Growing Healthy Asian American Churches, 5

Discussion questions for Chapter 4 from DJ Chuang:

  • 4 ingredients are listed for building healthy leadership teams: choose and use team members well, build trust among leaders, pursue conflict resolution vigorously, and cultivate the vision. Would you add some other ingredients that have been helpful in building a healthy leadership team?

The ingredients listed here are wonderful ideals and I agree with them wholeheartedly as they relate to the context of the Asian American church. However, as I look at this list, it makes me wonder how far off we are from being healthy. It’s as though I were preparing to cook a dinner and finding that I don’t have all the required ingredients for the recipe. Now this sounds incredibly pretentious, as I’m neither a full-time pastor or a church planter, but I question whether or not it will happen unless we take off certain boundaries of the Asian culture. By this I mean specifically the strong Confucian tendencies embedded in leadership that value hierarchy more than respect at times; saving face more than amazing grace; and the us versus them mentality. While I understand that the culture at large has a severely-lacking sense of deferring to authority and respecting of elders, I think that instead of reacting with even more strictness in our churches, there has to be a healthy balance where the leaders say to the followers and to one another, “Hey, I could be wrong on this, so what do you think?” It’s a phrase not heard frequently enough in Asian churches.

I also think that many Asian leaders struggle with last ingredient mention which is to “cultivate the vision”, NOT the cultivation aspect – but in the aspect of execution. I think the Asian American church is filled with thinkers, philosophers, theologians, visionaries, strategists and scholars, but significantly fewer movers, shakers, tacticians, production-line specialists, and coordinators. I can say from what I’ve seen in the Korean communities that I’ve been an observer and somewhat of a participant in, that we have a bounty of leaders, but a dirth of followers. I think we need to learn to put the rubber to the road. Stop talking, let’s do something about it. Quit preaching and let’s get our hands dirty. Pause the strategy and let’s talk about how it’s going to look in real life. Why aren’t we working with other ethnic churches? Why don’t I have more African-American friends? Why am I projecting on to you all of my inadequacies? Why am I not editing this out?

  • 4 values were particularly descriptive of Asian American church leaders: pursuing a balanced life, demonstrating vulnerability, valuing team ministry, and recognizing God’s leadership.

Are we sure that we want to say these values are “descriptive of Asian American church leaders”? Team ministry and the balance life again are the toughest values here for leaders that I’ve seen to emulate. The leaders I know are gunslingers and Lone Rangers. They are incredibly talented but often can do little to entrust others, there simply isn’t enough time, not enough resources. If you want to fly from the seat of your pants like they do, don’t expect many flying lessons. And of course, it naturally leads to imbalance in the personal lives of the pastors. We expect a great deal from pastors and pastors expect a great deal from themselves. Here is where I have trouble deciding whether it’s the circumstances that made leaders one-man bands, or whether the leaders themselves make sure that they are one-man bands. But either way, it’s not good. I just don’t know how we get out of this cycle. Again, I think the culture reinforces roles and when we need to equip the “priesthood of all believers”, we as leaders just don’t know how to do that well enough. It’s like a bad rap album, where we end up fighting and all starting our own record labels.

  • The closing part of the chapter makes a noted distinction between building a household (where redemptive relationships are flourishing along with right doctrines and programs) versus building a house (where right doctrines and right programs are maintained). What steps can your church take to move from a functional house towards a fulfilling household?

Fascinating distinction made here. Many immigrant families I have seen in my experience often share a common fear of how their children will grow up. So some families have a great deal of rules and superstituous behavior, but very little substance in terms of relationship. So many parents I know talk AT their children, but not TO them. I believe that between the first and second generations, there is a great deal of dysfunction that needs to be addressed from the pulpit. The next generation needs to know that they themselves, and their spiritual and relational health is more important to us than their grades or monetary value. Same case for church leaders, I understand the need for right doctrine, but it won’t matter if there’s no relationship undergirding it. I’ve heard stories of youth pastors ignoring students if they had missed a key event or if they hadn’t shown up to church in a while. What is up with that?! We need to make a point of building the common ground, enough “seeker-sensitive” qualifications, why don’t we build the case that we are all “seekers”. We are all continually to seek out more of God in our lives, that this relationship that we have with God is not a final thing, it’s still in motion, and we are continuing to relate to others in that fashion on this side of heaven.

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Comments

  1. Helen Lee says:

    David,
    I’m actually the author of the chapter you discuss above and I’d like to get in touch with you for a networking question. Could you contact me at helen.lee@comcast.net when you have a moment? I’d really appreciate it! Thanks so much. And great blog, by the way!

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