Jan 272014

I confess that I have an uneasy relationship with money. And having spent a decade of my life preparing for being a pastor, I’ve given these related topics more than the average Joe or Jane. (This blog post is more of a stream-of-conscience thinking-my-confusion-out-loud, so the ideas here may not be entirely coherent and should not be quoted as such in publications or what have you.) And, granted, I live in a privileged first-world context where I have been blessed with the luxury to contemplate about money, instead of having to use all time and energy living from paycheck to paycheck, or worse.money

With recent media exposure of pastors making a lot of money from churches and Christian ministries and books and conferences (cf. Preachers of LA reality television show, scrutiny about Pastor Steven Furtick’s new home, Pastor Ed Young Jr.’s reality TV show in the works, ad nauseum), it stirs up my own discomfort with money, and what I mean by that is, those examples tend to reinforce my discomfort and dislike for money. And it’s also been noted by our US government: Large churches have come under severe criticism for being impersonal and motivated by money. In 2008, several megachurches came under IRS scrutiny due to the wealthy lifestyle of the pastors, and some of those pastors resisted investigation.

I’ve realize that many (or most?) people who like money, or love money, and want to have more of it, even working hard for it, or whatever it takes, even in ministry. But that’s not me. That’s not to say I don’t need money; I do need money because I have bills to pay and I am not financially independent.

The Bible has a lot to say about money, how the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils (1 Timothy 6:10), how a person cannot serve God and money (Matthew 6:24; Luke 16:13), and your heart will always be where your treasure is (Matthew 6:21; Luke 12:34). Those don’t resolve this dilemma for me, the desire to have good motives and then what to do with money.

There is clear biblical justification for a person to do the work of Christian ministry and earn money from it, by being financially supported by others, as it is written: “… the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel.” (1 Corinthians 9:14) There it is, it’s biblical to have paid pastors.

Getting paid for doing ministry is a right, a good thing, but it’s not a necessary thing. The minister can choose to opt-out. First example of this is the bi-vocational Apostle Paul, who did the work of ministry (and it is work, hard work) while funding it by himself in the tent business. He explained it in 1 Corinthians 9:15-18, “But I have not used any of these rights… that in preaching the gospel I may offer it free of charge, and so not make full use of my rights as a preacher of the gospel.

And when a minister does opts-out and does ministry without getting pay, that’s commendable, and it gets unusual attention from everyone. Newsweek (in 2005) noted that Pastor Rick Warren returned ”.. his own salary back to his church, retroactively, for the past 25 years… and to “reverse tithe”: he gives away 90 percent of what he earns.” (Disclosure: I attend his church, Saddleback Church)

When money is taken out of the ministry equation, it’s a whole different game. Getting money out of the way is one way to ensure altruism, or at least, to get the motive of greed crossed off the suspect list. Money does muddle motives but it doesn’t have to. There you have it: one way to unmuddle motives, the money motive anyways, is to opt-out of getting paid for ministry. A second way, is to take a reasonable salary commensurate with the average member in the congregation. And then there’s Antioch Community Church in Waco, Texas. Since its formation, the church has paid all of its staff members the same annual salary, which is currently $26,400. The only difference in pay is compensation for dependents.

What do you think? Add a comment with other good ideas to keep the money motive in check, both for the spiritual health of the pastor as well as a more effective public witness for Gospel proclamation.

Aside: Recently, Cameron Lee (Professor of Family Studies at Fuller Theological Seminary) posted a more thorough treatment in his blog series “Money and Ministry” with 4 posts– part 1, 2, 3, 4.

(photo credit: thomashawk)

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.

Aug 112013

Grateful for each and every opportunity I have to connect with people and to speak at an event. Last Sunday I was invited to speak at a Chinese church in Walnut, California, called Vineyard of Harvest. As with a majority of Chinese churches in the United States and Canada, worship services are provided in English and Chinese. At this church, they have 3 separate worship services for Cantonese, Mandarin, and English. I spoke in English at the Mandarin worship service, and someone bi-lingual stood by me doing live phrase-by-phrase translation. The audio to this message titled “Becoming a Church from Generation to Generation” and the slides (also bi-lingual) are online:

This particular Chinese church worship service was unlike any other Chinese church worship services I’ve ever been to, in a good way, and thus redemptive and renewing for me. The energy in the room was expectant, expressive, joyful, and celebratory. I spotted 3 or 4 expressive people worshiping through the waving of banners, in the corners of the auditorium, as to not be distracting. The auditorium and the rest of the building had bright colors painted on the walls, signage was clear everywhere, people were expressively friendly and kind (whether they knew I was the guest speaker or not was a non-issue). The Senior Pastor gave a warm introduction for me and guided people through the post-sermon response time with tremendous energy and enthusiasm. This church seems so receptive to the message that their church was not just for them, and not just for Chinese people. The church is for all peoples, all nations, and all generations. So great to see an ethnic Asian church that’s growing their heartbeat to be more like God’s heart for all peoples, for healing and wholeness, for the next generations to take ownership for their faith through multiplying churches and church planting, and for prioritizing the Gospel above cultural forms.


Jul 202013

Every individual is uniquely gifted, talented, with innate strengths and abilities to more easily develop skills in certain areas of work and find it very challenging to learn other skills.

And in our time and age, the opportunities for entrepreneurs and fundraisers are greatly needed, and even increasing, amisdt disruptive economic realities. The heightened volume of content and books and courses point to this, and the subtle unstated assumption is that anybody can do this. The books encouraging the like of a $100 startup, creating your own career doing what you love, and career coaching that steers you to incorporate your passion into your job search may be well-intentioned, and some of it may be making the most of a business profit-making opportunity because that’s what sells in the marketplace where consumers play into the so-called law of supply and demand.

But all this also leads to quite a bit of frustration, I’d venture to say, because it takes more than following the ten steps on how to do that thing to actually make it work and to reach success. The X-factor in launching a successful startup or fundraising as the economic-engine of your career has to do with who you’re innately created to be. Most people don’t have the built-in makeup to be the entrepreneur or to be the fundraiser; I’ve read statistics as low as 10% of people have the entrepreneural gift. I’ve also recently heard from the director of a church planting asssessment process that only 53% of people pass their assessment to proceed with their entrepreneural church startup effort, of which entrepreneuring is pretty essential and many other ingredients.

I write all of this as a confession, that at this point in my life, I am not one of them. I have my doubts if I ever will be, because those aren’t the cards I was dealt. I have tried freelancing and fundraising for the past 6 months or so, and it has not worked, at least not worked well enough for me to be doing this full-time. Since I am not financially-independent, I do need full-time work to pay the bills. And,my passions do not fit into the constraints of the free-market economy as it is. Yes, I could have worked harder and smarter at it, but when I work against my own DNA, it’s not healthy either. Without an emotionally healthy career, the whole thing could implode on a pretty short timeline.

I started to circulate my resume around a couple of months ago, going the conventional route of job search, and in due time God provided, and I am ever grateful. As unconventional as I am and can best thrive when I have supporting connective relationships, I had to go a conventional route with work. I hope to share more about this work in the future when the timing is right.

This journal entry is to share the back story for my inconsistency with blogging, my personal struggle with career development that remains elusive for most of my life, and to thank the regular readers and occasional readers of my blog. Your feedback is most welcomed.

Jul 142013

Very privileged to get a tremendous opportunity last month to speak during a Sunday worship service at an ethnic Chinese church in Austin, Texas. The message was very well received, I think. The sermon was translated live side-by-side, phrase-by-phrase, from English to Mandarin Chinese, and that was followed by like 20 minutes of interactive Q&A, plus I was counseling afterward for another hour. For those of you that have your pulse on viral videos (5M+ views), the translator was Jia Jiang of the 100 Days of Rejection Therapy notoriety. Listen/download the audio:


Very grateful for the opportunity and the receptiveness. What I experienced was just how much emotion is under the surface for my kin among the Chinese/Asian people, but it’s too often unexpressed and suppressed, so when there is an inviting and safe opportunity to begin exploring those feelings, it can be a rather surprising and even disorienting experience. That’s how I interpreted how the emcee (aka moderator) described it as he shared some closing words to wrap up the worship service. And also personally very touched by the kind words of introduction from my friend Paul Wang Jr. who serves as English Pastor there.

And, thus begins my journey of being a vocal advocate for mental health being more accessible to Asians and Asian Americans. Your feedback is welcomed, after you listen to the sermon.


cf. my Gospel Herald article Can the Church Help with Mental Illness?

