On Wednesday I was given the opportunity to lead Pastor Cory Ishida’s branch Bible study group. I had asked about the possibility of a chance for me to do my midterm project for my course “The Asian Church in American Society,” where I would lead an interactive, intergenerational event presenting one of the topics that we had discussed in class. Then I only received a few days notice from Pastor Jan Lee that I would be doing this, so I was scrambling to put together my materials.
It was intimidating, not just because it was the senior pastor’s branch group. I was to be in a room where I was called upon to shepherd people who were all older than me. Yes, I was the youngest person in the room! In an Asian context, this was potentially a very difficult situation, as I could forsee some resistance or reluctance on behalf of these folks towards being “taught by a kid,” and understandably so. But I thank God that they were open to being led by me. I tried my best to frame it as a simple facilitation of a discussion, and to make sure I respected them in my body language, eye contact, and manners. There were 21 people, ranging in age from 30 to 70, all Asian American: a good mix of first, second, third, and possibly fourth generation.
Using the my class notes from our session on Confucianism, I formulated an interactive discussion. I designed a 4-page worksheet that I handed out to the group, entitled “Confucius and our Relationships: Compatible with Christianity?”. I included some basic information including an introduction, a profile of Confucius, and an opening discussion starter. I wrote about the tenets of jen and li, and how Confucian values are centered on those.
Confucius believed that in order to have a perfect society, one needed to have five relationships in perfect order. I presented each of the five relationships: Father and Son, Husband and Wife, Older brother and Younger brother, Older and Younger, Ruler and Subject. We discussed what the values and approaches Confucius taught for each of these, and how compatible they are with biblical values.
God really blessed me with a very responsive group, and I thank Him that they were so engaged in the topic. When I first presented the topic to the group, some expressed some skepticism about how this would apply to their lives, since most in the room considered themselves Americanized. But I found that as they split themselves up into groups and discussed their personal experiences and their family histories, they had plenty to say. In fact, they talked so much that I found it difficult to stop them so we could move onto the next step! It also seemed to me that everyone in each group had a chance to share about their experiences, which I was very pleased with. By the end of the night, most of the people in the room said that they were more Confucian in their values and thinking than they thought.
I really appreciated the opportunity to host an event like this. As I was preparing for this, it was actually very meaningful for me to consider how Confucian thinking has affected my thinking and my relationships. I’ve realized that in order to know where I want to go, it is important to know where I’ve been. After preparing for this activity, I am personally more aware of how I can adjust and change my approach to people in a way that is pleasing to God.