Mar 082014

Though I’m not at SXSW 2014 in person, I can peek in with the lively conversations there all over social media. This gathering is the largest convergence of cultural-shaping streams of film (movies, videos) + interactive (digital, social media, online, mobile) + music (soundtrack, poetry, arts) and still the place-to-be for connecting into the currents of the latest vibe in today’s popular culture.

Faith is very much a part of the human condition, though not at the center of pop culture, it is featured at 2 #sxsw sessions and embedded in the bio’s of several speakers:

Is Facebook Making Houses of Worship Go Extinct? @ Monday 3/10 11:00am CT #sxsw #faithbook

  • Rebecca Saidlower (Dir of Mktg & Communications, The Jewish Education Project) @RSaidlower
  • Susanne Goldstone Rosenhouse (Social Media Coordinator, NJOP – National Jewish Outreach program) @susqhb + @JewishTweets

#sxsw #MLK2BAKER

Black Church Activism in the Digital Era @ Tuesday 3/11 9:30am CT #sxsw #MLK2BAKER
“As social media begins to democratize communication and give voice to the voiceless; What will be the impact of social media on the future Black Church activism in the digital era?”

  • Jamye Wooten (CEO/Publisher, Kinetics Communcations) @KineticsLive
  • Ralph Watkins (Assoc Prof of Evangelism and Church Growth, Columbia Theological Seminary) @ralphbasui

And here’s other people of faith in the #sxsw 2014 mix ::

  • Catherine Woodiwiss (Co-Founder, Trestles Creative Agency) @chwoodiwiss@trestlestweets
    Catherine is a journalist, start-up founder, musician, and community-accumulator… Catherine is also a columnist and editor at Sojourners, a leading faith-based social justice blog and advocacy group in DC. Presenter at session: Do It Together Is the New Do It Yourself #sxsw #DIYalive
  • Beth Katz (Founder & Exec Dir, Project Interfaith) @bethkatz + @ProjectIntrf8th
    Beth is the Founder and Executive Director of Project Interfaith ( Her passion for creating a world where people of all faiths, beliefs, and cultures are valued…
  • Greg Stielstra (Engagement Strategist, Healthways) @GregStielstra
    Greg is a marketing professional with over 20 years of experience and special expertise in behavioral economics and how influence spreads through human social networks… He is the author of two books: PyroMarketing (HarperCollins, 2005) and Faith-Based Marketing (Wiley, 2009) and was the marketing director for The Purpose Driven Life, the fastest selling hardcover book in American history. Presenter at session: Transform Community Behavior with Digital Design #sxsw #LiveBetter
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

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 122011

A handful of events and networks have crossed my radar recently that cultivate dialogue around the contextualizing of Christian faith for/with/by Asian Americans.

October 15th / 22nd @ Dallas / Houston
Legacy Dialogue 2011: Trust Factor – how to build trust between two generations in ministry – the future of next generation English ministry in the Asian-American church (Partnership of Asian American Churches in Texas)

October 19th @ 11:30am PT in Irvine
NexGen Pastors Gathering with Pastor Jim-Bob Park via NexGen Pastors Fellowship [Facebook group]

October 26th @ 2pm ET – online webinar
“Asian American Ministry and the Deconstruction of Asian American Christianity” Webinar with Dr. Timothy Tseng, sponsored by Judson Press

Like many churches in North America today, Asian American churches are experiencing the loss of their young adults. The new “Silent Exodus” is also about the erasure of Asian American identity and history within American Christianity. Will being Asian American matter in a “post-racial” generation? What does the deconstruction of Asian American Christianity mean for ministry to Asian Americans? What can Christians do to respond to this crisis? Join presenter Dr. Timothy Tseng as he explores and addresses these critical issues.

