As I’ve mentioned before, I believe part of the problems that arise in Asian-American church leadership derives from the fact that church leadership / congregation relationship is viewed much the same way as parent / children relationship in the family.
As there is a often a sharp distance between the parents and the children which affects their value and their contribution in the family based on the fact that they’re older or married, so is there that distance between church leadership and the rest of the congregation.
I believe this is an unhealthy relationship on a number of levels, but I want to highlight one in regards to how it affects ministry and mission in the church.
One of the ramifications of these attitudes of leadership/congregation is that it devalues and disempowers members of the church from serving.
Let me explain what this means.
Just like in an Asian dinner table, contribution from children are limited because they are younger, so the contribution of those not in leadership at a church are limited. Like the dinner table, the adults talk, the children listen; the parents cook, the children behave; the parents provide, the children submit, so it is in the church.
This is not conducive to the mission of the church because God has ordained the the mission of God would move forward when the entire body of Christ is utilized (1 Cor 12).
And the body of Christ utilized completely when each member is valued and empowered. Each member of the church needs to know that they are valued in who they are, regardless of their age, their education, or their marital status. And each member needs to be empowered and encouraged to discover, cultivate, and utilize their gifts and skills for the furthering of God’s mission.
And the harsh separation of parent/children|church leadership/laity exhibited in the Asian churches do not do those two things. As a result, the missional power of the Asian church is neutered.
I believe that to reverse this is crucial for the Asian American church to move forward. We need to recognize these cultural assumptions at work, remedy them by cultivating a communication culture which empowers and values our members, and disarm the traces of these by correcting and discouraging actions and speech which stem from these attitudes.
I believe that if we work hard at creating this type of culture, the Asian American church (and the members within) will begin recognizing its value and will garner the fire and power necessary for serving Jesus. But in order for this to happen, we need leadership in Asian American churches to drop those hierarchical assumptions and find ways to empower their people humbly and consistently.