Completing the Face of the Chinese Church in America

A mirrored cache of the raw text from this valuable historical document is posted here fas reference. This publication is the entire archive of the About FACE newsletters from 1979-2003.

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Completing the Face of the Chinese Church in America

The ABC Handbook

Promoting Effective Ministries

to American-Born Chinese

Contributing Writers:

William L. Eng

Joseph C. Wong

Wayland Wong

David K. Woo

Peter Yuen

Fellowship of American Chinese Evangelicals (FACE)

Oakland, California


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Copyright 2009, Fellowship of American Chinese Evangelicals

Permission to reproduce portions of this book for non-commercial

purposes is hereby granted with the provision that proper credit be given to


Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations used in this book are from

the Holy Bible, New International Version (NIV), copyright 1973, 1978,

1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan

Publishing House. All rights reserved.

To purchase additional copies:

Fellowship of American Chinese Evangelicals

262 Rishell Dr.

Oakland, CA 94619

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Table of Contents

Introduction: David K. Woo

Part I. The Biblical Basis for ABC Ministry

Chapter 1. The biblical basis for promoting effective ABC ministries. - 15

Joseph C. Wong

Part II. Christian Work among ABCs today

Chapter 2. Who are the American-born Chinese? Wayland Wong - 23

Chapter 3. An overview of Christian work among ABCs.

- 51

William L. Eng

Part III. Factors Contributing to Effective Ministries with ABCs

Chapter 4. Culturally-sensitive OBC leadership. Joseph C. Wong - 71

Chapter 5. Having an effective model for ABC ministry within the

Chinese church. William L. Eng

- 97

Chapter 6. Spiritually mature ABC leadership. Peter Yuen

- 117

Chapter 7. Church programs that minister effectively to ABCs. - 125

William L. Eng

Chapter 8. Effectively promoting missions among ABC Christians. - 147

Peter Yuen

Chapter 9. Planting ABC churches. David K. Woo

- 157

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Part IV. The Future of ABC ministries

Chapter 10. Is there a future need for ABC ministries?

- 165

Joseph C. Wong

Chapter 11. Power for future ABC ministries. David K. Woo

- 173

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David K. Woo

Purpose for Writing

During my teenage years I belonged to a Chinese church’s youth

group which numbered about thirty youth. By the time most of our group

graduated from high school, about seven continued to be active in the

church during their college years. Among the other Chinese churches in

the Los Angeles area at that time, the casualty rate was even higher. Our

church was one of the better ones in holding some of its young people. In

these other churches just about all of their young people had left the

church. Why was there such a large casualty rate among our peers? What

had happened?

In any church in the United States, there can be a large drop-out

rate between the high school and college years. These losses are due to

many reasons. One reason is that those youth who had attended church for

social reasons but who did not have a serious faith in Jesus Christ no

longer needed the church to meet their social needs. Another reason for

the large number of dropouts is that some young people were not well

grounded in their faith and therefore easily fell away when they

encountered the secular worldviews of the college campuses. These

reasons for young people dropping out of the church are common to many

churches in the U.S. For the Chinese churches in the U.S. there were

added other reasons on top of these.

Many of the Chinese churches in the U.S. have seen large numbers

of their young people drop out of their churches. Some have dropped out

because of the reasons mentioned above. However, many more have left

the church because the leadership of the Chinese churches has lacked

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understanding and sensitivity for the needs of their young people. Many

young people have dropped out in the past, they continue to do so in the

present, and more will do the same in the future if the Chinese churches do

not make major changes in the ways they do ministry for the American-

born Chinese. (This handbook will use the abbreviation “ABC” which

stands for “American born Chinese” to represent the Chinese born in the

U.S. “OBC” will be used to represent the overseas-born Chinese.)

It is the premise of this handbook that ministries to ABCs within

the U.S. Chinese churches can become much more effective than what is

presently taking place in most of these churches. This handbook is written

to help ABC and OBC church leaders find ways to improve their churches’

ministries to ABCs. It is hoped that the suggestions in this handbook,

although not comprehensive and exhaustive for all ABC ministries in the

Chinese church, might help Chinese churches get started in this direction.

The immense loss of young people can be curtailed if the Chinese churches

would direct special efforts toward making their ministries more effective

for their ABCs. These efforts will require sacrifices on the part of the

churches’ leadership. This handbook will detail some of the major

adjustments and sacrifices that will be required from the leadership of the

churches if they want to slow down the flood of dropouts from their

churches. Listed below are brief summaries of these suggestions which

will be developed further in subsequent chapters.

Appropriate Styles of Ministry

Styles of ministries that have appealed to OBCs, most often do not

appeal to ABCs. Just because a particular worship format is conducted in

English does not necessarily make it appealing to ABCs. Just because a

pastor or church leader speaks English does not mean he/she is able to

understand and relate closely to the needs of ABCs.

Even among the ABCs themselves, there is a large difference in

their acculturation rate into the American culture. So that what is suitable

for first generation ABCs may not work for third generation ABCs. Also,

there is a difference between regions in the United States. ABCs in Los

Angeles may differ from those in San Francisco or New York. Therefore a

Chinese church in New York may minister to its ABCs in a different way

than a Chinese church in Los Angeles. Also there are differences between

ABCs in a Chinatown church compared with those in a suburban church.

Therefore church leaders need to secure leaders for its ABCs who are

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culturally sensitive to their needs and who will develop programs that are

specifically planned for them. ABCs should not be expected to fit into the

OBC programs of the church.

Suitable Organizational Structure

The format and kinds of ministries to ABCs usually need to be

different from those to OBCs. Not only are special kinds of ministries

required, but also the organizational structure of its pastoral and lay

leadership needs to be modified in special ways to facilitate effective ABC

ministries. Certain church organizational structures may be more effective

than others in promoting ministries to ABCs. OBC church leaders and

those working with ABCs need to know which organizational structures

have or have not been conducive to effective ABC ministry in the Chinese

churches in the past and which are more suitable for the present Chinese

churches. Some of these organizational structures will be discussed in this


Harmony between OBC and ABC Church Leaders

A recurring problem in Chinese churches is the conflict that

commonly arises between OBC and ABC leaders. Many of these conflicts

are due to cultural differences and their resultant misunderstandings.

Therefore OBC and ABC church leaders need to learn the biblical

perspectives on their cultural values and to learn more about each other’s

ways of thinking, values, and styles of ministry. A chapter of this

handbook will attempt to spell out a biblical perspective on the cultural

differences between OBCs and ABCs.

Reasons for Focus on ABCs and Not on Asian American or Multi-

Cultural Churches

A Narrower Focus Needed

This book will focus on ministry to ABCs within Chinese churches

without minimizing the need for ministries to other cultural groups as well.

Churches having Asian-American or multi-cultural ministries are meeting

viable needs. However, this book will focus on ministry to ABCs within

the Chinese churches. A narrower focus is necessary to best help the

Chinese churches in the U.S. We must not disperse our energies in a focus

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that is so broad that our efforts to help the Chinese churches will lose their

impact. Trying to meet the needs of many cultural groups through a

shotgun approach will benefit no one.

Continual Flow of Chinese Immigration

Another reason for this handbook focusing on the Chinese churches

in the U.S. is the continual large flow of new Chinese immigrants into the

U.S. As long as there are new immigrants arriving, there will be a need for

Chinese churches, and conflicts will arise between OBCs and ABCs in

these Chinese churches. Even if the immigrant flow were to be curtailed,

Chinese churches would still be necessary for many decades in order to

service immigrants who have such strong cultural values that move them

to want to stay together even after several generations have been born in

North America.

Numerous First-Generation Chinese Churches

A third reason this handbook will focus on ABCs is because ninety

percent of the Chinese churches in the U.S. have been established in recent

years to minister to the needs of the OBCs. These churches today still are

ministering primarily to them. These churches need to make a

breakthrough to increase the effectiveness of their ministries to ABCs.

Maintaining Family Integrity

The final and most important reason this handbook will focus on

ABCs is because Chinese churches must minister to the whole family,

adults and children. When the ABCs are neglected, they will drop out

leaving only their parents to worship in their churches. Chinese who value

very highly the unity of the family will find their own families divided.

Their own children will be gone from their churches. Parents who do not

pay attention to the needs of their ABC children within the Chinese

churches will pay the price of losing their own children from their

churches. This will cause them great pain. Also, without the children,

their churches will have no future.

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The FACE Organization

The directors of the Fellowship of American Chinese Evangelicals

(FACE) have chosen to publish this handbook because they have

personally experienced and witnessed the painful plight of neglected ABCs

within the Chinese churches and the large numbers of ABCs dropping out

of the Chinese churches. It was because of this gaping omission within the

Chinese churches that the FACE organization was founded.

In 1974 at the North American Conference of Chinese Evangelicals

(NACOCE) held in Wheaton, Illinois, OBC church leaders urged some of

the ABC pastors present at that meeting to start some kind of work that

would minister to the needs of ABCs within the Chinese churches. This

idea incubated within the minds of these ABC pastors until 1978 at the

NACOCE conference in Toronto when FACE was officially founded.

Over the years FACE has attempted to address the need to improve

ministries to ABCs within the Chinese churches through various means.

ABOUT FACE, a quarterly, attempts to help Chinese church leaders see

the unique needs of ABCs and proposes means by which Chinese churches

can increase the effectiveness of their ministries to ABCs. FACE has

sponsored various seminars for OBC and ABC church leaders and

seminars to encourage ABCs to enter the ministry. The FACE directors

are often involved in counseling ABC church leaders to encourage them to

persevere in their work within the Chinese churches. FACE seeks to

assists the Chinese churches to recruit ABC workers for their churches.

Also, FACE tries to promote morale among ABC church workers in local

areas by sponsoring events at which they can encourage each other through

regular fellowship together.

The founding directors of FACE were four pastors, Hoover Wong,

Joseph Wong, Wayland Wong, and Peter Yuen. Hoover Wong has served

in ministry for over forty years as a pastor and professor at Fuller

Seminary. Two additional pastors, William Eng and David K. Woo, were

later added to the directors.

Background of the Writers

The present five FACE directors who have written various chapters

of this handbook write from a very personal perspective. All but one of

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them are products of Chinese churches and at this writing are serving as

pastors in Chinese churches or have recently retired from serving in

Chinese churches. All have been closely connected with Chinese churches

for many years, have been largely influenced by them, and presently have

extended relationships with them. Although they feel a deep sense of debt

to the Chinese churches because it was there that most of them came to

know the Lord, they had often wished that OBC leaders in their childhood

churches were more sensitive to the needs of ABCs.

At this writing William Eng serves as the senior pastor of the

Chinese Baptist Church of Orange County, California, and has been

serving in the pastoral ministry for twenty-four years. Joseph Wong has

been serving for forty-three years in pastoral ministries in Seattle, San

Francisco, Chicago, and San Diego. Wayland Wong, retired senior pastor

of the Chinese Presbyterian Church of Orange County, California, has

been serving in the pastoral ministry for twenty-five years and sixteen

years as a missionary in Hong Kong. David Woo, retired pastor of the San

Gabriel Presbyterian Church, San Gabriel, California, has been serving in

the pastoral ministry for thirty-nine years in the Chicago and Los Angeles

areas. He presently is a part-time missionary with Ethnos Asia Ministries.

Peter Yuen, retired pastor of the First United Presbyterian Church, San

Francisco, California, has been serving in the pastoral ministry for thirty-

one years and as a missionary in Hong Kong and Singapore for eight years.

Out of the childhood pains the FACE directors have experienced in

the Chinese churches, they have this promise that “The Father of

compassion and the God of all comfort, has comforted us in all our

troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we

ourselves have received from God.” (2 Cor. 1:3-4)

It is their prayer that you receive the Lord’s wisdom for the ABC

ministry in your church, that He give you His love for them, that you

persevere and not lose heart as you serve them, and that He be glorified by

all that takes place in your church.

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What Makes Us Tick?” by Peter Yuen

(ABOUT FACE, Vol. 11, No. 2, May 1989)

A few years ago, one of the Chinese publications coming out of

Hong Kong wrote to FACE and asked permission to translate and reprint

an article. We consented and they did so, crediting the article to ABOUT

FACE. But in printing it they incorrectly translated the name ABOUT

FACE into Chinese characters to mean “concerning face” or “regarding

countenance.” This is not surprising, for they had never been in the

American military and heard a drill sergeant shout, “About face!”

expecting his marching platoon to immediately whip around and

vigorously step out in the opposite direction.

ABOUT FACE, the name of our little quarterly journal, means

“turn around.” It is not a forum but a definite advocacy to promote ABC

ministry. Our intent is to bend the minds of Chinese church leaders so that

they will give adequate—if not primary—attention to the tremendous need

to minister to ABCs.

For many years, decades, and even generations, Chinese church

leaders have steered clear of ABC ministry, not wanting to contend with

yet another irritation, even viewing it as a hindrance to the Chinese work

they were trying to do.

“If only these ABCs would learn Chinese, we wouldn’t have to translate

our church services.”

“If only these ABCs would simply cooperate and come and sit in the

church services!”

“If only these ABCs would listen to the Chinese services they would learn

enough Chinese to understand the sermons and then they would become

Christians and grow in their faith.”

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But no… They cut church. They dropped out. In short, they

were judged unspiritual. Not only did Chinese church leaders complain

about ABCs in their churches, but as these leaders came together for

national conferences they appeared corporately unacquainted with the

nature and plight of ABCs. They seemed unfamiliar with what to do to

prevent ABCs from dropping out. They were ignorant of the need and the

ways to positively and aggressively evangelize them.

FACE was formed in 1979 by several older and experienced

ABC Christian workers; their purpose was to enable Chinese church

leaders to understand and effectively minister to ABCs, territory that is

oftentimes unknown to overseas-born Chinese (OBC) church leaders.

When we began to outline the differences between ABCs and

OBCs, enumerate some of the grievances of ABCs, and propose ways of

reaching them with the gospel, it was understandable that OBC church

leaders felt unsettled in uncharted waters. We were charged with “rocking

the boat,” with stirring up complaints among ABCs who had shown no

dissatisfaction previously, and with dividing the church.

Since 1979, we have been sending copies of ABOUT FACE to

almost all the Chinese churches in the United States. A few of the leaders

have responded positively while a few have reacted negatively and have

asked us to drop them from the mailing list. But most seem to carefully

read the issues in their closets, as it were, without passing copies on to the


Free copies have also been sent to individuals requesting

subscriptions—“free” although we request a dollar from those who wish

to be placed on the mailing list simply as a means of checking genuine


Winds of change. The tonnage of ABOUT FACE sent out to

Chinese Christians over the years has significantly bent the minds of not a

few leaders. Whereas they used to say there are no opportunities for ABC

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ministers in the Chinese church, none for those who do not understand the

Chinese way of doing things, and certainly none for those who do not

speak Chinese, we are now finding increasing numbers of Chinese

churches seeking ABC ministers. The number of ABCs in the ministry has

gone up tenfold in ten years.

When we advocated starting a separate English worship service

for ABCs, we were often charged with dividing the church and on a few

occasions were even accused of being “of the devil” (for he is divisive).

Yet in recent years, many Chinese churches have been swept along in the

triumphant wave of newly established English worship services and

ministries relevant to ABCs.

In no sense is all the change in attitude attributed to the efforts

of FACE. The Lord has worked by various means to bring the leaders of

the Chinese church to the realization that they simply must put highest

priority on ministering to ABCs. These, their own flesh and blood, the

future leaders of the church. The church can ill afford to lose yet another

generation as it has been doing right up to the present time.

What makes us tick? The belief that the Chinese church must

give top priority to promoting a viable ministry for ABCs. And we want to

do all that we can to enable the Chinese church to succeed in that

endeavor. Throughout this land, wherever Chinese churches exist, we

want suitable places of worship, fellowship, and Christian service for

ABCs. Strategically the ABCs are the emerging leadership of the Chinese

church with the potential to make the largest impact in the world for

Christ. (See ABOUT FACE, August 1988, “The Strategic Generation.”)

Where enclaves of ABCs live in locations without a viable place

of worship we want to encourage Christians to plant a church for them.

What have we been doing? Writing. Speaking. Holding

interfaces in cities across the country. Consulting with particular

churches on strategy. Encouraging ABCs to prepare for and take up the

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task of serving in the Chinese church. Providing a support structure for

ABC ministers who are pioneering in Chinese churches as they establish

their work among ABCs.

We are encouraging true Christian discipleship among ABCs as

individuals, as church leaders, and as Christian families. Hence we have

been holding annual adult-family conferences to which hundreds of ABCs

attend and many participate as volunteer lay coordinators.

In realizing the demographics of ABCs in this country we have

been promoting the planting of ABC churches. We recently sponsored an

interface in the East, sending as facilitators successful ABC church

planters from the West. (See article by David Woo, this issue).

What are our resources? We have no paid staff; all of us are

volunteers. Directors who are ministers, lay people who join hands with

us—we are all volunteers whose hearts are weighted heavily with the

tremendous need for developing a relevant outreach to ABCs. We squeeze

out generous amounts of time from our jobs and from our own ministries

to promote this task beyond

the scope of our immediate work assignments. These are our human


As for finances, it is obvious the one-dollar charge for putting

an individual on the mailing list is not the source of support for FACE.

Freewill gifts come from concerned churches and individuals sharing our

vision. A few have written FACE into their budgets for regular support.

These are the only financial resources.

Funds are utilized in publishing, mailing, purchasing supplies,

traveling to hold meetings and conferences—all the work involved to

advance the ABC cause. No one is salaried by FACE and no FACE

volunteer receives any honoraria from FACE funds (although outside

speakers are given honoraria).

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If you affirm this ministry of FACE to be a worthy work, we

invite you to join us in promoting this vision…. Together we want to

impact the Chinese church throughout this land for ABC ministries.

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Part I. Biblical Basis for ABC Ministry

Chapter 1

Biblical Basis for Promoting Effective ABC Ministries

By Joseph Wong

• How should a church treat the various cultural groups within its


• The Example of the Jerusalem Church in the Book of Acts.

• Does treating the ABCs as a separate cultural group harm the unity

of the church?

How Should a Church Treat Culture Groups within Its Midst?

The question for this chapter is whether it is biblical to extract the

ABCs as a separate "people group" for ministry focus within the Chinese

church. We believe the answer is "Yes." The differences in cultures

require it. Inattention to these differences has created a crisis in ABC


What are the issues that justify a separate ministry focus for ABCs?

Having been raised in a culture that is western, ABCs will not relate to

many of the values or to the ways of doing things that are natural to the

Chinese raised in Asia. The issue is not that ABCs do not have

opportunities to hear the Gospel in their native language. The problem is

the lack of a suitable environment in which ABC Christians can grow and

do ministry. Although growth is possible in adverse conditions, it would

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be desirable to have a situation that is designed for their growth. The

errors in thinking and the problems of life that scripture must correct are

different from those faced in a different culture. It is one of the basic

reasons for recognizing differences between cultures. To focus only on

similarities between cultures will cripple the distinct corrections needed in

each culture.

Why does culture play such an important role? There are many

causes for conflict and division in a church. Differences in personalities

can cause serious conflicts. Selfish personal ambitions and differing

personal expectations will also produce conflicts. To this list we must add

culture. Each culture has its own set of values that identify the good and

the evil in life. Each culture will also have its own acceptable

methodology for pursuing its values. There are right ways and wrong

ways to seek their objectives. These differences will determine the

scriptural teachings that are necessary to transform lives in each culture.

In Isaiah 55:8-9, God indicated that His thoughts and ways are not

the same as the thoughts and ways of men and women. Our thoughts are

the convictions we hold as to what is good or evil. Our thoughts identify

our life values. Our ways are the methods we choose to live out these

values. Our methods can be right or wrong depending upon one’s

perspective. The thoughts and the ways of a people define for them what

is good or evil, what is right or wrong. This forms the culture of a people.

People from different cultures will have different sets of values that

are reflected in the various ways they think things should be done. Those

from the same culture are able to appreciate and understand their culture,

while those outside of that culture may disdain it as primitive or restrictive.

It is easy for people from one culture to misunderstand the thoughts and

ways of those from another culture.

These cultural misunderstandings occur in Chinese churches as

well; and attempts should be made to minimize these conflicts. Chinese

churches that have a separate ministry for each cultural group within their

midst will greatly minimize the conflicts that might occur between these

cultures. When one culture dictates how the other culture is to do ministry,

division rather than harmony will ensue.

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Example of the Jerusalem Church in the Book of Acts

The Jerusalem Church in the book of Acts for the first time had to

deal with friction between members from different cultures. The manner

in which they dealt with this problem provides an excellent example for

the Chinese churches of today for ministering to the various cultures

within its midst. In the sixth chapter of Acts, the leaders of the church

discovered that there was neglect in the way food was being distributed to

a segment of the Jews that were culturally different from the main body of

Jews. This neglected group of Jews were called Hellenists. These people

were also Jews, but born and raised in a different culture than the

Palestinians. They were ethnically Jewish, but culturally Greek. From

their cultural conflict we recognize a parallel situation in the North

American Chinese churches of today

How could such a neglect, which might anachronistically be

labeled discrimination, occur? It is easy to visualize the Jerusalem

Christians gathering for instruction and worship in various homes. They

had no large fellowship hall in which all could receive instruction or enjoy

a meal. Food would be distributed to the various homes where the widows

would meet. The church’s failure to provide for the Hellenistic widows

suggests that these widows had gathered in homes different from the

Hebrew widows. The Hebrew servers who might not have been familiar

with all the homes could have easily missed a home or two.

The problem was serious enough that it had to be addressed by the

apostles themselves. Although a complaint had arisen among the

Hellenistic Jews who were Christians, there was no rallying of opinions or

attempts to take control of the ministry. The apostles, who were

Palestinian Jews, quickly addressed this need, proposing a program to

minister to that specific cultural group. This program involved selecting

leaders from within that specific cultural group to deal with the problem.

This was a wise decision on the part of the Apostles.

This evolving of the organizational structure of the Early Church

resulted in a team of ministers, deacons, to address the problem. The

target of the complaint and the name of those chosen for the additional

team suggest the setting for the problem. Apparently, the initial team of

food servers did not include Hellenistic Jews. Since the names of the

newly approved team members were Greek, they were likely those who

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shared in the language, culture, and life-style (values and ways) of the ones

they were assigned to serve.

Thus the New Testament has provided a good example for a church

that needs to minister to people from different cultural groups within its

midst. Such a church needs to create a special ministry team made up of

those from that particular culture. Besides their spiritual qualifications, the

cultural orientation of the team members would be one of the most

important considerations.

This same principle would apply to Chinese churches in the U.S.

FACE proposes that Chinese churches in the U.S. need to provide a

capable ABC ministry team to reach and disciple the ABCs in both its

congregation and community. Ideally, an ABC would also lead this team.

There is more to this example. By the apostles laying their hands

on these seven, it appears that the seven were being ordained to that

ministry. There was a conferred authority along with the responsibility to

carry out the ministry. This suggests that these new servers were not

under the authority of the Palestinian servers as their assistants. Instead,

they were co-workers.

Will Treating ABCs as a Separate Cultural Group Harm the Unity of

the Church?

