Oct 292013

Here at the Raw Church unconference yesterday and today, and boy have the conversations and topics been RAW. Covering quite the gamut of the human condition (and some would prefer to use the term human depravity) and the brokenness we experience — rawchurch-v2-w-bg-300x65 adultery, sex abuse, divorce, multiple divorces, unexpected death, mental illness, terminal disease,  race & faith, scandals, addiction, sexuality, shame, pride, self-righteousness, judgementalism, religion, power, gender, bigotry, parenting, prisons, healing, relationships, recovery, restoration, redemption, and so many more… heavy and intense things that you don’t hear talked about in most churches. Here’s the thing, if you can’t talk about brokenness and healing in church and it’s not a safe place, where can you? Where can people truly experience the gospel of grace if not for the healing that must come from community, the body of Christ?

So this little unconference had 50+ people participate, with no speakers paid nor did attendees pay. Thanks to Sandals Church for the space to gather. Thanks for Tony Ferraro and Scott Overpeck for partnering and collaborating with me to pull this gathering together. (the 3 of us, Tony, Scott, and I were the core team coordinating this, and many others gave of their time and effort to participate)  Through the generosity of everyone involved and getting free of the entanglement of “value exchange,” quite a number of transformational conversations happened.

Can you imagine how much more good could happen if people collaborate, and money didn’t matter and money wasn’t a constraint because it’s a non-issue? Some things just need to happen; we can’t let money get in the way and we can’t wait for the market to catch up. (Yes, I realize most of us have to pay the bills, and I do too; and with the bills paid, many of us still have time & energy that can be used for something beyond conventional volunteering for existing non-profit ventures, though of course that’s needed too.)

It’s my hope that the Raw Church unconference is an example of new non-profit innovations; my Social Media Church podcast is another example. I talked about this wild idea of innovating without money on a recent episode: What can you do with $0 budget?

What do you think? Is there something to this, or am I off my rockers?

Oct 212013

[I won't be able to make this event, but you and Asian American church leaders and pastors should. Limited space is running out!]

Please join us for a FREE lunch and a panel discussion on “Shared Power-Learning to Lead Well.” We will discuss issues such as authority, abuses of power, and how to empower staff and lay leaders. Our outstanding panel includes Dr. Joe Hellerman (Talbot); Dr. Erik Thoennes (Biola); Rev. Steve Choi (Crossway); and Rev. Daniel Low (Bread of Life).

We will be giving away free copies of Dr. Hellerman’s new book “Embracing Shared Ministry” to the first 100 people to register and attend the luncheon. Please e-mail Hyo Kim at [email protected] or Terrence Shay at [email protected] to register. An email will be sent out to confirm your registration and reserve your book.

Registration Deadline: Fri (10/25) or until spaces are filled.

This event is sponsored by Talbot’s Asian-American Doctor of Ministry Track. Co-sponsors: NexGen and Jama’s New Awakening ’13


Oct 202013

Here’s a user’s guide to a library of content that will guarantee your offending Asians and Asian Americans. As someone who has watched more stand-up comedy than the average person, with comedian wannabe as my childhood dream (and still a search phrase currently ranked #1 on Google), a large portion of comedy in America today has subject matters that are patently offensive, profane, provocative, objectionable, unclean & dirty jokes. All that to say, I personally have a higher level of tolerance for offensive content used in comedy; most people will not tolerate offensive content, and as such, I strongly suggest that you do not ever use any of the subject matters illustrated in these videos below. What seriously crosses the line is when people use Asian stereotypes unknowingly and unintentionally.average_asian

To illustrate what subject matters are totally offensive to Asian Americans and Asians of all stripes, you may consider watching this YouTube playlist of MADtv videos from their “Average Asian” series. Wikipedia described this series of skits as follows: “involved an Asian-American man named Hideki (Bobby Lee) in social settings, where those around him expect him to do stereotypically-Asian things, such as practicing Chinese medicine or creating origami. Out of these various stereotypes, few were proven true; one showing Hideki beating a non-Asian in table tennis and another where he calls a group of ninjas to attack.

PARENTAL ADVISORY/OBJECTIONABLE CONTENT ALERT: there is offensive content through and through in these MADtv videos, not only racially insensitive stereotypes but also sexual innuendos and more offensiveness. If you’re not offended by any of these videos, you just might be an insensitive redneck. You’ve been warned.

