Exodus And Wilderness

There’s been recent literature about how young Asian American Evangelical college students and young adults are reviving the campuses and churches in the US.

It appears that the prodigals from the Silent Exodus are returning home to the faith.

And yet, from my vantage point, I wonder what happens post-college and singles? What happens when the passions and idealism of college and singles face a new season. Do we have the resources and churches that can take them to the next level in ethnic ministries, especially if groups like InterVarsity and Campus Crusade work hard to create environments that build a new solidarity of ethnic Christianity? Do our churches offer a satisfying palate after having tasted that type of vibrant environment? Or is it likely that churches will domesticate those youthful passions?

In keeping with the metaphor of exodus, I feel as though ethnic churches are headed for a wilderness, a wandering of sorts. And if we’re thoughtful and intentional about it, we’ll develop theological language to frame it – diagnosing it with a Gilgal of sorts (where the Israelites circumcised themselves in waiting to enter the Promised Land).

But that’s a difficult prospect when most of us are just trying to hold the internal tensions of working with the first generation or trying to create a sustainable base of members / attendance to justify / validate / support the ministry. Ethnic churches supporting an English-speaking congregation have to vanillify themselves just to reduce the workload and stay sane. Stick to the programs. Sing the Christian Top 40. Promote relationships. Plan the next “revival” or event. Hold the party line. Pray for deliverance more than wisdom and discernment.

Welcome to the wilderness. Don’t fight it, embrace it. We need it. The post-immigrant church needs to wander. Rediscover daily bread and following the moving pillar and the waiting at the foot of the mountain. We need to learn to dream. I know that Asian American Christians are superstars with the Christian media right now, driving up the numbers for all kinds of campus ministries and new church plants, but this is the beginning my friends, not the arrival.

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Comments

  1. Hannah says:

    David, what a stirring entry… and at the right time also.

    How God provides… 🙂

    I’m a 2nd generation Korean American living on Guam that contains a very small ethnic community of Koreans numbering 2000. There are over 10 immigrant churches here, and I recently began researching a paper for a conference in Korea. My thesis is titled, “The future of the Korean immigrant church on Guam.” i don’t know how it is in the US, but on guam, most 2nd generation koreans leave to the mainland for college and rarely come back to continue on the legacy of the church. english ministry is basically defunct, because there are no english-speakers to cater to except non-koreans who attend because their spouses are korean members of the church.
    this has caught my attention, because my peers who do return from the states, and that’s if they do, do not return to the church they once attended as children. as a practicing christian myself, serving in a korean immigrant church… it’s truly disconcerting and worrisome, and i can feel so well the concerns of the 1st generation.
    the immigrant church on guam is like you said in a period of wilderness, and has been so for quite a while. like korean immigrant churches all over the world, the churches here have suffered through political battles with one another, and that has much to do with why the young people refuse to return to a korean church.

    thank you so much for including two references… i am very hopeful that both books you mentioned will help so much in my research.

    if i may mention one pastor in the us who seems to very vocal and focused on immigration theology, his name is pastor oh sang chul, and he leads a group called the KAIST. he seems fluent in english, but he centers his talks in korean, so i’m sure that he is trying to reach the 1st generation demographic…

    but all in all, thanks for providing a fresh perspective on this issue. i can’t wait to read up on those two books you recommended.

    God bless.

    btw, there is a korean pastor here on guam, one of the first pastors to bring about the creation of a korean immigrant church wrote an amazing dissertation on this particular topic. he wrote extensively on esther and how she was a 1.5 generation immigrant to a new country, and how she made a difference in that part of the region. he ended his paper on a hopeful note, as he compared the diaspora of korean immigrants (both 1st and 2nd generation and so forth) to esther, and how their roles are crucial in defining a new strain of Christianity in America.

  2. David Park says:

    hannah, thanks for the comment!

    it seems like the post-immigrant context is the same no matter where you go. we simply have a hard time passing on our faith from generation to generation. thanks for the new names and ideas you’ve shared. i’d love to read your dissertation if or when you’re finished. i’ve noticed that we’re drawing from the scriptures models for how to live in between cultures, but it still brings up so many questions as well. sometimes, i think we’re still too kind to ourselves rather than addressing some of the hard work that needs to be done. i’m hoping we can be bold enough to be a little prophetic as well as pastoral, although we clearly need both.

    but thanks for sharing hannah. if i ever go to guam…i will definitely contact you! blessings over your work and ministry in guam.

  3. khl says:

    this post kind of sums up what i see in my fellow post-asian campus fellowship friends and in my asian post-immigrant church. there must be something more than programs, revivals, and the christian top 40s, right?

  4. Hans says:

    I believe church is not a building or a program, it’s the people. We don’t need to trap people into old paradigms, we can go for the new. For me, there were all those ministries trying to cater to the young generation by looking a lot like the world, having a “relevant” speaker, top 40 music, fun events. That got boring real fast. I wanted the real thing, I wanted to see the resurrection power and to feel his manifest presence. I was hungry for more. Jesus always offended the mind to reveal the hunger of the heart, but our churches are doing everything to attract people. The exodus is a good thing, because we were never meant to come to church, we were meant to GO to the lost. This is a hard thing to swallow for most professional christians, but the hungry will stick with it.

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