Archive for March, 2010

The 10/40 window in Asia is beginning to open

On Saturday, I went to the screening of the new documentary 1040: Christianity in the New Asia at Newsong Church in Irvine. I highly encourage my brothers and sisters in Christ to watch this film, which looks at 6 different countries/regions in Asia where God is moving: China, South Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, and Indonesia. Jaeson Ma, the itinerant speaker, church planter, and musician who has been traveling back and forth between the US and Asia to reach out to churches and parachurch organizations, narrated and interviewed a number of his contacts in each of the countries, as well as US contacts who are all very aware of and excited about the movement that God is producing in Asia.

My brother and I had a good conversation on the way back home sharing our thoughts about the film. We both appreciated the perspective it gave us. It was amazing seeing people in all these different languages and countries worshipping the Lord, whether it was in secret in an underground church or at a 5 AM prayer meeting or at a huge concert/revival/crusade. The probing question we had to deal with was: “Where are we in all of this?” Both of us were reserved in our enthusiasm, not because we had critical spirits or skeptical hearts, but because we knew that we had to “descend the mountain” and enter back into our lives. What of our lives now that we’ve seen what God is doing in Asia? The calls to action were, as expected, loud, clear, and passionate. How does God want us to respond to the work He is doing there? The things we discussed merit a much more detailed post, which I may not get around to writing, so I would be glad to share in person. To sum it up, we came to peace about our common situation as PKs serving at a small church, that even though at first, we may feel “stuck,” like we’re missing out on great opportunities abroad and at other churches and ministries, there is a reason for all of it.

The thing I appreciated about the way Ma hosted the event was that he understood that the people present at the screening might not agree totally with the theology and practices of the organizations and movements he was associated with. But he emphasized, and I loved the way he said it, that as long as we believe that only Jesus is the way and call him Lord and Savior, we can shake hands as brothers and sisters in Christ.

The other awesome thing about the documentary was how it showed how God is moving in many different ways in Asia. The underground church God is moving through in China is totally different from the Christian pop stars and entertainers in Hong Kong, which is different from entrepreneurs in Singapore, which is different from Christian TV stations in Taiwan. This ties into what I wrote two paragraphs up, about our place in all of this. God is using people in every area of life for His kingdom work. For some, it may be to drop everything and devote a year or two or the rest of their lives living and doing full-time ministry work in these countries. For others, it may be to be salt and light in a secular calling, to be the nerves and neurons that allow the hands and feet of the body of Christ to do their work. This is where I believe God is calling me and my brother. It may take a while for us to get there, with years of school and gaining experience to take care of. But God will use us, just as He used the Singaporean entrepreneur who gave up the first $50,000 of the profits from her business to build 4 churches (was it 6? I forget) in India, which miraculously survived a devastating earthquake and were able to be God’s light to suffering earthquake victims.

Through my work at YKC, I know that I am not particularly gifted in the area of preaching. I can’t speak like Jaeson Ma does. And that’s okay! God needs people like him to speak powerfully and spur people to action. God also needs salesmen, painters, lawyers, cooks, paramedics, accountants, engineers, and artists to serve the body of Christ with their gifts and abilities. When a missionary prays for God to provide support, God provides the support through the businessman who donates the profits from his ventures. When we pray for healing for a member who has cancer, God provides one solution through the oncologist and surgeon. When the church needs help with its budget, God provides it through the accountant and financial planner who can contribute their knowledge to help the church be a better steward of its finances. When the church needs to defend itself against vandals and hostile visitors, God uses ex-Marines, ex-bouncers, and other strong, formidable guys to protect the pastor, protect the sheep, and protect the church building. The list goes on…you don’t have to be a missionary or full-time pastor to serve God.

I was encouraged that the call to action was not a guilt-tripping into “giving up” everything and becoming a missionary. Instead, the call is different for all of us. For some it may be to work at Morgan Stanley in Shanghai instead of New York. For some, to be a social worker in rural China. For others, to be an artist in Taiwan.

There was a sad reminder toward the end as Ma somberly reminded everyone that there is still much work to be done in Asia. There is no Japan in the film because there is no revival in Japan. There is no widespread movement of God in Japan. The same for Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Burma. There was also the grappling both I and my brother had to deal with, as we had spent some time in some of these countries this past summer (me in Korea, Andrew in Taiwan and Japan), that despite God’s working in these countries, there is still much sin we see in these cultures and societies. It cuts both ways: South Korea has had an immense revival, and the footage of Easter sunrise service in front of Seoul’s city hall was amazing, but what of the celebrity-obsession culture (and stemming from that, the suicide culture) that’s been plaguing the nation’s young people? On the other side, Andrew has seen the materialistic, hedonistic side of Taiwan, yet hearing the testimonies of Christians in media there showed us how the light is beginning to shine there. We have seen both sides and because of it we are both excited yet reserved. We just continue to pray for what God is doing in Asia and that the gospel would continue to transform and redeem lives.

