Jan 092014
 

Spontaneous combustion of ideas are so much more exhilarating than a predictable routine to me. And the conversations lit up my switchboard and I want to share one of them with you.

Yesterday I’m chatting over late afternoon tea with a couple of new friends from connections via Telos Ventures (and I’d venture to say you’ll be hearing more about them in the years ahead, or sooner) and the conversations overflowed to dinner from a gracious family’s hospitality. And there was something wonderful and cozy about being in a home instead of a restaurant. The chance meeting was quite a divine appointment, as that echoed the host’s devotional that morning.

I have greater hope for this next generation of Asian Americans than ever (and that’s where I want to give of my time and energy). I believe that being Asian American is more, not less, than being either Asian only or American only.

Being bicultural had been perceived as a liability, because it felt like not fitting in anywhere. Perception doesn’t have to define reality. Let’s reframe that.

In a fast-changing world that we find ourselves in with global travel and increasingly accelerating connectivity via mobile and social, bicultural means built-in agility to adapt into more contexts than someone monocultural.

And becoming culturally adaptable is not something you can acquire through the education of book learning or get training for. I’ve been pondering that it can only be developed through life experience. The ones that have to live in multiple cultures before age 21 will have innately honed skills via nurture that post-21 people will be notably lagging.

The wealth of life experience, educational attainment, and financial status of accomplished Asian Americans could in due time do so much more good than ever, a bigger dent in the universe, a bigger difference, a greater contribution, or whatever metaphor that calls out this percolating potential. Gaining for oneself is far less satisfying than giving of oneself for the blessing of many.

James Choung has noted this prediction:
Historians William Strauss and Neil Howe studied American generations as far back as 1584. Based on their findings, they took some guesses at what future generations would look like. … In their book Generations, they predicted that Asian Americans would be “a major cultural and intellectual force” by 2025 — like the German descendants in the 1880s and 1890s, and their Jewish counterparts of the 1930s and 1940s.

Nov 072013
 

We have a lot of learning to do and a lot of relationships to build, especially we as Asian Americans and we as the American evangelical church. Even with both having been around for 5 generations or so, the conversations and relationships between Asian American Christians and the majority-Caucasian evangelical church can be described as nascent, in so far as it relates to incorporating Asian American voices into evangelical leadership with their cultural perspectives, rather than assimilating Asian and minority voices into a so-called-colorblind evangelicalism (though some Asian American Christians are agreeable to the latter).

I anticipate I’ll be blogging and commenting on more of this in the coming weeks and months, as opportunities and time avail. 3 recent opportunities have invited my commentary about Asian American Christianity, thanks to Ed Stetzer, David Housholder, and Lifeway::

#guest #blog #post 9 Things About Asian American Christianity: Asian Americans are accelerating in their role in participating and shaping the future of the American church at large. at The Exchange, Ed Stetzer’s blog

#podcast #episode 5 Misconceptions About Asian-Americans on the Life & Liberty podcast hosted by Davide Housholder

#video #webshow Multi-Ethnic, Multi-Cultural Ministry with Elizabeth Drury, Mark DeYmaz and DJ Chuang on The Exchange with Ed Stetzer (air date: 10/14/13)

[update 11/14/13] Why Evangelicals Don’t Know Asian Americans: We have quite a way to go towards ending racial stereotyping in Christendom – my 2nd blog posts (of 3) at Ed Stetzer’s blog

[update 11/21/13] Ethnicity, Context, and Mission: A Brighter Future for the Church—DJ Chuang shares his thoughts on the future of the Church. (3rd of 3)

Nov 022013
 

Around 1,000 church leaders will be gathering this week for the 2nd national multiethnic church conference, hosted by Mosaix Global Network! It’s happening this Tuesday and Wednesday, November 5-6, and free livestream video was just announced, so there will likely be 1,000+ joining in online too! Is this exciting or what?! The conversations are already streaming on Twitter using hashtag #mosaix2013 + here’s a list of active bloggers who are coming to #mosaix2013

I also know of some people with inactive blogs, and many people who aren’t blogging yet, coming to #mosaix2013. If you’re blogging about #mosaix2013 and/or this historic event could launch (or re-launch) your own blogging history, please do add a comment so I can add you to the list! Your voice is important and there’s no faster way to get it out to the world than blogging!