FACE has been accused many times of being divisive because it

focused upon the differences between ABCs and OBCs. To determine the

validity of this accusation, we must consider what kind of accusation it is.

Consider the married couple that comes to see a counselor because of

conflicts. If the counselor points out to them the differences between male

and female, would he be working for separation or for unity? But, one

may object, they are already one and only their similarities should be

emphasized, differences only encourage separation. Such a conclusion

pre-supposes there is a desire for separation. In such a case, additional

reasons for divorce should not be presented. It will only hasten the

divorce. However, if the motive in their hearts is to increase their ability to

love and serve each other, then recognition of differences is essential to

remove misunderstandings and give wisdom to strengthen their


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Likewise, the accusation that FACE is being divisive by examining

differences, is actually a prejudgment of FACE's motive. OBC church

leaders are cautioned against making this misjudgment. In spite of the

frustrations, many ABC believers are looking for ways to keep the church

together. Because immigrant families are made up of members in both

cultures, it is necessary that the whole family be able to find love and

encouragement in one church. To do that, we must discover each other's

distinctives and work together towards being faithful disciples of Jesus

Christ. FACE does not believe the cultural differences require separation.

Instead, FACE is trying to promote the concept that understanding each

other’s distinctives will help foster a sense of unity and oneness as both

cultural groups work together within the same church to do the work of the


WHAT’S THE DIFF? Conversation

(ABOUT FACE, Vol. 2, No. 4, November 1980)

(Distinguishing ABCs (as from OBCs) is intended to enable the church to

be more accurate in targeting a ministry to ABCs. To the degree that

Chinese church leaders can understand ABCs, will effective work be

possible with them. Pointing out differences between ABCs and OBCs is

not aimed at dividing, as some might fear, but at bringing understanding

and healing where there is misunderstanding. We trust that the fruit of the

latter will be worth the risk of the former.)

The Healthy Homogeneous Psyche of the ABC

An ABC or an American is considered to be psychologically

healthy if he is honest and open, expressive of his true feelings. He is

considered neurotic if he lives defensively, covering up what are his

innermost thoughts and feelings. Two ABCs or Americans can get along

and understand each other perfectly well if they will each be honest and

open in their communicating. True inner feelings, whether positive or

negative, can best be spoken by one and understood by the other by

speaking sincerely and listening caringly.

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The Proper Bi-level Psyche of the OBC

A proper OBC is one who is reserved, well-mannered, and

thoughtful as to how he comes across to others. One who speaks his mind

indiscriminately is perhaps regarded as foolish and neurotic. Two proper

OBCs will get along perfectly well if they treat each other with due respect

and reservedly speak out what is properly fitting to say. If there are deep

feelings inside, whether pleasant or unpleasant, these can be

communicated by carefully chosen words that merely hint at what those

deep feelings might be. The listener will hear the words, the tone of voice,

sense of manner of delivery, and even see the body language and can

interpret the true inner feelings in all its beauty—or ugliness—as the case

may be, without upsetting the external demure of speaker or listener.

When They Get Together

When a proper OBC and a psychologically healthy ABC or

American get into sharing of deep inner feelings, the dynamics of

fellowship can become rather complex. The ABC or American, not being

accustomed to interpreting what is below the surface, regards the words

spoken by the OBC at face value. The OBC, expecting true and deep

feelings of the American to be tempered by proper manners, is shocked to

hear such stark, frank expressions interpreting that there is yet to be a

quantum jump in the seriousness in inner meaning that is not expressed.

Because the OBC can understand the expressed meaning of the

ABC, he might come away thinking how ill-mannered the ABC is, but he

will understand his feelings. Because the ABC or American is

unaccustomed to interpreting the inner feelings of the OBC by what his

surface expressions are, he comes away shaking his head muttering, “The

inscrutable Chinese!”

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It would be well for ABCs to let open and honest, true feelings

come across more gently and carefully to an OBC who is unadapted to

western ways. And when he speaks, gently probe for true inner feelings. It

would be well for OBCs to cushion themselves with patience and try to

respond in like clarity. While disrespectful and ill-mannered conduct is

never excusable (only forgivable) open honest is commendable.

ABC: Would you like a coke?

Thirsty OBC: No, thanks.

OBC: We’ll have you over to dinner sometime.

Hungry ABC: Great! When?

A final word about the various concepts found in the word “unity.”

The word “unity” can refer to physical, intellectual, or spiritual unity.

• “Physical unity” can refer to a unity based on physical factors, such as

location, time, language, or activity. This kind of unity describes a people

as united in the same place at the same time, doing the same thing.

• “Intellectual unity” can be used to refer to our minds, a common

thinking, in doctrine, philosophy of ministry, or cultural values. Being

united in this case refers to those who hold to the same school of theology,

mission statement or cultural view of life.

• “Spiritual unity” can refer to spiritual factors such as being forgiven,

children of God, holy, and lovers of Jesus. We may have differences in

time and location, differences in our doctrine and culture, but we can still

possess the oneness that God has produced in each of us through His Son.

This unity is worth recognizing because it is permanent and God given.

The first two concepts of unity we can endeavor to produce. But Jesus

prayed for the Father to make us One, and He has already produced our

spiritual unity. Let us all be "diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in

the bond of peace." (Eph.4:3) Thus we can experience unity in our


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Part II. Christian Work Among ABCs Today

Chapter 2

Who Are the American-born Chinese?

By Wayland Wong

• Who are the ABCs?

• An ABC culture.

• Reasons ABCs are dropping out of the Chinese churches.

• Immigration and the church, opportunities and dangers.

• Alleviating the fears of OBC church leaders.

• Tilting toward ABC ministries.

The American-born Chinese (ABCs) are in many ways different

from overseas-born Chinese (OBCs). Therefore, certain forms of ministry

that might appeal to OBCs might not necessarily be effective with ABCs.

To further compound these differences, ABCs vary from being very

Chinese culturally to being very westernized depending upon the degree of

their exposure to Chinese cultural values versus American cultural values

in their childhood homes. Therefore, effective ministry to ABCs requires a

thorough understanding of who they are and what forms of ministry might

appeal to them. In this chapter we will discuss the differences between

ABCs and OBCs and how these differences would affect methods of

ministry to them.

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Who Are the ABCs?

Chinatown ABCs

Our first example of an ABC is one born and raised in Chinatown,

USA, who grew up speaking mostly Chinese. All his friends were

Chinese. His home, his friends, and his Chinatown environment has had

the primary impact on his life. He has thought of himself largely as

Chinese rather than American. He would be an ABC who was very

Chinese culturally.

Suburban ABCs

A second example of an ABC is one who grew up in suburbia,

USA. His family members were the only Chinese in the community. All

his friends and classmates were Caucasians. He always thought of himself

as an American, no different from his friends. Other Chinese called him a

“banana,” yellow on the outside and white on the inside. While in college

he spent a summer in Asia. After being exposed to an Asian culture he

began to see himself differently. No longer a banana, but more of a peach.

He now has some color within. He was not all white. There was

something in his background that made him different. He would be an

ABC who might see himself as only minimally Chinese in culture.

Asian-American ABCs

A third example of an ABC is one born and raised in suburbia of

ABC parents. Although he sees many types of Asians in his community,

instead of seeing himself as Chinese, he thinks of himself as an Asian

American. Since the government also uses the term Asian American in

many of its demographic statistics, he feels very comfortable using this

politically correct term to identify himself. He feels very much at home

with his Asian American friends whose ethnic roots stem from various

countries in Asia. He would be an ABC who might see himself as

possessing almost no Chinese cultural roots.

The above three examples identify some of the more obvious stages

in the acculturation spectrum of ABCs. They would occupy various points

along this spectrum depending upon how much of the American culture

they have integrated into their lives.

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ABCs and OBCs

From the above discussion one sees that there can be great diversity

among ABCs from being very Chinese in culture to being unaware of any

Chinese culture within. Obviously this diversity is also reflected in the

differences between ABCs and OBCs. The difference between ABCs and

OBCs is not just a matter of the place of birth, but mainly a difference in

cultural background. ABCs have an American cultural upbringing. And

culturally speaking this may include many OBCs who came to the U.S.

during their very early formative years. It must be stressed that making

this distinction between ABCs and OBCs is not to say one is superior or

inferior to the other, but simply to point out that the differences are real.

And if the church is concerned with reaching ABCs, it must take this into


ABCs and ABCs

Are ABCs “bananas,” “peaches,” or what? Is there such a thing as

a typical ABC? Let us look at two ABCs both born in the ‘30s. One lived

on the East Coast in an all-Caucasian community, the other on the West

Coast in an all-Chinese community. One is so American that there is

hardly any difference between him and a Caucasian American, and the

other so Chinese that most people would not realize that he is an ABC.

How Chinese? How American?

ABCs are a mixed lot. It is impossible to stereotype an ABC

because of the wide acculturation spectrum into which they fit. So many

different factors influence an ABC’s culture that examples could be found

from one extreme to the other. On a scale of one to ten from being very

Chinese at “number one” to being very American at “number ten,” most

ABCs would probably fit somewhere in the middle. But more and more

ABCs are moving toward “ten.” They are becoming more American by

the mere fact that they are of a later generation of ABCs in America.

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The Making of an ABC

The graph above is a very general scale by which we might gauge

an ABC. There are several important factors that will influence his

Chinese-ness or American-ness. Where he was born, where his parents

were born and raised, the environment of his upbringing, his schooling, the

kind of church to which he belongs, and how he sees himself. All these

factors are interrelated, and some factors will affect a given person more

significantly than will others. Thus given a set of factors, even the most

sophisticated computer cannot prescribe accurately how an ABC is likely

to turn out in the end.

Another element which must be taken into account are the three

stages of a person’s life—childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. Some

factors may change in different periods of a person’s life and therefore

may be a major influence moving the person to the right or to the left in the


Characteristics of ABCs

Generalizations may be misleading, for there are likely to be many

exceptions. But the following chart will indicate some of the different

characteristics of ABCs in the various aspects of their lives.

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ABCs on which this Handbook Is Focused

Some ABCs, culturally more Chinese, fit well into the present

Chinese churches, should continue to do so, and put their effort into

service there. They may see no need for any special emphasis for ABC

ministry. Other ABCs who are more American, culturally fit easily into

the Asian American or Caucasian churches. They may not be able to

understand why more ABCs do not join them. These should by all means

continue to serve and fellowship within their selected church. Obviously

the ABCs in these two examples have found their places and are quite


The remaining ABCs are the ones on whom this book focuses its

attention. Those who are in the middle of the chart and still in the Chinese

churches but are not really satisfied or happy with them; or the vast

majority of ABCs not in the churches today, who feel neither comfortable

nor welcomed in the present Chinese, Asian American, or Caucasian

churches. It is to these ABCs, both within and without the church that this

book is addressed.

ABC Culture

ABCs are often asked by OBCs, “Who are you? What are you?

Are you Chinese or American?” These questions point out the fact that

there is confusion in the minds of OBCs as to an ABC’s identity. Are

ABCs different? Is there something special and unique about them?

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Bicultural, Misfits, or Unique?

The most popular view today is that ABCs are bicultural. Thinking

that ABCs are half-Chinese and half-American, OBCs expect ABCs to act

and behave in certain Chinese ways. When these expectations are not met,

conflict, confusion and misunderstanding result. ABCs are looked upon as

oddballs and misfits. They are not fully accepted as Chinese nor are they

fully regarded as Americans.

On the contrary, ABCs are not bicultural. They are not “half-and-

half.” While most ABCs have been affected to some degree by Chinese

culture, this influence on each succeeding generation will continue to

decrease by greater degrees and the American or Western culture will

become the predominant influence on their lives. From this interaction of

Chinese and Western cultures, a new and different culture, a third culture,

has emerged.

Unique Culture

ABCs are a special and unique people. They are different from

OBCs and different from most Americans. Sure, they have been

influenced by both Chinese and American cultures; however, this

combination does not result in schizophrenic bicultural behavior but in

characteristics and a culture unique to ABCs. This truth can be illustrated

through several examples.

For instance, when you eat a nectarine, you never think that you are

eating half a peach and half a plum. In fact, you realize that a nectarine

has a special texture and flavor of its own. Even though a nectarine is the

combination of a peach and a plum, it has its own singular qualities.

Another example is the combination of tin and copper resulting in a new

metal. Bronze has qualities that neither tin nor copper has; e.g., it has

exceptional strength.

ABCs also have unique qualities different from those of OBCs.

ABCs have been shown to have special qualities in areas like freedom,

sensitivity, honesty, communication, and the capacity for sacrifice. Those

touched by Christ have been responsive to the challenge of evangelizing

the world.

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The Chinese Church and ABCs

For the Chinese church in the U.S. to reach the over a million

ABCs, it must recognize that it is trying to impact a distinctive group of

people. Attempting to force ABCs into a Chinese-church mold will lead to

conflict within families, resistance to the church, and rejection of the


To reach ABCs the church must be open to significant change.

There must be greater efforts toward parallel ministries, the recruiting of

ABC pastoral staff, and even the planting of new ABC churches.

Subsequent chapters in this book will discuss how Chinese churches can

make some of these changes. Will the church take up this challenge?

ABC Work

(ABOUT FACE, Vol. 3, No. 1, February 1981)

ABC work is thought to be work with youth,

ABC work is thought to be work with the English-speaking;

But ABC work is work with ABCs, young and old;

A work of a people

of a culture,

of a language,

of a land.

Should the Chinese church work with ABCs?

What are the other options?

She grows them,

She sends them to school,

to work,

to live;

She thrives in the culture,

in this language,

in this land.

ABC work is ABC work;

Your work,

Our work,

God’s work.

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Reasons ABCs Are Dropping out of Chinese Churches

Today, less than ten percent of the Chinese in the U.S. have any

relationship with the church, and the great majority of this ten percent are

overseas Chinese. This means that a vast proportion of ABCs are

unreached and untouched by the church. Pathetically, many ABCs during

their childhood were in Chinese churches, but as they grew up they

became part of the staggering number of dropouts. Is this due to a lack of

spiritual interest or are there cultural and social barriers diverting them

from continuing?

An additional factor causing ABCs to curtail participation in the

churches is that second, third, and fourth generation ABCs have moved out

from the ghettos and Chinatowns. Not many Chinese churches have

focused on this population of scattered ABCs. If ABCs were being

reached by Caucasian churches there would be no need for concern, but

most of these ABCs have become lost to the world.

Chinese churches will continue to be filled with the continued flow

of new immigrants and their children. But most of these children will

eventually also be lost to the world as they grow up. Again, their places in

the pews will be filled by yet more new immigrants and their children. So

the church will continue to appear to be healthy and growing, but she will

be losing one generation after another. As a result, within each generation

of ABCs, only a very tiny remnant is in the church as adults after years of

work. What can be done to break this vicious cycle?

Basic to determining what to do is to realize what the problem is.

A historical perspective of how the gospel crosses cultures needs to be

understood in order to properly cope with this culture-crossing

phenomenon within the Chinese church.

The Gospel and Culture

When the movement of the gospel is viewed historically, it must be

seen not only as it moves from one period of history to another but also as

it crosses from one culture to another. As Christianity moved from the

Jewish culture to the Greek, and successively to the Roman, German,

Western worlds and on to the Chinese, it took on new forms with each

such move. Ideally, the truth of the gospel is not changed, but the dress or

the outward appearance is adapted to its new and indigenous culture in

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order to identify with that people. There may be radically different

outward appearances with each change. Only in this way does the gospel

become “our faith” and not a foreign religion.

The Jewish Christians with their Old Testament background found

it hard to accept Greek Christians because they were different. Paul and

the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15) realized that Greek Christians did not

have to be culturally Jewish in order to become Christians. As the gospel

passes on to different cultures, new Christians must be allowed to develop

their own indigenous Christianity consistent with their own culture based

on scriptural standards and according to the truth of the Bible.

Stumbling Block for ABCs

Historically when the Chinese received the gospel in Asia, it

carried a western style dress (e.g. music, architecture, government,

practice, etc.). In most of China, Christianity never really became

culturally Chinese until after the Cultural Revolution. For this reason,

Christianity was often identified as a “foreign” or “western” religion and

thus was a stumbling block for Chinese believers in reaching their own


As the Chinese church expanded in America, it was aimed at

immigrant Chinese. Chinese pastors raised in Asia were placed into

leadership and many Christians transplanted from Asia became lay leaders.

As a result the Chinese churches in America today are culturally Chinese,

primarily using Cantonese or Mandarin and suited for Chinese from Asia.

Now in the same way as was done by Westerners in China, the Chinese

church in the U.S. in culture and language is posing a stumbling block for



ABCs have grown up in the context of American culture and

language and yet have always had to endure being in a culturally Chinese

church for worship, spiritual development and service. They had to sit

through long bilingual sermons. Communication and real understanding

were very difficult. The messages and lessons they heard were not

particularly relevant to their lives and involvement. They knew they were

alien and fringe participants in the church, and as their predecessor ABCs

who had grown up and had by and large dropped out, they themselves

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came to feel that they were temporary participants of the Chinese church.

For most ABCs, fitting into a transplanted Chinese church from Asia

appears to be too great of a hurdle. Not only is dropping out a common

occurrence but the faithful who stay find the cultural and language barriers

a great hindrance to their personal spiritual growth and outreach.

For most non-Christian ABCs, the Chinese church is absolutely

irrelevant culturally. Essentially, they have rejected the Chinese church as

a live option for meeting their spiritual needs. Many have even stopped

sending their children to Chinese churches to find Chinese friends.

“Would an ABC Choose a Chinese Church?” by Joseph Wong

(ABOUT FACE, Vol. 23, No. 1, February 2001)

Is there a biblical basis for the Chinese churches in America to

target ABC ministries? Yes, there are examples given by the early church

which indicated an awareness of differences in cultural background and a

conscious effort to care for those of a different background. The example

of the Jerusalem church in responding to cultural diversity has long been

ably presented. Acts 6 is a persuasive demonstration of how church

leadership acted to resolve a bicultural problem

However, it was the apostle Paul who put into words the

principle to be used when promoting ABC ministry. “To the weak I

became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all

men, that I may by all means save some” (I Cor. 9:22). This principle

leaves it for the evangelist to adapt to the people he is seeking to serve

rather than requiring them to adapt to himself. There are inadvertent

violations when an ABC is asked to be more “Chinese” by the church.

I find that Chinese church leaders have a great love for our

Lord and are eager that the life in their churches would be a sanctifying

experience for all who attend. But what will enable the leaders to accept

and encourage a comfortable atmosphere for the ABC Christians who do

not share their Chinese values and ways? How can they guide the church

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into being relevant to the unsaved ABCs? I believe the ABCs must be

heard and understood.

“Would an ABC choose to attend a Chinese church?” This

question was put to many ABCs, all of whom have had experiences in a

Chinese church, and some are now attending one. They were asked to

share briefly, and the following are some of their responses:

(Mature ABC who now attends a Chinatown church)

“I was brought up in both Chinese and non-Chinese churches. I

think I have always felt a little more comfortable in a culturally diverse

church, and I think that is because I grew up in a more assimilated context

than my parents did.”

(Mother in her early 40’s)

“This ABC would not particularly choose a Chinese church

even though that is what I grew up in. We tend to have a lot of Asian

friends and may end up in a Chinese church but that it is Chinese would

not be a criterion. I enjoy being in a church with mixed groups of Asians.

I am almost as Chinese as the next Caucasian. I only have learned to

understand things Chinese better through my in-laws, but I am not drawn

to the Chinese culture. I have gotten to a point where I don’t try to be

unlike Chinese and don’t mind being Chinese and appreciate things about

the Chinese.”

(Another mother in her 40’s)

“I am an ABC and grew up in a bilingual Chinese church. So I

feel very comfortable with both ABC and OBC Chinese of every generation

despite my limited Cantonese. Now that I have three children of my own, I

feel it is important for my children to maintain connections with Chinese

people, have Chinese friends their own age, and be exposed to the Chinese

culture and language. If we did not attend a Chinese church, we would

know just a handful of Chinese people.

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“We are blessed to be a part of a wonderful trilingual church.

Through serving on the board and working on committees and projects

with brothers and sisters from the English, Mandarin, and Cantonese

congregations, my ministry is greatly enriched, and I am truly

experiencing unity despite diversity. I hope my children will continue to

attend a Chinese church when they are on their own.”

(Grandmother in her 60’s)

“It is a tough question to answer for there are many factors to

consider, such as cultural and language differences, life styles, economics

and social differences. All these play a hand in that it will make the ABC a

little bit uncomfortable in the Chinese Church surroundings. It will take a

lot of warmth, compromise, patience, understanding, time, love, etc., on

both sides for the ABC to belong in the Chinese church. However, with

God, all things are possible.”

(Grandfather in his 60’s)

“I, personally, will not attend a Chinese church. There are too

many obstacles to overcome, and Chinese by nature are not friendly but

stand-offish. They do not appear to wish to build relationships, especially

if one does not speak Mandarin. In fact I feel like a second-class citizen


(Single female in late 20’s)

“My answer is, ‘probably not.’ Here are my reasons:

The Chinese tend to see things and approach issues from a

different perspective from mine, and in a Chinese church I could see

myself struggling with their thinking (the cultural influence).

My fiancé is not Chinese and I do not think he would feel

completely comfortable and at home in a Chinese church. It would be

tougher for him to relate.

I enjoy a more diverse congregation. There are people from

all different places that serve under one roof and have so many different

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views, cultures, and perspectives to share. I love to hear testimonies of

stories from people that lived in Zimbabwe, or a tiny town in Texas, or a

city in China, etc. We have a lot of variety.

My past experiences in Chinese churches have been mediocre

and I don’t think my life was so much more enriched because I attended a

Chinese church.

My only reason that I can think of that would encourage me to

attend a Chinese church would be if I wanted to learn more and approach

it for the sake of a learning experience.”

(Father 40 years old)

“Personally, I would not, at my point in life. Being married

with a family of young kids, I’m looking for a church where we can

worship, grow, and serve with a congregation that we can relate with

easily. Trying to accomplish this in a Chinese church could present

certain challenges such as language, communication, culture, etc. This is

not to say that we should always choose the easy way. Since joining our (a

bicultural, Japanese/English) church, I think we have become increasingly

sensitive and exposed to the Japanese culture and way of life…which is a

good thing.

“Perhaps, if I were twenty years younger, I might be in a

different mindset. I might consider it if my motivation was to ‘get in touch’

with my roots, develop more culturally, and at the same time be able to

worship in a Chinese church.”

(Mother 38 years old)

“This is determined by how ‘Chinese’ a Chinese church is.

Since I’m more American, I’d prefer a congregation and leadership that is

more American. Then I would feel identified with them, my issues would

be addressed in a way I understand, and I would have more freedom to


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“There’s always a feeling of belonging when you attend a

Chinese church because you automatically relate based on ethnicity.

When searching for a home church, it’s always easiest to start there. But

being a Chinese church is not enough reason to select such a church as

your home church.

“I remember bilingual services made it difficult to follow the

sermons because of the pauses.”

(Male 47 years old and married at 47. He is reconsidering his non-

alignment with a Chinese church. For the past 21 years, he has attended

a predominantly WASP church.)

