revitalizing Asian American churches

The full title of my presentation at the pastors & ministry leaders gathering today was “Revitalizing Asian American Churches for New Generations”. I painted a big picture with statistics about Asian Americans in the United States, and shared about a random sampling of churches that are making notable progress in reaching the next generation. I believe it’s more helpful to think of new ways to reach people rather than only asking the question of how to keep people in church.

Here’s the slides and audio (mp3 audio, file size=23mb):

[astute listeners will notice that my slides here don’t exactly match the audio; sorry, version mix-up — had wanted to better explain my work with L2 Foundation and Leadership Network]

Other related resources mentioned:

And, here are more helpful links for Asian American leaders:

I crammed in a lot in 30 minutes, and included the interactive Q&A in the recorded audio that followed the presentation. I’ll debrief and unpack more of what I spoke about in future posts at the L2 Foundation blog. Really appreciated the prayer support from Tom Steers, Margaret Yu and others, as well as the personal support of many friends who showed up, including Larissa Lam, Philip Kim, Brent Wong, Victor Yap, Ray Chang, Daniel So (drove up from San Diego!), Steve Hong (drove down from San Francisco!), Daniel Eng, Ken Fong, and more. Thanks to Louis Lee, Tom Steers, Tommy Dyo, Ben Shin for pulling this event together, along with Evangelical Christian Credit Union and Evergreen LA for hosting!

Met many other good people there. I would enjoy getting to meet any of those who attended (or missed it) in Southern Cal. Please contact me by email or phone to set a date, time, and place to meetup!

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20 Responses

  1. daniel so says:

    DJ — Great presentation today! It was definitely worth braving LA/OC traffic to get there… You’ve given me (and everyone who was there) plenty to think about.

  2. Daniel Eng says:

    hi DJ, it was great to see you again! Thanks for speaking–especially with everything you’ve been going through recently, I wouldn’t blame you if you decided not to do it today. Thanks for the presentation–it was definitely informative and challenging. As Asian-Americans we do need new life, and part of that is being open to trying new philosophies and approaches to ministry.

  3. Alex says:

    DJ- Great presentation. Just had a chance to listen to it tonight. Sorry I couldn’t make it to hear it live and interact with so many leaders who seem to have a passion to learn and share. May God bless your ministry. I was hoping that some of our church leaders would be able to attend but it didn’t work out. Hoping to come in March. Thanks for sharing your heart and passion.
    Alex

  4. David Park says:

    I wish I could have been there!

    Thanks for providing the audio and the presentation. Love your work, DJ.

  5. tom steers says:

    DJ—- what pre-heaven KINGDOM fun! thanks!

    Please comment on the figure you gave of 56% unchurched
    Asian Americans.

    How did you arrive at that %?

    What % of “churched” AA’s do not know Christ personally…..
    (estimate or guess-timate)? …giving us a total % that we need
    to be praying for and casting vision for?

    BTW, many of us have been saying that 80-90% of AA’s aren’t yet
    “home.” This always made me nervous, since it was such a
    “guess-timate). Sometimes I have suggested that someone do a
    comprehensive dissertation or thesis…. identifying each Asian
    church in the U.S., finding out the membership, worshippers,
    and then estimating the number of AA’s in Anglo churches.
    It would help if we tried harder to be nearer to reality.

  6. Martin Chow says:

    DJ,

    Thank you for your presentation and transparency. Your efforts at facilitating increased dialog are a great boost in the right direction.

    It’s time to welcome Christ, who is full of grace and truth, into all the multifaceted dimensions of the Asian American churches and communities, so that the hearts and minds of the people that create culture may be transformed by His grace.

    Great to talk to you in person after so many years. By the way, I came to faith in Christ in Virginia as well.

  7. Aaron Leung says:

    Thanks DJ for your time and transparency yesterday at The Gathering. I have already forwarded the link for the presentation to a couple of friends.

    I recently read a book titled Culture Shift: Communicating God’s Truth to Our Changing World. It may not look directly at the challenges and struggles of the changing Asian American ministry culture, and it is written in the context of preaching , but David Henderson does shed light on the changing postmodern landscape of our western society. Worth checking out.

  8. Peter Ong says:

    great job DJ, you are a big part of the movement of asian american churches to move beyond surviving but striving!

  9. djchuang says:

    All, thanks for your kind words and comments. Grateful for the opportunity as they’re few and far between.