// [update] articles + blog posts about the amazing #mosaix2013 gathering::

My Time at the Mosaix Multi-Ethnic Church Conference: Being multi-ethnic is intrinsic to Christianity. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy. by David Swanson at Leadership Journal’s Out of Ur blog

Multi-Ethnic Ministry Takes Center Stage by Lindy Lowry for Exponential Network

Mosaix 2013 ~ quotes and reflections – Kelly Soifer

Contextualizing Not Franchising – David Swanson

Multi-ethnic for the sake of the gospel: Mosaix 2013 Conference – David Drury

#audio 180 with Karl Clauson was broadcasting live at #mosaix2013 Day 1 + Day 2 (1160 AM Chicago Christian Talk radio) – interviews with many speakers!

My Experience at the #Mosaix2013 Multi-Ethnic Church Conference – Danny Slavich

#article Pastors Take on the Biblical Challenge to Reflect the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth in the Multi-Ethnic Church at Mosaix 2013 (Christian Post)

National church conference focuses on ethnic, economic diversity by Bianca Ontiveros for The Clause, student publication of Azusa Pacific University

This Means War: A Pastor’s Wife Speaks – Carla Hendricks

Dangerous Act: Hoarding the Grace of God – Natasha Sistrunk Robinson
//

mosaix2013livefree

[disclosure: I'm a board member of Mosaix Global Network and you can be a member too]

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

Sep 172013
 

Expo West banner horizontal

This week, Exponential begins its blog tour featuring several of the leaders speaking at the upcoming Exponential West conference (Oct. 7-10)—where they’ll be talking about the vital need for planting and growing multi-ethnic churches that can make disciples who reach an ever-changing multicultural world.

Ray ChangToday, my friend, pastor and church planter Ray Chang visits my blog. Ray is a church planter and trainer with the Evangelical Free Church of America. He planted and leads Ambassador Church in Brea, Calif., and he and I (with Peter Lim) lead Ambassador Network. As a Korean immigrant growing up in the Korean church, followed by internships and leadership positions in the evangelical church, Ray Chang has a learned a lot about what it means to invest in others and plant a multi-ethnic church. I asked him to share about his church, Ambassador Network and his leadership insights.

Why did you start Ambassador Church and Ambassador Network? What needs were you trying to meet?

I came to the States when I was 6. And when I came to America back in the ‘70s, the Asian-American community was relatively small. One of the challenges of growing up in an ethnic environment has always been, “How does Christ transcend culture?” So often, my culture was the thing that defined me as a Korean or as an Asian. So growing up in that context, serving in a Korean church, I felt frustrated because one of my biggest challenges was that I wanted to learn. I wanted to become a better pastor, I wanted to become a better leader. But because of my cultural context, there were a lot of limitations to that, whether it was a lack of mentoring or lack of discipling. So I left the Korean church, joined the Evangelical Free Church, and became an intern at EV Free Fullerton. And my eyes were just opened.

I saw ministry of the same gospel being applied in different ways, and it extended my opportunity to live out my faith. So that experience kind of, planted the seeds of, “Hey, what if we had a church that would be for all people?”

After that experience at Fullerton, I got a position as an associate pastor back at a Korean church in Washington, D.C. I remember looking at all of the different embassies and flags of the different nations. So that’s where the name Ambassador Church came from, II Cor. 5:20–that we are Christ’s ambassadors.

And so that became the foundation for planting Ambassador Bible Church, a multi-cultural church in the D.C. area, back in 1996. We had 11 people meeting in our apartment. We really didn’t know a lot about church planting, but in a year and a half we grew to about 150. [ed.note: and I, DJ Chuang, worked with Ray as an associate pastor at this multi-Asian/multi-ethnic church plant from 1997-2000]

We were reaching all these young adults and young couples and college students who had left the ethnic church. They were frustrated in the same ways I was frustrated. We felt the need to be a church that would represent all people, all nations. So the mission statement of our church became “to make and equip disciples of all nationalities as Christ’s ambassadors to all the nations.”

