debrief on the Fuller conversations

I got an invite from Daniel Lee [facebook profile], a Th.M. student at Fuller Theological Seminary, who is coordinating a newly-formed group on campus called Asian American Theological Fellowship. Last night was quite the privilege for me to share a presentation titled “Reaching the next generation of Asian Americans”.
More than a handful of my long-distance compadres asked about my thoughts and feelings about last night’s engagement. Here they are, in 3 parts: the presentation, the group, and the potential.

The presentation. This presentation consisted of 59 PowerPoint slides. If I ran thru them Lessig style, no big deal, but I dwelled on many of them, skipped a few, and lost track of time. Meaning, I think I went long– I did go longer than I had planned to. As I debrief here, it dawned on me that since I first built this presentation in September 2007, I’ve added on more slides to cover frequently asked questions. Now after (maybe) 5 iterations, I’ve only added more and more slides — didn’t remove any. No wonder I went long! If I were to take Guy Kawasaki’s 10/20/30 rule of Powerpoint, get it down to 10 slides, I maybe could summarize it as:

  1. The opportunity is huge and urgent to reach more Asian Americans. The population will double in less than 50 years.
  2. Churches naturally have a life cycle like any organization. From time to time, church must adapt to cultural changes to revitalize, or else.
  3. Ethnic Asian churches have adapted to several models of multi-generational multi-lingual churches to accommodate both Asian-language speakers and English speakers.
  4. We’ve got so much more to offer. On the whole, in comparison to other racial groupings, Asian Americans are the most educated and have highest earnings. These resources have yet to be fully activated for Kingdom purposes.
  5. Healthy churches grow AND reproduce.
  6. In the past 10 years, there’s been an exponential growth of new churches effectively reaching next generation Asian Americans.
  7. New churches doing church a new way are found all over the United States. It’s not just a “West coast” phenomena.
  8. We still need more new English-speaking Asian-led churches to reach the next generation, and the unchurched majority.
  9. Ask not how can we keep “them” in church. Ask how can we reach more people for Jesus.
  10. It takes all kinds of churches to reach all kinds of people.

The group. About 20+ attendees, comprised of both seminary students and a handful of church leaders from area churches. Rarely do I have the opportunity to talk about the work I do and tell the stories of next gen Asian American churches, and to have an audience so interested (or it seemed to me.) Most of the time, people give me blank stares or their eyes roll back.

So, being with a rapt audience mesmerized me. I even saw 2 old friends (okay, acquaintances) I hadn’t seen for years. Best question of the night: “What do you mean by ‘Asian American’?” Several questions were along the lines of “Have you seen a church that…” My answer to that is veering more and more towards: there are all kinds of churches, and anything is possible for those who believe. And, have strong leadership, freedom to experiment, and the conviction of God’s leading.

The potential. There are seemingly few people I’ve found in all my years who are thoroughly thoughtful about how to live out our Christian faith as next generation Asian Americans. Few that are interested in discussing the long unaddressed issues of Gospel and cultures. If we don’t critique ourselves, and both Asian and American cultures, who can? It’s all too common for Christian of Asian descent to either use faith as a reinforcement for a moral lifestyle or to assimilate into mainstream culture of a “generic Gospel.”

Where I hope the conversations will go is beyond the walls of academia. I know of (and respect) a growing group of professional theologians and scholars who are working in the academy to wrestle with Asian American theologies. Keep your eye on this: some heavyweights are available to go on tour. There’s rumored negotiations to bring it to Fuller Seminary. (!)

I’d love to see thoughtful conversations flourish among the masses too. Plenty of Asian American Christians, as they’re prominence is obvious on many college campuses. To be fair, these conversations about faith & culture do happen in face-to-face gatherings once-in-a-while off-the-record. These conversations can also be had online in the open, using blogs, twitter, tokbox, chat rooms, conference calls. Break the isolation and rid the ignorance. This is readily available for non-techies and techies. The success of Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, and Google (to name a few) shows how internet has given voice to the average Joe computer user.

Let’s keep the conversations going. Let’s open it up. Let’s take it online. Let’s connect. Conversations change the world. It’s the way to take ownership of our faith, our heritage, and for our generation.

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4 Responses

  1. eugene says:

    Your list of 10 items are fabulous. Obviously each worthy of another 10 slides or a long chat. As weary as some may be, we need to have having these conversations in every city…

  2. djchuang says:

    Eugene, thanks for your kind and affirming words! Didn't know “fabulous” was getting back into the culturally-hip venacular. 🙂 Could marvelous be next?

  3. daniel so says:

    I believe the phrase would be “mah-velous” 🙂

    I second Eugene's comment. DJ, I appreciate your ability to bring together research, theology and praxis. Thanks for making this list of ten vital truths for the Asian American church available for all of us.