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Your time as an American-born Chinese (ABC) pastor under Overseas-born Chinese (OBC) church leadership at CIBC San Francisco couldn’t have been that horrible. There’s clear fruit. You had a significant hand at planting two churches from that congregation: Sunset Church and Marin Asian Community Church.
How did you relate as an ABC to OBC leadership?
Steve Chin wrote about submitting to OBC church leadership for the sake of the ABCs. [“God’s Double Blessing on the Church,” published February 1984.] He was a young fellow and early in his ministry, when we asked him to write an article for About Face. He’s [still] in Boston at the Chinese Evangelical Church (BCEC).
And I thought, that was an excellent attitude to have. You can’t demand to have what you want and split everything apart. So when it’s necessary, the ABC should accept the leadership of the church, so as to not split the church. And then to do what they can.
It was pretty much my attitude, when I came down to San Francisco (in 1971) to the Independent Baptist Church which was in a big brawl at the time. (laughs)
In discovering that I was becoming their new English Pastor, I told the ABC leadership that we’re going to adopt a non-fighting attitude. We will present our case. We will tell them what we want to do and why we need to do it. When we are in our business meeting, we will ask for permission to do so. If they decline it, we’ll accept that. We will focus on what we are given permission to do, and we’ll do a good job. And we will not seek to get even when they present a program they want to do. We will be supportive, unless somehow it is a violation of Scripture.
So we adapted that attitude, and in two years time, we were healed. We became a single church again.
It was at that time that I suggested, maybe we can start a church in Outer San Francisco. And so that was the beginning of the Sunset Chinese Baptist Church, in the Sunset [district of San Francisco]. They just call it the Sunset Church now. They are neither Baptist nor Chinese anymore. (laughs)
“Chinese” was also in the original name of the church you planted, Marin Chinese Christian Church. It’s now Marin Asian Community Church. If the congregation is English-speaking, can you help me understand why “Chinese” in its name?
I also learned from my brother-in-law, Sen Wong—I don’t know if you heard of Pastor Sen Wong. He passed away just earlier this year. He started the Bible Churches. There’s one in Sacramento, Chinese Grace Bible Church. He didn’t particularly start that one, but he planted a number of them: Stockton and Belmont and Oakland and Fremont and San Francisco. And their motto is: “The world our goal, the Chinese our view.” So he says, we’re trying to reach the world, but our focus is on reaching the Chinese.
I liked that, and so, when we started the Marin Chinese Christian Church, we asked ourselves: do we want to use the name “Chinese?” And my answer is yes, because that is the focus of our ministry. But we are not exclusive. We have no problem with any other nationality. But because there was no Chinese church in the county, we wanted to do a ministry targeting the Chinese people.
It is now called the, “Marin Asian Community Church.” (laughs) So they changed Chinese to Asian, because they started getting some Koreans in, some Japanese in. So, it’s okay.
Joseph Wong’s words have been condensed, edited and subtitled with permission.
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