The second transition came in wanting to see how I can now help guys like myself. So at EV Free Fullerton where I served as outreach pastor, we started an Ambassador Fellowship, which was basically a training ground for five seminary students. That eventually became Ambassador Church.

The greatest concern I had was, “Okay, if we’re going to impact the nation, we’re going to have to impact young leaders.” There’s a whole segment of young leaders that will not be impacted, especially in the ethnic context. How do we pick these next second-generation guys and really invest in them? So while there’re a lot of national networks for church planters, a lot of these guys we’re discipling don’t have access to these kinds of networks yet. They have no point of relationship or connection. So it’s really hard for a young, second-generation Korean-American or Hispanic to go into some of these mainstream ministries. I felt like, “Why not take what God has given me, in this city, and see it as a benefit for the kingdom rather than as a curse?”

Growing up, I always struggled with my sense of identity. And I think a lot of kids, especially ethnic Americans, are asking, “Who am I? Am I Korean? Am I white? So I wanted to say, “Look, there’s a whole segment of young leaders out there that are not being ministered to or developed for leadership.” Ambassador Network really came out of that desire. We want to be a place, a bridge and connect these young leaders into some of these other things that God’s doing. We want to provide support, development and leadership for some of these kids.

What do you identify as some of the greatest challenges these leaders face today?

The greatest challenge these leaders face is that oftentimes their culture becomes the barrier to effective ministry. Part of it is that the senior pastor does want to relate, but they just don’t know how. It was never modeled to them. You can’t really blame them. And so part of my challenge, then, is to ask, “Ok, how do I change the paradigm? How do I change the process so that the next generation of leaders is empowered?

But how do you navigate that? How do you change the paradigm but still honor what they’ve been brought up in, and avoid a deconstruction movement? Or do you?

There’s something about deconstruction that’s arrogant—this idea that “we know what’s right and what you did in the past was wrong.” My philosophy is so different. I advocate taking the best of both worlds. For me, that was getting outside of my cultural context and working in a different context in an Anglo church, which I never had the opportunity to do. I liked some things there. But I also missed some things in my previous context as well. I was immersed in a non-Korean culture for a while and I learned so many things. I appreciated how a large and Anglo megachurch with a famous senior pastor works. And then I realized I could intersect all of these things in this new multi-cultural church.

The word “hybrid” is so popular now. I think life is sort of like that. To win every generation, you have to sort of take a hybrid of what is the best of everything based upon what’s happening. We have to let Scripture shape our culture. But we can learn from our culture and say, “Ok, how does this culture then reflect the image of God?”

What are you learning about pouring into leaders as a result of the work you’re doing with Ambassador Network and Ambassador Church, as well as your previous experience as a young leader?

Leadership development starts with a person, not a program. I think the No. 1 principle of any leadership development is assessment. You have to understand someone’s calling, their background, who they are. And that’s the uniqueness of the person. It’s like a football player. You can draft a quarterback and make that guy fit the system, or you can look at the player and say, “Okay, how can we make this guy succeed?”

Nobody is where they should be or where they will be. We are all in development. And part of our job as leaders is to help get leaders to go where God wants them to go. So one of the things that I say to a lot of young leaders is, “Look, my job as a pastor is to help you get to where God wants you to be.” And I am that transitional person. So I want to lead you and encourage you along that path. Really in some sense, that’s what discipleship is.

A support system is non-negotiable. One of the things that I’ve found among a lot of young leaders Is that more than the finance tools or a monetary investment in their church, what they need is people investment, life investment. Young leaders have always told me that they would rather have somebody invest in their life for the long haul versus a paycheck or donation.

It’s about life investment. My relationship with all the guys that we train is an ongoing coaching life relationship. What I never had as a young leader was that life coach who would stick with me all the way through. As a young leader in the Korean church, I served under a senior pastor I had one conversation with in two years, if that tells you anything. So I sort of live life with the philosophy that I want to do for someone else what was never done for me. It’s about the person, the individual. It’s about the disciple. We need the models and the learning—that’s all good—but the information is not what’s going to make planters succeed. It comes down to how we invest in them. Leadership development is about life. It’s a long-term commitment, a marathon instead of a sprint.

