Article: Orange County exports Asian American churches to the world

DJ_ChuangA recent article was released in the Orange County Register featuring DJ Chuang.  Here’s an excerpt from the article, written by Jim Hinch:

“I’m an experimenter,” Chuang said. “My heart is in the church, the Asian American church. But church is not known for being a place of research and development.”

Chuang left formal ministry and became a consultant, working for churches, parachurch organizations and Christian nonprofits, always aiming to help Asian American Christians become more digitally savvy and culturally responsive.

He’s helping Brea’s Ambassador Church expand its network of sister churches and advising La Mirada’s Talbot Seminary as it develops one of America’s first doctoral programs in Asian American ministry.

Chuang is a manic presence, especially online. He was, he says, the first person in Orange County to sign up for Twitter seven years ago (a distinction confirmed by the rankings website Twitaholic). He tweets throughout each day, blogs, produces a weekly podcast and talks by phone, Skype and Google Chat with a nationwide roster of church leaders. Callers make appointments via an interactive scheduler on Chuang’s website.

Last year, Chuang traveled 35,839 miles in 74 days on 16 trips to conferences and meetings. This information comes from the Chuang family Christmas card, which also details the number of followers (7,000) Chuang has on Twitter and the number of reward points he earned last year at Starbucks (50).

Since 2005, Chuang has edited two books on Asian American ministry, produced a report on current trends in Asian American churches, written 23 magazine articles and made 28 presentations at church conferences and seminars – achievements tabulated, in chronological order, on Chuang’s website.

Chuang has bipolar disorder. He has been successfully treated for the condition since 2001. But he attributes his numerous career changes and intellectual restlessness, in part, to manic episodes.

His periods of depression, he said, brought him near suicide. And they convinced him that helping Asian American churches become more culturally inclusive is tantamount to a life-or-death calling.

“It’s very hard for Asians to talk about their weaknesses,” Chuang said, explaining why he waited years before publicly acknowledging his condition and seeking treatment.

Chuang said traditional Asian American churches are especially inhospitable to painful personal problems because many Asian cultures prize a veneer of stoic hard work and moral respectability.

“I want to bring churches into a place to deal more honestly with the real person,” Chuang said.

“I would like to see Asian Americans become more healthy and whole as people.”

To read the full article on the Orange County Register website, visit here.

Also, DJ gave an inspiring talk at Urbana 12’s PANA lounge, called: “Step Up, Speak Up, Live It Up,” which you can find in transcript and audio format on his website, or in video format on Intervarsity Asian American Ministries’ website.

New wine skin Leadership for the church?

Greetings everyone –

At the end of this month, I will be heading to the Great Country of Texas – home to the world champion Dallas Mavericks and soon to be champions, Dallas Cowboys (I am such a homer).  There was a 1st generation church that asked me to consider and walk/teach through a process of cultivating a new ministry — specifically in salvaging or rebirthing an English ministry of sorts.  At the time they brought this up last year, I was not in the mood for consulting them through this.  Why bother right?   Normally, in the past, my hardened heart would turn this down, since I know the heart aches that can go with helping a first gen leadership team.  We know the arguments of 1st and 2nd gen clash.  Why teach a old dog new tricks?  I thought I would  introduce a healthy discussion and then seek advice from you who are going through these leadership dynamics and shifts in your AA church context.

As I write this, I am reminded of 2 events by a pastor named Cory Ishida @ Evergreen Baptist Church in San Gabriel, CA. First, I invited him to speak at the 100th year celebration of Protestant influence in Vietnam at the Crystal Cathedral.  If you are unfamiliar with the name, he would be one of the first few pioneers of AA church planting in the US.  In my opinion, the term “Hiving” and “Asian American” wasn’t mainstream until Pastors Cory Ishida and Ken Fong   teamed up for a period of time in the LA area.  He had so much wisdom as he shared the background stories of the “Hive”.

At the opening session, he preached on Mark 2:21-22, “New wine into Old wine skin”.  Now I have spoken on this topic too, when referring to 1st and 2nd gen churches, but it has so much more value when a elderly man who is battled tested doing it.  The audience consisted of a mixed group of young and old leaders.  It was a very touching scene, as he helped bridge the topic of giving birth to a new generation.

Now, on March 20, we are reconvening as a group in response to this urgent desire to see healthier churches for 1st and 2nd gen pastors.   Pastor Cory was invited once again to give practical and strategical advice.  I sit here today blogging away as future leaders will discuss next steps.

For those unfamiliar with this theory of new wine into old wine skin, it sets the stage for a very heated topic of immigrant churches who have a strong desire to “gather and preserve” versus those former English Ministry Pastors who just want to plant out their own.   I think we know the conversation and that is where I want to leave room for comments and feedback with my dilemma.

As I make my trip to the DFW area next week, I am stuck with a situation of varying  philosophical approaches.  How would you approach a 1st gen church who wants to grow and help their dying English generation?  Do we teach break off and start a new?  Do we say keep it in the family, we need to find ways to be unified?  Do we bother going down this road of emotional turmoil and then figure out, it was really for nothing, because we are still in the same situation as last year?  The endless questions continue and the verdict is still not set in the Vietnamese American church context.  Those brothers and sisters in the Korean and Chinese American churches —- what advice do you have for a dying 1st Generation church?  What encouragement do you bring?  What strategies do you propose?

I humbly look forward to soaking in all the comments and feedback.  Pray for fruits on this first trip.