Emerging from the Chinese Church

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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The Messy Discussion of Sin

July 22, 2008
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So in this “postmodern” time, there’s been much opinion on the topic of sin.  Even the modern understanding of atonement has been challenged to become much more holistic to include not only sin atonement but different theories such as christus victor, ransom theory, etc.  I for one have been open to a larger conceptual understanding of sin and how God is dealing with it in Jesus, but on a practical level, I am completely STUNNED about how SIN is being perceived nowadays.

Am I the only one struggling through this concept?  It seems like the modern tendency is to become a “judgmental”, bible-bashing, moral christian who tells people that they are disobeying a wrathful, angry God who DESPISES sin.

The more “liberal” approach is to become more understanding of the “human condition” in which we are sinful but we can’t help but not engage the world thus, things like getting drunk, smoking, pre-marital sex, etc is something that is just normal.  God saves us anyways right?

I struggle through these things because I don’t see both sides as correct.  I DEFINITELY have not painted a legit picture of both sides, but I am engaged against both sides of this SIN understand everyday.

The reason I’m writing this blog is because I was talking to FRIEND A about FRIEND B who has more or less lost his passion for God.  FRIEND A believes we should stick by B and just be open to the day he does come back.  I’ve kind of gone on an approach where I’ve reminded B about his declaration of faith and how the worldly pleasures won’t satisfy him, but of course I got shelacked for that and now B doesn’t talk to me about deep things anymore.

I am reminded about Jesus telling His disciples to wipe the dust off their feet off people who do not listen to them, but I am fully aware of loving my brother back.  I guess I feel I am not as confident as I was before in my “bold approach”.  How do we stand firm in our commitment to the Word when we’re surrounded by “christians” who do not live it out?


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Kingdom of Self

June 8, 2008
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I was reading TallSkinnyKiwi’s recent posts and something hit me pretty hard just now.  But I digress, I have not told the whole story.

Yesterday, I got in an argument with my Fiancee (yes I proposed!) and it started as a harmless question but in the end caused me to reflect on my OWN thinking.  Basically, a waitress at the chinese restaurant, came and gave a bowl of chinese dessert to our table (as it is usually customary) and my Fiancee’s mom asked if the waitress could bring me a different one than originally ordered.  The waitress, sort of didn’t answer and just left the table… but then surprisingly came back with the aforementioned bowl of dessert!

Now, the argument was based on the fact that I didn’t seem appreciative of the extra dessert bowl.  Not that I think lowly of the retail/food industry people, but most of the time, I don’t think twice about whether or not they are trying to do things out of the “goodness of their heart” and I just take it for granted…  I honestly have other things on my mind.  But my Fiancee wouldn’t let go of the fact that I was so unappreciative!

Anyways, back to TSK’s blog, he was interviewing Ed Stetzer and Philip Nation for their new book “Compelled by Love” and I found one section in the interview fascinating:

ANDREW: What do you think is the greatest barrier for people in loving their neighbors?

ED and PHILIP: This is probably a longer answer, but I am feeling some anthropology coming on…

It is the natural inclination of men and women to avoid disequilibrium in their lives. They want to stasis… to get set, be in their own community, in their own tribe of like-minded people. They wish to be unbothered and unmolested by those who are different around them. Thus, people spend their lives building a construct of their own making which meets their own needs among their own people for their own purposes.

In other words, they build a kingdom of self.

Jesus comes in and not only demands and breaks down our kingdom but calls us to build his. So, his agenda must be supreme– not ours. His concern for the outsider is priority over our concern to create comfort and equilibrium in our own lives. The agenda of our lives must be for His glory, not our preferences. We are to live for his kingdom– and it is a kingdom of love.

God calls Himself love. He is love. So, if we call him savior, we must live lives shaped by love. Without a doubt, this becomes difficult because the entire fallen creation teaches us to make every experience about our kingdom of self.

Jesus instead tells us to make it about his agenda. In Mark 12:29-30, Jesus declares the Shema and pronounces what we call the Great Commandment. Because of the utter greatness of God, we are to love him supremely and love others richly.

I’m always struck that the Bible always tells us to love others. But there is a reason. Most of instructions in Bible are given to people doing the opposite of what it demands. In other words, if the Bible says “Quit sleeping around,” it means people are sleeping around. If the Bible says “Love one another as I loved you,” it tells us people are not as loving as they should be. That is why the gospel of Kingdom is so remarkable. It is not just a new leaf, it is a new way of life.

I’m still pondering the argument I had last night… but in light of this quote, I felt I’ve learned a bit of “truth” here.  Aren’t we all looking for the “static-ness”, to be comfortable, living for our own purposes?  Maybe it’s a stretch to love a waitress who was giving you attitude…  Maybe it’s just easier to say “I don’t care”, or “it doesn’t matter”…  Am I building my own kingdom now that I’m supposedly “maturing” through these stages of life?

In a sharing by the youth pastor at my church, he said that chinese people have many admirable qualities, especially when coming to a new country.  They will come and make supermarkets, sell products for less and stay open for longer hours.  Asians are GOOD at doing their jobs… 

…but are we good at loving?


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“Jumping the gun” in worship

May 27, 2008
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Just a quick thought,

I was going through some of the worship course material I went through at Southern (SBTS) in Louisville and was going over notes from a sermon by Dr. Al Mohler, SB El Presidente himself.  Although I am not sure Mohler is the best authority on engaging culture biblically (I’m sure I’ll get crucified for that remark), I do appreciate some things he brought to my attention in the video sermon.

