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One of the discussion groups I'm on is for Taiwanese Presbyterian Young Adults. Ken said, "Is our purpose as NTPYAC and T-A churches to merely contain people from leaving? To preserve some sense of cultural nostalgia? If this is the case, then honestly, I'm not interested." (The entire posting is in the 'more' link below).

I responded with the following post:

I'd like to share my thoughts from someone who had been actively involved in the Taiwanese church, left the Taiwanese church and now currently attending a Caucasian church.

A little background of my experiences first. I had been the Youth group leader of the Atlanta Taiwanese Presbyterian Church for a number of years. Later it evolved to the English Ministry since we had Young Adults attending too. I have even been on the steering committee of NTPC R&W conferences a couple of times. But, after serving as the sole (lay) leader of the English Ministry for several years, I got burned out. The church found a full-time leader (David Shinn) and I opted to leave the church. At the time, I had also gotten married, and now we attend an Evangelical Free church that primarily has caucasian members.

This issue of the future of the Taiwanese churches with the upcoming generations is certainly a big topic. It is something that was tried to be addressed many times in previous conferences. And from my experience, no solutions were found or even identified. Several of the first generation in the church at ATPC also saw this issue as something that needed to be addressed, but during my stay there, not much was done about it.

Several purposes of ethnic churches have been pointed out by both Kens. And I believe that ethnic churches are called to and should pursue things like:
- Preserving the culture
- Having families worship together
- Bonding the ethnic community

But the problem comes when these goals are the primary purposes. Even the initials TPC reveals the priorities of the church. Taiwanese first. Presbyterian second. Church third.

One of the reasons I left ATPC was that I was not growing spiritually. Sure, as many people have pointed out to me, you grow by serving. But it is very tiring, especially when there are few peers to help you. Also the environment was not conducive to spiritual growth. Sure, there are some people who are committed Christians, but as a whole, I did not see a hunger to know God more or to share the gospel.

That I believe is one of the fundamental problems of TPC churches. When you have TPC churches that are serious about the Christian life, I think it'll be easy to attract and keep people.

I saw a little bit of this while I was the leader of the ATPCEM. At that time, we never really had any problems of the second generation leaving the church. We had several non-Taiwanese people regularly attending. People from the Atlanta Chinese Church (the largest Asian church in Atlanta) even came to visit us. I believe it was because I tried to keep seeking God first priority. And the issues of being Taiwanese a lower priority.

The question then is, how do you change the Taiwanese churches to be more serious about God? After working with TPCs for several years, I do not know the answer. Eventually, I had to go somewhere else to find a good Christian environment for our family to grow spiritually.



Kenneth Liu wrote:
Hi everyone,

I thought I'd spur on some discussion. Many So. Cal
people will know Pastor Ken Fong from Evergreen
Church. There's an article below that I feel we need
to think about especially as we think about our
future. Is our purpose as NTPYAC and T-A churches to
merely contain people from leaving? To preserve some
sense of cultural nostalgia? If this is the case, then
honestly, I'm not interested. However, if we are
moving in a different direction (which I believe God
is doing), then we need to think more how to be
missions-minded rather than just containing and
preserving. When I say missions, I mean realizing the
times in which we live and reach out not just to T-A,
but to other Asian Americans and beyond. Food for
thought...

Don't Follow Us
by Ken Fong

Numerous movies follow the formula where , at a
particularly tense juncture in the plot, one of the
more heroic characters barks a warning that usually
goes something like this: "Don't follow me! This could
be dangerous." More often than not, that warning is
not heeded and the other characters, imbued with a mix
of courage and ignorance, end up in the same messes as
the hero's.

I am a third generation American of Chinese extraction
who grew up in the oldest continuous Baptist work
among Chinese in this country's West. An ordained
American Baptist pastor, I serve as the church growth
strategist on the staff of one of the most prolific
churches for Americanized Asian-Americans, e.g.,
Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Southeast Asian, Pacific
Islander, etc. Speaking out of the sum total of my
personal experience and the history of the Chinese
Christian churches in America, I too feel compelled to
issue that well-worn warning to our Korean-American
Christian brethren, i.e., "Don't follow us! This could
be dangerous."

