerned manner, not in an encouraging way (i.e. no grace), more so just to AWLWAYS say what I was doing WRONG.

To not drag this on for too long, my point is, for us to be able to undergo a process of orientation, disorientation and re-orientation by Brueggemann (HT Next Generasian)… I’m not sure we can do that without some form of Grace being shown. This can possibly be due in part with our chinese culture that does not teach through encouragement, but through discipline solely. But ya, trust me, I’ve been complaining the MOST in these parts of the chinese church in Toronto. It’s gotten nowhere quick.

Although I haven’t gone into issues that were touched in that youtube video such as the validity of mission trips and the labelling of christians vs non-christians… what I really want to say in this blog is this:

Will we choose to complain and put down the chinese church at hand, or will be put some action in something that does exemplify following Christ and putting some faith in the God who promises to finish the good that He starts in us? Will we choose to sit back and constantly be disheartened about the “powers that be” in place at the chinese church? Or will we question, re-form/re-group and try to live faithfully in the context that God is putting us in (whether IN a chinese church or some other place in the future)?

I can say, at least in Toronto, it is rare for a chinese church who ask good questions and are trying to reflect and live as faithfully to what they understand Christ’s message is… In my opinion, there are just not enough examples to learn from in this present time. My hope is that there will be less and less of those people on youtube reacting to the Church in that way and more who live it out. I’m waiting for some to join me over here…


Insights from Baptists…

February 19, 2007
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I did my occasional blog perusing today and I came across Steve McCoy’s blog, the Reformissionary, and heard that the Southern Baptist Baptist Identity Conference is going on. Even though I refrain from referring to myself as a “Baptist”, I’ve learned a lot from teachers and pastors in the Southern Baptist Denomination. Ed Stetzer, one of the guys I quoted two posts back spoke at this conference and I’m going to listen to his lecture in a bit.

Now the INTRIGUING part of why I’m mentioning this on this site is because a comment about Stetzer’s lecture that was left on McCoy’s recent post by another blogger.

“1) the conservative resurgence was a good thing in its emphasis on theology and biblicism, and (2) that it has failed to pass the test of producing lives (speaking generally as to its affect on the convention as a whole) more passionate about missions (cf. James 3:13). That is an absolutely stinging rebuke. This is our job brothers. This is where our theological enthusiasm must be channeled. We must transfer our theological passion into a fuel that drives contextualized evangelism. ”

I know some people who are really conservative in their doctrine and theology, and that can be good, if ONLY it drives that contextualized evangelism! I think it was a really ball-sy thing for Stetzer to say… ESPECIALLY when I gather that the Southern Baptist usually assume that the good theology and biblicism will equate to a strong passion for missions.

Even though there were only a few, reading those comments have been great!

There was also another comment about how the SB’s were losing creative people in their church (at least what they found).

My friends, this is the connection I’ve found. We are losing creativity in the chinese church.

We are losing the creative minds for simply intellectual minds. We are losing creative minds for emotionally-charged individuals who leave the church. Creativity is one of the keys to the local body of Christ simply because God calls us to be and honestly, we as chinese Christians don’t waiver in that direction much at all.

Not to simply make generalizations, but Chinese (and asians in general) have a need to do well in school so they can have good careers and make a decent living… thus the jokes about chinese people only wanting to be doctors, lawyers, etc. I think partially, our culture’s pressures has affected our possibilities for being more creative people than simply rational and intellectual. This is not to say rational and intellectual people can’t be creative, but I am just displaying the evidence that I have come across.

We need realize again the urgency to be creative and have outlets to execute these creative ideas in the church. Sometimes I find that when we start looking towards the need for creativity, some people get scared of all the work it will take to start something new or just to start thinking and dialoguing about something new to happen. Some people feel nothing is wrong, or say that everything is fine in the chinese church… when certain people say “that was good/ok/alright, it’s all in God’s hands”… FOR SURE, but it doesn’t give us an excuse to let things just be? ESPECIALLY as leaders. (I hate it when we cheapen God’s grace)

Well, I don’t have any practical examples on hand, but what I can promise is that I will be starting to think about more creative ways to allow for creativity to happen in the local chinese church…

Will somebody creative from the chinese church please stand up?


Posted in Chinese Church

Tired…

February 7, 2007
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Man, taking criticism is tough stuff!  But I guess that’s all part of life.

Having some thoughts about the Chinese Church, I think I’ve come to see some categories that I can parallel it to the people categories of the Ed Stetzer’s emerging church thoughts.

Relevants – I think there are some people who want to change the church to become more “relevant” to our culture.  They are passionate about the bible and for “orthodox” doctrine but want to change things about the church in terms of ecclesiology and practice.  This can probably include worship, preaching style, small group interaction, social Justice practice, etc.  This is all a focus of reclaiming a biblically centered approach to preaching the gospel but while keeping relevant to the culture around them.

