Today's From the States features reports from:
Southern Baptist Texan
Arkansas Baptist News
Pastor seeks to reach second-
generation Asians on campus --
English speakers prefer Western service
while retaining some cultural identity, pastor says.
By Jerry Pierce
DENTON, Texas (Southern Baptist Texan)--The aroma of native foods wafting through the hallways from the church kitchen foretold that something important would follow.
For the English-speaking young adults in the church auditorium -- most of them miles from the comfort of family and friends -- a hot Sunday lunch and fellowship with other Korean-background believers filled an important need following corporate worship.
But unlike the Korean Baptist churches Pastor Sung-Jun Shim attended growing up, worship services at Risen Church in Denton are in English. A jeans-clad music leader played guitar on a recent Sunday, helped along by three other young adults in a praise chorus belting out contemporary staples such as Matt Redman's "Blessed Be Your Name."
Shim's sermon, from Luke 9:23 on dying daily to follow Jesus, was thoroughly expositional and served up with cultural references that would have connected with nearly any other English-speaking evangelical church around.
These English-speaking Asians, mostly collegians from nearby University of North Texas and Texas Women's University, have largely assimilated, for better or worse, into the culture of the West. They often prefer an English-language service and worship music they hear on their iPods, but still wish to retain some cultural identity.
Congregations such as Risen Church, planted this summer by Denton Korean Baptist Church with help from the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, fill a niche for second-generation Asian young people at a pivotal time in their lives. They are charting more than just careers, Shim said.
He is praying that more and more traditional Korean churches will aim to reach second-generation Asians -- lest they lose them -- by planting English-speaking Asian congregations.
Prime locations for such churches are urban centers that attract young professionals, and college towns. Denton, on the northern edge of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, is a college town, with UNT and TWU within blocks of where the church meets.
BETWEEN TWO CULTURES
Shim understands the stresses of straddling two cultures as an Asian student on an American college campus.
After high school on Long Island, Shim put his ministry calling on the shelf to pursue "success in life," as he termed it, at State University of New York-Albany, where he earned a bachelor's degree in economics in 1998 and came away with a Jonah-like change of heart. At a school celebrated for its partying, Shim said his four years there "were a very dark and dissatisfying time."
Unable to keep running from the ministry calling he said he received in middle school in South Korea, Shim took his degree and ran toward Fort Worth.
He married his wife, Won Hee Choi (also an economics major, at SUNY-Stony Brook) and moved the couple to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Shim earned his master of divinity while Won Hee also took a few classes. They then moved to San Francisco, where he took a second master's degree at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary before serving several years on the staff of Hayward Korean Baptist Church in the San Francisco Bay area.
Shim, in his mid-30s, is young enough to relate well to collegians, and among the student bodies at UNT and TWU, the Asian student populations are growing, he said.
Denton Korean Baptist Church, which owns the building where Risen Church meets, believed in the mission so much it moved its services to 2 p.m. on Sundays so Risen Church could meet at 11:15 a.m.
"The fact that Dr. Kim (Hyoung Min Kim, pastor of the sponsoring church) gave up his prime meeting time shows a tremendous conviction and his kingdom mindset to reach second-generation Asians as well as other internationals at UNT and Texas Women's University," said Steve Lee, Nehemiah Professor of Baptist Church Planting at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth.
Lee said some second-generation Asian churches are flourishing, but there is always a challenge to be met in reaching the next generation.
David Alexander, an SBTC church planting associate, said second-generation churches reflect the assimilation that occurs.
"Today, the second generation is assimilating much faster to the American culture than in previous years. But many second-generation people still have a love for their parents' nation and culture and strong ties to their families. Therefore, while operating in English as the heart language of the church, the church wishing to reach 'second gens' often needs to celebrate the ancestral culture of the people it reaches," Alexander said.
But second-generation churches focused on a single demographic group, Alexander said, tend to grow more slowly because there are fewer potential members.
"This is where many multi-ethnic churches succeed, because they reach second gens who are used to living amidst multiple cultures and the church is able to highlight the various different cultures through alternating worship styles, preaching techniques, leadership styles and cultural events where no one culture outshines the rest," Alexander said.
"A few planters like Sung Jun Shim have a passion for this generation and are gifted in being able to move in and out of the focal cultures," Alexander added. "Many second-gens who become planters have the uncanny ability to move in and out of multiple cultures and are able to quickly understand varying worldviews."
