Why Asian American Pastors Need to Work at a Non-Asian American Church

Before you write me off, let me just preface this by saying that I love the Asian American (AA) Church. I’ve worked in one for 8 years and I have the utmost respect for pastors that serve in the AA church. I believe the AA Church has an integral part in the American Church and we need strong leaders to commit to and invest in the AA Church. With that in mind, my point is that some AA pastors should consider working at a non-Asian American church as an option.  For many AA pastors who grew up in the AA church, this may not be something they ever really consider. I’m not advocating for pastors to leave AA churches, but I do challenge AA pastors to be open to where God might be calling them to serve, which may include a non-Asian American church.


Here are some reasons why some AA pastors need to consider working in a non-Asian setting:


1) Non-AA Churches Need You

There are a lot of churches looking to hire Asian American pastors. These churches want to reflect and better serve the community they serve. Understanding the obvious or nuanced differences of cultures is not an easy thing, and many of these churches are searching for an AA pastor who can be a natural bridge with the community and help them connect with the Asian American Christian experience.


2) Expand Your Influence.

Serving a church that reflects your ethnic make up is a beautiful thing and there’s nothing wrong with that. The reach and ability to influence, however, becomes limited to that ethnic group. As America is becoming even more diverse, there is a greater need for pastors who are cross cultural leaders. It’ll take multicultural pastors to reach a multicultural America. Working at a non-Asian church helps AA pastors experience different cultures and gives them more opportunities to reach more people.  


3) Learn a different model to develop your pastoral skills.  

You can only teach what you know. If all you know is one model and style of leadership and management, then that can limit your own style. Experiencing a different way to do ministry will sharpen your pastoral training and skills. With the experience of working in different settings, you can take the best of both worlds and create an approach that fits your leadership and personality style and makes the greatest impact.


4) You’re too comfortable.

Being comfortable is not wrong. I like to be comfortable but when I choose comfort over God's call, that's a problem. Some AA pastors may choose a church because it's convenient, easy or logical. That may very well be the place God wants you to serve. Yet, I encourage pastors to explore all the options and pray about them equally. God may be calling you out of your comfort zone with a desire to build in you a character that trusts wherever He wants you to go. 


5) Fear is controlling you more than God.

Fear cripples your potential and leadership. I think many AA pastors may not consider other churches because of fear –  the fear of the unknown, fear of failure, fear of being different, etc. Too many doors and opportunities to reconcile people on earth and bring people to heaven may get closed because of fear. It’s okay to be afraid and have fears, but let’s fight to keep those fears from controlling us and stopping us from taking risks and engaging in the exciting opportunities that God may have in store for us. 


Now just as some leaders need to be challenged to look outside of the AA church, there are some who need to obey God’s call to stay within the AA church as well.  God is the God of all nations and all churches and all peoples and when we allow God to direct our steps, we can see the beauty of serving God’s people wherever we are at. By being open to God’s call and purpose about who and where we serve, we can gain a greater appreciation of just how big our God is and His heart for the whole world.

Sam Yoon is an Adult Pastor at Saddleback Church Newport Mesa. Sam has over 11 years experience in ministry (Irvine Baptist Church, Mariners and Saddleback Church)  and loves helping pastors and church leaders flourish. Sam is also a host of the Nexgen Leadership Podcast.