My Chinese predecessors began immigrating to America
nearly 150 years ago. They came to "Gold Mountain" in
search of job opportunities and a better life for
their families. What most of them found was heartache
and hardship. They had to endure relentless and
dehumanizing ridicule and oppression from the
European-American majority. But they refused to be
crushed by the weight of their broken dreams and the
constant cruelties. They did whatever they could to
survive.

As a result of American missionaries' efforts, various
Chinese-American churches were established. Here, in
the name of their newly-adopted Savior and Lord, the
downcast immigrants found a haven for their customs,
cultural norms, and native dialects. So long as they
stayed together as Chinese churches, they were
empowered and affirmed in ways that were impossible in
the wider American scene. The Chinese-American
Christian church was the source of myriad blessings to
its early adherents. It provided not only a place to
grow in this new faith but a small patch of ground on
this foreign soil on which to protect and propagate
one's ethnic and cultural heritage.

After almost a century and a half, there are now at
least five generations of Chinese who call this
country home. And I believe that, regardless of the
stated evangelistic priorities of the Chinese-American
churches, the vast majority of these will probably
fail in that part of their mission which aims to
introduce the more acculturated and assimilated ABCs
(American Born Chinese) to Jesus Christ. Why? Because
they do not apparently understand the changing needs
and aspirations of the succeeding generations.

Like so many third generation Chinese-Americans, I
grew up as a bicultural person. I had a grandmother
who only spoke Cantonese, whose simple garments always
smelled of aging winter melons and fried delicacies. I
had parents who only spoke Cantonese when they did not
want us kids to understand and who encouraged us to
climb as far up as we could on the American ladder of
success. I never went to Chinese school, always felt
awkward hearing Cantonese spoken, and saw myself as an
American, not as a Chinese person. While I understood
that my roots lay far across the Pacific Ocean, I
could only imagine a future as an American who
happened to have black hair and brown eyes.

Increasingly, as I grew older, I began to feel
estranged from my bilingual Chinese-American church.
Even though the service was primarily in English, the
leaders were more "Chinese-y" or "old-fashioned" in
their thinking. The emphasis often seemed to be as
much on keeping our Chinese heritage and bloodlines
pure as it was on staying the course of Christ. In
this Chinese/Christian environment, I definitely got
the message that I must live a life that was not only
pleasing to the Lord but also one that was more
Chinese than I could be or cared to be. I no longer
felt like there was a future for me and my peers in
this kind of church or any church. For while we felt
too Americanized to fit in the typical Chinese church,
we felt too Chinese to fit into the typical
European-American church. For many of my friends, the
best solution seemed to be to drop out of church
altogether.

From my vantage point here in Southern California, I
see that our Korean-American Christian brethren are in
danger of making the same mistake. With the clout of
many more churches than us, there certainly is the
temptation to presume that tomorrow is merely going to
be an extension of today. That the current, highly
Korean-centric model of ministry is going to be
relevant for the future generations of
Korean-Americans. Speaking from the vantage point of a
multigenerational perspective, let me voice that
familiar warning: "Don't follow us! This could be
dangerous."

Don't think that one of the KA churches' primary
responsibilities is to safeguard the gene pool and
cultural heritage. The decision to relocate to America
automatically brings with it the unstoppable process
of Americanization.

Don't think that the 1.5s and 2.0s will be assuaged
with a worship service in English. Oftentimes their
complaints have more to do with overseas-born leaders
and prevailing attitudes and philosophies that don't
match theirs. Rather than being an issue of who's
right and who's wrong, this has more to do with
generational differences that emerge here in America.

Don't think that keeping all the families and
generations together in the same church, as admirable
as that might be, should be one of your sacred
priorities. Seeing to it that every person of every
generation is saved and growing more mature in their
relationship to Christ is what the Great Commission is
all about.

An American seminary recently conducted a survey among
graduating KA collegians. Almost 90 percent stated
that they had no desire to return to the KA church.
This tells me that the same problems are already
happening. But it does not have to be this way. Why
not learn from some of your brethren who already know
what lies ahead? Instead of following in our
footsteps, why not ask the Spirit of God to guide you
to a more fruitful pathway? It may be costly and
risky, but at least it will be leading you away from
danger. We cannot change our history, but hopefully,
you can learn from our experience.




Posted: 2002-06-05 16:02:20


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