Oct 162013

I am an unconventional ideator and that’s made my life harder than most people in this real world. Here’s a real- life example I’m blogging while standing in TSA line for security check.

Returning a rental car with a full tank of gas is a must for avoiding exorbitant service fees. So I pull up to the nearest gas station near Nashville BNA airport.

I pull up behind another car at the 1st pump and I’m at pump #2. Turned off the engine. Stepped up to swipe my credit card and then I see a handwritten note that the credit swiper is not working. I walk inside to talk with the cashier. This conversation followed:

I asked, “I saw the sign on pump #2 but can I pay on a credit card inside?”

Cashier: “No. There’s a sign on pump 2 that says the swiper is not working.”

Me: “Yes, I read the sign and that’s why I’m here to ask if I can pay by credit card inside.”

Cashier: “No. You can only pay cash here or go use another pump.” (Now my brain parts are triggering a little frustration and creativity to find another way.)

Me: “Can I use my credit card to buy this?” (Pointing to aspirin on the shelf.)

Cashier: “Yes.”

Me: “So why can’t I pay for gas by credit card here?” (Pulling out wallet, showing credit card, pointing to swiper at cash register.)

Cashier: “No, you can only pay cash here.”

#sigh Okay, fine. I open the cash portion of my wallet, pull out a $5 and rigidly hand that to him. “This is for pump #2 but I won’t need that much gas, so I’ll be back. (For the change)”

Cashier takes cash. I go out to pump gas and stop at $4.25 and walk back inside. I ask for my change and said “and I’ll need a receipt, please.”

Cashier gets me change and receipt. I said “thank you”, a sincere nod, and walk away. He said nothing on this interchange.

Some people can only see 2 ways to do things, yes or no, my way or the highway, here’s the prescribed rules and that’s all. Discussion closed.

This is my sharing of a real-life personal isolated incident, with no intention to connect it to other things going on in my life. But, for some high-context people, you/they might read into this, and come to a different conclusion. That’d be a case where intention doesn’t match impact for some.

Oct 102013

I love the Church capital C and all of its complexity, flavors, and even occasional messiness. During the past few days I was invited to teach 2 workshops, an overview of the multi-site church revolution and the Future of the Asian American Church. I love being with church leaders, affirming them, supporting them, connecting them with resources, and dreaming about a better future. So energizing for me!

This has been more than just an event; I’ve also been invited to the table, participating in several meetings of next-generation Asian American pastors during the Exponential West planning process — cf. A Vibrant Future for Asian and Hispanic Church Planters: Facing Opportunities and Challenges @ Exponential Blog. The intentionality, the genuine learning posture of learning I’ve experienced with the Exponential key leaders, Dave Ferguson and Todd Wilson, along with their team, have been particularly refreshing, hopeful, and empowering. (Having been around my share of majority-culture-wanting-to-diversify strategy meetings, I’ve experienced the disappointing let-down of quick discussions that get factored into short-term goals and getting tasks done.)

As we American evangelicals learn how to become a multiethnic church, we are venturing into uncharted territory and there will be turbulence at times. (Actually, becoming multiethnic is just plain messier but also more rewarding.) Unexpectedly, we hit turbulence on conference day 1 when the comedic element of a parody video based on Karate Kid unintentionally triggered uneasiness and offensiveness for some attendees, in particular, Asian Americans, because of its portrayal of Asian stereotypes like bad accents and kung-fu fighting. (I use the ambiguous term “some” to avoid quantifying or marginalizing because every person’s perspective and voice is significant in the Kingdom of God methinks.) Concerns and frustrations were voiced thru email, in-person conversations, as well as the public square of social media.

I started working the back channels to bring about a better resolution to this incident than “a quick apology and let’s move on.” I commend the Exponential team for attending to the feedback, while upholding their immediate responsibility of running a conference for 2,000 people, and making room in their busy schedule to meet, to learn, and to begin working towards healthy change.

Let me give a brief update to open up healthy communications and how we’re working towards a better long-term resolution. After the end of the conference, a meeting of 4 leaders from the Exponential team met with 4 Asian Americans and myself (so that makes 5 Asian Americans). We met for almost 30 minutes and the Exponential leaders held a sincere posture of listening and learning, not defensively rationalizing, and I believe everyone felt heard. What’s confusing for non-Asians, perhaps, is the diversity of reactions to the very same video – some were offended, not so much for themselves but for the sake of the Gospel witness if an Asian American who was not a Christian were to see it, while at the same time, some Asian Americans were not offended at all and found the video hilarious.

