Whenever I have conversations about my desire to minister to Asian-Americans, especially within a bilingual, immigrant church model, people often react in the same way. Instead of affirmation, people react quickly with questions like “Don’t you know about all the problems in those immigrant churches?” Usually my response is that I do know, and I am willing to minister in such a church anyway.
Often I hear that the immigrant church “should not exist” because of all the problems that arise, or “I’m never going back to an immigrant church again.”
Inherent in these statements is the notion that the problems experienced are due to the fact that the church is bilingual, or immigrant model. To be trite, it is throwing out the baby with the bathwater.
I have seen many immigrant churches who have the common concerns and issues, such as lack of EM autonomy, failure to contextualize messages to a younger generation, legalism, and hypocrisy. These problems are very real, and I know that many people, notably of the Americanized second generation, have been hurt by them.
However, I have also observed a few Asian immigrant bilingual models which have avoided and overcome such problems. To attribute these issues solely to churches being bilingual and immigrant-led is faulty thinking and shifting of blame.
I challenge the notion that Asian immigrant bilingual churches “should not exist”. Since when is my church such an evil thing?
We cannot look at problems and be quick to condemn an entire church model. For us as Asian-Americans, we should know better than to over-generalize. Those who don’t exactly fit the stereotyped image of an Asian-American (good at math, not athletic, etc.) but have experienced racist and ignorant comments can attest to that.
Ultimately, the task ahead for immigrant bilingual churches is to ascertain and address the sources of the problems that cause the American generation to be hurt, disillusioned, and dissatisfied. God is able to redeem this model, but we’ll see if He will.