Honoring the Generations, M. Sydney Park, Soong-Chan Rah, and Al Tizon, ed’s
Reading this book, I felt like an outsider having the curtain pulled back on an internal conversation. Honoring the Generations was developed coming out of a gathering held at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (TEDS) called the Asian North American Consultation on Theology and Ministry in May 2009. This book was recommended to me by a good friend, but I admittedly felt at home when I read that it developed on campus at my alma mater and was organized in part by Dr. Peter Cha, one of my former professors.
As I read Honoring the Generations, I was struck freshly by the uniqueness of the Asian North American (ANA) experience. The struggles and challenges faced by ANA churches are complex. Family pressure and relational dynamics are only further complicated by generational divides that grow deeper over time. It’s hard for me to even imagine the challenge of ministering to a community that includes a spectrum from new immigrants to third and fourth generations ANAs.
The authors went as far as to compare the cultural dynamics of an all-ANA church to the Hellenist-Hebrew conflict in Acts and throughout the New Testament. “Second/third generations have assimilated to North American culture to such a degree that the encounter between first and second/third generations is nothing less than a cross-cultural one” (27). I can only imagine that for younger generations this would lead to an intensified feeling of cultural detachment and homelessness. If a young ANA person doesn’t have a cultural home in an ANA church and yet feels out of place and an acute sense of being a minority or outsider in a majority culture North American church, it is easy to see how deep disillusionment is a real battle.
Throughout Honoring the Generations there rang a call to return to unity through the simplicity of the gospel and the simplicity of the pastoral calling. The simplicity of the gospel of Jesus Christ, that we are saved by grace alone through faith alone. “What are the implications of ‘saved by grace’ for a culture driven by strong work ethics where confidence and identity of the individual are anchored on achievement and success?” (5). On a pastoral side,
“These overall challenges for pastoral ministry may be exacerbated in the ANA context where the struggle to handle the ‘external systemic factors’ becomes a common and familiar experience. There are patterns of unhealthy communication between leaders and unbiblical nonconfrontational approaches to conflict resolution. Passive aggressive tendencies by senior pastoral staff escalate relational tensions, which often explode on junior staff members. Pastors are expected to perform excellently without mentoring or encouragement.”
Dr. Cha told about assigning a book on pastoral ministry that emphasized a simple calling to primarily be a Christ-follower, and allow the presence of Jesus in one’s life to extend to others naturally through life as he or she enjoys God’s goodness. Cha reflected that “The students who were impacted most profoundly by the book were ANA seminarians in the class. These young men and women were drawn to this simple picture of pastoral ministry even more so because they come from a culture and a church that strongly emphasize performance and achievement” (87). One of the helpful solutions proposed in the book was for pastors and leaders to focus heavily on training and equipping younger leaders, and developing clear markers of progress in that training.
While feeling like an outsider throughout my time spent in Honoring the Generations, here are some takeaways I had:
- Race and ethnicity go beyond a white/black issue. ANA people are too often looked at as a “model minority” and assumed to have assimilated into majority culture.
- Someone’s experience as a 1st, 2nd, 3rd generation ANA (or beyond!) is intensely varied. The complexities of culture cannot simply be attached to skin color or ethnic origin.
- I need to be more intentional about identifying potential ANA leaders in our church and inviting them into a leadership training path. Cultural background may lead to a serious hesitation for some to self-identify and express that desire.
- I am so grateful for the ANA members of Redemption Hill who have invested in our church and have allowed themselves to be stretched. Their voice in our church is important to me and I want to do a better job of drawing them out while calling us all to the beautiful simplicity of God’s grace.
Comments are closed.
I love to hear from readers. Send me a note!