What about challenges related multi-ethnicity?

I think that’s the other challenge for us: How do we appreciate our identity without getting lost and use that as an advantage for the Gospel rather than seeing it as an obstacle? How do we take ethnicity and and reach the next generation without becoming exclusive, and without becoming ethnocentric?”

The reality is that we’re in an ever-changing culture and it’s going to be harder and harder for us to have the platform culturally. But the gospel is global. That’s the exciting thing. We have the opportunity to reach all people. And so I want to see a greater diversity.

We have to be faithful with what God has given to us. So hopefully for us, on a practical level, it’s to have the resources to be able to invest in young leaders, to be able to work with existing churches to help them become healthy so they can plant. So we’ve been doing a lot of stuff with existing ethnic churches and giving them a renewed vision for church and what it can be.

We also are looking for young leaders that we can bring into our residency program and invest in. I was talking to a church planting leader, and his philosophy is he only wants the best of the best, he only wants the first-round draft pick, you know, the cream of the crop. I guess, for his denomination, that’s the way they have to work, You only have a limited amount of resources to invest. But my philosophy is different. I want to invest in it whomever God brings to us to the best of my ability and build around that individual’s gifts. That’s what discipleship is—being open to the spirit of God bringing these people and doing whatever I can to help them.

Why do you think it’s important for us to think about multi-ethnic versus mono-ethnic?

The Great Commission is about all ethnicities, it’s “all people to the ends of the earth.” And Revelations is all about all nations, all tribes, all languages worshipping together at the feet of the Lamb. So we want to pursue that end.

The ultimate goal is really about reaching all people. And so we use the word multi-ethnic as sort of a larger tent. To say, this is the end goal of the Gospel is that all nations, all people, come to know Him and have the opportunity to hear the Gospel.

What are some of the principles or ideas that you’re communicating to these leaders about planting multi-ethnic churches, especially in an ever-changing culture?

Well, a friend of mine, Dr. David Anderson, pastors Bridgeway Community Church. He’s African American. I’m Korean American. And when I started planting, David’s church invested in us. He used to remind me to do three things:

You need to state your vision. Your vision has to be something that you state over and over again because people are not going to get it right away.

You have to stage your vision. You need to have people on stage reflect the people that you want to reach, whether they’re on your praise team, etc. But people need to see that you’re serious about diversity on every level.

You need to staff your vision. You have to make intentional progress toward bringing people of diverse ethnicities on your staff.

So those are the values. And when you do those things, you’re building a long-term process. So I think for multi-ethnic churches, there are a lot of misconceptions. Multi-ethnic churches have to focus on what unifies us, not what keeps us apart.

So Christ becomes the unifying factor.

The issue of diversity really is the challenges of the gospel. What does the gospel do? It breaks down the barriers between genders, race, culture, socioeconomic. When we break some of those barriers, we see who we are, created in the image of God.

In our church, we have about 70 percent Asian-Americans. But I would say that our church is multi-ethnic because among those 70 percent, we have Chinese, Filipino, Korean, Japanese and the 30 percent are non-Asian. They’re Hispanic, Anglo, most of my staff. I have more non-Asians on staff than I do Asians.

One of my prayers is that Ambassador Network becomes that bridge between the issues of diversity and multi-ethnicity, as well as reaching people in the next generation of ethnic Asian-Americans or multi-ethnic leaders. And the exciting thing for me is that God can do exceedingly more than what we’ve ever hoped and imagined.

 

At Exponential West, Ray Chang will be speaking in Session 2 with Rick Warren and Robert Coleman. If you can’t make it to the conference, you can still catch Ray’s session by registering to watch the free high-quality webcast. To see what workshops Ray will be leading at Exponential West, visit the conference’s mobile site. Find more information about Exponential West here.

