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.

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Demystifying Asian American Culture and Ministry

Adrian and Jennifer Pei presented this talk, “Demystifying Asian American Culture and Ministry” at an Epic Movement (the Asian American Ministry of Cru) event. They address issues of demystifying Asian American culture, challenges of ministry to Asian Americans, and the incredible opportunity of Asian American ministry.

Demystifying Asian American Culture and Ministry (Full Version) from Epic Movement Live on Vimeo.

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What Are You?

“What are you?”
“Don’t you mean who?”
“No! What are you?”

This is the question I get asked most often when meeting someone new. Some are bold enough to just come out and ask while others are a bit more circuitous, not unlike the “So where are you really from?” question. But as grammatically incorrect as “What are you?” is, theologically it is the right question. As a noun I am a Christian. As an adjective, now that’s a little more complicated. Here is what makes up my who.

I am Daniel (Dan, Danny) Sung Un (Spirit Grace) Pyon. As was true in the days of old, my name defines me in many respects. Due to circumstances surrounding my birth, my father prayed that if God would save me he would give me back to Him as a pastor, thus my name. Such a decision would cause him to go from riches to rags. When I was 5, my parents decided to leave S. Korea and we (me and my 3 older sisters) moved to the US (NY). I grew up in the suburbs of NY where we were one of the few minorities in our neighborhood. My best friends were all white and I recalled spending most of my summers sleeping over and even attending their family reunions. But I never really felt out of place. On the weekends I would see other Koreans at church, but we had to drive over an hour to get there.

My personal calling to ministry was confirmed early on and since 14 I have been doing urban and youth ministry. I experienced my first ministry burnout at 17 giving you an indication of the level of commitment. From early on I have had the privilege of being mentored by some of the top thinkers and practitioners in the areas of urban and youth ministry.

So what makes people ask, “what are you?” Well, I guess it’s because I am a Twinkie from the suburbs of NY who ministers to both the suburbs and the ghettos, whites, blacks and everything in between, have a number of degrees: BA from Brandeis University (MA) (majoring in African American Studies, History, and Sociology), a M.Div. from Westminster Theological Seminary (PA), and a D.Min (Urban Missions) specializing in Glocalizing Urban Youth Culture from WTS (PA), consultant for academic institutions, churches, and NPO yet still love doing youth ministry. I think you get the idea.

Currently I run a ministry called OURS where much of our work is in the area of consulting. Michael Mata (former director of urban development and corporate engagement for World Vision) and I provide consulting for churches, universities, and NPOs in the areas of community, urban, and youth engagement.

My top 5 strengths are Ideation, Achiever, Strategic, Activator, and Input. But simply, I hope to convey my heart as a pastor, my mind as an academic, and my hands and feet as a Christian trying to best live out the high calling of loving God and loving others.

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KAC Media To Reverse The Silent Exodus

h/t to DJ on this, it looks very promising. If you’re in LA and are supportive of Korean-American ministries, this seems to be a great approach. KAC (Korean American Christian) Media wants to be the #1 site for all things Korean American and Christian on the web. They’ve got a host of bloggers (our own DJ Chuang included), support from a local Korean TV station, and are kicking off with a fundraising dinner 11/8/08. $100 a ticket (tax-deductible) and a great new effort from the Korean community on behalf of the next generation. I’m very interested in the possibilities here. Check out the media promo here (better quality) or below:

I’ve just given the website a once over and they really have a lot planned. To be honest, this is not how I anticipated change to come, that is through a media company, because much like private media groups, there seems to be an incentive to sensationalize things and/or be directed by the market or sponsors, which seems to conflict with the heart of the Christian faith, but I’ll reserve judgment as I applaud the effort and hope to see good things come from it. What do you think? Do you think that this media group can truly reach the silent exodus?

***EDIT***

Jean, producer and head of PR at KAC Media responded to a comment at DJ’s blog post, that clarified some of the positions and approaches of KAC Media. And I’m not trying to critique this group before they get out of the gate, I’m very interested to see a group like this take shape. My concerns are mostly derived from Shane Hipps’ book “The Hidden Power of Electronic Culture: How Media Shapes Faith, the Gospel, and Church.” But here’s the comment from someone at KAC, the source, so not through my lens only.

Just to clarify for anyone, KAC Media is not taking any credit or making any claims to ‘reverse’ the silent exodus. Our hope is to engage the silent exodus to look at their personal relationships with the Lord. We are using the new media (integrated with the arts, film, television, news, relationships with churches, non-profit partners, community partners, etc) to just ‘start this particular conversation’ with those who don’t find relevancy in their parent’s church anymore. While Koreans can come off as being exclusive – I don’t think it’s necessarily purposeful. Like with all immigrants in America, it was out of necessity. Culturally – we tend to be somewhat ethnocentric, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. This is coming from a Korean-American who was born and raised for half my life in Oklahoma, and the other half in Seattle, WA – and now living in Los Angeles. Even though I grew up half of my life disliking the outer exterior of being Korean – inside, I was still very much Korean. I am very proud of my heritage and that is something unexplainably innate in me (and what I gather from others I know – even adopted Koreans). However, while being very proud of my heritage – I can still be very non-exclusive. I embrace and lean towards diversity. I have a wide circle outside of my Asian circle and they overlap often. I purposely sought out a diverse ‘non korean exclusive’ church about 10 years ago and my 1st generation parents also sought out the same around 7 years ago. Maybe it’s because we are only in the second – going on 3rd – generations of Koreans in America that we can’t see the dilution of our heritage as much as we can see through the 5th/6th generations of Chinese and Japanese in America. So while we cannot stop what may be the inevitable from happening – we can address it. DJ is addressing it as an Asian American/Chinese-American. We are addressing it as Korean-Americans, who see the strong need and the gap between the 1st and 2nd generations. Believe me – I didn’t necessarily think I’d be at a ‘Korean’ institution for media as I have a heart for all of Hollywood and the industry not specific to Koreans. Going back to the topic of exclusivity, KAC Media is specifically leaning towards Korean Americans because it is a spin-off of from a 1st generation Korean Minisitry Broadcast organization called JSTV. The pastor/founder has a heart for the 2nd generation and had a vision to essentially sow into the 2nd generation by having 50% english content. His dream is being realized 20 years later. We are carrying the baton – but are also the only ones who can carry out such a specific task to bridge the gap between 1st and 2nd generation Koreans. No one else has a cultural reference point to do that except for Korean Americans who have 1st generation parents. Does that make sense? So we aren’t exclusive -as we do have a diverse staff of volunteer interns and our content is actually interesting to non-koreans as well. We do book reviews, music/film reviews, cover news topics, etc).

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