Growing up to own your faith
David served his own generation (Acts 13:36). Each of us serve her or his generation. Some are able to connect from generation to generation. Some are called to serve a new generation. There’s a place for both.
Having several recent conversations with Asian church and ministry leaders, I heard many express their concern about the relationship between generations, and how it seems the next generation Asians are leaving the church and the faith. A valid concern. I’m concerned too. I wish to see more intergenerational Asian churches demonstrate grace and freedom for both 1st generation immigrants and 2nd generation adults to thrive. There’s hundreds and thousands of people who have worked on and are working on this intergenerational issue. So how much progress has been made over these many years?
Rather than only working harder to solve this intergenerational conundrum that has confounded so many for so long, how about we put some people (bless them, support them) to work on new ways of doing church for the next generation. 1 more person working on the intergenerational issue isn’t going to suddenly get us over the hump and figure it all out.
Let’s try something new.
Put more Asian Americans out there with a clean slate and take on a new opportunity and try new ways of reaching new people who have never stepped into a church door. I think we’d see some exciting things happen. Let’s get more new and young church leaders and young adults to take ownership for their faith, establish their own churches just as they establish their own homes. Let’s serve our own generation the way they need to be served.
but then it gets so complicated. I feel this is my desire, and many other people’s desires for something new. But how can this new generation of Asian Americans pursue the dream of creating a new church while graciously receiving the blessing of the older generations? Or are the older generations capable of blessing the new generation without viewing them as children?
I have been immersed in my immigrant church home church for a long time. And every time a new generation takes ownership, it becomes interpreted as rebellion.
As I have been sitting through Intervarsity staff training, many of the asian american staff have been talking about how they have come to a point where they had to learn how to disobey their parents, but still honor them in terms of their decision to pursue ministry.
I believe that’s what this new generation must learn to do- how to maintain honor, even when they are in “disobedience”. I think trying a new thing is equated as disobedience, so when they leave to start new ministries, they leave with a clear idea that the price for obeying God is disobeying the old generation’s expectations of them, and in turn, dishonoring them. That’s why the “silent exodus” is “silent”. There is a shame, yet simultaneous indignation. There is a rift between generations.
There are extremely successful second generation ministries here on the west coast. GRX in the bay area, newsong in the south… But every second generation person i have met from there has given up on the first generation and the immigrant churches they come from… and rightfully so sometimes. There is a huge amount of mistrust and hurt. But then immigrant churches view this as sheep stealing. When i was interning at my immigrant church, my job was to make sure people stay at our church, and there would always be grumblings of frustration that nobody came back- before it would be worry that people werent christians after college… but now it is confusion and frustration that they don’t come back “home”.
What would healthy release look like? What would healthy empowerment and partnership look like between the generations? How can previous generations, in the name of “family”, encourage, not destroy, the passion of new generations?
Yes, I’m wrestling with it too. And yes, I’m one more voice throwing in his opinion on this, and no, it won’t get us over the hump. But I suppose it’s better than silence, eh?
But there’s always hope, isn’t there? Here’s hoping for God to inspire some creative solutions of reconciliation and empowerment towards the picture painted in the psalms which says, “One generation will commend your works to another; they will tell of your mighty acts.”
and I have successfully written a blog entry in a comment. wonderful.
amen…i appreciate the balance of your view, and also want to echo the exhortation to start something new. There needs to be more people reaching those who haven’t been reached before. And right now, most 1st generation churches are still “Asian cultural community centers”; churches that will fight till the death for their Asianness in language, food, and social structures that they totally prohibit any sort of engagement with their actual spheres of life: school, work, neighbors. If you have been there voicing your concern for this misdirected passion without any listening ears, and you don’t necessarily feel called to that church, maybe its time to step out to something new.
But, as rightly pointed out, there is still hope. 1 more person working on the problem won’t solve it for the whole…but if you find a group of people–specifically a group of like-minded, and like-passionate pastors and elders of a church–then you got something to work with. Maybe then you can start giving the Asian church some hope. Let’s prayerfully consider God’s call at this pivotal point.
Daniel, yes, things are complicated, as they are in any cross cultural relating. I believe we have access to the supernatural resources of God to help us work through these kind of complicated things. This means there are no easy or simple answers. The common rally point for all of us regardless of generation is the cause of Christ and the good news of the Gospel. It is not so much a desire for something new; it is the Gospel that compels us to do whatever it takes for the greater good. I’m uncomfortable with the “disobedience” that some feel compelled to take.
Where the possibility for hope is seeing 1st generation leaders and pastors who recognize that the Gospel takes on different expressions and forms in different generations and different cultures. And, we have to tap into the power of the Gospel to give all of us healing from our trauma and fears, and to find strength to do Kingdom-minded things.
In my IM chat with Joey earlier today, we realized a key difference that marks a hopeful (and healthy?) church– a passion for reaching unreached people rather than a concern to keep (unsatisfied) people in church.