 

Sep 132013
 

fall2013confsWhen I connect with church leaders in person or online, one of the most frequently asked question is what conference should they go to. That’s not an easy question. And in the coming months, I’ll be at these 5 church conferences as a speaker in some way shape or form. I’m making time for these, maybe you should too. I’d love to connect with you pastors and church leaders at 1 or more of these events::

  • Oct 7-10 Exponential LA at Saddleback Church @ Lake Forest, CA
    The largest church planting conference west of the Mississippi! We need more new churches, plain and simple. I’ll be facilitating 2 workshops on multi-site churches and multi-ethnic/multi-Asian churches.
  • Oct 15 Turnaround 20/20 Conference @ Nashville
    20 speakers with 20 minutes, and I’m batting clean-up, as in last. Will share a couple stories of turnaround churches in the Asian American context.
  • Oct 16-17 iMinistry 2013 – Internet ministry conference @ Dallas
    There’s no question that the Internet has forever changed our lives in the 21st century; and this gathering of pioneers are energizing the base so that the church can better extend its ministries online via online campuses, social, mobile and digital strategies.
  • Oct 28-29 Raw Church Unconference @ Riverside, CA
    Real Issues. More Conversations. Less Talking Heads. Broken people and church leaders experiencing grace, forgiveness, and restoration. Unlike any other church conference because of its most unusual and engaging format.
  • Nov 5-6 #mosaix2013: 2nd National Multi-ethnic Church Conference (Long Beach, California) hosted by Mosaix Global Network
    Historic gathering of the best multiethnic/multicultural church and ministry leaders to share biblical theology and real-life examples and practical tips for churches to be effective with the accelerating diversity in America and around the world.

There’s a lot more I can write-up about each of these, and I’ll be done that in different ways in the weeks ahead. Right now I wanted to put this out there with a twitter-size description, so if one (or more) of them seems to resonate with where you are in your life and/or ministry, add a comment and I can unpack more about it. Happy to do that!

Mar 272013
 
photo credit ryerson http://ryersonivcf.wordpress.com/2013/01/10/it-starts-with-12-ryerson-ivcf-at-urbana-12/

As the church adapts to serving a multicultural global village, some are developing ministries in multiple languages too. (cf. polyglot - someone who can speak multiple languages) Ethnic Asian churches and other immigrant churches have done that for decades. For some ethnic Korean churches, it’s ministering in Korean and English, for Chinese ones, it’s ministering in Mandarin, English, Cantonese and/or Taiwanese.

For more diversified multiethnic church, that could be at least 3 languages across multiple racial groupings. (Please add a comment – and I’ll do my best to keep this list updated.) Here’s a list of multi-lingual multi-racial churches:

Articles & resources about multilingual churches and worship

[nb: of course, it can be argued that there is only one race, the human race; yet in the context of the United States with a racialized history, there are significantly different social dynamics in a multi-generational Asian American context vs. a multi-ethnic context with Anglos, Asians, African Americans, and Hispanics]

Mar 252013
 

The percentage of multiethnic churches in America has grown from 7.5% in 1998 to 13.7% in 2010, based on 2 different survey-bases studies, using a 20% minority criteria. One of the leading church researchers, Dr. Scott Thumma (Professor of Sociology of Religion, Hartford Seminary), posted this on the Huffington Post blog, Racial Diversity Increasing In U.S. Congregations, alerting us to some notable progress in the desegregation of American churches:

Martin Luther King’s once said 11 a.m. Sunday morning is the most segregated hour in America. That statement seems to remain true today, 57 years later. However, the 2010 Faith Communities Today report shows a major shift toward desegregation is underway among the nation’s religious communities.

The study, which included more than 11,000 congregations, found the number of multiracial faith communities has nearly doubled in the past decade. Nearly 14 percent of congregations are considered multiracial, with at least 20 percent of members coming from racial groups different from the congregation’s majority race. The study also found 4 percent of America’s congregations are multiracial, with no racial group having a majority.

Researchers have been tracking these changes since the 1990s. Mark Chaves, in the 1998 National Congregations Study, reported that 7.5 percent of all congregations were multiracial. Another study in the late 1990s by sociologist Michael Emerson found 5 percent of Protestant churches and 15 percent of Catholic churches were multiracial.