“I am frustrated over the Chinese way of doing things and their

social courtesies. Expressing opinions and making suggestions the

Chinese way is indirect, oblique. So I often miss the point, since the

Western way is direct and to the point.

“I disagree when church decisions are made without proper

process. At times, it seems that the opinions, advice, and preferences of

the older members must be respected and deferred to simply on the basis

that those people are older, even when the older person has been a

Christian a shorter time than the younger person. Sometimes a person

gets a leadership position because she or he is ‘old enough’ or has been

around church long enough, instead of being based on whether that person

has the maturity, spiritual gifts, talent, or training.

“The Chinese church appears to want to dominate your time. It

seems that the more time you spend at church, the more ‘holy’ you are.

More service to the church? Then you are more ‘holy.’


How can a Chinese church provide an environment of

acceptance for ABCs? It may be impossible if the church leaders consider

the American values as bad because they violate the Chinese values and


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Perhaps with the above expressions by the ABCs, a Chinese

church can better analyze whether or not it is capable of making the

changes necessary to target ABCs in ministry.

Future Prospects

The leadership of the Chinese church in this land must realize that

as long as there remains a transplanted church from Asia, there will be vast

cultural and nearly insurmountable social barriers for most ABCs to

hurdle. The tactic is not to make the children of the Chinese church

culturally more Chinese in order to reach them. This is like the Jews

requiring the Greeks to be more Jewish in order to become good

Christians. Not only is this inconsistent with biblical principles, but it also

cannot be done as is evident by the generations of ABC dropouts. They

are not able to nor do they sense a need for taking on Chinese culture and


Alert and sensitive pastors and lay leaders in the Chinese church in

America are steering their church ministry toward an indigenous ministry.

Can leaders from overseas change? Just as we cannot expect ABCs to

become more Chinese in culture, we cannot expect leaders from Asia to

become like ABCs. Many such leaders have actually done a superb job of

relating to ABCs. Yet this is only a temporary and stopgap solution. For

both clergy and laity, radical changes and creative innovations must take

place in order for the church to rise to the task of effectively ministering to

the ever increasing numbers of ABCs in this land.

Immigration and the Church, Opportunities and Dangers

The flow of Chinese immigrants to America had always been

restricted to small numbers until the immigration laws were changed in

1965 opening the door to an annual quota of 20,000 Chinese. Then in

1982 the Chinese quota was doubled to 40,000 immigrants per year. Most

of these new immigrants have settled in the main Chinese centers in the

United States. This has caused social, cultural and economic changes and

adjustments to occur in the Chinese communities and in the Chinese


Page 40


On the other hand, the ABC population has had a slow but

accelerating growth. In 1900, it was only 10% of the Chinese population.

By 1960 it had reached 61%. But the large influx of immigrants in the

1960s reduced it to 52% by 1970. By 1980 it had dropped to around 40%.

However, the actual number of ABCs increased over 100,000 in that

decade. In 2004 there were over one million ABCs in the U.S.

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WHAT’S THE DIFF? … on How One Sees the ABC Ministry

(ABOUT FACE, Vol. 1., No. 3, November, 1979)

When you consider ministering to ABCs what do you understand

this to mean? It varies with one’s background. The overseas-born

Chinese (OBC) with a firm Chinese cultural background finds himself

satisfied in the church if the service and ministry are conducted completely

in Chinese. But as the church continues to function through the years,

OBC leaders discover that more and more of their children are English

speaking. To meet their need, an English Sunday school class is started

for them, and as these children get older, they are expected to attend

worship service. Because they complain about not being able to

understand the Chinese service, the church again adjusts to this by

translating the service from Chinese to English. Meanwhile, there are

many ABCs who, being old enough to decide for themselves, have dropped

out of church. These who drop out and others who are inclined to follow

their steps complain that they do not want to sit through long, boring

worship services and that the teaching is not presented in a way interesting

and relevant to them. The sensitive OBC leadership foresees this, or at

least responds to this, and begins some concerted effort to do ABC

ministry. What is understood to be ABC ministry here is usually an effort

to meet the needs of the few young people who are bordering on dropping


The diagram on the next page depicts the span of cultures. At Line

“A” is Chinese culture; at Line “B”, American culture. The whole

spectrum in between represents the milieu of Chinese in America. The

area under the curve represents the people in the Chinese church. Those

under the curve between Line “A” and Line “C” represent the OBCs in

the church, most of whom, though somewhat bi-cultural after being in this

country for a number of years, are strongly Chinese in culture. Those

under the curve to the right of Line “C” represent the few ABCs in the

church. This is usually understood by an OBC to be the target of ABC


On the other hand, when an ABC Christian considers ABC

ministry, that sector under the curve is just a small though immediate part

of it. He remembers the many friends he once had in Sunday school and

church who have dropped out and gone the way of the world. He thinks of

his many peers and relatives, his very own brothers and sisters and their

children for whom the Chinese church has not had an effective ministry.

Page 45


He realizes anew that over half the Chinese population in this land are

ABCs, few of whom are reached for Jesus Christ; and this portion will be

increasing as the years go by. In contrast to the OBC, he sees the whole

span from Line “C” to “B” as the target of ABC ministry.

The believer with vision, whether OBC or ABC, will see that Line

“C” will gradually move to the left side as the years go by – a larger and

larger portion will be ABCs. This means that the Chinese Church must

gear herself to an increasingly effective work among ABCs by enlisting

pastoral staff and lay leaders capable of meeting these needs.

Page 46



The influx of many new OBCs into the Chinese churches has

caused the Chinese churches to become more Chinese culturally than they

had been. This has increased the danger of OBC church leaders becoming

blinded by the influx of immigrants and not seeing the needs of two

generations within the church. If the church is overwhelmed by

opportunities, it may close its eyes to the needs of the ABCs both within

and especially outside the church.

The church can also become so Chinese culturally that ABCs who

are there may feel so out of place and neglected that they become dropouts.

And every succeeding generation of ABCs will feel a greater alienation

from the Chinese church. If so, we will have allowed a cultural factor to

become a stumbling block for ABCs rather than allowing a spiritual factor

to determine the course of ministry and Christian life for them.


Today the Chinese church must recognize that the OBCs and ABCs

are culturally different and have their own particular needs. OBC and

ABC pastors need to labor together to effectively serve the whole church.

But this must be done in a spirit of love, respect and acceptance in the

Lord. Their ministries will differ in many ways, but they need not be

competing. It can be a single church with a yoked ministry, two separate

churches under one roof, or even two churches next to each other. Each

group has its own style and interests, and they do not need to look alike or

always do things together. There will be opportunities for fellowship and

even occasions for cooperation in ministry.

Today many ABC families still need the Chinese-speaking church

to minister to many of their parents and relatives. There are still many ties

to the OBC sector. ABCs are not seeking to break away from the church

or to break their families apart. They want a church where they will feel

comfortable and where they will not be looked upon as minorities and

outsiders. They want a church that is able to minister to their particular

situation and needs.

Page 47


OBC families will also be feeding people into the ABC stream of

the church. Will pastors feel threatened and insecure because they see this

flow of people leaving their flock for another segment of the church?

Today, ninety percent of the Chinese in the U.S. are still outside of

the gospel. Thousands of new immigrants are arriving each year, and

thousands of new ABCs are being born each year. How can we remain on

the sidelines? Let us join into what God is doing.

Alleviating Fears of OBC Church Leaders

It is necessary for Chinese churches in the U.S. to recognize the

different needs of ABCs as distinguished from those of OBCs and to fully

minister to both. We not only need to preserve and build up the few ABCs

in the Chinese churches, but we also need to reach out to the vast majority

of unreached and unchurched ABCs who have had nothing to do with the

Chinese church. This will require changes that may be difficult to make,

such as establishing parallel ministries, having a multi-staff, English

services, etc. We need to encourage more ABCs into full-time ministries

and prepare them for service in Chinese churches.

There will always be proposals for change. It is possible for

change to take place in a spirit of unity. But first, those involved must

understand what are the concerns and the purpose and scope of the

changes. It is highly possible that many of our OBC brethren with their

strong Chinese cultural background have misinterpreted what they have

seen and heard regarding ABC ministries. Some of their thoughts have

been as follows:

ABCs Are Trying to Split Churches and Compete with OBCs

The ABCs are not trying to split the churches; rather they are

attempting to enhance the ministry so that all the Chinese, both OBCs and

ABCs, can be fully ministered to. To do this will take a lot of ingenuity

and energy and may take on many forms. It may start with separate

English sermons in a worship service. It may eventually lead to parallel

ministries wherever feasible. This is not competing with OBCs for

ministry. It is really trying to have a complete ministry to the entire

Chinese community where the whole spectrum is being reached. Today,

most of our Chinese churches are much more suited for OBCs and their

young children than for older ABCs.

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ABCs Rejecting Chinese Culture and Are Not Very Chinese

ABCs are Chinese who are born and raised in America. They are

Chinese, but they are not OBCs nor do they understand the Chinese

language or their cultural heritage very well. ABC ministries can help

ABCs to find and follow Christ without having to abandon their ABC

identities. OBCs must be willing to acknowledge and accept this.

ABCs Attempting Take over of Chinese Churches and Wanting

Power and Authority

Generally speaking, an ABC is not likely to be the leader of a

Chinese church that is predominantly OBC, nor should he want to. ABCs

only want the freedom to worship, serve and minister to other ABCs

without too many cultural barriers. Whether one becomes the senior pastor

should not be an issue. An ABC pastor is not in a church to compete with

the OBC pastor but is there to make that ministry more complete by

ministering to the ABC sector. To force out an OBC pastor from a church

is not only unbiblical but it would also make that church incomplete and

unable to fulfill its ministry. In the same way, to refuse to take on an ABC

pastor when the need is there makes that church incomplete and unable to

fulfill its ministry to the whole church.

ABCs Not Wanting to Mix or Work with OBCs

Being the body of Christ, we need each other. We are incomplete

without the other. Through our fellowship we can enrich each other’s

lives. Advocating parallel ministries and more ABC pastors is not a denial

of our need for each other. It is within our diversity and differences that

we must manifest true unity in the Holy Spirit. We do not have to always

be together in the same service to have fellowship and harmony.

Emphasizing the strengths of the leadership, OBC pastors working with

OBCs, and ABC pastors with ABCs, is true cooperation without one

having to feel threatened by the other.

Although OBC ministries in America are very important, they are

presently out of proportion to the needs of the whole Chinese population.

We must lift up the vision so that the Chinese churches will not be in

danger of having too many cultural stumbling blocks, thus preventing the

next generation of ABCs from knowing the reality of the living God that is

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found in Jesus Christ. Many of these will be the children of our OBC

church leaders today.

Tilting toward ABC Ministries

In order for the Chinese church in American to be a vital and living

church as the people of God in the world and fulfill the Great Commission,

it must have a clear tilt toward ABC ministries. By tilt, it means favoring,

planning and strategizing with the future of the ABCs in mind. Without

this tilt, the church will remain an immigrant church to a small number of

people and will lack a clear vision of where God wants it to go.

The Chinese church as a whole needs to be clear where it must be

heading as it thinks and plans for the 21


century. In order to be a vital

church that is fulfilling its mission locally and worldwide, it must have a

clear tilt toward ABC ministries. ABCs are not better or more important

than OBCs because everyone is equally important in the eyes of God. But

ABCs are a key factor in enabling the church to fulfill its mission. We

must tilt toward ABCs for the following reasons:

Because Chinese Churches Are Located in U.S.

The Chinese church in America, by virtue of its being located in

the Western world, must help the Chinese Christians not only to survive in

America but also to be a vital part of a larger social and cultural

community. The danger confronting an immigrant church is the tendency

to look inward and to be protective of its ethnic culture. The “ghetto” or

“fortress” mentality gives it a sense of security from foreign intrusions, but

it also cuts it off from the rest of society. Presently, many ABCs feel

alienated from their own churches because they are expected to be more

Chinese than they really are. They do not feel that they would be accepted

in their churches unless they could adapt into that kind of Chinese fortress.

Because Parents Need to Understand Their Children

OBC parents who have ABC children need to realize that their

children have a very distinct culture of their own, a fact which adds a

unique dimension to the church. The church needs to help such parents

understand their children and vice versa. Communication with and

acceptance of each other are serious challenges being faced by a great

number of families today. OBC parents must recognize that their children

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raised in America will, unlike children raised in Asia, be strongly molded

and influenced by Western culture. Oftentimes, cultural differences have

been misinterpreted as theological issues and have divided families. So the

church has a tremendous responsibility and opportunity to help OBC

parents accept their ABC children with their cultural differences.

“Two Questions of Priorities for Church and Family”’ by Peter Yuen

(About FACE, Vol. 3, No. 3, August, 1981)

What is the more important? Our welfare or the welfare of our

children? Parents who have not developed properly psychologically may

choose their own welfare. But even instinctively, well-balanced parents

choose their children’s welfare just as a mother deer would decoy the deer

hunter by running visibly in the opposite direction of her fawn. We can

affirm a resounding choice for the welfare of our children. Within the

family, this means that parents will be willing to forsake their own safety,

security, comfort and enjoyment, if need be, to see that their children have

what they need for safety, happiness and wholeness. Within the church,

the adults and leadership will choose to give up time, attention,

expenditure, even their own Christian welfare, if need be, to see that the

children and youth have the opportunity, environment and experiences to

grow in their Christian life and fellowship. The children’s welfare comes

before the parents’ or adult leadership’s welfare.

Now consider the second question: What is most important—their

physical, their psychological, or their spiritual welfare? Parents who urge

their children to drop out of school so as to work to further the family’s

income think erroneously that earning power to gain physical and material

advantage is more important than training the mind. The antiquated view

that daughters have less need than sons for a college education errs in

believing that developing the capacity to think is unimportant for one will

spend her life producing babies and preparing meals. The psychological

is more important than the physical. The capacity to think and having a

balanced emotional makeup is more crucial than being able to do physical

tasks to earn for material ends.

But is not the spiritual even more important than the physical and

psychological? Is not being rightly related to God for time and eternity of

greater importance than being strong or smart? Is it not wiser to have

peace with God through Jesus Christ than getting straight A’s or being the

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star athlete? The one who says he wants both for his children does not set

his priorities aright. Of course we want everything excellent for our

children. But if something has to give way, if our direction or our

investment of time, energy, interest and money has to be allocated

according to priorities, which is of highest priority? Our children’s

spiritual, psychological or physical welfare? The wise parent and church

leader say, “The spiritual, of course!”

Now if we were called upon to sacrifice the psychological for the

spiritual well-being of our children, would we advocate it? Is there such a

choice? What would this mean? Culture and language are of the

psychological realm. And holding tightly to the Chinese cultural reins

upon the children who are growing up in an American culture, through no

choice (nor fault) of theirs, is to drive most of them far away from the

spiritual food and atmosphere of the church if that could be had only in the

Chinese culture.

Wise, spiritual parents and church leaders will choose to give up

their own interests in the realms of culture and language to see that their

ABC children get the best, most relevant means to be trained up in the

nurture and admonition of the Lord and be developed in Christian

fellowship and service through the church. For children raised in this

country, that needs to be in the language and culture of the rest of life.

A Chinese man in Singapore who hardly knew English had eight

children raised in English Western culture and language. But as this

family attended a Chinese-speaking church, the man foresaw the spiritual

tests ahead for his children. He was instrumental in helping an English

service get started in his church, and he himself, who knew very limited

English even after forty years, joined the English service right from the

start. Today his children and grandchildren are going on in Christian life

and service. This man made two right decisions.

Need to Produce Lay Leadership

Lay leadership and resources for Sunday school, youth ministries,

choir, service and ministries in the church for the present and especially for

the next generation will come predominantly from the growing ABC

population. This is only natural if the churches are growing and are family


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Wherever there is a large concentration of Chinese, ABC ministries

should be directed to all ages and not just to children alone. It has been

obvious that wherever the dropout rate is high among the youth and young

adults, the church remains essentially an immigrant church with an ABC

ministry intended only for children. Why are so many churches after

decades of ministry without strong ABC families? The church must tilt

toward building ABC lay leaders.

Need for Future Pastors and Missionaries

The most important reason for the Chinese church’s tilting its

ministry toward ABCs is to enable it to fulfill its mission to the world.

Generally speaking, a growing church should be producing pastors,

Christian workers, and especially missionaries from among its children.

These workers should be the fruits of the Chinese church in America. Yet

today many of our Chinese seminarians are committed Christians from

overseas and the majority of them remain for ministries here instead of

returning to serve in their homeland. Pastors are still being called from

Asia to serve; many are having growing ministries. It is great to have

these added and needed resources, but it gives us a false sense of strength

and health. Where are the fruits of the last twenty to forty years of

ministry from our local churches, especially; among the ABCs?

There are many more Chinese children born here than have

emigrated from overseas. Therefore most of the future candidates for full-

time ministry should come from the growing ABC sector. The smaller

number of OBC young people are under a great deal of family pressures,

obligations, personal struggles, and temptations to use their higher

education for the family and to seek the security of the “good life” in

America. OBC young people find it more difficult to leave America

because of the more basic felt needs of security, citizenship, and material

wealth. Immigration statistics prove this. Whereas ABCs, if discipled and

challenged properly, will be more open and ready to give up what they

have had all their lives to serve the Lord, whether in ministry locally or

overseas. When this happens, the Chinese church will truly become a

second-generation church, still able to reach the first-generation OBCs

while producing more ABC fruit for ministry.

Therefore, tilting toward ABCs is essential. ABC ministry must be

planned, for it will not happen automatically. Current leaders must now

Page 53


steer the church toward strong ABC ministries. Favoring ABC ministries

does not mean neglecting the OBCs; it is recognizing that the future of the

Chinese church in America is dependent upon the succeeding generations.

Page 54


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Chapter 3

An Overview of Past and Present ABC Ministries within the Chinese


By William Eng

• The Present Focus of the Chinese Churches

• Examples of Chinese Churches with Effective ABC Ministries

• Reasons for Their Success

• Chinese Churches with Ineffective Ministries to ABCs

• Reasons for Their Lack of Success

Present Focus of Chinese Churches

Since major changes were made in U.S. immigration laws in 1965,

large numbers of Chinese began and are continuing to enter the U.S. This

large influx of new immigrants has changed the focus of most Chinese

churches. Ninety percent of today’s Chinese churches minister to OBCs

who are over sixty percent of the Chinese population. The other ten

percent of Chinese churches minister to ABCs that make up the remaining

forty percent of the Chinese population.

Some Chinese churches focus their ABC ministries upon the youth.

ABC ministry is not just youth ministry. There are senior ABCs, a

significant growing number included in the United States census who are

part of the post World War II generation. More than sixty percent of

ABCs are Baby-boomers. Another segment of the ABC population is the

Baby-busters born after 1971; many of these are young adult singles.

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More than fifty percent of ABCs are singles, not just young adults but

those in their forties and above. This includes single-again ABCs, those

who were once married but who have been widowed or divorced. As

outlined in the previous chapter, ABCs can also further be described on a

cultural scale from being more Chinese culturally to being more American

culturally. ABCs can further be described by a spectrum of characteristics

that can be from being more Chinese to being more American in many

areas of life.

Examples of Chinese Churches with Effective ABC ministries

Any evaluation of ABC ministries in Chinese churches today must

recognize that Chinese churches were not formed in the same way or by

the same methods. Many Chinese churches located in most large

metropolitan cities have been birthed in an environment associated with

the early immigrants from southern China, primarily people who spoke

Cantonese and the Toisan dialect and very much set within a Chinatown

community. Most of these early Chinese churches were planted in the big

cities such as Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New

York. Many of them have large, thriving, vital ministries to ABCs today.

In recent years because of the changes in immigration laws, new

immigrants have come from other parts of China, Taiwan, and Southeast

Asia. As the Chinese population increased in each of these and other

major U.S. cities, the outward movement of better educated, more affluent

Chinese to the suburbs has led to the starting of many other Chinese

churches with growing ABC ministries as well.

The ABC ministries at some of these big-city and suburban

Chinese churches will be briefly examined. Our first example of a Chinese

church with a growing ministry to ABCs is Los Angeles First Chinese

Baptist Church. Their children’s ministry was started in 1952. In 1974

Greg Owyang was called to be the pastor to the ABCs and began

preaching in the second service solely in English. This expedited the

growth of the church. Key also was the growing ministry of the Sunday

school in providing additional training for the English-speaking young

adults. Their Sunday school attendance averages over 1000 each Sunday.

In time an additional youth worship was started to meet the growing youth

population that came from the surrounding Chinatown community of Los

Angeles. The church continues to grow as those ABCs who grew up in the

Chinatown community have returned to worship and serve in significant

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numbers. The church must now re-emphasize outreach to their Chinatown

community since their ministry to ABCs of all ages has become a large

part of the church.

Another example of an effective church ministry to ABCs is

Chicago’s Chinese Christian Union Church (CCUC). The church started

their English worship under the initial planning from Phil Heng and later

Alvin Louie, students at Moody Bible Institute. David Woo, one of the

five FACE directors, came to be the first pastor to the English-speaking in

1965. The church’s sports ministry, Chinese school, and Christian day

school have attracted many young people from the Chinatown community.

Some of these have grown up to become lay ministry leaders to the next

generation of ABCs. A few have served their internships in the church

while attending seminary nearby. The church’s significant mission

outreach has challenged some of these ABCs to serve in the mission field.

More than a handful of these have gone into full time ministry. Many of

these career and short-term workers responded to God’s call when they

heard missionaries from the many mission agencies located in the Chicago

area share in the English worship their call, struggle, and works of faith.

No doubt, the ministry to the English-speaking of CCUC has grown due to

many factors like these.

Another Chinese church with a strong ministry to ABCs is the

Boston Chinese Evangelical Church whose current senior pastor, Steve

Chin, is a product of the church’s ABC ministry.

“God’s Double Blessing on a Church” by Steven Chin

(ABOUT FACE, Vol. 6, No. 1, February 1984)

(Steven Chin, a native of the Boston area, holds master’s degrees in

industrial engineering and public administration and was a health planner

in Boston until God called him to earn his master’s in biblical studies at

Dallas Theological Seminary. In 1977 he became the assistant to the

pastor at the Boston Chinese Evangelical Church working with ABCs. In

time he became the senior pastor of the church. He with his helpmate,

Nancy, have two children, Stephanie and Matthew.)

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Last year our church took a step of faith that has resulted in

over a 25% increase in our average worship attendance in less than a

year. We did this by expanding from one bilingual worship service to two

worship services, one in English and the other in Cantonese. Of course,

having separate worship services will not always guarantee that kind of

growth. In our case, however, it was successful and perhaps our

experience can be an encouragement to other Chinese churches

considering such a move.


I suppose the history of our church, the Boston Chinese

Evangelical Church, is typical of many Chinese churches in North

America. The church was founded in 1961 by a small group of believers

led by Rev. James Tan. It began by using Cantonese exclusively.

However, as the children grew up, the sermons began to be interpreted,

sentence by sentence, to English. Because Pastor Tan spoke very little

English, the youth groups, led by a series of various foreign students who

spoke English, were established to try to meet the needs of the ABCs.