    Just an idea: how about smaller groups of pastors and ministry leaders get together for breakfast and lunch, and invite me in to discuss in more depth about pressing ministry issues? There’s plenty of ministry leaders all over Southern Cal, and these groups / cohorts / meetups can be that much more helpful b/c we could focus on specific matters.

    Tom, I’ll unpack the meaning of the 56% unchurched AA statistic in a future post, stay tuned. Appreciate your encouragement that a comprehensive study could be helpful. I don’t have access to the research already done and being done behind the walls of academia, so maybe there are some case studies already available there to can provide more insight.

  10. natala says:

    Hi DJ,

    This was a really great presentation and I’m 3000 miles away! Which brings me to a few technical questions – I love this format and how easy it is to listen by clicking right on your page, and being able to view the slide show. So often I can listen to teachings/sermons/seminars but can’t see the visuals.

    If you have time – could you explain the format you use for audio and getting the slides up?

    Thanks so much !

    Natala

  11. Alex says:

    DJ,
    Wow! The Gathering was written up in the LA Times today in an article by Connie Kang. Here is the link http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-beliefs29sep29,0,5367053.story?coll=la-home-center

    Alex

  12. djchuang says:

    Natala, Glad you enjoyed the presentation! I usually don’t know how much an event organizer will record and distribute what I present, not that I get many public speaking invites anyways, so I think it helpful to provide my own gear and figure out on my own a way to share my presentations most accessibly as possible.

    What I use is a digital voice recorder that fits discretely in my pocket (the Olympus WS-320M 1 GB Digital Voice Recorder. It takes just 1 AAA battery to run 15-20 hours, and has capacity for many more hours. The magic is the built-in USB connector, which means no messy cables to keep track of: plugs right into my laptop, copy the recorded audio file (.WMA) with click-and-drag, convert into MP3, and upload to a server. I use a lapel mic (Olympus ME-15 Microphone) to record.

    As for the slides, I used http://www.slideshare.net to upload and host my PowerPoint slides, and they provide embedding onto blogs and websites, and easy navigation. Another great website that has Powerpoint slide presentation features is http://www.authorstream.com — both SlideShare and AuthorStream has a function to sync up an audio to automatically advance the slides. If I had extra time, that’s what I’d like to do to make a presentation absolutely seamless.

  13. djchuang says:

    Tom, I’ve cited the source for the 56% unchurched Asian Americans and provided some additional context to that statistic. Read it over at blog.l2foundation.org/2007/10/05/unchurched-asian-americans/

    Good thought about getting a better statistic on Asian Americans who are churched. An easier way to arrive at that number is to total up the attendance at the estimated 7,000 Asian American churches and subtract from the total Asian American population of 15 million — now, this will get you the number of Asian Americans who do not attend Asian American churches. There are also a number of Asian Americans who attend non-Asian churches, be it multi-ethnic or largely Anglo. So, be sure to factor that in, and you can arrive at a ball-park figure.

  14. solomon li says:

    hi dj,

    thanks for the audio. my pastor actually went to this event. we’re part of the PCA here on the west coast and it’s fascinating to see how there is a fairly different approach to something that is a problem across the board. is it method or content that brings people to church? creativity or what is perceived to be dead orthodoxy?

    truth be told, i appreciate both your presentation as well as the necessary undergirding of Scriptural truth in “doing”. for many, there is a perceived tension between the two… however, i actually perceive that doctrine should encourage creativity.

    i grew up in an asian american church (CCAC) in the SF valley which has been around for more than 20 years. i’m curious as to how many churches are out there like that. what is the statistic of asian american 2nd gen churches out there past 20 years old? where are they in supporting asian american ministries? churches?

    my other question though is to the necessity of creativity. how creative is too creative? for those of us in reformed and presbyterian circles there is a sense that the sensational is what you’re after when you say the word creative. of course, in looking back the church has flexed its muscle to develop ways to communicate the truth of Scripture to its people, but that said, there is also a history of bending so far that the church goes into unhealthy patterns of accommodation such that the gospel is no longer the central message of the church. i would like to see you pull some examples of that for us to say, “hey, there is a point in which we shouldn’t cross.”

    also, what of para-church ministries focused on asian americans? have they helped the church? or have they usurped the church? i’m interested in finding out if these organization has been a benefit to do what you’re talking about in building new leaders of the church and in reaching out in the community. or perhaps, what MORE could they do so that the statistic isn’t so staggering in terms of drop out of leaders from organizations like AACF “core group” leaders from the church (i’m sure tommy dyo would know, i was part of AACF when he was director too).

    finally, what ever happened to our leaders? i think it would be an interesting thing to investigate as asian americans aren’t new to the states… so what ever happened to those leaders that we should have now? why is there such a gap between the younger asian americans who would rise up and those who are in place now?

    there are many nuances to this discussion, but i thought i’d throw some things out there that i’ve been thinking about myself.

    thanks again dj. it was interesting and informative.

