The Gospel Coalition Conference was incredible! God really convicted me through the various speakers and conversations, and gave me a renewed vision for ministry that upholds the authority of Scripture and the centrality of the gospel.
I attended the workshop on“Asian-American Christian Thought and Theological History: Pastoral Implications for Diversity and Innovation in a Multiracial Church”, led by Stephen Um and Julius Kim.
The workshop was more of a panel discussion and Q&A rather than a time of teaching. Um and Kim brought up some issues which are very important to ministering as Asian-Americans. Here are some highlights:
- Asian-Americans have had different patterns of immigration. For example, South Koreans experienced “elite” immigration: highly educated and successful individuals come to America for further advancement. In contrast, Southeast Asians often have traumatic experiences when coming to this country: many are refugees, fleeing from oppression and war. These varying immigrant experiences do transform the way we see God and the church. We Asian-Americans have value systems shaped by our varying experiences with immigration and assimilation. Have we felt accepted? How have we experienced racism? What kind of worldly success have we experienced in America? Having an acute awareness of this helps us to minister differently to different groups.
- Speak the gospel into Asian-Americans’ performance anxiety. Never assume that people understand the gospel. The gospel is the great grand redemptive narrative of God. Creation–>Fall–>Redemption–>New Creation.
Ask why Asian-Americans are anxious. They are struggling with idols of approval and affirmation. They find that acceptance by working hard. Failure makes them feel like losers.How do you speak to this heart? The King of the universe considers you a child of God. It’s the finished work of Christ, not in your own performance. This overcomes your restlessness.
- Because many of us Asian-Americans work from a shame-based perspective, we often we default to moralism. We are looking for approval. It’s not a guilt-based perspective (individualistic) worldview, where feel bad because we didn’t do what was right. We are shame-based: we feel bad because we didn’t meet expectations. It’s so easy for us to reduce the Scripture to mere moralism. But the grand narrative of God is so much more than that. The gospel is an announcement of what God has done. It’s not looking in upon myself and what I must do and what I must think. Asians worry, we are very introspective. We worry about expectations placed on us. Instead of looking inside, we should look outside. Look outside of the approval-anxiety idols. Often, we forget the gospel. We must be preaching the gospel to ourselves. Once again, we must repent and believe.
The gospel is about power distribution, not power accrual. Being a minority in a majority culture, we need to be invited to have a seat of power. In raising up leaders in our churches, often we raise up leaders from what they do and say. But asians don’t put themselves forward. We are more accommodating. We’re not good about advancing ourselves. We don’t see assertiveness in Asians. We suppress it because of the confluence of both western and eastern value systems. We don’t want to stick out. Jesus, in his earthly ministry, was all about inviting people to lead. A gospel-centered system distributes power, and does not encourage people to accrue power for themselves.