By 1975, the congregation had grown to about 125 people, but

the ministry to ABCs was still weak. The ABCs were bored with the

service, and many dropped out or went to Caucasian churches. The ABC

ministry was also hurt by the transient nature of its congregation. The

leadership was not very stable with students moving in and out of the area.

In 1974, an OBC worker (trained in the US) was hired to work with the

young people, but he soon left because of conflicts. This led the church to

be even more cautious in hiring a worker to work with the English-

speaking members.

The attention of the church soon turned toward the need for a

church building. The church had been sharing a building with a home for

alcoholics and other homeless men. To my surprise in 1977 after I

finished seminary, in the midst of the building program, the church offered

me the position of assistant to the pastor. This certainly was a step of faith

for the church as its financial resources were being drained by the

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building program. The growing youth ministry, particularly with all the

college students in the area, finally had a full-time worker overseeing it.

The worship service became more “even” as the entire service, not just the

sermon, was interpreted. Also, Pastor Tan graciously allowed me to

alternate with him in preaching the sermons. Though I was not fully

trained for preaching, the ABCs appreciated the sermons preached in

English and geared toward their culture and needs.

In 1978, there was a case of “reverse discrimination” that I

believe helped pave the way for the English worship service. Up to this

point there had been just one college-career group in the church, and it

was dominated by ABCs. There were some OBC young people, however,

who were more comfortable in studying the Bible in Cantonese and wanted

a Cantonese-speaking fellowship group. Despite fears of disunity, the

Cantonese-speaking fellowship was formed, and both groups have grown.

As a result, people in the church began to see more clearly the differences

in ministering to the ABCs and the OBCs.

In 1979, we moved into our new building. Pastor Tan retired

and Pastor Jacob Fung succeeded him. Both Pastor Tan and Pastor Fung

were sympathetic to the needs of ABCs and were not against an English

worship service. However, they wanted to wait until the congregation was

more receptive to the idea. It should also be noted that the good staff

relationships that existed helped relieve any tension between the OBCs and


The church continued to grow steadily to approximately 250 in

1982 with about one-third English-speaking, one-third bilingual, and one-

third Cantonese-speaking. As many of the children of church leaders were

entering adolescence, more attention was focused on the needs of teens—

so much so that youth coordinator, Diane Soo Hoo, was hired in 1982, and

a teen worship was instituted. Meanwhile, talk about an English service

began to grow especially as the one bilingual service became more and

more crowded. The capacity of the sanctuary was 300. The Board of

Deacons finally appointed a committee to study the need and the feasibility

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of an English worship service. The committee reported that because of the

language and cultural differences within the congregation and because of

the growing space problem, an English worship service should be

instituted. It recommended that on Sunday from 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.,

the English worship service and the Cantonese Sunday school would take

place. After a refreshment and fellowship break, the Cantonese worship

service and the English Sunday school would take place from 11:00 a.m. to

12 noon. Once a month, Holy Communion would be held together at 12

noon. There would still be one senior pastor, one board of deacons, one

budget, and one congregation. The committee’s recommendations were

adopted without opposition at the church’s Annual Congregational

Meeting in October 1982.

Beginning in on March 6, 1983, the church moved to two

worship services. The English worship service has averaged about 125;

the Cantonese service, about 230. The total represents an increase of over

25% from the average of 280 prior to the expansion to two services. We

thank the Lord that the fears of splitting up the church have not

materialized and both congregations are happier and better ministered to.


As I look back on how the English worship service became a

reality, I can only thank God. Sometimes it was difficult and frustrating to

wait for God to act in the midst of strong opposition against having an

English service. For instance, some people said, “The church was

originally formed for the Cantonese-speaking. It shouldn’t have an

English service.” Other said, “The ABCs ought to learn Chinese.” More

legitimate complaints included, “It will break up the family,” and “It will

break the unity of the church.”

Certainly the English-speaking and the Cantonese-speaking will

not be able to sit next to each other during the worship service. Such

unity, however, is only apparent. In reality, people usually sit in clusters

with their friends, not with those of a different language or culture

including family members. Under our alternating schedule, families can at

least still come to church together and leave together.

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Admittedly, the English-speaking and Cantonese-speaking

congregations will get to see and know each other less and less. However,

the church was growing to such a size that some division was necessary.

Already people felt like strangers even with those in their own

language/culture group. It could never be like the “good old days” when

everyone knew everyone else at the church. Thus with growth, some sort

of subdivision was unavoidable and necessary. Moreover, true unity is not

based on attending the same service but upon our unity as part of the body

of Christ. With people worshipping God in their own language and

cultural setting, they will hopefully draw closer to Christ and

consequently, closer spiritually to each other.

In terms of overcoming opposition and establishing an English

worship service, I would like to cite four factors. One, there was always

steady pressure for an English service but never to the point that it became

a demand. The ABCs tried to let the leaders know they were not happy

with the bilingual service but they never became rebellious or offensive in

their complaints.

There was occasionally a temptation to bypass all the frustration

and start a separate English-speaking church. But I realized the English-

speaking and the Cantonese-speaking congregations needed each other.

The English-speaking congregation needed the Cantonese-speaking

congregation to minister to their parents. The Cantonese-speaking

ministry needed the English-speaking congregation to minister to their


I suppose we could have gotten an English worship service faster if

we had demanded and pressured more. But that could have created a lot

of bad feeling between the two congregations that would mean more

problems later. Establishing an English service after a bitter fight would

only confirm people’s fears of disunity. In our perhaps slower approach

where unanimity was reached, people could point to our church as a

model rather than as proof that having an English service would split the


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A second factor in our establishing an English service was gaining

the respect of the OBCs. ABCs are often seen as being irresponsible,

rebellious kids. We ABCs needed to show them by our actions as

individuals and as a group that we were mature enough to be responsible

for our own worship service, We needed to make clear that we had no

intention of splitting the church but wanted to help it grow. At the same

time, we needed to help them see that ABCs and OBCs were best

ministered to separately.

A third factor was our growth in numbers. It was difficult at first

keeping the English-speaking coming to our church. But our success in

doing this by making up for some of the deficiencies through other areas

such as Sunday school and fellowship groups, showed that the English-

speaking congregation was sufficiently large enough to support an English

service. The growth in numbers also caused the church to take action to

alleviate the crowded worship service. Believe it or not, some people

suggested two bilingual services! Fortunately, most people saw having

two separate language services as the only viable solution.

The fourth and most important factor in our gaining an English

service was prayer. For many years the ABCs complained about the need

for an English service, but they never seriously prayed about it until the

year before it became a reality. Though the chances of an English service

coming soon looked bleak at times, we needed to trust in the sovereignty of

God. As people began to pray for an English service, the opposition began

to melt. Some opposing church leaders left the area, some left for other

churches, and some became inactive in leadership. For the others, God

changed their minds about an English service, even those who were dead

set against it.

In conclusion, God has shown to us that the process of gaining an

English worship service is as important as the product. It was frustrating

at times, but God showed us that He is certainly sovereign in His own

church. We just need to do things God’s way and wait for His timing. The

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product has been two healthy, growing congregations working together to

help build His church.

Other examples are San Francisco’s Cumberland Presbyterian

Church, Oakland’s Chinese Independent Baptist Church, and the Los

Angeles True Light Presbyterian Church.

Besides the Chinese churches in urban Chinatown communities,

many of today’s churches with effective ABC ministries are found in

regions of the United States with newly growing Chinese populations.

These have been in the metropolitan areas of Phoenix, Dallas, Houston,

Washington/Maryland, Seattle, San Jose, and other areas.

The Sacramento First Chinese Baptist Church was started by

predominantly English-speaking ABCs under Pastor Donald Gee in 1969.

Their worship service was in English with a short Chinese summary of the

sermon. This was the reverse of the traditional pattern used in planting

churches in Chinatowns or other Chinese communities. By 1996 only

English was used in their worship service.

Another example of an early ABC ministry success is the start of

the Chinese Gospel Mission, Sacramento, by Frank Fung in the 1940s.

Some of its members eventually went to the Multnomah School of the

Bible and then ministered to ABCs in other churches. Chinese Gospel

Mission is now called Chinese Grace Bible Church of Sacramento and is

pastored by an ABC, Alan Ginn. This church now also ministers to the


“One Generation of Church Life” by William Eng

(ABOUT FACE, Vol. 23, No. 2, May 2001)

Chinese Baptist Church of Orange County (CBCOC) has just

celebrated its 27


anniversary. CBCOC was started in April 1974 by Dr.

and Mrs. James Chiu after they shared a vision with the First Southern

Baptism Church of Anaheim, which then sponsored the church as its

mission. On the first Sunday, April 28, the mission had sixty in worship.

In 1977, it became self-supporting.

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Through the collective participation from both the English and

Chinese-speaking during our annual “Dream Day” (visualizing what God

would do through CBCOC) the church has defined what we are and for

what purpose we exist.

Vision Statement: “CBCOC is a loving, New Testament Chinese church

whose purpose is to fulfill the Great Commission challenge of worship,

evangelism, discipleship, and ministry. We exist to worship the Almighty

God in the context of our Chinese heritage, proclaim salvation through

Jesus Christ, nurture the body of believers in love under the guidance of

the Holy Spirit, and advance the Great Commission both in the United

States and around the world.”

We thank the Lord that He has sustained and empowered the

church since that first beginning. The main priorities of our work are to

provide worship services in various languages so that each member of our

body can experience worship in his or her own culture, to plant mission

churches to proclaim the salvation we have received, to present the Word

to equip the family of God to live out Christ’s teaching as a community of

light, and to prepare workers for the kingdom’s work.

Core Values:

C hrist-Centered Unity in Diversity

B iblical Truth Foundational

C itizens of God’s Kingdom

O ne Another Members

C ommitment to Missions and Evangelism

C hrist-Centered Unity in Diversity

“Our unity is based on our commitment to Christ, with

appreciation of our diversity in cultures. We believe that unity is not

necessarily uniformity.”

In the past twenty-five years, God’s power has made it possible

for 500 to make professions of faith in Christ and be added to the church

Page 65


by baptism. During a recent baptism, some of the new Mandarin members

acknowledged the loving fellowship and unity expressed by the other

members of the church.

Early in the church’s history, brothers and sisters who were

bilingual accommodated the English-speaking by making English to be the

common language in our various planning meetings even though

Cantonese and Mandarin-speaking members are in the church. This has

strengthened the unity of the church. For many years there have been

various Praise Night presentations from the various components of the

church involving all three language congregations. Even though we have

three different language worship services, we are bound to each other in

Christian unity.

B iblical Truth Foundational

“Teaching, applying and guarding the truth of the Bible, form

the basic foundation of our church.”

We believe each person should have the opportunity to study

God’s Word in his or her own language. This is seen in the seventeen

adult Bible-study classes which outnumber the younger classes. Bible-

study attendance in church was the highest on October 29, 2000, with 421

present. There are weekday Bible studies but the availability of Sunday

classes in the language and age group of newcomers has helped the

church to grow spiritually and numerically. Prior to the start of the

English worship service, and later the Mandarin worship, emphasis was

given to establishing three more adult classes to provide an ongoing

support for that worship service.

C itizens of God’s Kingdom

“As citizens of God’s kingdom, we pledge our allegiance to

Christ’s Lordship. We are guided by the Holy Spirit to Christ-like living.

We are Christ’s ambassadors to reach the lost world.”

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Because we desire to live out kingdom life, some of our young

people are coming back after graduation to serve in the church as well as

in short-term mission projects. Some have accepted God’s call to ministry

and there often are seminarians from within the church. Our Summer

Volunteer and Internship programs provide our young people

opportunities to help in the church. These cultivate our members to be

servants of God in His kingdom work.

O ne Another Members

“We believe that every member is a vital link in the growth of

the church through their participation in exercising their gifts, loving care

for one another, praying for one another, ministering to one another’s

needs, and fellowshipping with one another.”

For a few years over 150 adults and youths have supported the

Lord’s work here through the Watchman Prayer Ministry by making

commitments to pray for one hour each week. Prayers were answered

resulting in professions of faith and the strengthening of the church. Our

prayer ministry has helped to allow people to pray for one another and

connect with others in the church.

The deacons of the church are selected to care for the needs of

the various adults supported by their Bible-study support groups. Ministry

done in the name of the Lord has strengthened the church in its growth.

The adults in the church, through the church’s budget, have

made commitments to provide for ministry to young people. Through the

resources of staff, volunteers and finances, the next generation is

experiencing God’s love and the church’s investment in their spiritual


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C ommitment to Missions and Evangelism

“CBCOC is committed to the fulfillment of the Great


All three language groups have teams who have participated in

our Continuing Witness Training. The result has been over twenty

professions of faith in the first four months of this year. Our Christmas

Choir, together with our Youth and Children’s Choirs, has presented a

Christmas program of drama and music proclaiming the good news to

over 800 people every December. Likewise, it was a joint effort of one-

fourth of the church in sharing the Resurrection music drama last Easter

with over 700 present. As a result, professions of faith were made. We are

committed to share Christ both personally as well as through the whole


Instead of just focusing on our ethnicity, the various language

groups work together to witness to God’s work through the whole church

to the world outside our walls. English, Cantonese, and Mandarin-

speaking members have partnered together through visitation, drama,

sports, crafts, medicine and VBS to the Mission Indians in San Diego

County and Tijuana. Since 1991, a team has led VBS on the Navajo

reservation in Arizona. Other teams have visited Dong villages and

delivered medicine and relief funds. Some of our students have been part

of a cultural exchange in Guiyang. Another team has gone to the

Dominican Republic Chinese in the last two years. Three of our members

continue to study in China; another couple will join them later in the year.

We are excited at God letting us work alongside Him in the harvest.

We warmly welcome all to our fellowship and family through

Jesus Christ our Lord. We want to become all that God wants us to be – to

make the vision He has given us a reality at CBCOC.

Sen Wong, founder of the Chinese Bible Evangel, has been

instrumental in planting a number of ABC Chinese Bible Churches spread

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out over the San Francisco Bay area. Many young people have found the

Lord through the focused ministry of these Bible churches.

In some areas of the country that had smaller numbers of Chinese,

there were sufficient numbers to see small Chinese churches formed. A

history of the Chinese Baptist Church in Greenville, Mississippi, gives a

record of some of the ABCs who had moved out of the South and became

important contributing members of other Chinese churches in the rest of

the nation.

In Arizona, Phoenix First Chinese Baptist Church was started from

Central Baptist Church by Rev. Stanley in 1944. He preached in English,

gathering the children of the Chinese grocery storeowners and other

Chinese-owned businesses. These young people grew up to be the lay

leaders of the church. With limited Chinese migration into the area, the

church would have been predominantly ABC. Later they added a Chinese

translation to the church’s worship, again the reverse of the pattern found

in Chinatown churches. In 1969 they had two separate services, one in

English and the other in Chinese. (Reverend Stanley had come from ten

years of similar ministry at San Antonio Chinese Baptist Church. Alvin

Louie an ABC from California became the pastor of San Antonio Chinese

Baptist Church before becoming the senior pastor of Oakland’s Chinese

Independent Baptist Church.)

Many Chinese churches have planted new churches. These new

church plants, second-generation churches, are visible demonstrations of

how many ABC churches have been developed. In light of the church

growth movement, inspired Chinese churches with long histories here in

the United States have launched other Chinese-speaking churches with

English worship ministries that were already integrated into their starting

structure and focus. Some examples are the First Chinese Baptist Church

of Fountain Valley and the Sunset Chinese Baptist Church in San

Francisco. First Chinese Baptist Church of Los Angeles sent out Wilfred

Chung to Sacramento to start Sacramento Chinese Baptist Church. Their

English worship was begun in the late 1970s. Wes Ong, an ABC who

grew up at the First Chinese Baptist Church of Los Angeles is currently its

senior pastor.

Some Chinese churches have even had the vision to plant ABC

churches, churches established to minister primarily to ABCs. For

instance the True Light Presbyterian Church of Los Angeles, in existence

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for over a hundred years, (presently located in Alhambra, California)

planted three ABC churches. These are the Chinese Presbyterian Church

of Orange County pastored by Wayland Wong, an ABC; San Gabriel

Presbyterian Church pastored by David Woo and then Ben Yu, both

ABCs; and South Bay Presbyterian Church. Other Churches with effective

ABC ministries are the Chinese Christian Alliance Church of Northridge,

California; Chinese Alliance Church, San Jose; Chinese Christian Church

of Houston; and the Bread of Life Church in Torrance, California.

Reasons for Success

The Chinese churches that have been mentioned above have

developed effective ministries to their ABCs. What are some of the

reasons for their success? A few of the reasons are mentioned below.

These and other reasons will be discussed in greater detail in subsequent

chapters of this book.

Meet Needs of Various ABC Age Groups

Most Chinese churches have some ministries for their children;

others will also have a youth program. Usually that is the extent of their

ministries to ABCs. Chinese churches need to develop ABC programs for

their youth, college students, young adults, couples, young families, and

older adults as well.

Preaching in the Context of the ABCs’ Life Experiences

Some Chinese churches will hire an OBC person to lead their ABC

ministries simply because he speaks good English. Excellent English-

speaking ability alone is not sufficient for effective ABC ministry. People

who work with ABCs must be able to identify with, feel with, and see life

from their points of views. It is a rare OBC who can do this. This is also

best done within a separate worship service for the English-speaking.

Sports Ministries

ABCs respond well to sports ministries that channel their energy

and provide greater fellowship. They are very much into sports. Chinese

churches that develop effective sports programs for their young people will

better be able to provide rich sources of fellowship for them. Also, the

sports program can be used to reach out to the unsaved.

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Meaningful Missions Projects

ABCs need meaningful missions projects that meet the interactive

needs of ABCs to fulfill the Kingdom’s work. They are very responsive to

challenges to be involved in world wide mission projects. They are

looking for kingdom causes that extend beyond the local church. They

want to be involved in God’s work in the world. Their involvement in

mission projects will have a large impact in helping them to grow


Chinese Churches with Ineffective Ministries to ABCs

Some ABC church-starts have not been deliberate but came out of

conflict and dissatisfaction with inadequate English-speaking ministries to

ABCs and their families in ineffective Chinese churches. Some may ask,

“Why could not these ABCs humble themselves, suffer the lack of

ministry, and have faith in what the Lord might be able to provide in due

time.” Yet in reality, it has been the ineffective ministry of some Chinese

churches in which some of these ABCs have either grown up or have

become Christian that has led to this flight from the Chinese churches.

Some have gone to churches with English ministries. Some have joined

Asian American churches with Christians of similar background from

Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese, and other Asian upbringings.


The large dropout rates have led to the loss of many generations of

young people to the Chinese churches that have done little or nothing to

stem the flood. Most ironic is that it is the children of the Chinese-

speaking, even of the leaders, who have abandoned their parents’ church.

More than that it is the loss of the potential ABCs that should have been

gathered into the Kingdom from the unsaved Chinese population around

those churches. One can imagine how many more could have been


One of the reasons that these churches have not been effective is

their lack of understanding of the needs of their ABCs. It is a part of the

Chinese culture to be patient in addressing any concerns. More important,

however, to ABC young people is that they have only their elementary to

high school years to have their emotional and spiritual needs met by the

Chinese churches. By their college years they have already dropped out of

the Chinese churches. For ABC adults, the need to be in a Chinese church

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is outweighed by the need to belong where they can give a part of

themselves. The lack of speed in addressing the needs of ABCs in the

Chinese churches only compounds the problem. Indeed the observation

that such ABCs do not have enough faith to persevere under ministries that

inadequately meet their needs and ministries that are blurred in their focus

to their needs can be explained by the lack of maturity of these young

believers who have not been fed spiritually and who have not been


It is sad to hear of the non-retention of children who have grown up

in the church. Some of those who have grown up in the church desire to

belong to it, but they lack the opportunity to participate and lead in the

church. They have heard that they would be the leaders of the future. But

the time came when some ABCs saw unconcerned church leaders making

decisions that affected the ABCs where the ABCs had no input into the

making of the decisions. Such ABCs may even be treated as “youth” even

though they may have been quite successful in their careers and contribute

to the direction of their companies. So desertion becomes a fact.

As alarming as the number of ABCs leaving the church, equally

alarming is the rapid turnover of English-speaking staff. So many ABCs

have experienced calls to serve in Chinese churches but have found their

experiences very painful and deeply unsatisfying. One such minister asked

whether churches are supposed to abuse their workers. Some of these

ABC staff members who leave the Chinese churches go away feeling

severely abused by their churches. Ronald Enroth has written two books

addressing this problem: Churches That Abuse and Recovering from

Churches That Abuse. If ineffective churches do not see the pain they are

causing, they will only see another generation lost. Without stable ABC

staff members, who can provide long-term ministry to its ABCs? These

Chinese churches will become ineffective in their ministries to ABCs and

give the ABCs another reason for leaving these churches. Who will care

for them? No minister, no ministry, no ABCs. Thus many leaders of

ineffective churches are shocked to hear that their own children are drawn

by the attractiveness of Asian American churches or by a larger Chinese

church that has significant ministries for ABCs.

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Reasons for Lack of Success

• Addressing the message to a limited population of OBCs and not to


• Spiritual problems in the church: there might be pride and holding on

to authority and no desire to share in the decision-making of the church

with adult ABCs.

• Unbelief i.e. a lack of faith: some due to the lack of spiritual training

and personal ministry.

• Crystallization of the organization: not allowing expansion for ABC

members and leaders.

• Failure to decide to grow.

• Strategies not designed for growth - planning too small.

• Repeat of same mistakes of early Chinese churches.

• Smaller Chinese population.

• Small-size church limited to one staff.

• No critical numbers to attract other ABCs.

• ABCs leaving for metropolitan areas for education and work.

• Reluctance to accept the high financial ministry cost for ABC ministry.

Today’s generation of ABCs come from an age of narcissism,

focusing on self-consciousness and self-actualization. They live in a

virtual reality flowing with an overload of information feeding that self-

identity framed by confusion, loneliness and frustration. Such ABCs are

missing true inner reflection and the spiritual awareness of the Lord of life.

Like the roller coaster feelings of exhilaration, this age reacts and responds

to motion, speed and the stimulation of emotions. They need stable, inner

moral character that can be developed as disciples of Jesus Christ. The

Chinese church should be the one discipling these believers to overcome

these traits of the sinful nature.

It is easy to focus on the problem and not see the potential

solutions. Anyone can see the number of apples on a tree, but not many

people can see the number of trees in an apple. Andrew found his Peter

and brought him to Jesus. The Lord saw beyond the denials of Peter to the

Rock who so ably led His church. Paul found his Timothy; but remember

it was Barnabas who first found Paul and brought him to the believers to

be accepted and incorporated in the Early Church. And Barnabas saw

beyond the quitter, John Mark, and dedicated his ministry to developing

the future writer of the Gospel of Mark. This was the process of the great

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work of the first church. The Way of the Cross is lined with believers who

found others who would join them on the way of the Lord Jesus Christ.

We in the Chinese church must find the ABCs who will continue the

journey of faith. We are called together to be the Lord's church. And we

must overcome the barriers that hinder ministry to ABCs. We must call

out the ABCs for a new generation. We need ABCs who have grown up

within the church and who will contribute both ministry and leadership to

the church, particularly to other ABCs.