October 27th @ 9:30pm ET – online livestream
Q&A with Ken Kong, director of Southeast Asian Catalyst

Recordings (audio and video) [iTunes podcast feed] for the Asian American Ministry Program’s Inaugural Conference at SPU June 2011 with Timothy Tseng, Peter Cha, Soong-Chan Rah, Eugene Cho, Gideon Tsang, Ken Fong, Wayne Ogimachi, Nancy Sugikawa, Paul Kim, Bo Lim, Billy Vo, and more

December 27-30 in San Diego
CMC West Coast with Francis Chan and Greg Ogden [Chinese Mission Convention]

19 videos of the Asian American Equipping Symposium at Fuller Seminary, February 2011, with Richard Mouw, Eugene Cho, Bo Lim, Timothy Tseng, Young Lee Hertig, Amos Yong, Chloe Sun, and more

APA Faith Matters – a blog category at curated by Mihee Kim-Kort, with a periodic interview of Asian Pacific American (APA) leaders in various religious contexts

Inheritance Magazine – bi-monthly publication that tackles contemporary topics and issues that each Asian American Christian deals with in his/her life

Other networks that meetup in-person:

Know of other public connection places, on-line or on-site, for Asian American church and ministry leaders? Add a comment, please.

May 022011

Thanks to the conference organizers of Imagination Summit 2011 at Biola University, you too an watch the inspiring talk with Chick-Fil-A CEO Dan Cathy. In that talk, he talks about the history, the meaning of restaurant being a place of restoration, and how that ties into their restaurant business as a place of restoration through food and through customer service. Their 2-year effort to make “second mile second nature” was instrumental in growing revenues in a down-economy and keeping their stores closed on Sundays; great service like fresh-ground pepper, free refills, and possibly personalization-tracking on iPads in the near future.

Watch the video in HD at Youtube or play all 16 videos from Imagination Summit via playlist

Inspired me so much that I went to Chick-Fil-A the very next day for breakfast. And great customer service was demonstrated by their adding cream to my coffee at the drive-thru, although I wish they’d change the company policy, so it’s not just cream and coffee for me.

More recently, I went to a Chick-Fil-A in Orlando (during the Exponential Conference) that hosted a teens’ dance party in the evening — music cranked up LOUD, alcohol-free, and the sweet-tea was flowing! Noticed how my Icedream soft-serve ice cream didn’t melt after slowly savoring it for over an hour. Their use of a styro cup kept it cool and yummy for much longer than the typical paper cup!

Sep 202010

Pastor Bob Roberts is stepping out in faith as an evangelical church leader and hosting a Global Faith Forum this November 11-13 in Keller, Texas, near Dallas. Watch this video of my interview with Bob Roberts, and catch his heart on why he talks graciously with non-Christians, builds friendships, and how he’s hosting this multi-faith forum:

In this time of tension between faiths, this Global Faith Forum comes as such an important time, for Christians and Muslims and Jews and other faiths to be respectful of one another’s faith and yet allow one another to hold on to their faith convictions in contrast to some other inter-faith conversations where genuine differences are glossed over. While there may be misunderstandings, that’s all the more reason it is so importance to be engaging in conversation with other faiths in this day and age and this Global Faith Forum is hosting that conversation.

Bob elaborates further on why we need a Global faith forum at his blog. He also made this video with the Prince Turqi of Saudi Arabia, where they interview each other. What a great example of multi-faith dialogue! It’s this kind of conversation that’ll be happening at the Global Faith Forum this November.

Aug 032010

Eric Bryant‘s book gets a reboot as Not Like Me: A Field Guide for Influencing a Diverse World, the book formerly known as Peppermint-Filled Pinatas. The book now has its own website, sermon series, small group materials, blog tour

This book is an accessible and easy read. It’s filled with real-life stories of how to step out of one’s comfort zone to build real relationships with real people of all kinds: someone of a different ethnicity, a different economic class/ different pay grade, different political persuasion, different lifestyle, different religion. And interspersed with Biblical stories and guest authors chiming in too.

I know for me, if I only looked for people just like me to befriend, I’d be all alone. I’ve rarely ever found anyone who is like me. And that’s ok. It’s really a good thing to get to know people who are different. The Bible has something to say about people being made different anyways: having different gifts, different roles, different parts.

