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)

Nov 092012

2 gigantic Christian conferences are scheduled this Winter break 2012-2013, ramping up for tens of thousands of college students converging from everywhere. 1 is called Urbana 12. 1 is called Passion 2013. Here’s the data on these 2 Christian mega-conferences, a side-by-side comparison to sort things out (or scroll down for the #infographic) ::

Urbana 12

Passion 2013
dates December 27-31, 2012 January 1-4, 2013
location America’s Center Convention Complex @ St. Louis, Missouri Georgia Dome @ Atlanta, Georgia
cost $449 students 17-29 years old /
$549 non-students
($50 off before 11/12)
$219 students 18-25 years old
($20 off before 12/1)
size 18,000 71,000
speakers Calisto Odede
Geri Rodman
Ziel Machado
Chai Ling
David Platt
Daniel Bourdanné
Ram Sridharan
Sandra Van Opstal
Terry LeBlanc
Tom Lin
Louie Giglio
Chris Tomlin
Francis Chan
Kristian Stanfill
Beth Moore
Matt Redman
John Piper
Christy Nockels
Charlie Hall
seminars 150+ with 66+ speakers, covering topics like evangelism, missions, global issues, poverty and justice, healthcare, world religions n/a
exhibitors 250+ 0
organizers InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA, Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship of Canada, and Groupes Bilbiques Universitaires et Collégiaux du Canada Passion Conferences / Choice Ministries, Inc. / 268 Generation / sixstepsrecords
started in 1946 1997
purpose Urbana 12’s mission is to compel this generation to give their whole lives for God’s global mission. Passion exists to glorify God by uniting students in worship, prayer and justice for spiritual awakening in this generation
distinctives Over 250 missions agencies, working in over 150 countries will exhibit… choose from over 200 seminars… Urbana is geared for college students and anyone age 17-29, though anyone over 17 is welcome to attend…” “exposure to global issues and realities; multicultural worship, dance and drama; specialized tracks on issues such as leadership, poverty and justice, and international ministry Attendees at Passion 2012 participated in a campaign, 72 Days For Freedom, raising more than $3.5 Million to fight modern day slavery and human trafficking

And here’s an Urbana 12 vs. Passion 2013 infographic (courtesy of Ben Sorber) –

Both Urbana and Passion have changed thousands of lives throughout their respective big events. Both Urbana 12 and Passion 2013 will undoubtedly be powerful experiences that will spiritually inspire its eager attendees, the next generation seeking to discern God’s will in their lives.

Decision-making is never easy. You could opt-out, and miss out. Which will you choose? Let us know on this poll and add a comment about how you decided

Aug 072010

Finding voices and faces that can better connect and/or represent both genders in actual diversity of the Christian church can seem elusive, especially in a financially-driven world. Asian American women
One of the currently under-represented grouping is Asian American women who are Christian ministry leaders, be it church or parachurch. Kathy Khang has started a great list of Christian Asian American female leaders. Here’s a copy of that list with a snapshot of what they’ve done and/or how they’re notable [in no particular order]:

This is an incomplete list, for starters — please add a comment with other women leaders who should be listed. While typing out the title for this blog post, I fumbled around with the word order, i.e. “women Asian American church leaders,” “Christian Asian American women leaders,” “Asian American women ministry leaders,” or “Asian American women church leaders” … I wanted to name this grouping of women leaders who were involved in vocational Christian ministry related to an Asian American context.

How can we better address the current situation of the American church leadership tier being disproportionately represented by one demographic, when the actual demographic make-up of church attendance (or locality) is far more diverse — ethnically, gender, socio-economic, etc ? How much of the Lausanne Global Conversation will percolate and change the American church?

Yes, it’s all quite complicated, with dynamics involving organizational viability, market forces & economics, regional and local distinctives, racialized history, philosophy of ministry, church growth theories, theological convictions, denominational heritage. To sweep it under the rug of the spiritual being transcendent and the inequalities of our social reality being insignificant seems quite a gnostic notion.

To remain silent about this in the public arena of the blogosphere doesn’t seem to help anything. This may well be one of those things where annual reports of measurable results may be a bit short-sighted for much-needed longer-term endeavors. The issue is not going away. When will the church engage?

Feb 082010

A new web app called Zoecity.com launched last week that automatically lists the top articles viewed and shared by Christians (technically, re-launched.) Zoecity’s self-description is: “We track hundreds of Christian websites for the latest content.” Are you as curious as me what those 100s of Christian websites are?

I got to interview Colin Wong, the CEO of Zoecity today. Watch the video interview below [powered by wetoku; pardon the echo]:

My “aha” moment during the interview was this: as Zoecity.com bubbles-up the most popular content, it may or may not be the most important, but I think it does indicate what is most influential, or at the very least, what’s been read and/or shared by the most people. By the way, in the interview, Colin mentioned 2 articles, “Ouija board a controversial toy for tots” and “Tebow Super Bowl Ad Leads Viewers to ‘God Story’“.

You’ll notice in the right sidebar here at djchuang.com towards the bottom is a Zoecity widget, which shows the top 10 daily articles. And looking over at the Zoecity front page, there is a comment link under each item. Almost all of them have “0 Comments” right now. (Maybe that’ll change?)

How do you think knowing what’s the most popular today, this week, and this month, would be helpful to you?

Dec 212009

The Asian American journey can take many directions. It’s my sense that more of them than not do seem to follow along a fairly predictable narrative, even from generation to generation.