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Part III. Factors Contributing to Effective Ministries with ABCs

Chapter 4

Culturally Sensitive OBC Leadership

By Joseph Wong

• Need for Wise OBC Church Leaders

• Culture Shapes Our Value System

• Church’s Value System Must Be Based on Biblical Values

• Churches Are to Provide an Environment Conducive to Growth and


• Need to Develop Parallel Ministries

• Need to Recognize that There Is a Christian Culture

• Have a Healthy Suspicion towards the Correctness of Your Own


• Accept the Members of Your Church Regardless of Their Cultural


• Establish a Complete Ministry for Those from Each Culture

• Essential Qualities for Leaders of a Bi-cultural Church

In the previous chapter we have taken a brief glance at some

Chinese churches that have effective ministries to ABCs. We also have

identified some of the reasons for their effectiveness. In this chapter we

want to discuss in greater depth some of the key reasons that these Chinese

churches have been effective in their ministries to ABCs.

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If we were to identify the most important requirement for a Chinese

church to have an effective ABC ministry, that requirement would be that

the church needs to have OBC leadership that is culturally sensitive to the

ABCs. Because the ABCs differ from the OBCs in their cultural

perspectives, the OBCs need to recognize this difference. They need to see

that because of these differences, forms of ministry that have worked for

OBCs may not necessarily work for ABCs. And most likely, different

forms of ministry are required for ABC work. For OBCs to recognize this

cultural difference is fundamental to a Chinese church’s ministry to ABCs.

This recognition of cultural differences becomes the foundation on which

ABC ministry is built. Without this foundation, any attempts at ABC

ministries will fail.

The most basic conflicts that occur in Chinese churches between

the ABCs and the OBCs are cultural ones. Cultural conflicts are common

and occur over many issues when people of different backgrounds come

together. The reason that people of one culture may reject those from

another culture is because their values and their perceptions of what is

acceptable or unacceptable may differ. Each culture develops its own

values and biases of what is right and what is wrong. These differences

can produce clashes when people of different cultures are brought together.

Sometimes these clashes appear to be over physical differences rather than

cultural ones. For instance discrimination between the races is more

rooted in cultural differences than in the color of one’s skin.

Let us look at one area where ABCs and OBCs may have cultural

conflicts within the church. This involves their perceptions of what it

means for a Christian to be spiritual or holy. Some of the Eighteenth and

Nineteenth Century missionaries who went to China were of a holiness or

puritan background. From these missionaries many Chinese Christians

came to see holiness or spirituality from the missionary’s point of view.

Some outward signs of this view are one who is prayerful, one who does

not adopt the signs of a worldly person in appearance, and one who is

faithful in church attendance. On the other hand, some ABCs tended to

assign spirituality to a Christian who was active and diligent in serving in

the church. These two differing perceptions sometimes caused

misunderstandings between the two groups.

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Need for Wise OBC Church Leaders

Cultural differences among church groups must be wisely handled

by the church leadership. In Chapter One of this book, we noted how the

leaders in the Early Church, the Apostles, effectively handled the problem

of the neglect of the Hellenist widows. The timely response of the

Apostles showed their readiness to involve themselves and to give

guidance for the appropriate action. Their response is more than example

for us. It can be seen as a basic leadership principle which can be stated as

follows: “The church leadership must assume the responsibility and give

guidance over significant issues in the life of the church.” The response of

the leadership is the key. And in order to make this timely response, they

need to be culturally sensitive to the differing needs within their church.

Dr. Samuel Ling, author, director of China Horizon, and outspoken

advocate for ABC ministries, gave a short answer to the question, “What

were the adjustments OBC leaders needed to make to allow the ABC

ministry to flourish?” He said, "The need is for them to look inside and

evaluate themselves." How are OBC leaders to do this?

When studying the Chinese churches in America, the most

significant issue is the reality that the churches are made up of overseas

born (OBC) and American born (ABC) Chinese. Each is the product of a

significantly different culture. This reality provides the challenges that

have plagued the North American Chinese churches for over a century.

The church is, of course, a reflection of the Chinese immigrant families in

America made up of OBCs and ABCs. Just as it is unacceptable to ask the

ABC children to leave their own families because of their cultural

differences, the church must not entertain the idea of letting their ABC

members go their own way. The leadership must find a way to keep

family and church together as a whole.

“Bridging the Gap” by Joseph Wong

(ABOUT FACE, Vol. 12, No. 1, February 1990)

As a pastor in a Chinese church here in America, I find that its

bicultural characteristic (ABC/OBC) is often the dominant controversy in

church life. (It also affects the family life of three generations living in the

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same household.) It shapes our approach to doing church ministries and

influences our way of seeing and understanding one another. It frequently

overshadows any theological or social issue.

At times its dominance has been felt in the energy given to

denying its importance. Instead of understanding the distinctives of the

two cultures and finding resolutions toward appreciation and acceptance

of the differences, strong emphasis was focused on non-differences and on

our commonality (e.g., “we’re Chinese” or “we’re one in Christ”). This

unfortunate minimizing of differences has in the past been articulated by

OBC leaders who remained outside of the confusion and frustrations ABCs

experienced in trying to serve under them. Many ABCs in the Chinese

churches were allowed to drop out while church leaders made little effort

to discourage the exodus. They simply ignored the differences between

ABCs and OBCs rather than adapt to the particular needs of ABCs.

(FACE has discovered the ABC casualty rate in the Chinese churches to be

well over 75%. And the loss of leadership is reflected in the sparse

number of mature ABC pastors in spite of a century or five generations of

Chinese church history.)

Nevertheless, the concern for unity and harmony in a bicultural

congregation is a valid one. Unity should be sought diligently for it is

consistent with our doctrine of oneness in Christ and His command for us

to love one another. It is also a sign of God’s blessing (Ps. 133:1-2).

However, the achievement of real oneness in a church is far from easy. I

see the need for both wisdom and grace from heaven to bridge the gap

between Asian and western thoughts. How can this be accomplished?


There is a segment of the Chinese church that has an OBC

background but is well acculturated to America. These individuals usually

are ones who came for their education and have decided to make the

United States their home. They have adopted the western ways without

losing their Chinese cultural foundation. They are ideal individuals to

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reach across the gap between OBCs and ABCs and become a bridge for

understanding. They have already wrestled with the new culture and ways

to assimilate into it without denying the value of their own cultural

heritage. By interpreting the thoughts and ways of one culture to the other

then can increase understanding and appreciation. I have seen the

effective efforts of these well-acculturated OBCs at the Bread of Life

Church in Torrance. It was mostly they who spearheaded the establishing

of an English worship service and the securing of an English-speaking

pastor. Being sensitive to the need, they spoke on behalf of the ABCs’

future, seeking to organize a church that would minister effectively to

acculturated OBC and ABC young adults as well their ABC children.

They were willing to extend themselves, to experiment by setting up

programs to meet needs not addressed before. Today, after five years, an

English ministry exists that involves over 150 in worship, six fellowship

groups for all ages, and a Sunday school program that reaches

approximately 100 people each week.

Recognition should be given to the acculturated OBCs special

role in the Chinese church. They are unique and may be our most

valuable asset in trying to bring understanding and harmony in our

churches. In a sense, they belong to neither side resulting in a neutrality

that enables them to serve as bridges in the church. I propose that we

welcome them in partnership in the process of building true harmony

within the Chinese churches in America.

The concept is exemplified by the wisdom of God in choosing a

Savior to reconcile fallen man to Himself. To bring us together, God

appointed a God-Man, Jesus Christ, to be our Mediator. A Mediator Who

knew the holiness of God and also could “sympathize with our weaknesses,

having been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15).

These who play the role of the peacemaker ought to be able to

identify with each side of a conflict in order to enhance understanding and

effect reconciliation. Peacemakers are called blessed, perhaps because

it’s the characteristic of children of God (Matt. 5:9). I believe the most

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suitable peacemakers in the Chinese churches are the acculturated OBCs.

They need to realize their unique position and be encouraged and coached

in ways to fulfill a vital role in the Chinese churches. Let us not forget,

however, the ABCs who have had extensive experience with Chinese

culture either by living with it in the States or by extended service as

missionaries overseas. They too can and have served as bridges in the

OBC/ABC issue.


What can these special people do? First, they can use their

position to provide better communication. They must be ready to speak to

each side on behalf of the other in acceptable and healing terms. They

also need to learn diplomacy in dealing with those in positions of authority

as well as members who have little or no power.

Secondly, they can fulfill their role by implementing means to

gain acceptance and equality for ABCs. Hoover Wong shared an

important principle with several ABC pastors: “Interdependence can only

be achieved between independent parties.” The steps are from

“dependence” to “independence,” then to “interdependence.” If one of

the parties is still dependent on the other, cooperation will not be truly

interdependent. Instead, any joint decisions will be the result of

submission by one side or the graciously giving in by the other side, and

not a result of mutual agreement. Therefore it is important for both sides

that the ABCs first achieve equal status, becoming truly independent.

Thirdly, they can help ABCs in the understanding and

appreciation of the OBCs’ culture. The OBCs’ words and actions can be

respected when their thoughts and motives are understood. By discovering

their values we can more fully appreciate why certain actions are held

important by them. Moreover, by talking to these acculturated OBCs we

can learn how to communicate with OBCs so that they can learn and adapt

to western ways in carrying out the church’s ministry in America.

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To begin the process of reconciliation it is necessary that

acculturated OBCs recognize the importance of being bridges in the

church. They must assess their own preparation and ability to act

neutrally with understanding and wisdom to fulfill this task. Their

contribution must be recognized by both ABC and OBC members. May all

well-acculturated OBCs, being prayerful, motivated by a love for the

church, and full of faith, make a commitment to this good work.

The first and most obvious challenge to keeping family together is

in communication. Which language shall be primary in the church? The

idea that it is good to know more than one language has promoted the

demand that children should not lose their mother tongue. So the Chinese

language was the primary language in worship services and in business

meetings with translations provided by ineffective novices. After

stumbling over this language barrier for some years, most church leaders

have come to see the wisdom of providing separate Chinese and English

worship services when feasible.

The far more difficult challenge in being a multi-cultural church is

to recognize the effect that cultures have upon people. To understand the

affect of culture on a person, it is imperative to gain insight into the nature

of culture and its grip on our lives. The OBC leadership must earnestly

seek this wisdom so that they can choose to deal wisely with the tensions

that such cultural diversity will produce.

Culture Shapes Our Value System.

The presence of more than one culture in a church means there is

more than one set of values. The convictions we have as to what is good

and what is bad are rooted in the way we were raised and taught. Culture

provides for each society, the common consensus of what are the good or

evil in life, and what are the right or wrong ways of doing things. The

traditions and customs, the law of the land, spoken and unspoken, are the

results of what a culture considers to be good or bad. Their intent is to

perpetuate these values. (For example, it is customary among Chinese,

that specific dishes are prepared for a new mother to eat; pigs feet cooked

in vinegar and chicken cooked in rice wine. Observing this custom is more

than simply a tradition. These dishes are considered beneficial for the

health of the new mother. They are considered the right things to feed the

mother and are good for her.)

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The OBC leadership must be aware that the belief of what is good

and right is very different between the East and the West. It is very likely

that what one culture views as good, another might view as not good. An

example can be found in the way a young person relates to an older adult.

An ABC may seek to be friendly by addressing a person by his first name.

This is often considered as too familiar and improper to an OBC. This

leads to a conclusion that the ABC is “bad” and not the sort of example


This disagreement in beliefs becomes critical when put into the

context of a Christian church. By its nature a church's commitment is to

pursue what is good and avoid what is bad. Therefore, any pastor will

struggle over accepting as a colleague a person whose actions are

considered “not good” by his own culture. This pastor will also be faced

with the need to defend the ways of his colleague to the rest of the church.

The challenge for the culturally sensitive leader is to understand the

other culture's view of what is good. To understand means to be able to

answer why one believes that certain practices or traditions are good. Why

do the ABCs prefer change and diversity over traditions? Is it merely

joining their peers, or is it connected to the belief that truth is relative?

Why do ABCs speak so disrespectfully towards their elders? Is it related

to their idea of how good friends speak to each other?

Dr. Samuel Ling’s articles on cultural differences are a valuable

resource. His article, “Beyond the Chinese Way of Doing Things:

Contours of OBC-ABC Cultural Differences,” can be viewed at In this article he calls attention to some

differences between the OBC perspective and the ABC perspective.

• The family or church vs. the individual, as priority in commitment.

The OBCs value community rights over individual rights.

• Relationship vs. theory, as an important factor. The OBCs value

harmonious relationships over concept issues.

• Deference vs. equality, for defining relationship among leaders.

The OBCs see the need for the lesser to defer to those above them.

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• Respect vs. love, as the governing attitude in relationships. The

OBCs evaluate attitudes from a respect question before a love


• Humility vs. self confidence, in representing self to others. The

OBCs cherish humility while seeing self confidence as arrogance.

• Organization vs. organism, to describe the nature of the church.

• Credentials vs. service record, in qualifying for leadership.

• Secular credentials vs. spiritual gifts, in judging suitableness for


• Conciliators vs. confrontation, in dealing with differences and

offenses. The OBCs value relationships so highly that they would

prefer to conciliate than to confront.

It is natural to design ministry programs on the basis of one’s own

cultural perspective and values. In order to bypass this tendency when

designing ministry programs for ABCs, it is necessary for OBC leaders

whenever possible to lay aside their cultural values and methods in order to

allow the ABCs to minister through their own cultural values and methods.

OBC leadership must at least accept (if not seek for) counsel from the

ABC leadership to achieve this development.

Church’s Value System Must Be Based on Biblical Values

It is imperative that cultural values do not automatically determine

absolute values. Church leaders must understand and appreciate those of a

different culture. Besides the need to understand why ABCs act and think

the way they do, OBC leaders must beware of the assumption that their

dominant view of what is good is the valid view. In each culture lies the

assumption that their views of what is good are correct. Thus their cultural

views may be seen as absolute. Church leaders can easily succumb to this

narrow thinking.

Some Human Approaches for Dealing with Cultural Differences

• The dominant culture imposes it ways on the whole group.

• Allow a dual value system to exist.

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• Synthesize a new value system from the values found in both


All of the above approaches are based on human thinking rather

than biblical truth. No human culture or combination of world cultures

will produce God’s Kingdom culture.

God’s Kingdom culture is a radical one that is totally unobtainable

by any human effort. It can only be obtained by faith in Jesus Christ who

comes to live in the believer in the person of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit

within the believer gives the person a new system of values, a new purpose

in life. The believer becomes a new person. He/she becomes a member of

God’s Kingdom and now lives according to this new Kingdom culture.

The scripture indicates that the purpose of the Gospel is to transform the

way people live by changing the way they think. This suggest that a new

value system and methodology is to be developed within the Church. This

would be true regardless of the culture the Gospel has contacted. Even

those who grew up in a so-called Christian country cannot claim that their

thinking and ways are the same as God’s. Being a good American is not

the same as being a good Christian.

The challenge for church leaders is to evolve the church’s value

system into the Kingdom’s values. Yes, it is necessary for the church to

apply biblical values into its life. Church leaders must be wary of

thinking that their culture’s view of what is good and evil, is the same as

God’s. God has said that His thoughts and His ways are different from

those of all human thoughts. The church must not look to human cultures

for the thoughts and ways of God

Here is another way for the OBCs to appreciate the ABCs. Those

who are raised in a different culture are more adept at recognizing false

values in the dominant culture, and vice versa. An ABC is more inclined

to raise questions about whether OBC values are truly biblical values.

This quality has produced quite a few heated discussions, often leading to

accusations of the other's evil intent. Instead, individuals from either

culture need to exercise a humility that will allow them to profit from

sincere help offered by those of a different culture. Let us keep in mind

that our goal is to be more like Christ rather than being more Chinese or

more American.

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Churches Must Provide Environments Conducive to Growth and


Teaching and training ought to be done in the context of one's own

environment. Churches are already providing programs for the various age

or social groups within their churches. Provisions are made for children’s

ministries, for youth or teen programs, for single careers, young family

fellowships and for seniors. The reason is clear. Each age or social group

faces different needs and challenges.

As each age group might need different forms of ministry, the same

will hold true for those of different cultures within a church. Not the same

approach will fit people of differing cultures. Forcing a Christian to learn

or train in the context of an unfamiliar culture will often produce

misunderstandings rather than clarity. What is valuable for one culture

might appear irrelevant to those in another culture. Language, vocabulary

and illustrations may be barriers to learning. The applications of biblical

truths for the OBC culture will often be irrelevant to those from an ABC

culture. Placing a person in the context of a strange culture will require an

extraordinary effort for him to relate and participate. Using qualified

ABCs to teach and counsel other ABCs will more likely produce growth.

The student can more easily relate to the teacher. The behavior of the

teacher will become an example to imitate. Thus it is necessary to provide

an ABC environment with ABC leadership to maximize effectiveness in

ABC ministries.

Need to Develop Parallel Ministries

Adding to this challenge is the need to enable those of a different

and minority culture to have a sense of belonging, not just to each other,

but to the whole church. One of the common observations of ABC young

people is the feeling that “this is not my church.” Although some attended

regularly and served diligently, they still spoke of it as “the OBCs'


Somehow the ministry to the ABCs must become more than a

niche in the church. It is not just a fellowship group. It may start off that

way, because the numbers are usually small in the beginning and

concentrated within a particular age group. The OBC leadership must

understand this and encourage a planned process for evolving the ministry

into a parallel arm of the church.

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For a church to develop a parallel ministry, it must have equivalent

leadership provided for each ministry. Each culture is provided with

indigenous pastoral leaders and lay leaders. Both OBC and ABC leaders

must seek to maintain harmony through the practice of servant leadership

which is the attitude of helping the other leaders to succeed. Both ABC

and OBC leaders must develop a team concept by sharing church events in

which the leadership can be rotated.

A word of caution is needed. In all situations avoid the practice of

comparing and competing. Such a practice nurtures the sense that one or

the other culture is where the church should be. There is no culture on

earth which can compete against the Kingdom culture to which the church

aspires. The good which God’s truth reveals is what the church is seeking.

We must keep II Cor. 10:12 in mind; “We do not dare to classify or

compare ourselves with some of those who commend themselves. But

when they measure themselves by one another, and compare themselves

with one another, they do not show good sense.” [NRSV]

The thinking of the leadership from each culture must be equally

valued and sought. Although the church begins with one culture that has

the greater role and importance, the aim should be to nurture a sense of

belonging in the leadership from each culture. Each culture needs to have

equal hearing; their voices being equally respected by the leadership in the

church. On the other hand, their voices are to be equally challenged from

scripture. It is vital that the church structure enables those from each

culture to feel that they fully belong to the church.

Leaders in each culture should have the freedom to do what they

need to do, limited by scripture rather than by culture. Since not

everything good and required for the OBCs will be the same for the ABCs,

nor will every privilege needed or wanted by the ABCs be wanted by the

OBCs, then for both groups to be equal is not the same as being identical.

Equality refers to equal opportunity to meet their needs and fulfill their


The power of authority is to be shared in the same manner. There

needs to be a sense of accountability between the cultures. However, the

OBCs must be accountable to the ABCs in the same manner that the ABCs

are expected to be accountable to the OBCs. This will be truly holding

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equal power. It is best to limit this accountability to areas in which both

cultures can agree as biblical.

Need to Recognize Existence of a Christian Culture

In Acts 15 we see how the church at Antioch had to deal with the

pressure of a dominant culture within the church trying to become the

controlling culture of the church. The church at Antioch was told to adopt

Jewish customs and traditions in order to be good Christians.

vs. 5, “But some of the sect of the Pharisees who had believed

stood up, saying, ‘It is necessary to circumcise them and to direct them to

observe the Law of Moses.’”

vs. 6, “The apostles and the elders came together to look into this


However, the conclusion reached by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem

was that the Jewish culture was not to define the Gentile church - that the

Jewish culture can survive apart from the Christian Church.

vs. 19, “Therefore it is my judgment that we do not trouble those

who are turning to God from among the Gentiles, 20, but that we write to

them that they abstain from things contaminated by idols and from

fornication and from what is strangled and from blood. 21, For Moses

from ancient generations has in every city those who preach him, since he

is read in the synagogues every Sabbath.”

Is there any culture that should represent the Christians? From

Jesus Christ a Kingdom culture was to evolve. The revelation of Jesus

Christ was to transform His followers from living according to their old

culture. It is of great significance that the Jewish culture, which had its

origin from the oracles of the true and living God, was still disqualified in

the Christian Church. Surely those cultures whose origins are from

superstitious darkness or great philosophers will not be qualified. If the

Jewish culture was not to be the controlling culture in the Church, then no

other culture in the world deserves to be. The Chinese culture as good as it

is must not become the controlling culture of the church. It is important

not to confuse the word, "Chinese" in the name of a church as indicating its

controlling culture. Let the Chinese churches be taught and led by their

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leadership to form their customs and traditions from a careful study of

God’s Word.

Need for Healthy Suspicion towards the Correctness of One’s

Own Culture

As disciples of Christ, there must be a healthy suspicion towards

the correctness of ones own culture. It is easy to use the standards of our

own culture to judge others, rather than using the Bible's standards. In our

study of the church at Antioch (Acts 15) we saw how the church had to

struggle with a problem involving traditional values. What guidelines did

the apostles use to resolve that conflict?

vs. 28, "For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon

you no greater burden than these essentials: 29, that you abstain from

things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things strangled and

from fornication; if you keep yourselves free from such things, you will do

well. Farewell. "

The apostles concluded that the Jewish culture, that is, its customs and

tradition, would not be the culture of the Church of Christ. No human

culture should become the culture of Christ's church. The people from any

culture touched by the Gospel should be evolving toward the Kingdom

culture, not another human culture, not even when the Law from Moses

formed that culture.

We cannot avoid the fact that we are products of our own culture.

But we have to be careful not to presume that the thoughts and ways of our

culture are the same as God's thoughts and ways? In Isaiah 55:8-9 we are

told they are not the same. In fact the difference is as far as heaven is from

earth. Our goal is to renew our minds with God's Word and so transform

the way we live from the ways of those in our culture. This must be a

fundamental direction for church leaders. We must not adopt the values of

Americans nor are we to cling to the thoughts and ways of the Chinese.

We must be suspicious of any goodness that our culture seems to have,

ready to give it up for a biblical insight. We must regularly ask ourselves,

“Is it my culture's view, or does the Bible mandate it?” There is so much

in our upbringing and in our family pressures that make this exercise

difficult to do. Sometimes it is almost impossible for a person to recognize

one’s cultural blind spots. A good and caring leader must have a readiness

to abandon his cultural views so that he can see the Bible’s view.

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Otherwise he will not be able to escape his own limitations. The OBC

church leader needs to look within and examine himself to differentiate

what is cultural and what is biblical. Sometimes the problem is not in

lacking a solution but in the willingness to change and adapt to the needs

in our churches.

