American Churches: Ministry Insights from Groundbreaking Congregations

by Peter Cha, S. Steve Kang and Helen Lee, eds.

This book is a tale of two cultures: the East Asian culture and the American culture

InterVarsity Press, P.O. Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515-1426, 2006, 221 pages, $16.00.

—Reviewed by Peter Forest, a leadership development consultant based in Spokane, Washington.

The non-English speaking European immigrants started their own churches throughout the early part of American history. These congregations served their respective ethnic communities by not only being religious institutions, but also by being social hubs to most of their kin. They survived within a specific culture for a period of time. The characteristics of these churches have since changed after intense efforts by authorities to integrate immigrants by assimilation and acculturation. In the process of acculturation, the dominant group typically expects other groups to assume its language, culture and values.

This book is a tale of two cultures: the East Asian culture and the American culture. The latter is a composite of many other non-English speaking European cultures now being Anglicized and assimilated into the English-speaking band. Likewise, the former is a combination of many non-English-speaking cultures. They are being branded as one in the American context.

This work is a “communal project” as acknowledged by its editors. It is produced in partnership with a resource organization for Asian American church ministry called the Catalyst Leadership Center. The center hosted a group of Asian American Christian leaders annually for three years to facilitate discussions of the topics covered in the book. Much of the content of the book was provided by these gatherings.

This book profiles a number of pastors and churches that qualify as both Asian and American. It highlights Asian cultural values in common and delineates the challenges in developing healthy leadership in Asian church situations. A number of key issues such as multigenerationalism, gender and social justice are discussed in the Asian American church context. Each discussion also includes practical steps for moving forward. An additional chapter, “Preparing for Asian American church leadership,” by co-editor Helen Lee is not included in the printed book, but can be downloaded at http://www.ivpress.com/title/exc/3325-extras.pdf. This eleven-page chapter is just as helpful and practical as the rest of the book.

This book would have been more helpful if it had elaborated on the Asian American churches’ propensity in understanding postmodernism. Nevertheless, this book can serve as a catalyst in helping leaders from an Asian cultural background to minister effectively in the American context. Hopefully, this will help them avoid the fate of their non-English speaking European counterpart by extending their reach further to their second generation and beyond for the sake of the kingdom.

Check these titles:
Jeung, Russell. 2005. Faithful Generations: Race and New Asian American Churches. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press.

Phan, Peter C. 2003. Christianity with an Asian Face: Asian Theology in the Making. Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books.

Tokunaga, Paul. 2003. Invitation to Lead: Guidance for Emerging Asian American Leaders. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press.

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Copyright © 2008 Evangelism and Missions Information Service (EMIS). All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or copied in any form without written permission from EMIS.

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