My dear friend, Brent Wong, is a 5th-generation Asian American of Chinese descent. I sat down with him to hear his story, and he was so kind and vulnerable enough to share this snapshot of his story of discovering how his Asianness is so closely connected his Christian faith journey. Watch the video below:

(aside: you can also watch the extended version of the above video in HD and an intro that’s 79 seconds longer.)

What do you think?
Continue reading »

Nov 142009

Missional communities are the conversations du jour among church leaders, escalating during the past few years. Now there are gatherings (conferences) that revolve around how we can be more missional. (Several local and regional gatherings have already happened, though I haven’t been counting.)
A regional (free) unconference about missional churches is happening this weekend called Verge LA. I’ll be there most of today. Definitely want to hear Kevin Doi, currently scheduled at 1:45pm, and you can watch via livestream at ecclesianet.com. And, I’ll get to meet in person, JR Woodward, host of the unconference. (cf. my interview with Kevin Doi)

But wait, there’s more!

A national gathering is ramping up in Austin, called VERGE: Missional Community Conference.

Listen to my interview with Michael Stewart (one of the Verge organizers at the Austin Stone Community Church) about this national Verge.

I’m putting together a social media team for the Verge in Austin, those who will host online conversations around becoming & being missional communities, both before and during the Verge conference. Start those conversations via blog, Twitter, Facebook, podcast, Youtube, etc. Verge wants to empower and release conversations both online and on-site. Undoubtedly, (our hope is) the convos will continue even after the Austin gathering. Want to be a part of this social media team? Add a comment, especially if you’d like to win a free registration. One spot left.

And one more thing. I’ll be there, at both Verge‘s — would love to meetup with you on-site there!

Aug 112009

There are few places where followers of Christ can gather and thoughtfully reflect the impact of new media (internet, web, social media, and all that jazz). There used to be the Internet Ministry Conference, and used to be GodBlogCon.

Now there is Christian Web Conference! It’s happening just a month away, September 11-12, at Biola University. (That’s the Los Angeles area, for those of you considering travelling in from afar.) Here’s how the conference is describe itself:

Christian Web Conference is dedicated to fostering fellowship and establishing real life communities among Christians employing web 2.0 technologies to christianly influence the world. The power and appeal of web media technologies is vast. These technologies provide Christians with a new set of Great Commission opportunities.

And how they’re looking to do that:
Continue reading »

Jan 312009

Just got an email from ECPA (Evangelical Christian Publishers Association) announcing its 2009 Christian Book Expo. It’s an inaugural event, meaning its the first-time this event is happening. The Expo will have 150+ seminars (PDF) and 200+ authors. This is a big book expo for people who buy & sell non-fiction and fiction Christian books, like pastors, lay leaders, counselors, retailers and consumers.

The organizers are using new media to spread the word. Here’s what they’re asking help with:

  • Visit ChristianBookExpo.com for the scoop on this first-ever show
  • Check out the social networking links (MySpace, etc) at the CBE website. Bloggers can join group/s and tell friends about CBE.
  • Blog about the idea of a Christian Book Show for the public, the panel topics and panelists, etc. The first 200 people to publish a CBE blog post of 100+ words will receive complimentary admission to the show! Send the link to your post to be eligible.
  • Interview Mark Kuyper in advance of the show for a blog post.
  • NOTE: Press registration is for professional members of the press only. However, coupons for $5 off admission are available at Family Christian Stores in the DFW area.

pr-2009cbeRead a copy of the full press release >>

Looking at the conference registration pricing, this blog post has a retail value of $59. Now I have to figure out if I can go, then how to get there & where to stay & how to get around… looking at the 10 results at Google Blog Search, there’s still plenty of room for more bloggers to get complimentary admission.
Continue reading »

Dec 012008

It’s been a long time coming, and it’s now around the corner. A $0 conference for Christian leaders to gather! For years the rest of the world has had unconferences that have shared valuable content and facilitated engaging conversations for $0 registration, but it was very hard to find a free Christian conference for church leaders. (Granted there’s a certain value to the traditional conference format with productions on the main stage and breakouts / seminars / workshops, and some even are profitable ventures, there are also other innovative ways in the Web 2.0 world.)

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I’m so grateful that Charles Lee is coordinating an unconference called The Idea Camp on February 27-28, 2009 in Irvine, California. SAVE THE DATES! Here’s what The Idea Camp is about:

The Idea Camp is a free hybrid conference for idea-makers to share, network, and implement ideas. We are gathering some of the most innovative and creative leaders from around the country (this means YOU!) to share ideas, intentionally network, and move collaboratively into idea-making. Whether your passion is church leadership, non-profit work, social entrepreneurialism, technology, media, creativity, culture making, church planting, spiritual formation, compassionate justice, etc., this is the conference for YOU!

The Facebook Group for Idea Camp is facebook.com/group.php?gid=41051955597 and using a Ning.com powered social networking engine, conference information is dynamically and collaboratively updated. See the list of people who will be presenting and/or facilitating conversations at The Idea Camp; it already includes: Brad Abare, Greg Atkinson, Eric Bryant, Mike Foster, Dave Gibbons, Jeff Shinabarger, Cynthia Ware, Robert Yang of Kindlejoy.com, me, and more! More will be added between now and then, and you could be part of it too!

New to the idea of unconferences? It’s where no one pays to get in, no one gets paid, the playing field is level, and everyone has skin in the game. Read more about it cf. what is an unconference, understanding the unconference.

Call out others you’d love to see there. I’m calling out Dan Kimball, Erwin McManus, James Choung, Ed Stetzer, Dallas Willard, John Bishop, Donald Miller. Come on down!