Accept Members of Church Regardless of Their Cultural Background

Remember that both OBC and ABC believers are members of the

same family of God. We are one family, and both groups are our brothers

and sisters. We have the same Holy Spirit living within us. We have the

same desire to live holy lives. We have the same quest to be like Jesus and

to please him in all that we do. We are determined to not let anything

come between us. We will weep together, rejoice together, and serve


Establish Complete Ministry for Each Culture

Will there be adequate focus to develop a church life that enables

those from each culture to sense that they FULLY BELONG to the church

and that their needs are being addressed?

Essential Qualities for Leaders of Bi-Cultural Church (by Sam Ling).

Leader Must Be Aware of Traps from One’s Own Culture

• There is a natural resistant, due to my culture, to the values and

ways of a different culture. This is coupled with the assumption

that my culture is better, more in harmony with God than the other

"inferior" culture.

• There is a natural fear that negative influences from strong leaders

of the other culture may affect my family or church. They may

influence my children by hindering them from producing the good

qualities I want to see in them.

• A leader might avoid trying to minister to people from the other

culture because of a lack of experience in dealings with their kinds

of problem.

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• There is a lack of understanding of the other group that produces

less patience.

• There is a tendency to use guides and controls for ministry based

on one’s own culture.

• The practical question for the OBC is “how am I to raise my

children in this American society?” Their desire is to seek what is

best for their children. The adult OBC see the bad characteristics

in the American culture that need to be replaced by the good values

in the Chinese culture. However, his children have a hard time

accepting the values in the Chinese culture as good.

• Use of a biblical mandate that has been interpreted and applied

through the grid of one's personal culture.

• Escape from the bondage of one's culture requires the renewing of

one's mind.

• One needs to begin to re-think what is the biblical value system and


• One needs to risk abandoning Chinese cultural values and ways,

not just the ones that are viewed as wrong and evil, but those which

are held to be good but are not the same as the Bible's.

• One needs to adopt a process of sanctification based upon biblical


Leader Must Accept the Need to Understand Differences

between Cultures

• A leader must be able to identify and learn the primary

characteristics of the OBC and of the ABC.

• A leader must understand why he might be offensive or

unacceptable to those from the other culture.

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• A leader must determine whether his offensives are based on true

biblical teaching, or because they violate a cultural practice or

teaching. He needs to find the biblical response to such offenses.

The response should not divide, but promote peace.

• A leader must learn his strengths and weaknesses, especially blind

spots, from the biblical perspective.

• A leader must understand the degree of importance of a particular

matter to a person of the other culture. This is called the impact


• When it comes to the Chinese churches in America, a significant

issue is the reality that the churches are made up of Chinese from

two significantly different cultures, Asian and Western. The leader

must give up any attempts to suppress or silence such discussions.

• A leader must beware of the trap of comparing commitment and

style between the cultures.

• A leader must understand that having diversity does not require


• A leader must adopt a higher view of unity than what is found in a

physical or intellectual unity

• Leaders must recognize the evolving status of the immigrant


The characteristics and mission of the church will evolve along

with the changing of the membership. An all-immigrant church will soon

have ABC children that will become teenagers, young adults, and families.

The immigrant leadership must adapt its position and influence to the

church's changing profile. Wise leadership does not simply respond to

needs that are pressing but will plan and be ready for the coming needs.

• Recognizing the need for parallel ministry

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• Be aware of a whole-people ministry, not just a side ministry to

youth. Embrace the need to evangelize adult ABCs and their


• Christianizing comes out from a Western cultural orientation but

not TO an Asian cultural orientation. Accept the responsibility

which the Chinese church has for ABCs.

Provide Leadership in Establishing a Capable ABC Ministry


• Secure trained and mature pastoral leadership.

• Mentor and train ABCs to be effective in a Chinese church

(culturally sensitive).

• Provide guidance from an OBC perspective while emphasizing

biblical qualities.

• Earmark financial and material resources.

• Challenge the church lay people to take up the ministry.

• OBCs can serve; some may do it temporarily (set time period).

Danger of Bondage from One's Own Culture

• A biblical mandate that has been interpreted and applied through

the grid of one's personal culture.

• Renewing of our minds requires biblical truths objectively defined

and understood.

• Other cultures can be a safeguard against my own cultural bias.

• Cultural blind spots are easily recognized by those from other


In this chapter we have identified what we believe to be the most

important requirement for a Chinese church to have an effective ABC

ministry, that it must have OBC leadership that is culturally sensitive to the

ABCs. The OBC leadership needs to recognize that ABCs have a different

cultural perspective from OBCs. Therefore, forms of ministry that have

worked for OBCs may not necessarily work for ABCs, and most likely,

different forms of ministry are required for ABC work. For the OBC

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leadership to recognize this cultural difference is fundamental to a Chinese

church having an effective ministry to ABCs. This recognition becomes

the foundation on which ABC ministry is built. Lacking this, any attempts

at ABC ministries will fail.

“Who Takes the Lead?” by Peter Yuen

(ABOUT FACE, Vol. 20, No. 2, May 1998)

A Chinese church, established by and for Chinese who are born

and raised overseas, eventually raises up American-born Chinese children

and families here in America. As these children grow, how will they come

to know, love, and serve the Lord? The church will find it necessary to

change in its life and ministry to meet the needs of its families so that the

members can be nurtured in the faith from childhood to mature adulthood.

Who spearheads this change? The growing children? The pastor? Or the

parents of the children?

The Children

While the children are the ones who feel the boredom,

discomfort, and stress when a church does not have programs to suit them,

seldom is it they who take the lead in gearing ministry to ABCs. Where

such initiative has taken place it is done by ABCs who have made a life

commitment to Jesus Christ, who have had a good Christian discipleship

experience, and who have seen fit not to drop out of the church. They,

realizing how difficult it was growing up in a Chinese church, hold a

burden in their hearts for the younger children in the church. They then

decide to do all they can to make the Christian experience more relevant

and palatable for those who follow them.

Establishing an ABC ministry in a Chinese church often meets

with much resistance from overseas-born Chinese leaders who are

insecure about starting a ministry in a language and culture unlike theirs.

Change is not welcome. It could be seen as disturbing, uncomfortable,

disruptive, counterproductive, and even threatening. So it is not easy

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initiating such a new work. Against such odds, still, some who have a deep

and mature faith have launched ABC work in Chinese churches. Some

have even planted churches targeting ABCs, with or without the support

and encouragement of OBC leaders in their original home church. It takes

much patience, dogged perseverance, and clarity of vision to transcend the

hurdles that are naturally, inadvertently, or intentionally placed along the


In general, ABCs do not have the power or authority to initiate

an ABC ministry. After all, they are the children; they are expected to

comply with the guidance of their elders who are usually OBCs. Because

their plight is not understood by OBCs, they are sometimes mistakenly

regarded as complainers, rebels and troublemakers.

“Good” ABCs are those who do not express objection to the

boredom of worship services in a language they don’t understand and

illustrations that are irrelevant to their daily lives; they don’t complain

about the tedium of hearing translated services. However, as soon as

these “good” ABCs see a possibility of absenting themselves from these

OBC worship services, whether it is to go away to college or find a Sunday

job or some other acceptable excuse, they slip away not only from the

Chinese church, but many stop going to church completely.

Rare is an ABC who is able to influence the OBC leadership to

allow and encourage the launching of ABC ministry in its midst.

The Pastor

It is unusual to find an OBC pastor who takes the initiative to

launch a work for ABCs in a church. In most cases he is fully occupied in

ongoing responsibilities shepherding the OBC adults, which appears to be

the highest priority in his pastoral duties. They are the ones he can best

and most helpfully serve; their language and cultural background are

similar. They usually make up the bulk of the church, and they are the

ones who are responsive to the pastor’s preaching and who appreciate his

pastoral care and support the ministry of the church. It is when these OBC

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adults begin to feel the static from their ABC children about their

unhappiness with their church involvement that the pastor senses the

pressure to give attention to the needs of the ABCs.

Many OBC pastors find the world of ABCs so very difficult to

understand, and the bridge to it, nearly impossible to cross. Their lifestyle

may even be objectionable from an OBC’s viewpoint. Some pastors are

afraid or at least reluctant to deal with ABCs because of the vast language

and cultural gap. Such being the case, how can the church meet the needs

of the ABCs? Should the pastor invite ABC help? The risk in bringing in

ABC staff members looms large to some OBC pastors who find it difficult

enough to handle the ABC children in the church; how much more hard-

pressed they would be to have to supervise an ABC leader among them.

What some pastors would like is a compliant OBC lay leader who is

capable of being a volunteer counselor or advisor for the ABCs. This

setup would be easier to control and much easier on the church budget.

In many churches the OBC pastor has been in America for a

shorter duration than have some of the OBC lay leaders. The latter may

have raised ABC children, some of whom have dropped out or are

threatening to. But the pastor, having not yet raised ABCs to adulthood in

his family, does not fathom the urgency of the need for giving high priority

to establishing an ABC ministry. He thinks he can train his own young

children to love the Lord and serve in his church. Not realizing the

enormity of the task of raising children through to adulthood in America

and keeping them appreciating and perpetuating OBC mores in the

church, these pastors minimize the problem of addressing ABC needs, as

urgent as they are.

The Parents

Meanwhile, the parents, who are mainly OBCs, want to take

action to provide the kind of church life suitable for ABCs. They sense a

multifaceted motivation. As their ABC children grow up they begin to

express their misgivings and objections to continuing to participate in a

Chinese church that is irrelevant to them. Some of them have been lost to

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the world because their anguish while they were in the church was

ignored. Therefore, these parents are most likely to develop a vision and

spearhead a movement to reorient its ministry toward meeting the needs of


In addition, these parents have much at stake in seeing to the

establishment of a ministry that is right for ABCs. They are the ones who

can look to the future and see their own children along with all the next

generations take up leadership roles in the church. Why should it be that a

church should go through scores of years and not have some of their

children develop into the decision-making leaders?

Yes, parents and other lay leaders are the ones who have a long-

term stake in the local church. Pastors tend to come, serve, and move on.

Seldom is an OBC pastor found to remain as the beloved leader and

shepherd of a congregation for decades. As pastors leave churches, it is

on the shoulders of lay leaders to provide the continuity for the church

family year after year, pastor after pastor. And the calling of a pastor who

holds as high priority the ministry to the children and young people is

crucial to the future of the church.

Parents have the voice and the financial resources to support an

ABC-oriented work. With a God-given burden and vision, and with the

spiritual welfare of their children at stake, they must be the prime movers

to steer the church in the right direction for future growth.

- Lay leaders, will your children be taking up leadership roles in your

church in the future? Or will they join the vast majority of ABCs who

grow up, drop out, and lose their way? It is crucial to work now for the

future of your church and of your children.

- Would that pastors who are parents catch the same vision and the fire in

their hearts to lead the Chinese church in America where it ought to go.

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- And how great is would be for ABCs to stay on steadfastly in the church

and give their lives to the work of building a strong ministry for all who

come after them, generation after generation.

“A Letter to Leaders” by Anonymous

(ABOUT FACE, Vol. 18, No. 1, February 1996)

Editor’s note: We were sent a copy of a letter that a member of a Chinese

church somewhere in America wrote to the leaders of his church regarding

the calling of a new pastor. The writer is an OBC Christian family man

who has faithfully served his church. Out of his concern for others around

the country who are facing the same situation, he gave us permission to

share this letter anonymously with the Chinese churches. We decided to

print it unedited, just as he wrote it, to let the readers sense the nature and

depth of the writer and his concern.

Letter to the Leaders



Pastor A, Pastor B

The Deacons (names)

The Pastoral Search Committee (names)

From: (name of writer)

Ref: New Pastor for (name of church)

Dear Respected Leaders of the Church,

I have thought of writing this a long time ago, but

procrastination and the thought that this may not be the right thing to do

have prevented me from doing it. But it is becoming more clear that I am

not the only person who wants to pass the following thoughts to you. I am

discovering that parents after parents share the same feeling and that

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someone, if not everyone, should do his/her/their duty and communicate

their feelings and thoughts to the leaders. Time seems to be running out

and I must bear this blunder of speaking out.

It seems that the leaders’ plan to hire new pastors for (name of

church) is to hire a Chinese congregation pastor first, and then let the

“main” pastor find a pastor for the English congregation. On the surface,

this seems to be the right and logical thing to do: the Chinese

congregation is larger and therefore more considerations should be given

to them, plus: Most of the adults are Chinese speaking and form the core

of the church. It therefore seems that the English congregation should

sacrifice a little. All this is fine. Even fair. Even if it is not fair, that is

still Ok – nonetheless, we are in a family.

But if we examine it in more detail, it may seem that we should do it

the other way. That is, hire an English “main” pastor for the English

congregation first, then the pastor for the Chinese congregation. Please


1. There is much more need for a leader who can take care of the English

congregation. There are the youth. They need nurturing. If they do not

have a good foundation while they are in junior high and high school, then

they may easily get lost when they go to college.

2. Which group needs more attention? If we were in politics, then the

answer is obviously the larger group. But we are not in politics. We are

in a church and in a family. The group with the most “need” should be

attended to first. Not the group with the most “want.” The English

congregation comprises mostly of young Christians, and a lot of us think

there lies the most need.

3. The size of the younger generation is growing. Many of us saw them

bringing friends from school. Many of these friends are not believers yet.

If we do want to bring more people to Christ, we should do our best to help

the youth. But the fact is, we have seen, yes, we have seen it happen time

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after time: new young people came, got bored. Got little. Never came

back. They liked the youth groups, such as (name of group). But should

we let them stop there? If they do not get to like Sunday worship, it will be

very hard for them to “come to church.” We must have a pastor that is

catered for the younger generation, which is tied very much to the English


4. Most of the Chinese congregation and almost most of the adults, like me

and many parents I talked to, are either matured Christians, mediocre

Christians, or die-hard Christians. There is not much you can do about

them or for them. If there is not a good pastor, they’ll still stay around. If

there is a wonderful pastor, perhaps their size will grow a little bit. But

what if we have a wonderful English pastor that can minister to the youth?

The younger generation will grow by leaps and bounds. They will go away

and be strong Christians in colleges. They will help the local churches

and bear more fruit.

5. Over the past many years, many of my Sunday School students have

graduated from grade 6 and into junior high. Junior high is exciting. But

joining the adults in Sunday worship? “Boring.” (I do not like that word

at all. I teach my kids and kids in Sunday School that it is not a good word

to use. But I must do my duty and report it to you.) They do not, most of

the time, relate much to the sermon. We should be glad that they do value

the worship time and think that they should go, at least for the worship.

That is for kids with parents who are regular church members. But look at

the other kids: those who liked to come to Sunday School at the beginning

(kids who were ministered to by other kids, kids who started because of

VBS, and kids who were sent by non-Christian parents, etc.) and thus

brought their parents with them. These kids, after they graduated from 6


grade, joined the English service, got bored, and did not come back. Of

course their parents did not come back either.

6. If we look around many of the Chinese churches in America, we can see

that the most successful churches (by successful I mean the ones with a lot

of young people, a lot of new Christians) are the ones which do give

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emphasis to the local born English speaking generation. They invest in the

youth and entrust to the youth. Those that do not will stay mostly with

immigration Christians.

7. Time has run out for some of us. According to the church’s original

plan, it will take a year or two to find a main Chinese pastor, then it will

take another year or two to find the English pastor. By that time, some of

our kids will be in college, including two of my own. Time will be running

out for others. We must act soon. There is only a short time frame within

which we must serve our youths.

8. We have missed two great opportunities: people like (name of ABC

Christian worker #1) and (name of ABC Christian worker #2) would have

been great. But we lost them, because of our wrong idea of must having a

Chinese pastor first. We never gave them due consideration. (When we

plan to hire an English pastor, let us hire someone who is more or less

born here, not someone from a different background.)

9. I trust that all reasons as given above should be easily understood and

taken because most of us, if not all, are Chinese parents. Our traditions

and our values tell us to invest in our children and in the future. We move

to the better school districts. We want them to go to college instead of

going to work right after school. Let us do the same thing in the church.

Invest our best in our youths. Give to them more than to ourselves.

Doing this in the Service of Our Lord, Your Servant,

(name of writer)

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Chapter 5

Having an Effective Model for ABC Ministry within the Chinese Church

By William Eng

• Church Growth Assumptions

• Program Models

• Staffing Models

• Leadership Styles

• Team Philosophy

• Mentoring.

The first requirement for a Chinese church to have an effective

ministry to ABCs is for its leaders to be culturally sensitive to ABCs. This

is the foundation upon which any ministry to ABCs is built. Without this

foundation, a church’s ABC program will not succeed. Assuming that the

leaders of the church are culturally sensitive to ABCs, what would be the

next step they must take? Next, a church needs to have an effective model

by which it structures its ABC ministry within the church. In this chapter

we will look at some of these models. These models are built around

seven basic assumptions about church growth. Let us take a quick glance

at these assumptions.

Seven Basic Assumptions about Church Growth.

To address the factors that contribute to effective ministries with

ABCs, some basic assumptions must be made.

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1. Church growth is the will of God.

2. Church growth principles apply in all places, at all times, and to

all churches.

3. Growth is the sign of a healthy church where growth is possible.

4. Hindrances to church growth can be identified, isolated, and


5. Planning is essential to church growth.

6. Leadership is the key to church growth.

7. The Holy Spirit is the dynamic of church growth.

These assumptions can then lay the groundwork for describing an effective

model for ABC ministry within the Chinese church. The following

suggestions for ABC ministries should be taken with the following

understanding. No one model is possible for the diversity of settings from

which many Chinese churches have originated. Total Chinese language

immersion worship service was the only way that some ABC children

could experience church. Some had a brief summary of the sermon in

English. But all these are limited and do not do justice to ABCs who need

to hear God’s Word in the heart language they can understand. There are

more advanced models as suggested by the following diagram:











Chinese churches have attempted to minister more effectively

to their ABCs by creating new models to meet their needs.

Program Models

Model #1, Bilingual Worship Service

This model involves having the worship singing in Chinese and

English and having the prayers and sermon translated from one language

into the other. Such bilingual translated worship service can partially

accommodate both the needs of the OBCs and the ABCs, especially if the

church itself is small and ministering to a smaller Chinese population. The

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need for an adequate translator is evident. In most areas the OBCs who are

bilingual will facilitate and assist the pastor to provide not only translation

but also leadership. This model would allow ABCs to not just be

worshippers but also to participate in leading in worship, reading Scripture,

giving testimony, singing spiritual songs, and praying in the service. This

model recognizes the reality of a church’s limited resources and as soon as

possible should move toward the next model.

Model #2, Separate Worship Services, One in English and the

Other in Chinese

This model involves more than just a weekday fellowship meeting

for young people. It anticipates the need for a separate worship service to

reach ABCs of various ages. More than fifty percent of ABCs are singles,

not just young adults but those in their forties and above. More than sixty

percent of ABCs are born after World War II (ages forties to sixties).

Next, there are the younger senior ABC adults, a significant growing

number who are part of the post World War II generation.

To develop this model of parallel Chinese and English worship

services, there must be provisions for adequate space, funding, and

leadership. The way the English service is conducted should not merely be

the English version of the Chinese service. It is to be designed so that

worshippers can worship the Lord in the heart language of the

congregation and in the context of the life and generation of its

constituents. The music may be traditional, contemporary, or a blend of

the two, but the goal is for ABCs not to become worshippers but to

worship the Lord. The preaching of the Word is not just to be in English

but to direct the Lord’s teaching to the needs of the worshippers.

What Does an ABC Congregation Need?

1. Spiritual development

2. To reach unreached English-speaking Chinese Americans,

Asian Americans, etc.

3. Freedom to maximize the ministry's effectiveness.

4. Contextualization of the ministry.

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5. Contemporary styles of ministry.

6. Self-determination.

7. Some fellowship with the first generation.

8. Ethnic fellowship with other Asian and non-Chinese believers.

9. Consistent leadership.

10. Development of lay leadership in ministry and decision-


11. Fellowship with mainstream Christianity, e.g.. Promise

Keepers, etc.

“Why Stay in the Chinese Church?” by Willard Ping

(ABOUT FACE, Vol. 7, No. 1, February 1985)

I am an ABC from St. Louis. My mother was born in Hannibal,

Missouri. Spiritually, I was born again and discipled in a Caucasian

church. I participated in Pioneer Boys, then in Inter-Varsity Christian

Fellowship while attending university in St. Louis.

As I journeyed from St. Louis to San Francisco and have

experienced several Chinese churches along the way, I have noted the

diversities between the American and Chinese cultures. The many

differences that exist between ABC and OBC styles, priorities, and mindset

raise the banner question, WHY? Why stay in the Chinese church?

Having always the available option of breaking off, should and can the

ABC survive within the Chinese church today?


Before we decide this, we should survey the situation. What

factors continue to draw ABCs to the Chinese church?

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Family ties. We Chinese are a family-oriented bunch. It is

tough severing family ties and relationships. In many of our Chinese

churches, we commonly note a large clan or several large families

dominant in a particular congregation. Chinese families choose to attend

church together.

Identity. ABCs still have some affinity and identity to things

Chinese. Drs. Ralph Winter, C. Peter Wagner, and Donald McGavran,

noted authorities in the areas of missions and/or church growth, see the

church as a mosaic. They contend that faith, evangelism, and fellowship

flow freely within but one piece of the mosaic but resist transcending

racial, linguistic, and cultural boundaries. They describe windows or

bridges whereby like kinds of people best minister, fellowship, or

evangelize. The Chinese can best reach the Chinese, the ABC can best

minister to the ABC, and the OBC can best disciple the OBC.

Our children. There is a continual desire among Chinese

parents that their children associate and fellowship with, date, and marry

Chinese. Among Chinese Christian parents, this wish can best be fulfilled

within the Chinese churches.

Fellowship. Many ABCs remain in the Chinese church and they

will continue to draw other ABCs into their congregations. A natural

bridge or network exists between ABCs which enhances fellowship and

closeness. The Chinese church still offers that ground for good Christian

fellowship for ABCs.

Ministry. Many ABCs stay in the Chinese church for the sake of

the ministry available to preach and teach the gospel. In evangelizing and

discipling, we will quickly realize that the community we are reaching is a

mixture of ABCs and OBCs. Often families are of OBC parents and ABC

youth. So if the priority of the church is to effectively reach the Chinese

community, to reach the family unit as a whole, the Chinese church is

seemingly the best suited for the task.

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The Chinese church will be here for some time to come. It will

continue ministering to the many immigrants from Asia. As long as ABCs

feel a strong kinship to these churches or are born into them we should

consider working within these environs. For ourselves, for our families,

for our children, for our fellowship, and for our ministry, we as ABCs

should remain in the Chinese church. All of us as Christian ABCs should

work towards church growth through evangelism and discipleship. As our

numbers and ministries grow, church leadership will acknowledge the

valid needs of ABCs.


I like the term used by Peter Yuen in the February 1984 issue of

ABOUT FACE: We are “survivor ABCs.” As laity we see the needs, we

feel the hurts, we experience the frustrations, and we must be the ones to

survive as we determine to stay. We must feather a nest for our spiritual

well-being and for our children. Running from a problem does not solve

it. Only by staying and surviving do we have an opportunity to amplify,

clarify, pray for, and work to meet the needs of ABCs.

