incredible conversations between pastors

Wow, what a day! The experience we called the Asian American Pastors Wild Challenge formally ended at 12 noon today. The 24-hour experience is unlike any other kind of “conference” or “roundtable” because of how the time is intentionally facilitated by a great team of professionals (Richard, Kim, and Keith) plus support from 3 coordinators who took care of the food, logistics, and materials. Their great work freed me up to be me, using my energy on being warm-fuzzy relational and hand off the tasks to others.

I ran on pure adrenaline, getting maybe 4 hours of sleep last night, having stayed up way past midnight talking with Jonathan Ro (Lakeview) and John Kim (Lighthouse) at their hotel poolside. Jon is my fellow church connoisseur and we love dreaming of new possibilities for ministry strategies. The 4 hours from 8am to 12 noon just hummed, even after my quirky morning devotional. Then I had meetings with different people until 9:00pm tonight, including sushi dinner with Peter Nguyen and Tommy Wong – 2 young guns with big dreams for a next generation church planting movement. Even made a visit at my alma mater seminary campus, 2nd time in 12 years, where they’re now serving Starbucks coffee and frozen custard on site. Wow, that almost tempted me to visit more often.

I was pleasantly surprised by a few things: the conversations opened up so quickly in less than hour after we kicked it off. We had pastors (and one accompanying church leader of that pastor’s choice) from churches from all over the country and of all sizes from 0 to 3,500, mostly of Chinese and Korean ethnicities. When there’s such a wide diversity with a majority who don’t know each other, it was risky for me to put so many different people together. I’ve often seen how long it takes for people to warm up and begin to open up. I’ve known people for years that barely takes a step to open up, and to see these pastors connect so quickly was way cool.

Everyone stayed engaged with the process, which can be tough without a provided agenda, so they really had to trust us and take cues well. They really dug into the discussion topics, surfaced priority issues like leadership development, being missional, and the church identity issue of being Asian American or multiethnic or third culture. We know with such a limited time that one can only scratch the surface, but the level + depth + speed + civility + fun of the discussions was off the hook.

I’m particularly proud of how our Asian pastors reached out to talk with and get to know our facilitation staff. That really blessed the non-Asian staff, who often serve many Anglo church leaders and don’t get invited into conversations over meal times. This really touched my non-Asian staff profoundly. This gives me a glimpse of hope that we Asian Americans do have a lot to give to non-Asians and we can take the initiative.

[update] Pastor Seth Kim of Harvest Mission Community Church in Ann Arbor, Michigan, blogged about his experience as a participant:

As I am sitting here reflecting on my 24 hours in Dallas, I am feeling pretty overwhelmed (in a good sense). First of all, it is incredible to think that God would use imperfect people to build His Kingdom. Sometimes, I see myself messing things up more than anything else. But God is truly gracious and patient – truly amazing.

Secondly, to think that there are so many like-minded people (Kingdom minded) all over the States (and the world) is another overwhelming thought. God is truly moving and doing some great things in various churches. I was so encouraged to hear about some of the awesome things that God was doing across the nation.

Lastly, as I have downloaded some incredible discussions and dialogue about the Church with some cutting-edge (euphuism for people willing to take risks) pastors … It was a privilege to be with a group of people that have a huge heart for the Lord and a dynamic dream for the Lord. God is up to something.

Someone affectionately called him the “Asian Jesus.” I’m so delighted to have met with him. They loved the custom-built rolling whiteboard we used to facilitate our event. I asked Google about a rolling whiteboard, and found one for about $500 or $1000. Seth is pictured below on the left, me in the middle, Andrew Jun on right.

Seth DJ and Andrew

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  1. Ferdinand says:

    That sounds exciting… Man, I would’ve loved to hear the discussions!

    🙂 Been well, DJ?

  2. Ben Pun says:

    sounds amazing, dj. Will any of the material/mp3’s be posted on the internet? I would definitely be interested in it.

  3. djchuang says:

    Ben, thanks for your interest!

    We did not record any of the conversations, so it’s not quite possible to post any MP3s. While this was not a secret meeting, this was an invite-only meeting, and it was intended to be a safe meeting between a diversity of pastors and church leaders, so they could freely discuss strategic ministry issues, opportunities and challenges with one another. We did take copious notes for internal use, and participants did walk away with a document in hand — one of the premium value-adds of this facilitation process is that the staff provides near-real-time note-taking so the participants can focus on the discussions.

    What you can keep an eye out for is a magazine article that will likely be published in Fall 2007 that will feature what we’ve seen happening among next generation Asian American churches based on our on-going research, the Asian American church report, and this Wild Challenge experience.

  4. eugene says:

    dj: everything sounds so good; really really wished i could have joined you guys. thanks again for being such a catalyst in bringing people together.