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 262013

Seminaries are great at training for theology, and the theological foundation is absolutely essential. But there’s a whole business side of running a church, as many of us learn the hard way. That’s where church consultants come in—to lay the organizational foundation for a church.

Just came across a new reality tv show “Church Rescue” on National Geographic channel. The main characters are 3 consultants that run Church Hoppers, LLC, “a consulting company designed to assist churches of all denominations in building balance within their ministry. … focus on three critical areas: systems, business, and sales/marketing.” The 3 consultants are Kevin Annas, Jerry Bentley, and Anthony Lockhart, and true to reality TV form, they’ve got nicknames, Rev. Kev, Doc, and Gladamere. I personally haven’t met these guys yet in my church conferencing trips, though I’ve met dozens of other church consultants along the way. (there’s over 3,000 church consultants according to the Society for Church Consulting.) The Church Hoppers team is based North Carolina, and according to their bio’s, they’ve got quite the mix of church ministry and business experiences.


From my initial browsing, it looks like they’ve gotten quite the exposure using traditional media tactics, reality TV on a cable channel (and I don’t have cable so I can’t watch any episodes), and mainstream media mentions, with Twitter and Facebook feeding into the traditional channels. Not a lot of social media chatter and engagement yet. And according to this tweet yesterday (11/25/13), the network is pulling the show after only a few episodes after its premiere on November 11th.

More details on the back story of Church Rescue:

Oct 212013

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

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

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

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

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


Jul 282013

Pastor Rick Warren returns to the pulpit at Saddleback Church after a 16-week sabbatical. He and wife Kay and family and extended family and church family and God’s family have shared an agonizing experience as we’re grieved together over the loss of his son during the week after Easter. I write this blog post on my 3rd time watching the poignant message that Pastor Rick and Kay shared, very personally and powerfully. As Pastor Rick opened his message, he introduced that he with Kay will be comforting others with the comfort we’ve been given (for this new season of their anointed ministry), offered words of thanks, and then proceeded to unpack the words of comfort from 2 Corinthians 1:3-11 about how to get through what you’re going through. You’ll be able to watch the video of this message all week at saddleback.com/online and on-demand at saddleback.com

For a historical occasion like this, I had to be there for the very first time in person (Pastor Rick preaches 5 times every weekend at Saddleback’s Lake Forest campus) and sat in the 10th row front and center. We arrived for the Saturday 4:30pm Saturday service 90 minutes early, and over 100 people were in the auditorium already, too, and it was at full capacity 30+ minutes before start time. 3 other tents accommodated overflow at Lake Forest, and those got filled too. What an emotional experience for all. There’s no one like Rick Warren in our generation, as God has gifted him uniquely with talents and opportunities, unparalleled influence and impact far beyond its church walls, imprinted on American evangelicalism, and on pace for shaping global Christianity as he mobilizes local churches everywhere to go to the final frontier of reaching the unreached unengaged people groups with the hope of the Gospel. cf. Rick Warren’s Final Frontier: Saddleback wants to bring the gospel to the world’s 3,400 unengaged people groups. Why it just might work.

Mainstream media circulated the Associated Press article, while a handful of local mainstream media made mentions of this event. Plus, these exceptional articles:

Highlights of the chatter on social media at http://storify.com/djchuang/rick-warren-returns-for-a-new-season-of-ministry ; and below that is the photo that @RickWarren shared on his own social media feeds.

Aug 062011

Jesus said “… when I was in prison, you visited me.” I confess I’m missing out on a glimpse of Jesus since I have not yet ever visited someone a prison. By grace I don’t personally know anyone there, and of course that’s not the point. When it comes to following Christ, it means so much more to be altruistic and doing good for total strangers and not only for people you know, family, and/or friends.

A social marketing friend Jim Gray is running a campaign this week for God Behind Bars a new ministry for those in prison for a season. God Behind Bars partners with churches and faith-based organizations to stream live worship experiences into prisons all over the world. And, they’ve got an online campus called “Church With Inmates” that allows the families of prisoners to see and experience the same service that their loved one is watching from inside the prison. One more “wall” that’s broken down. 92% of inmates serve their time and are release back to society. So keeping them connected with society in this spiritual dimension is certainly important, and good for everyone.

Another part of the world that’s isolated from the public is the online world of Google+, in many ways yet another social network. (How’s that for a segue?) If you’re on the outside looking in and want to get an account and access Google+ , leave a comment here and I’ll invite you! You’ll get bumped to the front of the line and get in on their limited-access beta. I’ve got more invites, I don’t know how many, so it’swhile supplies last.

May 172011

Connected with Billy Vo via this video interview, and learned of his spiritual journey and his new work at Seattle Pacific University and its Asian American Ministry Program. [Facebook page]

[watch video over at YouTube]

This June 13-15 in Seattle is the Asian American Ministry Program’s Inaugural Conference. Culture does make a difference in how theology is understood and lived. Theology is not culturally-neutral. This conference is bringing together quite the stellar lineup of Asian American ministry leaders, including: Timothy Tseng, Peter Cha, Charlene Jin Lee, Soong-Chan Rah, Eugene Cho, Ken Fong, Gideon Tsang, Young Lee Hertig, Wayne Ogimachi, Nancy Sugikawa, Paul Kim, Bo Lim, Billy Vo, and more. I’m told it’s more of a regional event, but I see no reason why it can’t be billed as a national event.

By the way, it’s Asian Pacific American heritage month, this month of May, every month of May. Not sure how much of this matters to how many of the 16 million Asian Americans. But I digress…

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?

Jul 302010

This week I received this email from Tom Steers about an event for Southern California ministry leaders (and those that’d travel in for it). The AALC mentioned in email below refers to an “Asian American Leadership Conference.”

You don’t have to be Asian American to attend. I’d go just to hear James Choung. When James gave a similar talk during a workshop at Urbana 09, it was standing room only and overflowing; must have had over 500 people there! I had to shoot this video sitting on the floor myself.]

THE GATHERING of Asian American church and parachurch leaders will meet again!

Save this date: Tuesday, Sept. 21, 2010
We will meet at 10:00 am at Evergreen Baptist Church-L.A. (1255 San Gabriel Blvd., Rosemead, 91770)

We will hear from James Choung, the new director of Asian American Ministries of IVCF. He will speak about his new book, TRUE STORY: A Christianity Worth Believing In.

We will be treated to a free lunch @ noon!

Again, the purpose of The Gathering is to encourage you, to re-connect with Kingdom laborers, and to make new connections. Louis Lee will also be with us to share about a new AALC in April or May, 2012.

I need your confirmation that you are coming in order to have an accurate meal count. Please email me back! If you are interested in going to this event, please e-mail Tom Steers directly at [email protected]

Also, these events are always open to any key leader that you want to invite. There are 100′s of key leaders that we are not in email connection with. So, we rely heavily on you to invite others! Please do!

Just let me know attendees for our meal count!

With you for HIS eternal victories!


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?