10/40 Window on Wikipedia

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10 months since graduation?! Hopefully still learning.

I am so busy these days that it’s hard to really spend a lot of time blogging about things that I’ve been learning. I think I started this one like three weeks ago. I just have to let it go, can’t spend much more time on it. I really need more time to myself to reflect and take stock of everything that’s been happening. It is ridiculous how fast time is going. Every day there is just so much to do. And only when I force myself can I actually write in the blog. This could use more work, but whatever. I hope it’s an interesting read to some people.

A theme my brother and I have seen recently is just how messed up many PKs are. So many PKs have poor relationships with their parents. So many are up to no good, going nowhere, hanging out with losers, careless about life and their futures. Our personal experiences are with only a handful, but our dad tells us of many others. Through it all, we are amazed we turned out the way we did. It is only by God’s grace.

One thing we have noticed is that there is a common characteristic to many of the PKs that tended to cause problems or that we were exasperated with at church. The PKs with behavior problems at church, whether it’s attitude or ADD, tended to have passive parents who couldn’t control and discipline their children. At the dinner table, when our family talks about this, the frustration often spirals back toward the dads. What are such strong-voiced, sociable men–men who are leaders and pastors in the church–doing, just letting their kids do whatever they want at church, not scolding them for bringing video games to church and fooling around during service, and not being more active in teaching them about the Bible and the gospel and about living for God?

My parents say that a lot of the younger generation Korean immigrants to America are taking this passive approach in raising their kids. To an extent, the way parents raised my “generation” wasn’t much different. Parenting was heavy-handed with regard to proper behavior, especially social etiquette and academic rigor, but it was often a hands-off approach when it came to instilling a deep understanding of the underlying reasons for being good, for studying and working hard, for being respectful to elders. We were always told the good things to do but not why they were good. So a lot of us started to get really good at looking good on the outside, at whitewashing all the mess our lives had become. As the language gap grew, most parents kind of assumed that as long as they sent us to school, to church, to hakwon, we would turn out okay. I’m beginning to learn why that’s a really bad idea. Outsourcing parenthood never turns out good results.

So now we get people who are having quarter-life crises because their parents spent the past 10 years pushing them to go into a career they never really thought through. Now we have people who get into dating relationships with no thought at all about where these relationships are supposed to be leading to, and we end up with guys in their early 30s who have had girlfriends left and right but haven’t made the commitment to marry. The only thing their parents do is pressure them that they should get married, not advise them on how to prepare and plan for it. We have people who go on mission trips because everyone else is doing it but yet their hearts are unchanged and jaded.

The sad thing is that these problems in passive parenting will get passed down and repeat themselves in the next generation. A man whose father only yelled at him and never told him he loved him will do the same to his son. A man whose father worked really hard to put food on the table and provide materially for his children but was rarely emotionally involved in his life will lead his household in the same way. The Bible teaches that the men bear primary responsibility for the way that their children end up. One of the qualifications of an elder/overseer in 1 Timothy 3:4-5 is this: “He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?” We need to identify the areas of our culture that are unbiblical and break the cycle of complacency.

Realizing the problems makes me hope and pray that when I become a dad, I wouldn’t succumb to the same mistakes and the same bad habits of my parents’ generation. It must have been so hard for all of them; we owe so much to them for their sacrifice and hard work. But we can’t sugarcoat their imperfections. I know working 12-hour days to survive can make it so hard to be there for the children. Life is hard, being a parent is hard. But man, when I see just how much of an influence a mother and father (as well as the lack of a mother or father) have on their children, I really start praying that God would start the preparation now, way before I get married, way before I have kids–that every experience, every conflict, every responsibility and leadership role, every step out of my comfort zone, I would take seriously and would learn as much as I can from it. What can I work on improving as a follower of Christ? What am I neglecting–certain sins, certain relationships, certain disciplines? What lessons have I forgotten? What does the Bible say about being a good steward with time, with money, with friendships, with the doors that God has opened, and most importantly, with the amazing message of the gospel that God has so graciously entrusted to me?

Much to learn…