Jul 052013

Next week kicks off a buncha new flavors at Yogurtland, the awesome self-serve FroYo shop that’s now in 200+ locations. On July 8th, Yogurtland will kick off a summer promotion featuring six flavors inspired by Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Tweety, Road Runner, Taz and Marvin the Martian, my favorite friends and yours from Looney Tunes! As a long-time Yogurtland fan I’m thrilled to give you this inside scoop! Smack your lips on these flavors:Yogurtland_Looney_Tunes_Logo

  • Carrot Cake froyo with real carrots, hand-selected spices and cream cheese frosting (thanks to Bugs)
  • Decadent Dark Chocolate Orange froyo blends premium cocoa with an orange finish (thank you Daffy)
  • Kosmic Fruit Kaboom Sorbet with pineapple, lime, banana and a secret ingredient – spinach (thanks Marvin)
  • Cactus Berry Tart combines real cactus pear Northwest Marion blackberries, blueberries, and red raspberries (beep to the Road Runner)
  • Lemon Cream Cookie (tat’s Tweety)
  • Devil’s Food Cake (tnx Taz)

Check the hashtag #FlavorsWithCharacter for the latest tweets…

And get to your neighborhood Yogurtland on July 8th for parties with free yogurt, prizes and visits by Looney Tune characters at dozens of locations throughout Southern California. Yogurtland fans can also use the mobile app to earn free yogurt. Read the full news release at yogurt-land.com/newsroom

[disclosure: this post will be sponsor by a promotional gift card]

Mar 012013

The campaign known as February is Fundraising has ended. Here’s a list of 28 things I learned in making a daily video update about my online fundraising effort to support my work as a Strategy Consultant for Ambassador Network – a new church planting network of multiplying, multiethnic, missional churches. (This list is in no particular order)