Reconstructionists – Those who feel the current church model itself needs a change from its irrelevant structure.  So the change in church model needs to change to more about solely being “small groups” or perhaps even being a house church or something to that extent.  So in their rejection of organizational church models, they keep to a more orthodox teaching, but do it in another organizational way than the institutional church.

Revisionists – They are questioning everything about the church, doctrine and orthodox teaching, and end up with different theology and reasoning from the traditional church.  According to Stetzer, this seems to be more prevalent to younger evangelical types who are disillusioned with the current church in its teaching and structure.

I for one am very much more in line with being one of the Relevants.  I want to preach the gospel message, I do have questions that I am able to ask in seminary and shape my theology, but I also see the need to be relevant to this culture.  I think it does an injustice to “let things be” in our church.  People seem to cling to the concept of “Grace” to let things keep going on the way they are going.  I choose to the approach to question and do something about it.

It’s always going to be a risk in being prideful and think that as a 2nd Generation, one can know the ins and outs of chinese church and have a solution for everything… but I think with some more dialogue with 1st gen chinese Christians and conversing with my peers of the 2nd Generation, there can be a better synergy towards something better.

Something more faithful to the body that Jesus was talking about.  Especially to something more proactive than just something that is just unquestioned.

So in all,

Just let me QUESTION already :p (Cuz I will anyways 😉


The Disenchanting of the Chinese Church EM

January 30, 2007
6 Comments

Wow! A post! I know eh?

Anyways, I have been busy working in my own context at my church as the worship co-ordinator at the local chinese (mega) church and therefore have not put much time to blog. A reason I’m writing this post now is because I’ve realized that I better devote MORE time to writing down these thoughts instead of letting them consume me!

So I think I will start this post as n introduction to those in the local GTA area chinese churches who have become disenchanted with their churches. More and more, I am becoming introduced to Canadian-Born Chinese (CBC’s) here and there who have been struggling at their churches. I’ve realized one of the biggest stumbling block has been a leadership that does not understand the need of the english speaking culture of their church. The usual “speak” that I hear about CBC’s are that they are just too influenced by their western enculturated upbringing and just need to read the bible and listen to their elders and parents. I am probably going out on a bigger generalization than I could’ve, but I find the development of an English Ministry at a Chinese ethnic church has been slowed because so many things have been:

LOST IN TRANSLATION.

I got to say, the higher ups of these chinese churches do genuinely want to preach the good news to the people, but what do you do with ineffective preachers to another culture? Do you let a CBC who can only preach in english preach to a chinese congregation with broken CBC-ish chinese? HECK NO! So why vice-versa?

Many people say it is because the lack of resources in the chinese church that we can only use the cards we have been dealt with by God. I say that is just a bogus excuse to not try harder to encourage others who are called to preach to the CBC culture and just like SETTLE (referencing the biblical reference spoken at URBANA 06 about Terah just “settling” at Haran instead of going to Canaan). With all the recent talk about developing good lay leadership, I don’t think many Senior leaders of the Chinese church in general see that their lay leaders don’t even get the vision.

Where is the challenge? Where is the learning? Where is the mentoring?

Chinese people are good at realizing we need the best means to be efficient, but they are so terribly weak at being patient and taking time to mentoring. It’s all about respect. I think something that needs to be taken in mind seriously is to preach about the STRENGTHS and the WEAKNESSES of being Chinese in the church while also acknowledging that Christ has come to redeem, yes, even our culture (which is in dire need of redemption).

What can I do? Repent of my pride, pray that generational sins won’t set in, learn from people older than me, inspire and motivate others with the awesome teachings of Jesus in the bible, and just keep being a subversive influence in the Chinese Church.

Remember people, the Chinese Church is not the CHURCH. The prefix “Chinese” does not supersede “Church”. We may have an important ministry towards Chinese immigrants, but that isn’t the sole identity of the church as it has evolved to now.

No wonder so many young Chinese Christians are becoming or have already became disenchanted with the Chinese Church. All they see if a church geared towards one direction, and they are being pulled along for the ride. No wonder there are so many “chinese church shoppers” in Toronto.

By all means I do not think CBC Christians have much of anything down. Lacking in experience, doctrine and humility all the young usually do is “whine and complain” (this is coming from one of them, hehe). But overall, my point is that, there is more and more people becomign disenchanted with the Chinese Church because the challenge of following Jesus has been LOST IN TRANSLATION.

Weak preaching = Weak challenge

No Cultural Engagement = No understanding to that culture

Weak Worship = Unhappy Pappy (Genesis, Cain & Abel)

and etc…

So when will we start discussing some real ways to immediately jumpstart this battery-drained engine? Hopefully I got SOMETHING rolling… 😉


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