When compared to this earlier research, our 2010 Faith Communities Today study… found the percentage of multiracial congregations (using the 20 percent or more minority criteria) had nearly doubled in the past decade to 13.7 percent.

Jan 022013
 

I count it a great privilege to be invited to serve as an Urbana 12 steward (their fancy word for volunteer) and it was so much fun! Urbana is a large-scale missions conference that just finished out on this last week of 2012, concluding with communion to ring in the New Year 2013 together. What a memorable time, and it changed many lives of participants attending #u12 (the Urbana 12 event hashtag prominently printed everywhere and actively used throughout); and I want to add, Urbana 12 changed my life as a volunteer too. (btw, there were over 800 volunteers plus countless staff to make Urbana 12 so happening)

Watch the Urbana 2012 Summary video

The best way to grow is to change how you see the world. Life experience shapes perception, perception shapes truth, and for most of us people, perception is truth.

That’s what the Urbana conference does so well every 3 years: bringing a wide swatch of the world to receptive college students so they can find God’s will for their place in the world.

12 ways that Urbana 12 change my life by opening my eyes to see the world differently::

  1. Activating a social media squad: Adam Jeske skillfully empowered a team of 14 of us to serve as the an online pastoral team to engage participants in real-time using Twitter, along with Facebook, Instagram, and blogging. Read articles in Christian Post and Mission Network News. I’ll be talking more about this on an upcoming episode of Social Media Church podcast [update: read Adam Jeske's insider look = Tweeting for Jesus with 16,000 Friends: Urbana Social Media]
  2. Urbana 12 Live Blog: my primary role was to blog highlights in real-time during thr main sessions to complement the livestream videos. My best discovery was using Storify to curate tweets and photos, see: Changed Lives, Responding to God’s Invitation, Power of Prayer
  3. doing something together with dear wife: Rachelle and I enjoyed our 3rd Urbana together; shared experiences can bring people closer in wonderful ways; and she joined Twitter @rachellewchuang too
  4. sharing my life: I spoke at the Pan Asian North American Lounge, thankful to James Choung for the special opportunity– listen to and/or read my talk — Step up, Speak Up, Live It Up; you don’t have to be a superstar to make a difference
  5. launch lab: got a spontaneous on-the-spot invitation from Josh Kwan to give one-on-one coaching feedback to young people with business/ministry ideas to help them towards implementation.. I’m no Charles Lee, but it sure was encouraging to realize that I have more than I knew I had to offer others in this intimidating context
  6. integrating a seamless theme: loved how the Urbana 12 organizers weaved the theme of God’s Invitation through-and-through.. powerful draw that pulled us forward into God’s work in the world
  7. shifting demographics in the USA: the American population will have no racial/ethnic majority by 2050, maybe sooner; and we experienced that in the Urbana 12 immersion, both in the attendance and on stage
  8. reality check on multiethnic worship: it’s so profoundly transforming because you are literally experiencing worship like the way it will be in eternity. But the sad reality in America is that less than 10% of Urbana participants will get to have this experience back at their home churches.
  9. it’s a family reunion: got to connect with many old friends and some new ones too, too many to name here.. if I talked with you, you know who you are
  10. it’s a small world: even amidst 16,000 people you wind up meeting people that know people you know, aka 2nd degree of separation; biggest surpise: someone that knew me via Toronto church planter Danny Yang
  11. God’s opening doors: recently being thrown into a job transition, I was not sure how God could use my unconventional personality to provide for muself and family.. while I have a good number of skills that could work in a variety of jobs just to make money, how much better it is to be given an opportunity to use my “mad scientist” profile in a “skunk works” context.. praying this will be a go
  12. faith in action: on the evening of Day 3 Urbana 12 Join-In event, we assembled 32,000 caregiving kits together, in response to need in Swaziland.. we truly experienced first-hand how we really are part of something much bigger than ourselves

Were you at Urbana 12? I’d love to hear your stories too!

[by the numbers: attendance 16,000 (unofficial); ethnic demographics: 56% Caucasian, 30% East Asian, 7.7% African Am, 6.3% Hispanic/Latino, 6.1% Southeast Asian, 2.9% South Asian; over 6,000 Asians; cf. production notes]