Asian leaders stress unity
NASHVILLE (BP) -- The Asian American Advisory Council, representing numerous Asian cultures and language groups, has found unity of purpose around "some things we have in common," SBC Executive Committee President Frank S. Page told council members during the group's second meeting in Nashville. These include:
-- "The Word of God. It forever relates to people of all ages," Page said.
-- "A God who is there for us all the time. People in all cultures have trouble. All cultures need the Lord."
-- "A common cause for our Lord Jesus Christ, for doing missions and ministry in His Name."
"We see when we talk with each other that there is common ground, and it is very powerful," Page said. "We have a God who can do what only God can do. He can bring together people who ordinarily would have never" had dealings with one another. "But here you are. And here we are. Our nations have been at war in years past, 'But, there is a God!'" he said.
The Advisory Council, comprised of Cambodian, Chinese, Filipino, Hmong, Japanese, Korean, Laotian, and Vietnamese Baptist leaders from across the United States, participated in an open dialogue with senior leadership from LifeWay Christian Resources following a dinner hosted by the SBC's publishing entity on March 13, and presented oral and written reports to Page and EC staff on March 14.
The written reports highlighted several areas of need among Asian churches, with church planting and subsequent pastoral calls to those churches the dominant needs mentioned. Other needs included literature translation, publication resourcing, English language services for second- and third-generation immigrants and strengthening communication between Asian fellowships and the SBC.
Christian Phan, senior pastor of Agape Vietnamese Church in Renton, Wash., shared a PowerPoint presentation outlining the need for new Vietnamese churches. Though the Vietnamese Baptist Fellowship has 150 member churches, with the Vietnamese American population at more than 1.7 million, the need for new churches is great.
Unlike most small Anglo churches, "the smallest Vietnamese churches desire to plant new churches" to take advantage of the current opportunities in both their native and adopted countries, Phan said. This "door of opportunity" includes the size of the non-believing populations in both the United States and Vietnam, a partner relationship with the SBC in the U.S., and easing of travel restrictions coupled with a "government that is more friendly than before" in his native land, he said.
The written report from the Chinese Baptist Fellowship noted the heavy Chinese immigration growth in the United States and stated, "To respond to this golden opportunity as well as the Great Commission in general, Chinese Southern Baptist churches ... have accepted the challenge and committed to planting six hundred new churches [in the United States and Canada] by the year 2020."
Peter Leong, senior pastor of Grace Chinese Baptist Church in Sugar Land, Texas, noted that a perennial challenge in Chinese Southern Baptist churches follows a somewhat predictable cycle: "A church is planted. The pastor leaves. A non-Southern Baptist pastor comes in and removes the church from the convention. Members eventually lose their Baptist distinctives," and the church is lost for cooperative ministry.
Peter Yanes, North American Mission Board church planting mobilizer in Philadelphia and leader of the Filipino Baptist Fellowship, emphasized the need for strong credentialing of churches at the local level. "Many ethnic churches that join the SBC, the relationship is with the pastor," he said. "Each church is autonomous. When the pastor leaves," the next pastor may have no relationship with the convention, which potentially harms its cooperation with the convention.
In his oral report to the council, Peter Hwang, pastor of First Korean Baptist Church of Philadelphia, noted that reaching their own people is the "initial responsibility" of the ethnic fellowships; after that, we "can come together" to reach the nations.
Korean churches are very missional, with 350 Koreans serving as IMB field personnel, he said. But coupled with so many other missions initiatives of the Korean churches, especially given the sizes of the majority of the churches in the fellowship, "money spreads too thinly." How can the convention help us, he asked?
Page responded by pointing to the Cooperative Program. "There is another reason why the Cooperative Program works so well," he said. "It evens the playing field. When one does not have to go out and raise one's own support individually, you can become a part of a mission endeavor no matter what ethnic group you are a part of."
Earlier, in his opening report to the council on the state of the SBC, Page had used the illustration of tectonic plates underneath the earth's surface to describe some of the "pressure points" he sees across the convention. He noted that "earthquakes are the result of what we call 'pressure points,' of tectonic plates, places in the earth's crust that push against each other."
Outlining a number of theological and ecclesiological issues swirling across the convention, he said, "Let me assure you, there are pressure points in our convention."
Two issues that are potentially catastrophic are the "methodological tensions" -- how we do church and, more specifically, how we cooperate together to do missions -- and "ethnic tensions" that we "continue to feel in our convention," he said.
"It is time to talk to each other and not about each other," he said. "It is time for ethnics to talk to Anglos and not about Anglos. It is time for Anglos to talk to ethnics and not about ethnics.
"We need to be honest about our ethnic pressure points. It's not always pretty. It's not always easy," he said. "We may not always agree on how we can resolve those disagreements, pressure points or frustrations; but we continue in dialogue, we continue to be brothers, we continue to work hard to listen one to another."
In a lighthearted moment of cross-cultural banter, Hwang replied to Page that people from Korea "use the pressure point technique to release all the issues" that have built up in one's body. "When you have a pressure point, then come to the Oriental clinic" and we will be glad to release the pressure, he said.
Chairman Paul Kim, pastor emeritus of Antioch Baptist Church in Cambridge, Mass., also responded to Page. "Thank you, Dr. Frank Page. You spoke of hope. You really spoke to the heart and that is the way we respond ... There is a great potential of hope. There is a God who can bring us together to work for the one body, one convention."
Written reports were also submitted by Cambodian and Japanese representatives on the council, with verbal reports shared by Laotian and Hmong pastors in attendance, and an opening devotional led by Seang Yiv, president of the Cambodian Southern Baptist Fellowship.
Speaking from Psalm 46:10 and Philippians 3:14, Yiv noted the tension between "being still" (Psalm 46:10) and "reaching forward" (Philippians 3:14). "We should not be so eager to reach forward that we fight and press on with our own strength, our own intelligence, our own agenda," he said. "We must hear God speak: Be still -- calm down; stop fighting -- and know that I am God."
Other members participating included:
-- Chongoh Aum, member, Hanuri Korean Baptist Church, Lewisville, Texas;
-- Alan Chan, pastor of ministry coordination, Mandarin Baptist Church of Los Angeles, Alhambra, Calif.;
-- Jason Kim, North American Mission Board;
-- Ted Lam, pastor, Tulsa International Baptist Church, Tulsa, Okla.;
-- Jeremiah Lepasana, pastor, Bible Church International, Randolph, N.J.;
-- Roger Manao, pastor, Philadelphia Bible Church International, Upper Darby, Penn.; chairman, Asian Multiplication Evangelical Network;
-- Gihwang Shin, Korean/Asian missional church strategist, International Mission Board;
-- Jeremy Sin, North American Mission Board;
-- Oudone Thirakoune, pastor, Lao Community Church, Locust Grove, Ga.;
-- Benny Wong, pastor, First Chinese Baptist Church, Los Angeles, Calif.;
-- Mike Yukoy, pastor, Japanese International Baptist Church, Tigard, Ore.
Members not in attendance were Pat Anongdeth, Abraham Chiu, David Gill, Dennis Kim, Daniel Park, Sung Kun Park, Yutaka Takarada, Thang Uc and Neng Yang.
Roger S. Oldham is vice president for convention communications and relations with the SBC Executive Committee. This article first appeared in SBC LIFE (www.SBCLIFE.net), the Executive Committee's journal.