    -solomon

  15. djchuang says:

    Solomon, thank you for your thoughtful and detailed comment. My primary exhortation in this presentation was for more creativity, and I did not attempt to draw a boundary on when creativity would be too excessive, or theological considerations per se. The various nuances you’ve raised here are good things to thoughtfully consider, once the inertia of inaction has been overcome and the ball gets rolling. Too often there is that false dichotomy between theory and practice, between being and doing, between method and content, between doctrine and creativity.

    From what I know of the PCA denomination, there are a growing number of churches that have used more creativity than ever to be more intentional on outreach, more articulate on being Gospel-centered and living out the implications, and kept a mostly traditional liturgy for its worship services. So doctrines have not been compromised, and yet creativity is well and active in these center-city churches like Redeemer NYC, Harbor in San Diego, and ones in Chicago and SF.

    You’ve raised good questions about older Asian Americans, and I don’t know of research specifically focused on the 3rd, 4th, and 5th generation Asians that are a part of the American population. Not to fault those who’ve gone before us, but we’ll always need to be actively reproducing leaders from generation to generation.

  16. solomon li says:

    hey dj,

    thanks for your swift reply. i myself am a small fan of tim keller’s and the whole jack miller movement to be gospel centered through and through. i think it’s very helpful for today’s post modern or perhaps liquid modern state of thinking and living. however, i also recognize the particular gifts that God has given men like tim keller, dick kaufman, and perhaps even iron kim to preach gospel centered preaching from the pulpit. indeed God has created these men for their particular groups. only keller can command NY the way he does, likewise only dick can command harbor the way he does.

    the whole discussion though in their churches seems to be the issue of contextualization. to me, it seems fairly congruent with Scripture in that God himself has accommodated His Word to us in what would be for him, “baby talk”. likewise, the writers of the OT and NT were writing for their particular peoples and contexts while the Spirit moved them to communicate that message to us. i think it’s a helpful understanding of ministry that should be explored and developed.

    however, as i think more about it i also see that the particular groups they are speaking to are a unique culture group. albeit multi-ethnic and gospel centered, i find myself asking the question for us… what is it to be asian american? perhaps you’ve come up with a generic answer to that for us… but really, i find that so many asian americans in the 2nd generation are in that niche that demands study. we’re no longer fully associated with the “motherland” and yet we’ve not fully taken on our new “motherland” here.

    of course, i suppose the idea is that we are aliens in this world according to Scripture if we believe the gospel. however, is that the direction you see for asian american churches? kingdom citizenship emphasized over asian american ambiguity? or perhaps finding our kingdom citizenship as meaningful through understanding that we are in between two worlds as asian americans?

    for us in the PCA i see that the identity in Christ is definitely stressed (and thus theological content leading to an outflow of gratitude), but there is also that disconnect that traditionally exists (as the PCA is still a very “southern” denomination).

    btw. i appreciate the affirmation of the need for developing, sustaining, and raising up new leaders… it’s something that’s actually been in my heart since my college days at cal poly pomona AACF. it’s definitely an issue that glares as a failure in para-church even more so than i think the church itself, but it is definitely hurting our churches… even at keller’s church there are many who ask… what happens if tim retires? hopefully, the Lord will continue to build up asian americans to be stubbornly obedient to the call and likewise stubbornly faithful to raise up those behind them to tow the line.

    thanks again.

    -solomon

    ps… sorry for the long winded thoughts… i’m still grappling with it and will continue to do so for probably years to come…

  1. September 26, 2007

    […] It was a very good time, and gave many of us a great deal to consider regarding our approach. You can see the informative slides and listen to DJ’s talk at his website. […]

  2. September 28, 2007

    […] at “The Gathering” this past week at Evergreen Baptist Church in Rosemead. In his talk, Revitalizing Asian American Churches, DJ gave us the macro-picture of what’s happening with Asian American churches and he […]

  3. October 15, 2007

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  4. January 16, 2009

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