This post actually should start with the comic relief:
After our 2nd Asian American Emergent Skypecast (you can listen to the recordings here), a dear friend and I got into further discussion about challenges in the Asian American church. As we got into our own little exchange, which I wish I had the wherewithal to record, we noted that there was a conflict of interest between what is best for the Gospel, best for the church, versus what is best for the individual. For instance, a dilemma of the preservation of one’s own pastoral job versus promoting reconciliation between churches, in our observations, usually ends up in a staunch defense of the former. In the case of preserving culture and hierarchy versus promoting openness and the stretching of comfort zones, we naturally gravitate away from the latter.
It seems that often churches and pastors are influenced by economics, opportunity, and “markets” as much as, or possibly more than any spiritual force. While we give the benefit of the doubt to these leaders, and understand the necessity of a diversity and a multiplicity of churches, the tension between being led and driven by the Gospel versus the natural inclination for self-preservation and personal interest is rarely explored collectively in humility from an Asian-American church pulpit.
My friend, at one point in the conversation, stated flat out: “I’m afraid that many Asian American churches are not about Jesus. They know Jesus. They love Jesus. They talk about Jesus. But many churches are simply not about Jesus.”
Ouch. Is it possible that, behind a veneer of church-speak, many of us care more about culture, job, reputation, economics, opportunity, church, building, community, ________, than the Gospel of Jesus Christ?
I understand that this is not solely an Asian American church problem, but is it possible that because we are cultural centers as well as spiritual centers in our communities, that we tend to be driven by the former role than the latter role? Is it possible that this is happening to many of our churches?
I know many of us would never intentionally or consciously say, think, or behave in a manner that would subvert the bride of Christ that we serve. But I have to ask the question because I believe that the problems with AA churches are systemic, and the problems that I’ve seen or heard of in AA leadership reveal a modus operandi that makes wonder if there is a method to crises I’ve seen.
My heart breaks for my own Jerusalem, my own people, tongue, and nation. Please God, make us whole. May we be a people who are about you, and not ourselves. Convict us, Holy Spirit, may your Law be ever before us, to show us time and time again that you are the reason we are free and the reason why we live, truly live.