How do we survive? By establishing programs and ministries

suitable for ABCs. There can be Bible studies, fellowship groups, Sunday

school, etc. Above all else, seek to begin an effort to evangelize and

disciple. No matter how adverse the situation, seek to serve and minister

within the church.

Surviving is also a matter of attitude and trust in God to deliver.

We should survive in patience, rejoicing in hope and being patient in

tribulation (Rom. 12:12). We should survive in love, facing problems in

purity and genuine love (2 Cor. 6:6), honoring all men and loving the

brotherhood (1 Pet. 2:17). We are to study the Word, drawing from it

encouragement and guidance. We are to pray, offering up our petitions to

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Him Who hears and will respond in His sovereignty and time (Mark

11:24). We are to encourage, seeking to bear up one another. Finally, we

survive to serve.


A primary means of making an impact is by seeking to

supplement your pastoral staff and leadership in service. Remind one

another of 1 Corinthians Chapter 12 as we each have gifts, talents, and

contributions to offer for the wholeness of the church. There are few

superstar pastors who can preach eloquently, witness flawlessly, counsel

lovingly, administrate orderly, and integrate ABC/OBC diversity

sensitively. The pastor, too, is but a part of the whole. Let us take our

place and give our service to the Lord and His church. The laity is the

answer to the ABC/OBC diversity. The laity is the answer to the lack of

ministry to ABCs.


Finally, we need to succeed! Too many ABCs have left the

church, and too many are threatening to eventually do so…unless we

provide convincing reasons and answers to stay. Many have decided to

stay for valid reasons, and yet they continue to long for ministries

specifically geared for them, to meet they needs.

The concept of parallel ministries has been presented in various

issues of ABOUT FACE. In this, ABC and OBC ministries function side by

side. Neither side is expected to become like the other in practice and

form. Each may have its own leadership and pastorate; each may have its

own goals and programs. They may share a common building, a common

budget, and a common constitution. More importantly, they may share a

common ministry evangelizing and discipling, a common love, and a

common respect because of a common Lord.

The church I attend has parallel programs. And it is working.

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The English and Chinese congregations are each growing at its own rate.

Needs are being met, whole families are being brought into the fold with

facilities and ministries for all…whatever the age, in English or Chinese,

whether culturally Chinese or American. Certainly there are flaws;

wherever there are two groups sharing anything there is friction. But

these things can be worked out. Our church has seen that the benefits of

parallel ministries far outweigh the problems. As long as we keep sight of

the Lord as Head of the church, His Word as rules of order, His love as

exemplary of the love we have for one another, and His commission to

evangelize and disciple as our mandate, He will reward.

Model #3, Two Separate Churches

As the English members of the church increase, the facilities may

not be adequate for two congregations. There may be the opportunity for

the church to plant a new mission church. This new work could be a new

English-speaking service in a new location or a new Chinese-speaking

service. Or if space is available and there are sufficient personnel, two

parallel services could be provided.

True Light Presbyterian Church, Los Angeles, was involved in

planting four ABC churches in the outlying suburbs using its members as

the core families for the new churches. Several of its ABC families living

in the San Fernando Valley were involved in the planting of the Chinese

Alliance Church. Some years later, about ten ABC families living in

Orange County became the core families for planting the Chinese

Presbyterian Church, Orange County. In 1988, with the core families

coming primarily from True Light, the South Bay Presbyterian Church was

planted. Then in 1992, about one hundred ABC members were sent from

True Light to merge with a declining Anglo church which subsequently

was renamed the San Gabriel Presbyterian Church.

The Chinese church needs people who can look beyond the ABCs'

outer appearance to discern their ultimate potential for becoming disciple

makers and co-laborers in ministry. Spiritually dead ABCs cannot respond

to Christ except as the Holy Spirit through the church’s witness draws

them. When Christians bear witness to them, then they can repent and put

their faith in Christ's sacrifice and receive eternal life. The church must be

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that disciple-maker who can help ABCs to become spiritual children of the

Heavenly Father and also help these ABCs to grow and become spiritual

disciples. As they mature, if the church does well, they will learn to

disciple others in the same growth process. As the church is faithful, it

will go full circle with these ABCs becoming co-laborers with the OBCs in

the ministry of the church. The church will see them continuing to reach

the lost and making disciples of all the nations.

Those ABCs who become born-again Christians need to see their

connection to the larger Christian community that is in the local church.

This is essential if the church is to grow. They must not be kept out,

chased out, pushed out, or left out from the Chinese church if the church

would be whole. There must be unity through the diversity of ABC

believers being enfolded into the larger Chinese church. These potential

workers and leaders of the church must be given the truth fleshed out by

the local body of believers. But if the identity of most ABCs is to be

complete, it would have to be found in the context of the Chinese church.

It would be seen in the genuine spiritual modeling of Chinese living under

the authority of Christ.

Staffing Models

Model #1, Volunteers

The simplest way for a Chinese church to start its ministry to ABCs

is to utilize volunteers. The church may be small with limited resources

and so cannot afford calling and paying for additional staff. So volunteers

must be found. These could include those from within the church. There

may be a young adult who has experienced spiritual growth. Like Timothy

whose reputation was recognized by the brethren in Lystra and Debra,

there might be a Timothy in the church whom God has assigned to help in

ministering to the English-speaking second generation. Their language

skill and upbringing would be similar to those that need ministering. And

if volunteers cannot be found from within the church, then search for

workers by enlisting from the local Bible college or seminary. These

students have become interns in the church. Some can just come to teach

for a few hours and do a youth or college ministry. Others may be able to

preach if an English worship is possible. If the church can fund their

transportation expenses, this would be appreciated. Some need financial

support for living expense, and the church may be able to afford this rather

than the funding needed for full-time staff. As the Lord directs, some

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interns may eventually experience the call to serve full-time in that same

church’s ministry to ABCs when the church may experience a need for

additional staff.

Model #2, Full-Time Staff

This involves the church committed to the calling of a full-time

ABC worker. That person may be first a youth worker, or an associate

pastor, or senior pastor. The sequence is not as important as the church’s

vision for ministering to its ABCs. If the goal were limited to ministering

to its own young people, then a youth worker would be a natural decision.

But that may limit the church from moving on to starting a separate

worship service in English unless that youth worker can progress and

become the preacher minister for that worship service. Some churches

have enough ABCs to even warrant having both an English pastor and a

youth worker. Multiple ABC staff requires an understanding of team

ministry. No one model fits every church’s community demographics.

(See the FCBC – LA example in chapter 3)

Some Chinese churches, especially the larger ones in an area where

there is a large Chinese population, have developed to the point that the

vision of the church allows for a senior pastor who is an ABC. For

instance, in 2005 at least a dozen ABCs were serving as senior pastors.

Sometimes the leadership of the church has become the kind that allows

for a team ministry structure. Sometimes the senior pastor becomes the

team leader who allows each language congregation the freedom and

flexibility to develop its own language ministry under its own pastor. (Note

Boston’s Chinese Evangelical Church)

“ABC Senior Pastors in Chinese Churches” by Peter Yuen

(ABOUT FACE, Vol. 20, No. 4, November 1998)

This year marks the 20


year of FACE’s ministry. In the

beginning, a few of us middle-aged ABC pastors tallied some of our

failures and successes in ministry and extended ourselves by exporting to

other Chinese churches what had been found effective in the enhancement

of ABC work in Chinese churches throughout this land. We incorporated

as a non-profit organization in the State of California in November 1978,

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and we published our first issue of About FACE in April 1979. We have

been participating in holding conferences, seminars and consultations to

help churches in their outreach to ABCs. Over the years we have made

some profitable observations.

The changing scene

On the one hand, things never seem to change. Immigrants

continue to come to America, and there remains a need to minister to them

in Chinese, the language of their hearts, and in a cultural style suitable to

their minds. So we keep on searching for immigrant pastors who can serve

the people in Cantonese, Mandarin, or Taiwanese. As their children grow

up in America, it is necessary for the leadership to catch up to the cultural

and language requirements of these children lest they lose them to the

secular and evil influences prevalent in America.

On the other hand, significant changes have taken place in the

churches and leaders over these twenty years. Most have become well

aware of the necessity to orient their ministry to ABCs if there is to be any

success in building Christian families in the church.

Two decades ago many Chinese leaders felt that any effort to

begin an ABC ministry in a Chinese church was divisive. They thought

that it was imperative that their children learn the Chinese language and

culture and so comply with the mores of the Chinese church. These

leaders have now raised their own families and have come to realize the

urgency to tailor the ministry to serve the people rather than to change the

people to fit the mold of the Chinese church.

ABC Senior Pastors

Twenty years ago Chinese leaders saw no way in which ABCs

who did not know Chinese could possibly be effective serving in a Chinese

church. But today there is more demand for ABC workers than there is

supply. OBC leaders are realizing that they must concentrate their

outreach to whole families as more and more ABCs grow up in and take

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leadership in their churches. During the past twenty years there have been

an increasing number of large Chinese churches that have called ABCs to

serve as heads of staff or senior pastors. Excluding newly started ABC

churches, I can count eight significantly large churches in major

metropolises in America that have called ABCs as their senior pastors.

These were originally OBC churches, and they have taken major steps of

faith going into the 21


Century. Such churches have decided to orient

their main thrust on their families, being unwilling that any should stray

from their flock due to language and cultural limitations.

Such a step is not be taken lightly by Chinese church leaders.

As the children grow up in a healthy Christian church environment, some

become lay leaders. Soon the language of the board meetings shifts from

Chinese to English. Adding staff means adding only those who can

communicate adequately in English whether they speak Chinese or not.

With an ABC as head of staff, it is likely that an assistant or associate

pastor is brought in to promote the Chinese-speaking ministry.

There is a growing trend. As we move into the next decade and

into the next century there will be increasing numbers of churches that find

it necessary to provide effective ministry to whole families, parents and

children alike. To maintain an exclusively Chinese-speaking leadership

down through the years is to lose the children along the way. While many

unfortunately have actually done this, no Christian leader intends for such

a future in their church. And the best way to keep the church family intact

is to raise up the children in the Lord and launch their growth in the

Christian faith so that they can stand strong in the world and not drop out.

How is it that ABCs emerge into positions of pastoral leadership

in Chinese churches? To begin with, they are spiritual people who know

in practical terms what it means to take up the cross and follow the Lord.

Often such humble servants begin as youth workers. They serve the

church wholeheartedly, always endeavoring to be sensitive to the needs of

the people and the wishes of the church leadership. They demonstrate to

OBC lay leaders and pastors that they are readily adaptable and can get

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along with virtually everyone. They understand the limits of seminary

education in an American context and are creative and open about

adjusting what they have studied to fit the culture and language of the

church. They take up every challenge responsibly. Such versatile ABC

workers develop a reputation of being able to fit into any church situation.

From such a position they could well be called to lead a church that is

ready for an ABC senior pastor.

Some ABC workers have stayed in the same church and have

demonstrated their faithfulness to the Lord and to the work. And having

shown their willingness to adjust to a variety of church situations, they are

promoted to senior pastor. This happens when over the years the culture

of the church changes and becomes increasingly accommodating to the

culture of this land. As the families continue in their progress in their life

in America, church leaders alter their requirements in selecting a pastor.

ABC workers who rightly earn a good reputation among the people in

humble service do not strive to exert pressure for change, but they serve

the church as it changes. And in due course such faithful workers are

rewarded as the Lord opens the way to greater roles of service.

OBC Associates

As we can observe in the Chinese Christian community, there

will be increasing numbers of OBCs newly trained in the seminaries in

Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, and China, who will be immigrating to

America, desirous and ready for service. There are also several Chinese

seminaries now in America that are training OBC workers. It will be

important for some of these workers to learn how to serve the Lord in

Chinese churches that are primarily English speaking and perhaps under

an ABC senior pastor. Such situations already exist in some of the large

and significant churches in America. The role of such Chinese-trained

workers may be to minister to immigrants. They will shepherd the flock of

new or older immigrants who do not wish to learn or worship in an

English context. And as long as immigration continues, there will be need

for OBC workers.

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Into the new century we will continue to find new immigrants

populating the Chinese churches and new churches planted to minister to

them. But we will also increasingly find Chinese churches zeroing in on

ministry to whole families. As children grow up, as the culture of the

churches adapts to ABC young adults, married couples, young families,

and Christian leaders, churches will be shifting their targets toward

English-speaking and ABC families. And Chinese churches will be

multiplying ABC laborers for the work of evangelism, discipleship, and

mission as the kingdom of God continues to prosper.

Please be aware that each church must not think that this ministry

for ABCs is progressive, moving from one program and staffing model to

the next. Sometimes it is possible for an evolution of ministry to occur

without following a sequential route. A church may experience the

revolution of a God-directed proportion. Remember no one model will fit

every single local Chinese church.

Leadership Styles

Supportive and Directive Style

To have effective team ministry with ABCs, a redemptive

leadership style or styles need to be incorporated into any multiple staff

team. The leadership styles discussed below are from the book Church

Staff Teams That Win by Jerry W. Brown. He proposes a biblically based

explanation of leadership styles that incorporates the supportive and

directive need of staff members in a Chinese Church.

Prophet-Director Style

The prophet-director leadership style focuses on the whole

kingdom and on key persons responsible for leading the kingdom. It

emphasizes a director behavior of the senior pastor toward staff with little

or no social-emotional support given by the pastor. Some Chinese

churches and their leadership strongly embrace the Confucian teaching of

high respect for elders. This teaching is transferred into the church where

the pastor is treated as the spiritual father, and those younger than he is do

not challenge that position.

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Bishop-Executive Style

The bishop-executive leadership style refers to the ongoing

administration of the early church as it grew in number. The senior pastor

is the bishop who oversees the other leaders of the church. It sets high

standards for task performance and gives emotional support to individual

differences as needed.

Priest-Developer Style

The priest-developer leadership style focuses on the people as

individuals, interceding and mediating God’s grace and forgiveness. It

supports the developing of staff members’ personalities and gifts.

Disciple-Colleague Style

The disciple-colleague style of leadership focuses on the mutual

sonship of all staff members and treats fellow leaders of the Master on

equal terms. As sons of the Heavenly Father, we are all equal. It involves

sharing the leadership role with the whole pastoral staff.

Different ABC staffs need different leadership styles. The prophet-

director style is effective with less mature ABC staff members whose

needs are met best by a feeling of competency and job-related efficiency

set by the senior pastor. The bishop-executive style is effective when ABC

staff members’ needs are met through strong support by the senior pastor

and through having a sense of task accomplishments. The priest-developer

style is effective with staff members who need personal growth with

healing and not as much emphasis on task achievement. The disciple-

colleague style is effective in modeling group behavior with personally

mature, well-trained, professionally experienced, inner-motivated, self-

controlled staff members.

Robert D. Goette, a Southern Baptist church-plant mobilizer, in his

presentation on Transitioning an OBC Church to Reach More of its ABC

Target, lists some serious liabilities in developing parallel ministry to


• Control by OBCs & lack of freedom.

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• Caring only for the children & youth.

• Multiple meetings to attend.

• Decision-making process takes longer; top down communication


• Difficult to gain agenda harmony between English ministry and

OBCs’ cross-cultural communication problems.

• Patronizing, paternalistic, and over-protective attitudes that hinder

the group's ability to maximize its potential.

• Difficult to reach beyond one ethnic group.

• Difficult to reach multi-racial families.

• Scheduling problems – difficult to get prime times and facilities.

• Contextualization takes longer.

• OBC-ABC leadership clashes.

Team Philosophy

God can help ABCs to be a part of the church’s leadership and

ministry to unchurched ABCs. The Holy Spirit can enable both first

generation and the next generation to work together in effective

partnership and fellowship. Teamwork involves winning excellence,

discipline, and fundamentals.

Ten Questions Team Members Should Ask Themselves

• Do we trust each other? When the concept of work teams and

quality circles was new in the U.S. in the 1970s, critics said that the

work teams could not succeed because individuals are conditioned

to compete with each other, not to work together. Are your team

members proving the critics wrong by trusting each other and

working together?

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• Do we have a concern for each other? Are you honestly interested

in the welfare of your coworkers?

• Do team members feel free to openly communicate? If the team

were to have only one ground rule, a good one would be that

members encourage each other to communicate freely and openly?

In such an environment, teams can achieve anything.

• Do we understand our team’s goals? Without a clear focus on team

goals, even the best teams will drift?

• Do we have a commitment to these goals? Teams need to believe

in their goals and not simply see them as something abstract or

demanded by “outside” forces.

• Do we make good use of each member’s abilities? Do members

feel they are making a worthwhile contribution? Do we look for

the best talents of each member and put them to work in the


• Do we handle conflicts successfully? Conflict is natural in any

group situation. Success is judged by how it is handled by the team


• Does everyone participate? One symptom of a team on the decline

is that one or two members begin to dominate. The others allow it

to happen because they have grown indifferent.

• Do we respect our individual differences? There are team members

with whom you personally may never find yourself in agreement.

But do you respect those team members nonetheless? The

individual differences make your team unique and special.

• Do we like being members of this team? True success depends on

enjoying what you do – and that includes enjoying your team and

liking the people with whom you work.

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Ministry coaches are mentors to equip God’s people for the work

of ministry by helping them develop their God-given potential so that they

grow personally and make a valuable contribution to the kingdom of God.

Good coaches keep a balance between personal growth and ministry

contribution. Too much emphasis on personal growth can allow the team

to get spiritually fat. But too much emphasis on ministry contribution

leads to burnout. God is concerned with both our growth and our ministry.

Keep the leader accountable to God for personal and spiritual growth.

Coaches need to be grace-givers and understand truth-telling. Grace-

giving is the art of empowering or encouraging someone in their ministry

or their station in life.

Some Suggestions for Mentoring

• Pray for an ABC and see the potential in him. See God's future

minister for the Gospel's sake.

• Teach that ABC to know Christ, to know his identity in Christ, that

he has been freed from condemnation. And so by knowing His

Lord, that ABC comes to know himself.

• Teach him the way of the Cross, the path of suffering, and self-

denial even as John the Baptist said: “He must increase and I must

decrease.”(John 3:30) No one can be first; first he must learn to be


• Teach that ABC that nothing he does, nor anything Satan does, can

snatch him out of the Father's hand. No one can belittle him if he

magnifies the Lord in his life.

• Teach the potential ABC worker to pray. Help him learn that God

trains us for heavenly authority by yielding to the Lord and being

under His authority in faith.

• Pray that the potential ABC’s leadership experience will produce


If the Chinese church is to prepare workers for Christ's kingdom,

ABCs must be able to interpret the teachings of Christ and apply them in

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the cultural setting of who they are as Chinese raised in American society.

Leaders are needed who know their spiritual personhood and exemplify

Christ as those bridge-builders to the next generation in the Chinese

church. By observing the strong faith and Spirit-directed examples of

these mentors will the next generation have the inner orientation to tap the

spiritual power to minister to and reach a growing number of ABCs


Finding and keeping ABCs in the Chinese church means giving

them ownership to what the ministry for ABCs would be like. This also

means that authority must be delegated to those ABCs who are qualified to

fulfill that ministry. Let them earn the position given. Mature OBCs and

ABCs alike must model brokenness. Allow these potential workers to fail;

allow failure to shape their character. If they leave, they cannot learn. The

Chinese church must invest and pour itself into potential workers for the

kingdom, and sometimes this may mean not necessarily in itself. The

church must mentor those who are the up-and-coming generation. The

church must direct their ABCs’ search for the Christ-life in the inner man,

not some outward program or agenda. The church must help them to

shape their desire for Christian purpose and yearning so that they will not

quit when the ministry becomes harsh. Longsuffering and perseverance

can be the Christ-like character God wants for ABC workers.

The first requirement for a Chinese church to have an effective

ministry among its ABCs is that the OBC leadership be culturally sensitive

to the needs of its ABCs. This chapter has outlined the second step which

is that the church needs to have an effective model by which it structures

its ABC ministry within the church. This approach involves selecting

program and staffing models that fit the size, needs, and resources of the

church. Particular attention must be paid to leadership styles, having a

team philosophy, and mentoring. With these two steps in place, the church

is well on its way to developing an effective ministry to its ABCs.

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Chapter 6

Spiritually Mature ABC Leadership

By Peter Yuen

• From ABC Laity to ABC Pastors.

• What Makes for an Effective Full-time Christian Worker?

• Possessions Possess the Possessors.

• The Call.

• Leader or Servant?

In this section we have been looking at factors contributing to

effective ministries with ABCs and have identified two of the most

important ones. First, the most important requirements for an effective

ABC ministry is that the church have culturally sensitive OBC leaders.

Second, another critical factor is that the church have an effective program

and staffing model for ABC ministry. In this chapter we will examine a

third major requirement that is essential for fruitful ABC work. This is the

need for spiritually mature ABC leadership.

We will briefly look at some of the basic characteristics necessary for

spiritually mature ABC leaders. These qualities are basic to every believer

whether laity or clergy. When Satan seeks to hinder the work of Christian

leaders, he often attacks in the areas of the fundamentals. It is our hope

that the discussion in this chapter will remind ABC workers of the

importance of keeping their eyes on the ball.

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From ABC Laity to ABC Pastors

Where can we find a suitable pastor for our ABC ministry? These

requests come to the FACE directors frequently. In recent years this has

become an increasingly urgent question. Since the 1980s, the demand

exceeds the supply. There are more realized needs in the churches for

ABC pastors than there are available resources. The seminaries and the

Chinese churches are not developing enough qualified ABC Christian

graduates to fill the vacancies that exist. Those who do come forth and

enter the ministry often stay a short time then leave their church. Some

leave pledging never again to work in a Chinese church; tragically, some

of these leave the ministry altogether.

Many ABC believers are well aware that there is a special place for

ABC work in the Chinese churches. Some sense this unique need and

write research papers on it. Others attempt to do something about it in

their own churches. They realize that the next generation is coming right

along and must be taught, mentored and encouraged to live the Christian

life. Also, these present day ABC Christians hope that the next generation

of believers will grow through the church and receive better nurturing than

what the present followers are experiencing. As lay people they do what

they can voluntarily to provide support.

In the above process, some of these lay people find the ministry so

worthwhile and fruitful that they consider making a career change to go

into full-time service. Not a few ABCs were in other career paths before

choosing the ministry.

It is not difficult for a person who aspires to the church ministry to

jump through all the hoops along the way. To have one’s church pastor

approve, to have the church board confirm, to enter into seminary, to take

all the classes, do well all along the way, graduate, and even finding a

place of service in some church is possible, especially for a bright student.

But why are so many able, dedicated ABC workers leaving the ministry

after a few years? It takes more than brilliance and social grace to become

a minister who is effective for the long run.

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What Makes for an Effective Full-time Christian Worker?

First, the person must be a true Christian. That is, one must receive

Jesus Christ as Savior and commit oneself to him as Lord. Those who

have accepted him as Savior but have not surrendered themselves to the

lordship of Christ cannot know what it is to serve him. As the apostle Paul

wrote in Romans 10:9, “But if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is

Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you

shall be saved.” The bottom line is that a true Christian is one who

believes Jesus is not only his Savior but also his Lord. With Jesus as Lord

comes a multitude of lessons along the journey of faith.