  1. Fundraising is not easy. I knew that going in. Doing this month-long campaign gave me a chance to experience it first-hand. And there’s a particular challenge for any person, especially one of Asian heritage, to be asking for help. Very humbling; very hard.
  2. Fundraising takes time. A staff-worker with a campus-ministry for over 25+ years passed along this insight based on his experience: “… it really is a process with tough critical mass (8-30 months of near full-time effort) plus 4-10 hours week afterwards (forever).
  3. I’m too much of a pioneering experimenter. I love trying new things that have huge potential for breakthrough results. But, I had a small “aha” by about day 25, that for my own livelihood, and sanity, maybe I have to pull back from pushing the envelope of innovation and more of doing things that meet people where they’re at, doing what they find value in, and answers the “WIIFM” question most other people ask, “What’s In It For Me.” Gotta play to the market.
  4. Funding for innovation is elusive. Where can I find financial resources for research and development (R&D) in the Christian ministry world? This is not the world of getting research grants for trying to find the cure for cancer or HIV.
  5. I’m glad I didn’t quit. I did finish all the way through 28 days of videos. Confession: I have a habit of quitting in many parts of my life. I’m not a Type A driven kind of guy, so I’m personally quite okay not reaching goals. But I know what it means to be responsible too; this ministry is not about me. It’s sincerely my best effort to serve the next generation of multi-Asian and multi-ethnic churches.
  6. People like tangibles more than intangibles. I’ve been told this feedback on several occasions, both before and during this campaign. Goes with the territory of my unconventional profile as a strategies- and ideas- guy.
  7. Some people have a hard time finding links on a web page. Someone told me they couldn’t find the “donate” link. If 1 person told me, maybe 10 others didn’t tell me. Even though that donate link is on the top of every page here at djchuang.com, in the top navigation menu, and there on the web pages for #FebruaryisFundraising, I didn’t make it big and loud enough for some. Not sure that I would.
  8. Google+ Hangout on Air streamlined the work flow. This was the technology I found to be the fastest way to get a daily video recorded and posted. It’s not the highest quality, granted, and to do more quality, would definitely take a lot more time – post-production, converting, encoding, uploading, potentially more equipment. Made do with what I got for speed-to-publish and near-real-time content.
  9. My Android phone (HTC Inspire 4G) is unable to post and upload a video. It’s supposed to be able to. A 3-minute video I made for day 24 only had audio captured for the 1st minute. #Fail.
  10. More technology is great, reliability not so much. Yes, I tried recording-and-uploading with a wide range of equipment: a smartphone, a webcam on a MacBook Pro, webcam on an iMac desktop, on a Flipcam. I used a wired earbud headset, built-in mic on the Mac, Blue Yeti USB microphone. I tried YouTube web-based video recording, Google+ Hangout on Air recording, QuickTime recording, Photo Booth recording, iMovie recording.
  11. Stable equipment setup can yield better results. When I was out-and-about like a road warrior, finding a reliable wifi connection with good upload speed was inconsistent. And I don’t have one of those MiFi hockey pucks. (So I made do with what I had.) Yes, having a studio setup would have been extravagant.
  12. It’s okay to go live and record a video on one take. Thanks to Seth Godin for the sagely words in his blog post: Will you choose to do it live? My answer = yes.
  13. Doing something is better than doing nothing. Not having all the optimal resources doesn’t mean I can’t do anything. Or, it’s been said: scarcity brings clarity, or limited resources + willingness to fail + increasing passion = exponential innovation.
  14. Advocacy has value for the long-term rather than short-term. My approach with the messaging these daily video updates were to raise awareness for the vision, need, and opportunity, rather than to keep making asks in an infomercially / televangelistic / telethonish style. My hope is that the content in these videos will be eye-opening for future viewers, especially Freedom & healing from guilt & shame for Asian Americans, Being generous is being Godly, why pastoring is the hardest job ever.
  15. Friends and family support is so very valuable. I did not do this campaign on a whim, and having their emotional and spiritual support helped me to persevere through the month. And, thanks coach Marc Payan, for the call to do something hard every day. Done.
  16. Some people give to people; some people give to vision. In my situation with this campaign, people gave to this more because of the person than the vision, per se. The vision for planting multi-Asian/ multi-ethnic missional multiplying churches and for me to do the work of ministry as a strategist seems to be too leading-edge bleeding-edge, maybe, too intangible, abstract, mushy, risky.
  17. Online fundraising has seen a lot more success for individuals with interesting projects, a la Kickstarter or Indiegogo. Projects are more tangible and many of those creative crowd-funded projects are like pre-orders of niche products.
  18. Crowdfunding works better because lots of people can contribute smaller amounts. My tiered giving levels were probably too high as a general online ask. With a target of 43 donors, I needed a lot more viewers with the interest and the capacity to buy-in and support the strategic role I have with the Ambassador Network vision.
  19. Fundraisers were more interested in this campaign than funders. I had a good handful of people give me good feedback, cheering me on, watching the videos, liking, sharing. Appreciated!
  20. The 29 daily videos had 770 views. I know there’s only 28 days in February, this year; I made a bonus video on Day 1, with Kevin Nguyen, Campus Pastor of Saddleback Church Irvine, that’s why there was one more.
  21. The #FebruaryisFundraising playlist had 115 views, with a total duration of over 4 hours and 20 minutes. That’s a lot of content. Maybe it could be repurposed into an e-Book or seminar.
  22. Landing page for “Donate Now” had 300+ views. Feedback I heard was that it was clear. But not enough specifics on results.
  23. Results? $2,320 of $90,000 raised. From a total of 4 donors. I’ll keep the thermometer updated at my ministry_support page and continue fundraising efforts offline via one-on-one meetings and personal outreach. I accounted for how the $90,000 goal was arrived at as the sum of the average Asian American family median income of $66,000 + ministry expenses + network infrastructure costs. [cf. see current funding status]
  24. Social capital doesn’t automatically convert into financial donations. I’m told I have a substantial network of relationships, and I’m grateful that I’ve had favor with many people who are church and ministry leaders. That doesn’t translate into funders, since many of them live on the generosity of those who support their ministry-based work.
  25. Too much talk about faith and not enough help about fiscal reality is not helpful. There’s this whole hidden business side of ministry life that doesn’t get much air-time. Having a theological training and credentialed with a degree didn’t give me the financial street-savvy necessary to run a non-profit enterprise. And my being much more interested in meaning over money doesn’t help.
  26. I’m too much of an idealist and impractical, not so much practical nor pragmatic. Not to be redundant and not to be beating myself up over coming up short. Money is such a pragmatic kind of thing, where the rubber meets the road, as the saying goes. Ouch. I’m much more skilled at finding and developing creative solutions and new ways of how things could be done.
  27. There might be a fine line between living by faith and living foolishly.
  28. I’m going to be bi-vocational for a while — months, years, or maybe the rest of my life. I’m available for hire as a freelance strategy consultant. Contact me.

