We’re in a series that shares the thinking behind the 7 challenges that inform our mission.  We have been discussing challenge 2: the perceived irrelevance, and today, we will address how we’re sometimes thought so by Asian American churches.

 

Some Asian American church attendees feel that race, ethnicity and culture are irrelevant to Christianity

At some level, we all think about race, culture and ethnicity.  

Asian American churches are a gift to all of us 

What we propose

 

Asian American churches are obviously Asian American ministries, but sometimes the issues of Asian American ministries (race, ethnicity, culture, etc) are perceived as irrelevant by people in Asian American churches.

While Asian American churches may not use the same language as some Asian American ministries, and while race may be talked about in discomforting ways, at some level, we all naturally and profoundly think about culture, ethnicity and race.  Asian American churches are in a prime position to teach all Christians about who God is growing Asian American Christians to be.

By “Asian American churches,” AsianAmericanChristian.org means churches that have “Asian American” in their name or missional documents, as well as churches that are predominantly second+ generation Asian American.

 

   

Some Asian American church attendees feel that race, ethnicity and culture are irrelevant to Christianity

Our churches exist for the sake of evangelism.
We only want to think about Christ.
We don’t want to be angry, overly political or rock the boat.

Asian American Studies is by no means a college requirement.   “Systemic racism,”  “dominant culture,” “microagressions,” and perhaps even “racial reconciliation” are not terms we are all accustomed to hearing at church.    When some other Asian American Christians speak about race, ethnicity and culture, language is used that Asian American church attendees may not be familiar with, and perhaps rarely hear anywhere else.

Sometimes the tone of Christian race discussions is startling: it can seem aggressive, defensive and angry.  Such discussions may even feel alienating: racism may not be your experience.  (We’ll discuss this more in our next post.)   These topics can bring out the worst in people, sharpening divisions among Christians.

There’s a dissonance when some of us hear other Christians discuss race and faith.  AsianAmericanChristian.org wonders if the reasons could be cultural.

Cultures change so much, and there are too many exceptions to make definitive claims.  However, most of us won’t disagree that there’s generally a different vibe to people in Los Angeles compared to New York and that engineers have a different way of being than than for example, most kindergarten teachers.  Generalities can be helpful if we allow for exceptions and change.

When we say “culture,” we mean the culture of a group, the logic that people give to their world, a worldview.  We do not mean “the Culture” or the greater secular culture of  the World.

It is impossible to address all nuances of Asian, American and Christian cultures, so we will just touch on some examples here.

We don’t want to be angry, overly political or rock the boat.

Perhaps this can be understood by:

  • Asian culture (some Japanese/East Asian cultures):  Here is a famous Japanese proverb:  The nail that sticks up gets hammered down.  It’s important to fit in, to not draw too much attention to yourself, to blend with the group.  Another Asian American Christian discussing race is drawing attention to oneself and to all of us in an unwelcome way!  

  • American culture: While it’s acceptable in some circles to be political and to speak up, race and ethnicity are not really topics of everyday conversation.  America has not figured out a constructive way to talk about these issues, so it’s best to not talk about it.  Please, just stop.  This is not helpful.

  • Christian culture (some Evangelical subcultures):  “Good Christians” are never angry and never make trouble.  Talking about something as controversial as race and ethnicity makes trouble.

 

Our churches exist for the sake of evangelism.
We only want to think about Christ.

Perhaps this can be understood by:

  • Christian culture (Evangelical): Talk about race and ethnicity feels like a whiff of Liberal Christianity.  We’re real Christians; we believe Christ is divine and the Bible has authority.  Christ is all we need.  (We’ll discuss this more when we address seminary-trained Evangelicals.)

At some level, we all think about race, culture and ethnicity.
Being Chinese or Burmese is conscious and subconscious to us all the time.  We think about it when we want some thing to eat.  We think about it when we wonder how to best interact with people at work and in our families.  We joke about it, perhaps making cracks at “Asian time” or cataloging the  the funny things our parents say.

God made us Asian and American and Christian.  God put us in particular families and environments, and through these experiences and contexts that determine our thoughts, ways, preferences, behaviors etc, God made himself known to us.  Through ethnicity, race and culture, Jesus meets us in the flesh.  God knows us, personally and intimately as the Psalmist knows so well.  This is part of the awe of having a personal relationship with God!

You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.

For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well. (Psalm 139:1-3, 13-14)

 

 

 

Asian American churches are a gift to all of us.

Help us broaden this conversation and to speak about it in terms that will better serve all Asian American Christians.

The prevailing Asian American Christian discourse has been inspired by African American, Latino American, even Native American Christians, the Mainline church and Asian American Studies.  All Asian American Christians owe them a great debt of gratitude.  Many of the blessings we have today—the ability to live and thrive in the United States, access to schools, services and work, the chance to hear the Gospel—are because of these groups.  Because of their contributions and wisdom, some Asian American ministries have borrowed their models, their ways of expression.

It is time to develop our own terms for discussion, our own models for growth.  Most Asian Americans were not allowed into the United States until 1965; this makes Asian American Christians a new group compared to our minority counterparts.   We are gifted and vibrant group.   We are eager to grow and contribute because God has been so good to us!  We need platforms that will allow us to develop and contribute, on our own terms, in our own ways that fit us.

Asian American churches are a gift to all Asian American Christians.   Asian American churches are places where we can work out what it means to be Asian American Christian.  Your churches are places that create culture every time you gather.  You make culture when you worship in ways that help you meet God, when you lead Bible studies to fit your small groups, when you gather together for fellowship.  Every adjustment, large and small, makes things your own and incarnates the Gospel to fit your communities.  You thus can help all Asian American Christians know what we have to offer to multiethnic churches, first generation churches and the world.

AsianAmericanChristian.org wants to learn from you and work with you to know the ways that God is already working in our churches and communities.

 

 

What we propose

 

AsianAmericanChristian’s mission is to ask What is God doing in us? We want to ask you what you think God is doing among you as individuals, as families and as churches.

We want to hear and gather all Asian American Christian voices.  We want to gather your stories, survey you—we want to know the way you think about things, your analogies and terms.

From there, we want to look for trends, and address topics that concern us.  We want to widen our conversation beyond race and ethnicity, to help all of us figure out ways to address these topics together.   We want to gather pre-existing resources, we want to explore our reference points,  we want to acknowledge our history, our diversity and still get us all on similar pages.  We want to sponsor dialogues, seminars, conferences.  We want to build the inroads necessary for understanding, reconciliation and fellowship.

We want to reframe, resource and help pave the way towards unity in Christ, to do our part to unite with all Christians in the world, as Jesus prays in John 17:23b (also our vision):

May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you loved me.

For God’s glory, alone.

 

 

 

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Many perceive Asian American ministries as irrelevant.
ethnic churches – multiethnic churches – Asian American churches – emerging generations – seminary-trained Evangelicals – Asian American ministry alumni

We’re in a series sharing the thinking behind the 7 challenges that inform our mission. Our mission is to ask what God is doing in us, to hear and gather all Asian American Christian voices and to build inroads necessary for understanding, reconciliation and fellowship.

AsianAmericanChristian.org is a proposal for a new ministry that offers a framework and a way forward. If you’re wondering where these ideas are coming from, read this. If you’re interested and would perhaps like to join our feedback sessions this Fall, join our mailing list.

 

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