One way Risen Church is building bridges with unchurched or disconnected Asians is a new ministry it is calling New Elements Kids. The program, which takes elementary-aged kids through an overview of the Bible, is being run on Saturdays at the church facility immediately following something called "Korean school."
Shim explained that in most communities where a sizeable Korean population lives, the community will form a Korean school one day a week to teach the children of immigrants about their Korean culture and heritage. The programs are not church related, but churches often host them because of convenience.
In Shim's case, it helps that the principal attends Denton Korean Baptist Church.
Korean school is held from 9-noon every Saturday, and New Elements Kids is offered for an additional two hours following lunch.
"We are reaping the benefits of being connected to the Korean school," Shim said. "It provides the parents another two hours to run errands and it is a golden opportunity to insert into the hearts and minds of elementary students what the Bible teaches in a holistic view."
Also, Risen Church should hear soon the status of its application to host a Bible study on campus at UNT. The Bible study will adapt the New Elements material for collegians, Shim said.
Kim, the sponsoring church pastor and also an SBTC ministry facilitator for Korean/Asian Ethnic Groups, said he realized the need to reach Asian collegians meant finding a qualified young pastor called to such an endeavor. Upon discovering Shim, his church accommodated the new work.
Kim said he envisions not just Korean or Asian believers worshiping at Risen Church, but eventually he would like to see an international church develop that reflects the diversity of the two campuses.
Risen Church, he said, could be a springboard for that.
In the meantime, Shim is continuing towards getting a presence on the UNT or TWU campuses, by hosting Bible studies.
The core membership of Risen Church is yet small: about 15 people, plus a few visitors week to week. Almost all are of Asian descent but not all Korean, Shim noted.
Shim shares Kim's vision of one day expanding to be a multi-ethnic congregation reaching not only Asians but many others also.
"We always say among our core group that our door is wide open. But that is hard to do. Our DNA and our leadership reflects our Asian heritage. But not just Korean. We have had several Vietnamese students attending. Last Sunday we had a Japanese student and another Vietnamese student. We have had several Chinese as well."
Shim said a Hispanic student attended for a few weeks but hasn't been back.
"It's hard to break that cultural barrier but in the long run we'll hopefully transcend that and become a church where every ethnic group can worship and feel comfortable."
Although the church is still small, Shim said he believes the core group is ready to get bolder in its witness.
"About six or seven of them are now teaching others how to be disciples. We are in the process of witnessing and discipling others. By year's end, hopefully all of them will be making disciples."
This article originally appeared in the Southern Baptist Texan (texanonline.net), newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. Jerry Pierce is managing editor of the Southern Baptist Texan.
New church plants make gains: Arkansas
baptisms up 3 percent in 2011
By Lisa Watson
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (Arkansas Baptist News)--With 91 percent of churches reporting, baptisms among Arkansas Baptist churches are up 3 percent from 2011.
The Arkansas Baptist State Convention (ABSC) evangelism and church growth team distributed a report outlining ABSC-affiliated churches leading in baptisms during the ABSC's 2012 State Conference on Evangelism and Church Growth, held Jan. 23-24 at First Baptist Church, Sherwood. Sonny Tucker is team leader.
Among top baptisms in the state are several new church plants that were started since 2009. Victory Ministries, Clarksville, a predominantly African-American congregation, led the new churches with 49 baptisms.
James Bell, pastor of Victory Ministries, Clarksville, said God has blessed the ministry "greatly."
He said God used an illness in his life to change his life's direction and give him a "revelation" to start the church.
"Demographics and research results indicated that it was a horrible idea," he said. "But my God is able.
"He gave me a vision, mission and equipped us with the people and passion to touch people from all over Arkansas," he continued.
Bell said his membership has continued to grow and the church is praying for their own sanctuary.
Mountain Top Cowboy Church, Heber Springs, was second on the list with 39 baptisms reported. "Cowboy churches," a growing segment among Arkansas Baptist church planting work, placed in third and fourth places and in a three-way tie for sixth place.
Brad Curtis, pastor of Mountain Top Cowboy Church, said what makes his ministry unique is that most of the people the church is reaching are 45 years old or older, adding he recently baptized two men in their 70s.
The church meets in a cattle sale barn. Curtis said more than 400 people have attended each worship service for several Sundays.