There is much more to learn in this part of life in fundraising, and I’ll share it along the way as I journey on. Thanks for reading.

Jan 312013

Welcome to old friends and new visitors here to djchuang.com! You’ve come at an opportune time for my initiative called “February is Fundraising.”

I’m very grateful for the response to the OC Register article about next-gen multi-Asian churches, as Asian American churches are growing in creative ways to reach all peoples in Orange County, California, and beyond.

That article has also prompted me to step out in faith and commit more of my time and energy to serve this next generation as my full-time work. I’ll be fundraising for my staff position with Ambassador Network. I’ve never done this before in my life, so it is with mixed emotions, both faith and fear, to put myself out here.

For the entire month of February, I’ll be making a daily video update (powered by Google+ Hangout on Air.) This means it’ll be a live recording and you can watch in real-time or on-demand. It’s like reality TV but with no editing.

Unfortunately, my schedule is too erratic to set a consistent time for the livestream, but I am aiming to finish recording before 5:00pm (Pacific Time) each day. Follow me on Twitter @djchuang for when I go live on air. Submit your questions in a comment here, via email, or any of the social networks I’m on (use buttons on the upper right corner of this page).

As the saying goes, I’m “building the plane as it flies.” I’m building a topics list as I think about all the things I want to share with you — suggestions welcome! I’ll be talking about many things like: the need for this kind of work to plant new kinds of churches; what my work will look like when I say I will be working to strategize, coach, and resource multi-Asian and multi-ethnic churches; the Biblical reasons for fundraising, and what better way than to crowdsource it in the 21st century; tips and insights about professional fundraising from my 15+ years of experience working in the fundraising world, both in a large non-profit and in a private foundation; hear the back story of how the article came about; my history with Ambassador Bible Church (in Virginia) and how Ambassador Network was launched. Plus, I’m looking to have special guests join me on the Hangout.

And I’ll also give updates on how my fundraising is going, my goals and budgets and all that jazz. I want to be do fundraising in this way and be totally transparent, because accountability and financial responsibility is so very important. (I think you’d agree.) I love how Marin Foundation provides full disclosure and I want to do similarly.

It’ll be fun to connect with you in this way! I want to educate and share what I know, to help others working in cause-oriented non-profits to make the world a better place. I do hope you’ll join me to giving hope to 18+ million Asian Americans and 7+ billion people around the world. As we partner together, may many more churches flourish, the tribes thrive, and all peoples prosper!

Jan 232013

I have a dream for Asian Americans, all 18 million Asian Americans, the fastest growing racial/ethnic group in the US of A. Asian Americans are people with some kind of personal connection to Asian countries living here in the United States of America. djchuang2012sq Asian Americans collectively span a widely diverse range: Chinese, Filipino, Asian Indian, Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese, Hawaiian, Pacific Islanders, Pakistani, Cambodian, Hmong, Thai, Laotian, Taiwanese, Bangladeshi, Burmese, Indonesian, Malay, Sri Lankan, and there are dozens more. Every one of these ethnicities significant and valuable for unique contributions in the world and potentially so much more right here in America. Marginalized by stereotyping, overgeneralization, and systemic problems, to name a few of the glaring issues, there’s much to be done to mobilize and fully engage Asian Americans into the very fabric of everyday mainstream American life.

I dream of a world where Asian Americans realize how much more we have in common and coming together to celebrate the differences also. I dream of a world where all 100% of Asian Americans have their life stories honored and heard, rather than only the top 1% getting all the honor and prestige; a world where a person’s worth is not based on their accomplishments or accolades. I dream of a world where generations can honor their shared collective heritage, while also unleashing the next generations to create new worlds in a fast-changing global village. I dream of a world where the Asian American stories encompasses both the immigrant journey and the fully-American next-generation narratives. I dream of a world of wholeness and health for Asian Americans. I dream of a world where every single Asian American realizes their intrinsic worth and value, to be respected with dignity for being human.

To step into this dream, I’m turning the page into a new chapter in my work life. As a person of faith, this for me will be a season of public Christian ministry. I’ve signed on with Ambassador Network as a strategy consultant to launch a movement of multiplying, multiethnic, and missional churches. I’ll be describing that in the coming weeks and months, and would love to have you come along with me.