3 F Words for Asian American Pastors

How many Asian American pastors can you name that are nationally recognized in the Christian community? Maybe one – Francis Chan. Even though Asian Americans are one of the fastest growing ethnic groups in America (18 million) with over 7,000 churches, there are only a few Asian American pastors who are well known and being invited to large Christian conferences. Why is that?

The goal of this blog is not to find out why. The goal is not to encourage you to be Francis Chan or to be more “popular." The hope is for Asian American pastors to self-examine and be aware of how their cultural upbringing has shaped their leadership styles, and how God might be calling them to go outside their comfort zones. The world needs great leaders to lead this generation. Below are 3 ways Asian American leaders can stretch themselves to make a deeper impact in their communities in America.

FOREFRONT LEADER

Many Asian American pastors find themselves more comfortable in the background. They typically don’t like the spotlight and will always defer to other pastors. This is a beautiful leadership trait. However, I believe Asian American pastors need to challenge themselves to transition from being background leaders to being forefront leaders.

I’m not just talking about having the microphone in your hand more. I’m talking about having more ownership and voice on all relevant issues that affect the church. There are so many hot button issues (sexuality, immigration and racial issues) that the church needs to address especially from an Asian American perspective. It’s easy for us to shy away from these controversial issues and to focus on our own communities. But in order to be relevant in our rapidly changing world, we need to engage more with the greater community, join in on the conversations, and share these thoughts with our congregations. The Church needs to hear from the Asian American perspective and it will only happen when we engage and share. One way you can do this is by writing a blog about anything you’re passionate about and post it. Let people give you feedback and grow in your ability to communicate and share.  

FEELER LEADER

Traditional Asian cultural tends to embrace thinkers rather than feelers. This f-word is usually not brought up in homes.  “Feelings” are something considered to be secondary to many other things especially in our spiritual lives. 

Pastor Pete Scazero, author of Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, points out that while many leaders could be so versed in scriptural knowledge, they were often like immature infants when it came to handling emotions. Emotions are a spiritual issue and that needs to be explored and developed in the Asian American community. I see too many pastors and their families burnout because of a lack of emotional health (i.e. limits and setting boundaries). I recommend reading Pete’s book and taking the steps to really embrace emotional health through counseling, mentors or seminars. This will help you last longer in ministry or show you when you need a break from ministry. 

FEARLESS LEADER

Asian Americans tend to play it safe in life. That’s why our parents push us towards financially secure jobs such as doctors and lawyers. That’s not a bad thing, unless you are doing it to play it safe. I think pastors also play it safe. Risk is something we avoid especially in ministry. However, we need Asian Americans to take more God-sized risks and trust in God’s ability to do God-sized things. We need to allow God to move in ways that go beyond our own capacity and limited dreams.  We need to muster our courage to take more ground for God’s kingdom in whatever ministry capacity He calls us to take. 

I believe that God is calling Asian American pastors to take charge for our generation and the next. Our time is now to lead our communities in fresh new ways. To this end, I hope we can continue to examine the influence of our heritage and challenge ourselves to grow holistically as a leader. 

 


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.