"It's amazing what the Lord is doing in our church," he exclaimed. "You can't explain it until you experience it."
Tucker said the success of these diverse church plants like Victory Ministries and Mountain Top Cowboy Church is a reflection of "Arkansas Baptists who are reaching out to ethnically and socioeconomically diverse people" with the gospel of Christ.
Tucker pointed to "intense prayer efforts" among churches that have led to the salvations and subsequent baptisms of people in the state.
Cross Church, Springdale, the largest Southern Baptist church in the state, led overall top baptisms with a reported 1,082 people baptized in 2011. Rounding out the top five churches leading in baptisms were First Baptist Church, Rogers, 282; The Church at Rock Creek, Little Rock, 239; Brand New Church, Harrison, 153; and Valley Baptist Church, Searcy, 140.
Emil Turner, ABSC executive director, said the report was encouraging.
"God has been good to our churches and allowed us to avoid some of the downward trends that are impacting our country," he said.
"Dr. Tucker and his team are among the best in the nation at promoting and encouraging evangelism, and the churches of Arkansas care about the souls of lost people," he continued.
"Our smaller membership churches are not dead, and our new church starts do not merely 'trade sheep,' but they reach lost people," he said.
Tucker agreed, noting the "unsung heroes" in the state who pastor in smaller churches in out-of-the-way places.
"They are faithful and evangelically intentional in reaching people for Christ," he said.
This article originally appeared in the Arkansas Baptist News (http://www.arkansasbaptist.org), newsjournal of the Arkansas Baptist Convention. Lisa Watson is associate editor of the Arkansas Baptist News.
Asians through football
By Cliff Jordan
RICHMOND, Va. (Proclaimer)--At different moments in my life, I have felt God calling me to action, but I hesitated because the pieces weren't in the right place yet. In my mind, there is a logical order to follow, and when you get things out of order, difficulty usually ensues. When I felt God calling us (Movement Church) to a large city in Central Asia, I realized I needed to pay more attention to His call than I did my preparations. Our desire was to begin intentional church planting work there. Unfortunately, the groundwork for that plan hadn't been laid yet. Rather than waiting, we decided to move in any way we could and trust He knew how to open the right doors.
What started out as a desire to plant churches to see people far from God coming to know Him, turned into a football camp -- not quite what I was envisioning, but those are the doors that opened. At our church, we constantly talk about joining God at His work, moving where He is already moving, and this was a prime example—a teachable moment for us.
For two years, we have been building relationships with local believers and putting on an excellent football camp. The workers with whom we serve there are now serving as the head coaches of a team made up of Central Asian young men. Each camp we do builds those relationships and deepens their credibility among the team, which helps develop more bridges for the Gospel to be shared. The coaches aren't the only ones who get to share. There is something about going to battle on the football field that connects players at a deep level, so our relationships with the players have deepened and grown into genuine friendships. It is in those relationships that we get to share the Good News of Jesus. We are all "friends" on Facebook with the team members and have had many opportunities to freely share the truth of Jesus to them because of the relational connection we have developed.
Our first year was primarily football related, but this year I led half of our team into the city to discover non-football-related opportunities for our church to take part in. As we searched the city for additional opportunities, God opened a door right in front of us. When you join Him where He is already working, that seems to happen very often. One of the head coaches began to share his heart for another part of the country.
He had been burdened for a city a few hours away from where we were that contains three distinct unengaged and unreached people groups. In this city of two million, there are four known believers. The worker wants to move there and take part in intentional church planting work. He invited Movement Church to be part of the coalition of churches to help in that work! We will shift our focus from the larger city to this smaller city when the doors are opened for this man and his family to make the move. This is the type of work we have always wanted to be involved in, and it is exciting to see the Father bring the Good News to people who have never heard.
The biggest thing I am learning is just to go and let the details figure themselves out. If our little church plant can be involved in what God is doing globally, then any church of any size can get involved in the mission of God around the world. You don't have to have it all figured out—you just need to move where God is moving and be comfortable not knowing all of the details. One thing I can tell you for sure is that God's plan is bigger and better than anything you can dream up, so stop trying. Just join Him in what He is doing to draw all people to Himself.
This article originally appeared in the Proclaimer (http://www.sbcv.org/proclaimer), newsjournal of the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia. Cliff Jordan is a church planter and pastor of Movement Church in Richmond, Va.
Copyright (c) 2012 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press www.BPNews.net