As a Worship Pastoral Intern at my church, there are many issues I’ve faced in helping our congregation become a worshiping body.  I think more and more I am convinced that the reasons we worship are either unclear or have been forgotten.  I hope that through good teaching, guiding, mentoring and leading there can be a change in that attitude especially in worship.

Dr. Mohler brings up three points I wanted to throw out:

1) We have to see ourselves as sinners

2) We have to see ourselves as sinners (Isaiah: “I am Undone…”) – Ref. Psalm 51

3) A display of redemption (which is a proclamation of the gospel)

Not that these three points sum up what worship is, but it was a big part of what I believe a Christian worldview to be.  I especially like that in the third point, Mohler makes it a point that he sees that in point 3, we JUMP TO QUICKLY to the understanding of the PARDONING of sin before we understand the PURPOSE OF THE PARDONING. I totally agree!  We can’t lose the form and understanding of worship and this worldview.  When we start off with only the notion of redemption and salvation, we slowly let pride creep in and the grace we have received will be taken for granted.

What does that mean for a Chinese Church culture in Toronto?

I think that means as worship leaders in the chinese church in Toronto, we need to recover our understanding of sin and repentance in the worship service.  If necessary, teach once in a while through song, or scripture this worldview.  Sinners in need of a Savior.  Keep at it!  To my Korean brethren “FIGHTING!”


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The Chronicles of Chinese Suburbia: Prayer Meetings

May 23, 2008
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I figure coinciding with CON-PC, I would also post the Chronicles of Chinese Suburbia!  So something that I have been drowning in for the past while has been… Chinese Church Prayer Meetings.

Prayer.  C’mon.  What church does NOT believe in prayer?  I’m sure no self-proclaimed Christian would not say that prayer is ineffective and not worth the time.  Now I could also say that no CHINESE Christian would also say prayer has no purpose or is a waste of time, but now let’s look at the facts:

– I am 99.99999% sure that almost all the prayer meetings in the chinese church are held by their CORE members (deacons, pastors, etc)

– I am also sure that most of the emerging generation does not join these people in their prayer meetings.

– Despite numerous attempts to advertise prayer as an important part of the church or community, numbers dwindle in the chinese church prayer meetings more so than ever.

Ok, these “facts” are not really facts, but you get my drift.  Why is prayer as a community so “uncool”, so “unimportant”, even a deterrant?  I for one, honestly haven’t been to prayer meetings in a while.  I guess I’m a hypocrite on this one, but it’s not because I don’t WANT to pray, it’s because I feel like I want to pray with my community, not just my co-workers or elders in the congregation!

I wonder if this is a common phenomena in the chinese church in that there is a generational rift in terms of feeling “comfortable” praying with each other on a regular basis.  Sure there are fellowship programs or for university students there are campus groups to pray with.  But isn’t there POWER in praying together as the local church body???  Doesn’t bringing our requests and thanksgiving to the Lord in prayer connect us as a community of faith in Christ?  Why is it so hard to pray together as a congregation of diverse generations!!!

First of all, I’ve heard it all, start your own prayer meeting.  That’s a possibility.  But that could undermine the prayer meeting in place already.  Secondly, commit to that prayer meeting already and influence others to come.  I would also ask the question whether this meeting is the best means for the community to connect together (especially if the time is used wisely enough).

Most prayer gatherings (especially chinese) seem to need elements like music-worship or music in the background to get things “rolling”.  I find that sometimes that is distracting from the goal of gathering together to pray!  We come together to pray (and we set aside the time itself), why can’t we JUST PRAY.  It’s like we need a whole “small service” just because it’s a church-wide event!

Anyways, that’s my rant on prayer meetings in the chinese church, here are some thoughts I’ve considered:

– Since we all recognize prayer time as a community does not have to be restricted to the “PRAYER MEETING” time, can’t we be more fluid?  Pray as a group when there are people there together?

– Is it fine to just pray in our small/cell groups or fellowship and be fine with those “prayer meetings”?

– Prayer is integral to our lives and needs to be the lifeblood of our church community, but how important is the “prayer meeting” event itself?  Can we do without it and start something more creative?  What would that look like?

– Should we TRY HARDER to bridge the generations and “cultures” to pray together?  or try to be more accomodating and fluid?

“pray Continually; – 1 Thess 5:17”


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Blogging, worthwhile investment?

May 22, 2008
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Since I had the time today, I figured I’d finally put down a thought or two.

Every so often I’ve been contemplating whether to blog my thoughts or not.  I’ve felt for the past while it’s been tough to really put down my thoughts.  Whether this is a good place to share some thoughts about the chinese church and blog some thoughts that will hopefully stir, inspire and motivate those who are sorta in my same position.

Just a question to throw out (I hope I don’t sound like a broken record from my previous blog), is blogging about the chinese church really worthwhile?  Does it help anything?  Is blogging a “postmodern” way to “rally the troops”, to influence people to anything different?  Maybe this question is rhetorical, but does the Spirit causes revival/renewal through blogs and internet web posts?

I guess I’m just trying to find motivation (or an excuse) to blog again.  I have TONS of thoughts everyday about “Emerging from the Chinese Church”… I guess I just need some reasons to stick my neck out to just say it as it is again.  In the next year I will be done my seminary studies and moving on to (hopefully) pastoring.  I am thinking more and more about the future of faith in the next generation next gen asian christians (and beyond).

So again, whatch’all think?


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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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