As the conversations wrapped up in prayer, there was a genuine consensus for all parties involved to stay engaged conversation to work out a new redemptive story that’s different from the past, to deepen mutual understanding, to keep a learning posture, and to stay on mission together for the sake of the Gospel.

I’m anticipating this will be the first blog post of several, or even many, as this is a multi-layered conversation with lots of history, frustrations, offenses, and strained relationships. As much as I love social media, it’s too easy a place to air dirty laundry and escalate misunderstandings; it’s a terrible place to work out lasting reconciliation and institutional change. This is a work in progress.

To my Asian American brothers and sisters – I kindly ask you to not to respond to this incident by venting more of your hurts and frustrations from this and past incidents all over social media, but do find a good & safe place in real space with people to express those hurts where it can move towards healing, and learn with us and seek understanding; stay tuned as we continue working on this incident. I sincerely invite you to add a comment here so we can have constructive conversations that will craft a new future together. You may also give me a call at 949-243-7260 so I can unpack more of this with you in real-time, and I will do my best to be a good listener; my doors are open for dialogue.

And to my Anglo and non-Asian brothers and sisters – empathy is hard work and the role that media has in powerfully shaping and distorting our perception is particularly hurtful to minorities in a majority culture. You have no idea, granted. I’ll say this for starters as someone actively engaged in multiethnic relationships and dialogue: Anglo cultural humor is comparatively much less sensitive, thus insensitive, than minority culture humor. Only in Anglo culture can you have a comedian that gets laughs by insulting people. Offensive everywhere else. Hello. Unheard of in any other cultures. This is a huge opportunity and open door to bear with one another’s burdens, hear one another stories, choose love over cheap laughs… And I confess, I’m not as sensitive as more high-context culturally shaped people, so I’ve made my share of unintentionally offenses, even refraining from communion for a whole year (cf.Mt 5:23-24) to show my contrition.

The internet opens all our churches and ministries to public view of the entire world. How we carry conversations online bears much witness to what God can do when we take the time to listen, connect, and stay engaged.

Forgive me for words I’ve chosen imperfectly to express my encouragements; if you have better words to carry us forward together, let me know graciously. I’ll gladly receive all the help I can get.

[update 10/12/13] Exponential Addressing Asian-American Leaders’ Concerns
Exponential Addressing Asian-American Leaders’ Concerns

Oct 092013

Thanks for all who came to our workshop session on the Future for the Asian American Church at Exponential West 2013. Asian Americans are the fastest growing racial/ethnic group in America today, and exponential numbers of next-gen multi-Asian churches are being planted that better reach the next generations of not just Asian Americans but also multiethnic America. Here’s the slides and links to references mentioned and a some bonus links too:

Pew Research Report – The Rise of Asian Americans
#article “O.C. exports Asian American churches to the world” (OC Register, January 2013)
Ambassador Network -  launching multiplying, multiethnic, and missional churches
Oct 082013

I’m talking at Exponential West 2013 about multi-site churches, one church in multiple locations, at a workshop session this afternoon. The number of multi-site churches has grown exponentially worldwide from around 100 in 1996 to more than 5,000 by 2012. Here are the slides, links, and resources.

Leadership Network‘s multi-site church resources - concept papers, FAQs, blog posts

Multi-site churches mentioned: Onnuri, Hillsong, LifeChurch.tv, McLean Bible Church, Westside Family Church, North Coast Church, Saddleback Church, Community Christian Church, Stillwater United Methodist Church, Harbor Presbyterian Church, New Hope Oahu

Map of multi-site churches at MultisiteSolutions.com/map

#article The Seven Most Important Questions When Going Multisite by Dave Ferguson (in Enrichment Journal)

#article Inspired by Starbucks: Charismatic Pastors Grow New Flocks Overseas, Using Satellites, DVds and Franchise Marketing To Spread Their Own Brand of Religion. (Wall Street Journal, June 2008)

#article Liquid Church Merges with Historic 190-Year-Old Congregation for ‘Rebirth’ (Christian Post) and video about new Mountainside campus

#video Greg Ligon: The best format for multisite ministries (innovate4jesus)

#download Should Your Church Go Multi-site?: A Self-Diagnostic Tool