For those of us who find it challenging to step out of our comfort zone, it’s good to have a friendly voice come along, like this book, to show us how to get past our discomforts and to live out of faith and not out of fear. I know I can use the help. Thanks Eric.

Jun 202010

Leaving one church for another can be a good thing–it’s not always a bad thing. Yes, sometimes a person or a pastor leaves one church because of unresolved conflict, dissatisfaction, a “better” program or preacher elsewhere, and/or scandal. There’s been numerous articles about the bad reasons that people leave a church, and bad churches that people should leave. In a time where church-goers freely switch from church to church because of “not being fed,” “cliques,” “poor preaching,” or other reasons, at least they’re still going. And it may well be a good thing for someone to leave one church for another.

1st, how to leave a church on good terms. Brian Russell raised this question last month, “Is there a proper protocol to follow if switching churches?” Here’s several articles that point towards a church-leaving etiquette:

Something a church can do to learn from those who are leaving is to conduct an
exit interview. This is a great opportunity to listen to honest feedback, not be defensive, allow closure for church and the person(s) leaving, and a word of mutual blessing.

2ndly, God calls some into a new season. And there are times in one’s faith journey when one finishes one chapter at one church, and will go to another church for a new season. This is the case for a number of prominent pastors recently announcing their transitions: Jim Belcher, Francis Chan, N.T. Wright, and Others Leave the Pastorate to Write and Speak: Why church planters often quit their congregations. In this video of an Exclusive interview with Jim Belcher and Mike Erre, 2 pastors in the Orange County (California) area talk about how they’re leaving their churches for a new season of life and ministry:

There are times to stay, and there are times to go. Maybe the same amount of due diligence can be given to why one stays at a church as much as why one leaves a church. For the record, I do think the times of changing churches ought to be infrequent.

Jun 102010

How the multi-generational multi-lingual ethnic Asian Amerian church should and could minister in a healthy way is a recurring conversation, and occasionally new people enter this context afresh, perhaps from a job relocation, a next step after commencement, a natural progression of time and aging, or (less frequently) a personal conversion or crisis of faith. These questions came into my inbox recently, so let’s revisit that context again:

  • Do you think there is still a vital place for a multi-generational/cultural Chinese American church? Or do you see more inclusive Asian American churches and multi-ethnic churches as the next logical phase? Do you see Chinese American churches as “just” an intermediate step between an American church and a multi-ethnic model or perhaps an end in itself?
  • How would you describe the “ideal”, inter-generational immigrant Chinese church today? What does it look like to you? Multiple services in different languages? (e.g. Mandarin, Cantonese and English) Or same services with simultaneous translation in headsets? Side-by-side translation?
  • What are some creative ideas to unite the different Chinese generations and cultures besides joint services?
  • What in your knowledge are great examples and models of inclusive, multi-generation Chinese American churches?

Links mentioned in my video response:

In summary, it’ll take all kinds of churches to reach all kinds of people, so there is a place for the ethnic Chinese church. The way a church does its worship services and programs will change over time, and an openness to allow creativity to flourish as a natural outflow of spirituality will discover the “right” answers for each church context. That means putting resources behind research & development, i.e. prayer, people, and money. What would you add?

Apr 172010

Every year since 2007, most if not all of the church planting organizations / networks and denominations and 1000s of church planters meetup for the Exponential Conference in Orlando. This year’s is next week, April 19-22. 2 of the special things happening I know of are 5 Idea Camp workshops and Mosaix Global Network reboot/ relaunch.

Aside: using a iPad-friendly stylus, like the Pogo, I used Adobe Ideas like a telestrator on the conference website. As you can see, most of the space is to draw your attention to the featured speakers and get you to register. Extra info placed on inside pages are set aside in the left-side column.

I’ll be there on Monday to Wednesday. I arrive into MCO on Monday 4:15pm and depart on Wed 4/21 2′ish. I’ll have a rental car, so if you want to sync up for a ride share, ping me at 949-243-7260. Official twitter hashtag = #exponential. There’s a Monday night tweetup party according to @jim_gray. Info is TBD at time of this writing.