Archives For Asian Church

our calling in life…

August 22, 2008 — 4 Comments

“Every assignment that God gives His people is His primary means of sanctifying His leader.”

These are the words of Crawford Loritts that have encouraged me today.  In a sermon entitled The Call to Courage from the 2008 Desiring God Pastor’s Conference, Loritts digs out an amazing insight from Joshua 1:1-9 regarding the calling that God has given us and how God uses it to sanctify us.

Here it is:

“Every assignment that God gives His people is His primary means of sanctifying His leader…some of us are getting burnt out because we are separating the sanctification process from our ministry. I understand boundaries, rest, variety in life, etc…

…but the very thing that God is using to draw you to Himself is the calling that He has given you.”

Wow.

The primary calling that God has given me is to love God and love others.  More specifically, he is calling me to do that through pastoral ministry.  Getting even more specific, God has given me a desire to minister to those who are intercultural (those people who are attempting to balance their different cultural backgrounds and upbringings).  And to really hone in on exactly what God is calling me to do – he has given me a calling to minister to 2nd generation Asians (those born and raised in a country that their parents immigrated to) and to those who minister to 2nd gen Asians.

Perhaps that is why I am so energized and have such a renewed sense of calling upon coming back from ministering to 2nd gens in Korea?

In many Asian cultures, false humility is rampant. Helen Lee, in Growing Healthy Asian American Churches, describes false humility to be “humility in the guise of deference.” For example, in a situation when a person is asked to perform a respectable task, many Asians will automatically reply with a humble “no,” even though they know that they are more than competent to do the task. In the same situation, a Westerner would typically jump at the opportunity to get ahead of the pack. Why is there such a difference? What’s the motivation?

Many Asians do this, Helen Lee states, “to avoid potential conflict or embarrassment.”

In other words, many Asians (mostly Confucian-based Asian Cultures) are influenced by the motto – “The nail that sticks up gets nailed down.” However, the motto in the West is – “The early bird gets the worm.

That’s all fine and good, but what about people like me? I’m neither Asian nor Western – I’m both! So how do I reconcile these seemingly contrary qualities?

Well, as a Korean-Canadian, the Asian side of me seems to be much more dominant than the Western side. In other words, my soul hates conflict and doesn’t like to stand out, but my brain knows that I need to put my foot forward if I want to thrive in this Western culture I live in. So is there a constant battle going on within myself? Is there this constant struggle between my Asian “ness” and my Western “ness”? Do I have symptoms of schizophrenia??

Haha…no’p!

Here is how I reconcile it: Instead of placing my foundational identity in my Asian “ness” or in my Western “ness”, I place the roots of my identity in Christ Jesus. I find my identity and my acceptance in Him. After that, I do whatever I need to do to thrive (notice that I’m saying thrive and not survive) and work in excellence.

Thus, although I hate conflict, when I know that someone or something needs to be confronted, I will suck it up, and I will do it. When I know that there is a significant opportunity to advance my knowledge or my experience, I will put my foot forward and volunteer myself. Is that because I am more Western than Asian? No, I don’t think so. I believe it’s because I’ve learned to mold the two cultures into one – a uniquely Korean-Canadian Daniel Sangi Im.

What about you?

The New Testament and Multi-Ethnic Groups

When examining the incarnation, the apostles, the early church, and the eschatological vision in the New Testament, the ethnic picture is unambiguously multi-ethnic. This is best portrayed by looking at the very first multi-ethnic church.

The Church in Antioch as a Model for the Multi-Ethnic Church

The very first multi-ethnic church in the history of Christianity was not established by the Holy Apostles, but it was a handful of “Christians” (Acts 11:26) who, obeying Jesus’ words in the Great Commission and the Ascension, traveled to the “ends of the earth” – Antioch – to “make disciples of all nations.”

Antioch, the “religiously pluralistic and pleasure seeking” urban port city was “the provincial capital of Syria,” and “the third largest city in the Graeco-Roman empire after Rome and Alexandria.” As a result of the city’s multi-ethnic demographic, there was constant interaction between “Syrians, Romans, Greeks, Arabs, Persians, Armenians, Parthians, Cappadocians, and Jews,” which created a cultural ethos of “hatred and fear rooted in intense ethnic antagonisms.” Thus, in this global and urban port-city, the first multi-ethnic church was formed.

The church in Antioch was multi-ethnic because it was a community of faith that was composed of more than two different ethnicities, where not one ethnicity held a significant majority. For example, the leadership of the church consisted of one Jew from Jerusalem (Barnabas), another Jew from Tarsus that was also a Roman citizen (Paul), a black African (Simeon who is called Niger), a man from “the capital city of Libya in northern Africa” (Lucius of Cyrene), and the step-brother of Herod Antipas, a Roman tetrarch (Manaen).

Not only was the leadership of the church multi-ethnic, but so was the congregation. And not only was the congregation multi-ethnic, but so was the city.

Obviously, a multi-ethnic church isn’t something that can be realized everywhere, but should they not be much more evident in multi-ethnic metropolitan cities?

(Sources Cited: Ken Shigematsu, Thomas V. Brisco, Michelle Slee, Crutiss Paul DeYoung, Michael O. Emerson, George Yancey, Karen Chai Kim)

Is the debate between mono-ethnic and multi-ethnic churches merely a twenty-first North American phenomenon, or is there wisdom to glean from the Israelites and the early church?

The Old Testament and Multi-Ethnic Groups
Despite the assumption that God developed a multi-ethnic vision in the New Testament when the risen Christ commanded the apostles to “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19), God was actually concerned with all cultures from the moment he created the first one!

Even though God chose Abraham and his lineage to be the specific nation to bring about his redemptive plan (Genesis 12:1-3), nowhere does God state that this nation should be exclusive or ethnocentric. This specific nation, later named the Israelites, had always been multi-ethnic in makeup, beginning with the patriarchs. For example, Jacob’s family had “Aramean, Amorite, Canaanite, and Egyptian elements within it.” Also, Moses and many of the other Israelites married non-Israelite women (Moses married a Cushite). Even when studying Jesus’ genealogical history (Matthew 1), one notices that non-Israelites, such as Ruth and Rahab, were incorporated, not only into the nation of Israel, but also specifically into the genealogy of the Messiah.

In addition to being a multi-ethnic nation, one notices that God is deeply concerned for all cultures in the Old Testament, just as much as he is in the New Testament (Psalm 24:1; Isaiah 66:18-19). This multi-ethnic vision in Isaiah 66:18-19 is very reminiscent of the biblical vision in Revelation 7:9-10. Ergo, it is evident that God, as described in the Old Testament, is a multi-ethnic God, and his chosen nation is a multi-ethnic nation

When reflecting on the magnificent vision that John had regarding the Church in Revelation 7:9-10, I cannot help but wonder if contemporary twenty-first century North American churches are embracing this future eschatological revelation.

If God gathers individuals “from every nation, tribe, people and language,” (Rev. 7:9) into his Kingdom, then why are mono-ethnic churches increasingly prevalent in a North America that is progressively becoming multi-ethnic?  Why does segregation, violence, and hate amongst people of different ethnicities, races, and cultures exist?  If it is truly the People of God being described in this biblical passage, then why is there not more harmony and reconciliation amongst the People of God here in North America?

Do mono-ethnic churches, perhaps, add to the existing disunity amongst the People of God, or are they merely indifferent to this biblical vision?  Maybe multi-ethnic churches are the answer to fulfilling this biblical vision in twenty-first century North America, but what exactly does a multi-ethnic church look like?