Twenty-two Asian languages and dialects are spoken in worship and Bible study in North Carolina every day. More than 130 Asian churches, missions and ministries cooperate with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC), according to Sammy Joo. A native of South Korea, Joo serves as BSC’s Senior Consultant for Asian Ministries.
Paul Kim, Asian-American Relations consultant for the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor emeritus of Antioch Baptist Church in Cambridge, Mass., addresses the conference.
More than 80 Asian-American church leaders across the state gathered for the third annual WORD Conference for Asian-American church leaders July 7-8 at Caraway Conference Center near Asheboro. Organizers said attendees came from 16 churches and identified at least nine specific people groups in attendance: Hmong, Montagnard, Korean, Japanese, Burmese, Lahu, Laotian, Vietnamese and Filipino.
Using the theme “All In,” the focus of the conference was “to equip and network Asian-American leaders for Christ,” Joo said. He wants them to understand their importance in proclaiming the gospel and developing a disciple-making culture in their communities.
“You are the future of the U.S. immigrant,” Joo said to conference participants.
The 17 million Asian-Americans now living in the United States make up 5.6 percent of the nation’s population. North Carolina is the third fastest growing state for these people groups where 300,000 now reside.
The non-Anglo population of the country is expected to grow to 57 percent in the next 40 years, and Asians will be a significant segment of that majority, Joo explained.
Asian-Americans are the bridge between cultures. “You can move back and forth between American and Asian cultures easily,” he said to the audience.
Much like Peter and Paul proclaimed the gospel in different cultural contexts, God can use second generation Asians to spread the gospel in America and in other nations.
Although Asians are a minority in the U.S., they are a majority in the world, representing 60 percent of the world’s population.
“You are the new missions force to unreached people groups. … God is doing something great among Asian-Americans here.”
The percentage of Christians among Asian-American people groups is much higher than their homelands, Joo said.
“For example, in the U.S. 30 percent of Japanese-Americans are Christians, yet less than one percent of Japanese in Japan are Christians. … God is leading a lot of Asian people to Christ right here [in the U.S.].”
Religious conversion is more common among second generation Asian-Americans. Within the second generation, 40 percent have a religion different from one in which they were raised.
Circles were formed during the WORD Conference July 7-8 at Caraway Conference Center to discuss church vision and strategy. More than 80 Asian-American church leaders attended the event from 16 churches, representing nine specific people groups: Hmong, Montagnard, Korean, Japanese, Burmese, Lahu, Laotian, Vietnamese and Filipino.
“Second generations are open, they are seeking, they are hungry to know what is inside you,” Joo told conference attendees.
“We need leaders among Asians,” he said. “With different cultural expectations, we often have disunity among churches for non-biblical reasons. This is a hindrance to raising up leaders in churches.”
Christians from all backgrounds have disagreements and divisions, but Joo called Asian-Americans to follow Paul’s plea in the letter to the church at Corinth: “Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment” (1 Corinthians 1:10).
“There are language barriers between generations; there are different cultural expectations,” Joo said.
“First generation pastors often promote cultural traditions – there are many reasons why we divide. …”
Highlighting the conference theme, “All In,” Joo said, “We want to grow personally, but we want to grow together also. … If we are All In personally, we will be All In together.”
Leaders were challenged to embrace Jesus’ instructions in Luke 9:23, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.”
“Taking up your cross, you actually risk your whole life. … Follow Christ alone – nothing else, not money or fame.”
Joo cited a Pew Research report that shows the median household income of second generation Asian-Americans is higher than the salary of their first generation parents and higher than the typical American household income for all age categories except those above 65.
Sammy Joo, BSC Senior Consultant for Asian Ministries
“Congratulations, you are making more money than your parents and you are making more money than the average American worker.” Joo said they are fulfilling their parents’ dreams, many of whom came to the country as refugees, but they must be careful.
Reading from 1 Timothy 6:9-11, he cautioned them to avoid an unhealthy dependence on money, “But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. … But flee from these things … and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness.”
“Second generation, your job is not to make more money than your parents,” he said. “Your job is to pursue godliness.”
He challenged Asian-American leaders to live sacrificially for Christ and, “give all you have to Christ.”
For more information visit the BSC site ncbaptist.org/Asian or the SBC site asianbaptists.org. Connect with others on the N.C. Asian American Ministries Facebook page, and tune in to the “NC Asian American Ministries” podcast.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Sammy Joo is a graduate of Handong Global University in Pohang, South Korea, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He served churches in South Korea and multi-ethnic congregations in the United States as a worship leader, youth pastor and college pastor. Since joining the convention staff in 2007, Joo has served in international student ministry. He began his new role as the Asian ministries consultant this year. Contact him at (800) 395-5102, ext. 5562, or [email protected].)