The believer realizes that the life of faith is a call to sacrifice. Jesus

said, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up

his cross and follow me.” (Mark 8:34) The Cross is the way of sacrifice.

Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice of himself for our sake. For the

Christian, serving people in the name of Christ is to take upon oneself the

disadvantages such a call entails, to labor and pay the cost for the benefit

of those who are served. One who takes up the Cross is self-giving,

generous, and unselfish. As Paul said, “I will gladly spend and be spent

for your souls.” (2 Cor. 12:15) Consequently, how could there be a selfish

person who is a faithful, true servant of the Lord?

Possessions Possess the Possessors

To spend means to pay the cost of time in serving others. And that

is a precious commodity as one grows in life and service. When we give

time to work and to perform a service to benefit others, we accomplish

something that bears fruit in their lives, and it is most rewarding. We do

not mind paying the cost for the joy of knowing that what we do makes a

difference. Even though we may never personally live to see the outcome

and value of our acts, if we have been faithful stewards in the opportunities

afforded us, we are assured that the Lord is pleased with our service.

Under the lordship of Christ we learn that the way of the cross is to

surrender what we as earthly human beings would strive for -- prestige,

position, and possessions. “What you are driving” fades in the light of

“what is driving you.” No longer does the disciple of Jesus have to have a

car that indicates his status; all he needs are wheels that function in the

Lord's service. What drives him is the desire to please the Lord in

accomplishing his will in the world.

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The size of one’s office or the furnishings in it should not be the

position barometer of one’s life. Whether one chooses a high-back office

chair or a stool to sit on, the decision is based not upon one’s status but on

what is needed to do God’s work. Function determines form. The disciple

must be delivered from the shame of materialism. He must let the “things

on earth grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace.”

As Christians who know Jesus as Lord, we yield to him the key to

our possessions. That key is money. Jesus said, “You cannot serve God

and mammon.” (Luke 16:13) Once you accept a position with a company,

be it in the marketplace or with a church, never strive over wages.

Separate your work from money. Do your work as unto the Lord; receive

your pay or profits as a gift from God. Mixing pay and work or struggling

for more pay throws us into turmoil. Striving for money is inappropriate

for a disciple who has taken up the cross to follow “the Son of Man who

had no place to lay his head.” (Luke 9:59)

As we walk with the Lord, he will challenge us as he did every one

of his disciples, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matt.

4:19) Or, “Do you love me more than these? Feed my sheep.” (John

21:17) The call of Jesus is a call to discipleship and service. Our career

path needs to pass his test. The question we must ask is “Lord, what do

you want me to do?” (Acts 9:6)

The Call

It may be at this point that the ABC lay Christian makes a decision

to obey the calling to full-time ministry. If that is not God’s calling for

you, he will indicate by his Word and his Spirit what indeed is his will.

That leading is as clear to one called to lay ministry as to one called to full-

time service.

It is most important for the one who is called into full-time ministry

to prepare to become a well-equipped guide, shepherd, and teacher of other

Christians. Much of this comes with time and maturity; but to begin with,

it is important to be well established in the knowledge of the mind of God

through the Word of God. It is crucial not only to know the general

content of the Bible, but how to interpret a particular passage. While it is

not possible to learn all of this in a few years in seminary, two objectives

stand out as high priority in seminary studies—getting a solid foundation

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in scripture and theology, and acquiring good tools to enable one to

continue to study, learn and grow on his own. Thus, in addition to the

content of ministry, getting good training on the ways and means of

ministry is important. Solid preparation under specialists in various fields

of ministry is best done in a strong, evangelical seminary.

Leader or Servant?

One of the special challenges faced in the pastorate is the way we

work with people in the church, both colleagues on staff and members of

the flock whom we are called to serve. Difficulty working with people is

probably the number one reason for failure. It seems that the basic

problem is the difference between the manner is which one approaches the

work—as a leader or a servant.

Some go into a work as a leader. They believe they know how to

lead the flock to successfully do what that flock is called to do. They come

on the scene ready to turn the world upside down with their strategy in

mind. And they run headlong into the church leadership, locking horns,

which either destroys the church or results in the pastor’s short stay in the


Then there are those who go into a work as a servant. A quote

from William Eng’s interview in ABOUT FACE will help one to see how a

Christian worker can be a servant. “We need to see what God has already

stirred church members to do and make every effort to equip them to

accomplish his will in their lives through the church.” (ABOUT FACE, vol.

23, no. 2, May 2001) Yes, a servant comes and serves the people.

Often an ABC serves under an OBC senior pastor who perhaps

because of language and culture is unable to do what the ABC is called to

do. Yet, the senior pastor remains the one responsible for the overall

ministry of the church. An ABC pastor who has a servant attitude must

realize that his task is not just to see that the ABC ministry goes well. His

task is first to enable by helping the senior pastor to succeed in his

assignment which includes the oversight of what the ABC is invited and

assigned to do. Like any employee in any business, the subordinate’s task

is to enable the superior to succeed in his task. A servant attitude in Christ

frees a worker to accomplish that with all his strength and will.

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Sometimes an ABC has subordinates working under him, whether

employed or voluntary. Again, it is the task of the ABC servant minister to

enable the subordinates to succeed in their work. And the same is true

when an ABC servant minister has colleagues of equal position on the

organizational chart. The task of a servant is to serve and enable superiors,

subordinates or other co-workers to succeed in their servanthood and


The secret to success for an ABC worker is simply this – be a

faithful servant of the Lord. In the journey of faith, there has to be not

only a relationship with the Savior and a commitment to his lordship, but a

consecration of one’s whole being on the altar to him. Taking that step

and making that offering of presenting oneself totally as a living sacrifice,

holy and acceptable to God, (Rom. 12:1-2) is the step that one makes and

is mindful of all along the way. Nothing is held back. There is no private

area or realm of life that a believer keeps to himself. Everything is placed

on that altar. The Lord is Lord of All.

Whether it is lay or full-time ministry in the body of Christ, in all

that we do we are intent on pleasing the Lord, for his will shall indeed

prove out to be good, acceptable, and perfect.

Too often ABC workers find it so difficult to continue under

extremely trying conditions that they cannot or will not endure. And it

might even be possible to find some proof-text to justify giving up or

quitting. But remember, “Faithful is he who calls you, who also will do

it.” (1 Thess. 5:24)

ABC workers, whether volunteer or full-time staff, who are fully

given over to the lordship of Jesus Christ are enabled to follow his leading

and adapt to various working conditions. They enter the work, being led

by the Word and the Spirit of God; they do not leave unless they are led

out by just as certain an indication as the original call. No matter what the

task is, such servants of Jesus Christ will serve him, crossing language and

cultural gaps, eager and willing to do whatever God leads them to do.

The need for spiritually mature ABC leadership is a must for fruitful

ABC ministry within the Chinese church. In this chapter we have taken a

brief glimpse at some of the basic spiritual qualities of a leader. Some

readers might think that the requirements of a mature leader discussed in

this chapter are too basic and that most church leaders have advanced far

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beyond them. However, when leaders fail, it is usually in some area

involving basic morality, basic relationships involving a willingness to

humble one’s self to be a servant, or in failing to walk in love toward the

brethren. It is usually not in the deeper truths that we run into trouble but

in the simple ones. Therefore the mature leader must always “keep his

eyes on the ball!”

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Chapter 7

Church Programs that Minister Effectively to ABC Christians

By William Eng

• Ask for Volunteers

• Children Ministry

• Youth Ministry

• College Ministry

• Young Adult Ministry

• Middle and Older Adult Ministries.

The essentials for an effective ministry to ABCs within the Chinese

church must include OBC leaders who understand that ABCs are culturally

different from OBCs. The church must have a program and staffing model

that is suitable for ministry to ABCs. And, the church must have

spiritually mature ABC leaders. After these essentials are in place, then a

workable program can be implemented.

However, at this point the church encounters its greatest obstacle in

implementing its program for ministering to ABCs, a shortage of workers.

There always is not enough Sunday school teachers, group sponsors,

children’s workers, group officers, etc. What is the church to do at this

point? Volunteers must be recruited. Listed below are a few guidelines

for the recruitment and nurturing of volunteers.

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Ask for Volunteers

Guidelines for Working with Volunteers

• Ask God for laborers, for volunteer workers - Matt. 9:35-38

• Look for leaders from within your congregation.

• Use a spiritual gift test to see who is gifted for English ministry.

• Expose possible leaders to the ministry..

• Sell the benefits of the particular ministry.

• Share your vision of that ministry with them.

• Share your commitment to their development.

• Provide a specific assignment.

• Let them pray about the opportunity.

• Orient them & involve them.

Children’s Ministry

James W. Fowler, director of the Center for Faith Development at

Emory University, traces the development of a person's faith. Children’s

ministry must understand the stage of faith defined as Intuitive-Projective

Faith. Ranging from age two to six or seven, this stage is the "fantasy-

filled, imitative phase in which the child can be powerfully and

permanently influenced by examples, moods, actions and stories of

primary-related adults." ABCs who become believers later in life also

move through this stage as new babes in Christ. Young ABCs do not need

to be exploited by adults who enforce doctrinal or moral teachings by

filling their imagination with images of destruction and fear. Instead they

need mature Chinese role models who can provide loving, non-

manipulative examples of Christian faith to imitate.

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The next stage of faith in children is known as Mystic-Literal Faith.

This second stage usually takes form in the elementary school years but

could be found in a few adolescents and adults. In this stage an ABC

begins to hold on to the Bible stories, beliefs, and observances that belong

to his or her church. Such ABCs are characterized by a literal-mindedness

that makes symbols take literal form. They have moral understandings

based on storing up credits for doing good in a divine bank account in

exchange for God's help when things go badly. A Sunday school teacher

once said to her children, "If you aren't good boys and girls, God won't

love you." Literal-minded ABCs at this stage need Chinese Christians

who are solid, concrete models that do not spiritualize God or their faith in

words and ways that are misunderstood.

Children’s ministry should be designed with parents’ desires in

mind. Parents expect a safe, happy learning environment.. There must be

evidence that their children were cared for and were enjoying themselves.

As children grow up in the Sunday school and youth groups, regular

teaching of the scriptures in relevant terms for their age group is essential.

The result will be that there is proof that they have learned Bible truths.

Discipleship training is needed to equip them to stand firm and grow in the

faith through prayer and personal Bible study. Instruction to share the

message of the gospel with others is essential so that they are able to

convince their friends to put their faith in Christ. Such training also

prepares them to face opposition and false teaching that they will

encounter in the world. Build into the students the conviction that when

they go away to college they go as missionaries into the world to reach

people for Christ.

Some children’s ministry focus on children from non-Christian

homes, e.g. a Chinatown community in which both parents work even on

weekends and do not come to church. Others are more suitable for

children who have Christian families. The following list of programs are

just examples: Awana, Pioneers, Child Evangelism, and Institute in Basic

Life Principles. Children seminars, Bible memory clubs, children’s choir,

and other Bible based character development programs can be used.

Raising a child is like growing a plant in a papier-mâché pot

purchased from a nursery. The roots are developed in good nurturing soil

in the pot. Then the plant is brought to a home garden and planted into the

ground, pot and all. As the roots continue to develop they will eventually

grow through the papier-mâché and get rooted into the ground in which it

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is transplanted. Likewise, the nurturing of a growing child begins in the

home and in the church; and as he reaches outside to friends on the

campus, it is like the plant roots stretching outside the original pot, out into

the new soil for nourishment.

Youth Ministry

How can a youth ministry be purpose-driven to be truly a part of

the church? Is there a real intention to incorporate young people into the

church’s life? Are there adequate available resources as well as leadership

trained in understanding and integrating this age group into the vision of

the church? What the Chinese church formerly thought of as youth

ministry has changed. It is no longer a ministry to the Baby Boomers of

the pre-1960s, nor to the Baby Busters of the mid-1960s to mid-1970s, nor

to the Generation Xers of the 1980s; it is now a youth ministry to those

known as Generation Y of the 1990s.

The language and culture of Gen Y are distinctly different even

from those of the generation preceding it. A youth minister of that earlier

decade had to relearn the language and socio-cultural characteristics of

Gen Y. Most English-speaking Asian immigrants who desires to minister

to this age group will not readily identify with and relate to the unique

dynamics associated with Gen Y. This generation is immersed with

gigahertz-speed computers, CDRW and DVD, the Internet, multimedia

sensory reception, multifaceted learning, and high-energy music. It has

never heard of LP vinyl records, the Cold War, the Berlin Wall,

segregation and race rioting, or nuclear annihilation.

Relational Ministry

Youth ministry should understand Fowler’s Stages of Faith known

as Synthetic-Conventional Faith. The interpersonal relationships of ABC

youths are so important because their beliefs and values are mainly shaped

by the expectations of the groups that are significant to them. Such ABC

Christians copy and conform to the Christians they know. Beliefs and

values may be deeply held, but they usually are held without being

carefully examined. In some cases, the expectations of others may be so

strongly internalized that the individual's judgment and action are

undermined. An individual in this stage sees authority in traditional

authority roles. This stage arises during adolescence, but many adults stay

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in this stage permanently. ABCs in this stage need other Christians who

do not impose their own personal ideas of Christian beliefs.

Precious personal bonding occurs in weekly caring groups, that is,

in small groups that allow personal sharing. This is done in the context of

confidentiality and non-threatening acceptance. Bonding also occurs

during weekend retreats away from home. Retreats seem to many parents

to be too free and not very structured. And yet many young people have

experienced God’s presence and God’s calling to salvation. Some have

felt God’s call to full-time ministry and missions work in retreat settings

because they are without the distractions of home, school, non-believing

friends, and family conflicts.

Purposeful Ministry

Youth ministry in Chinese churches is often assumed to be the only

component of English ministry. Too many high schoolers have been forced

by their well-meaning Christian parents to attend the youth program of

their local Chinese church. Too many church leaders and parents expect

quick results in seeing young people transformed into maturing believers.

But when these have graduated from high school and have the freedom to

choose for themselves whether to return to their parents’ church, many will

not make that connection to that church. It is not their home church.

The underlying premise for this dilemma is that the church’s

program was just a babysitting effort to keep the young people from being

bored and not attending. If youth ministry is just an afterthought to what

the church is doing, these young people will not become the next

generation of leaders of the church. The solution is not a quick fix. There

must be an intentional purpose-driven focus to this target group. Energy,

personnel, and other church resources must be expended in ministering to

these young ABCs. Many not only from church families but also from

outside the church with no church experience can then be reached.

Interactive Learning

Many Chinese church leaders have questioned the rationale and

methods of youth ministry as well as the entire English-speaking ministry.

The Lord’s teachings should always be the central truths given to the

church’s young people. But biblical truths and authority cannot be

communicated solely through the Chinese concept of the church as a

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teaching association (jiao-tang), someone standing in front of a group

lecturing. There are many other ways by which scriptural truths can be

taught and caught.

The underlying philosophy for junior-high discipleship is

integration, whereby all the biblical truths taught at an earlier grade-school

level are being processed and integrated into the lives of pre-teens. On the

other hand, the core philosophy of high-school discipleship is relationship

building. Biblical truths are passed on to new and growing teenagers

through the bonding developed between other teenagers as well as the

adult youth minister and church volunteers.

Not Unspiritual to Have Fun

Many youth programs begin with spirited fun-packed icebreakers

and mixers. Indeed, according to some parents, the inclusion of these

energetic fun activities seems less productive and inconsistent with

spiritual instruction. And yet the channeling of the energy of young people

with their ever-changing physical development to wholesome fun activities

is a great alternative to holding rave parties and dances.

Not all youths will want to play ball but most will join in a rousing

game that challenges and channels their zeal and eagerness. After a

stressful week in school, such fun times can do much to relax

overwhelmed teenagers. And after the energy is spent, meditative praise

worship can help refocus hearts and minds to what God would do in an

individual’s life.

Interaction with others in the group, whether during a Bible-

learning time or playing basketball, is most conducive to applying biblical

truth into young lives. “How can I use what Jesus teaches in what I am

doing now – whether playing ball, relating to my parents or my peers or

my Father in heaven?” And when that enthusiasm and energy are directed

to service in the local church, in Christian outreach ministries and in

missions, the spiritual fruit of such youth ministry can only be the measure

of how these teens can be significant parts of the church.

Discipling Key Leaders

Not all youth are at the same point in their spiritual journey. A

church cannot always offer something for everyone. But it can reach those

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who have not found in other places outside the church what they have

needed. Adult leaders can model how to communicate spiritual truths to

others. There are some youth who have matured through the training they

received in the Christian home and in children’s Sunday school. These can

be the ones who are trained to lead and plan the activities that will draw

other youths into the church.

If youth ministry is just an afterthought to what the church is doing,

these young people will not become the next generation of leaders of the

church. The underlying premise for this dilemma is that the church’s

program was just a babysitting effort to keep the young people from being

bored and not attending. The solution is not a quick fix. There must be an

intentional purpose-driven focus to this target group. Energy, personnel,

and other church resources must be expended in ministering to these young

ABCs. Many not only from church families but also many from outside

with no church experience can then be reached.

College Ministry

Away They Go” by Peter Yuen

(ABOUT FACE, Vol. 24, No. 2, May 2002)

There are church leaders who believe that if they can get their

ABCs through high school and off to college, the church will have finished

its responsibility with them. Such is their reaction to the ABCs who are

making increasing demands for change in the church as they grow older.

Unfortunately, such an attitude in getting them out the door often sends

them off into the non-Christian world for good. Rather than having to

respond reactively to the pressing needs of their youths, leaders would do

better with a proactive approach because their young people need

preparation to face a world that challenges their faith. When away at

college, they need occasional follow-up and contact by representatives

from the home church. And when on holidays or vacation, they need

caring reconnections with the home church.

In most families, all significant decisions are made for the children

by the parents until their junior year in high school. These decisions

involve where they live, what kind of friends to cultivate, where to go to

school, what extra-curricular activities to participate in, where to play,

what to study in school, and if the parents are Christians, where to go to

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church. In their junior year in high school, the young person begins to

investigate the possibilities and options about going to college. While

parents may have some input to or even veto power over their child's

choices, generally the decisions on where to study and the field of study to

pursue are the first major ones that the child makes for himself. In

addition to parental guidance one may be influenced by friends at school

or church. For many it is here at this point when they begin to seek the

will of God for their lives, and it is here where spiritual guidance made

available in the church or the home is essential.

A student going off to college and out of constant contact with his

home and church is embarking on a new adventure, and every option is

available to him. And the "wrong crowd" is ubiquitous and ever enticing.

It is obvious that proper training in his younger years is foundational to

enable the student to make good decisions. A mere heart-to-heart talk

before he goes off is not adequate to prepare him to make good decisions

every day. Development of the psyche that holds on to the desires,

expectations and values of the parents, respected relatives and friends, and

people at the home church as well as the desire to please the Lord are

essential for a person to make the right choices. This kind of spiritual

preparation will enable him to face the challenges of college life.

In many cases in Chinese churches, the young person, having

grown up in the church Sunday school and youth groups, will go off to

college and have virtually no more guidance or input from the church.

The freshman is dropped off on campus to face a completely new world.

He may have e-mail and a cell phone by which to reach the family and

friends, but often there may be little other connection with home and

church. And the connections will likely and naturally become less and less

as the student finds familiarity among new surroundings, classes, and


A wise and spiritually alert Christian student will seek out friends

in fellowship groups of believers. At the very beginning of life on campus

is the best opportunity to connect with a Christian fellowship group such

as Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship, Asian-American Christian

Fellowship, Navigators, and Campus Crusade for Christ. It is also

important to be connected to an evangelical church for worship and


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With all the options available to the student and the freedom to

choose for himself without any parental controls, how is he to make sound

decisions? It is the daily fellowship with the Lord together with a

conscience conditioned by the Word of God that is the controlling

measures of guidance. It is here that one's sense of responsibility to one's

family and friends in the home church comes into play. It is here that the

commitment to Jesus Christ as authority over one's life is tested for reality

and truth.

In addition to the reality of the spiritual trials of the soul in the

presence of a multitude of temptations, there is also on campus the formal

philosophical influence in the classroom that can undermine a Christian's

faith. Some of these courses are taught by secularist professors who are

professionals at dislodging a Christian and diverting him away from faith

in Christ and the Bible.

What can the home church or Christian parents do for their

students away at college? Pray and assure the student that Christians

back home are praying for his welfare. Stay in touch through e-mail and

correspondence. There is so much traveling going on for business and

pleasure today that people from the home church need to plan to drop in

and visit these students and take them out to dinner. And during holidays

and vacations when the student returns home are crucial occasions to

build, reconnect, and promote loyalty to the family, the church and to

long-established friends. Too often a student returning home is hardly

recognized or acknowledged at church because of the long absence. He

comes back like a stranger or visitor to a fellowship of students who have

been worshiping and involved regularly throughout the year because they

attend local schools. Thus it is important during holidays and vacation

times that there are well-planned activities to renew connections with the

church, family and old friends.

It is this kind of effort by parents and church staff that enables the

students who go away to college to feel they still belong to their church.

When friends whose relationships were established over the years become

reconnected, they often become lifelong friends and lifelong members of

the church.

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Young Adult Ministry

Fowler’s Stage 4 of Faith is Individuative-Reflective Faith. This

stage is characterized by individuality and thinking reflectively about one’s

beliefs and values. People in this stage take responsibility for their own

beliefs rather than simply conforming to those cherished by the

community. This is a time when one steps outside his own belief system

and examines it critically to know the why as well as the what of his

beliefs. A person must achieve some emotional distance between himself

and the community that previously shaped his beliefs to move to this stage.

One often moves to this stage, therefore, at the point of leaving home.

This typically occurs during the early adult transition. This is a time when

one's beliefs and values become truly one’s own. But the danger is that the

individual can become so hardened in his own views that he no longer

takes into account the perspectives of others. Such ABCs need wise

leaders who give them freedom to re-examine and possess the Christian

faith of his parents or church as his own.

Church leaders can view this ministry as the possible beginning of

a new church. Matt Brown has started a ministry to Gen Xers called

Sandals Church in Riverside, California. Today, the congregation

averages 750 in attendance. Another Sandals church plant in Mission

Viejo, California has 200, and a third in Corona, that is ten months old, had

850 in worship on Easter Sunday. Sandals reaches young adults by giving

them leadership, not relegating them to a college department within a one-

size-fits-all church. Sunday night services are established first because

students do not respond well on Sunday mornings.

The church, not just Chinese churches, may have already lost this

next generation. This generation is so confused about the church with all

the failings and problems that can be seen by these observant young

people. This has happened too often in many Chinese churches. So many

of today’s young adults grew up affected by scandals involving religious

leaders such as the abuses involving Roman Catholic priests.

“Helping Parents Who Are in Pain” by Peter Yuen

(ABOUT FACE, Vol. 19, No. 2, May 1997)

A middle-aged Chinese parent, himself full of vitality for the

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Lord, is bearing a burden.

“It hurts very deeply, deeper than anything I’ve known. I don’t know

where to start to share or where to get help and encouragement. There

are a lot of Chinese Christian parents in the same situation. I suspect that

even among pastors, there is a lot of hidden secret pain.”

This was written in response to my article, “An ABC Christian

Wedding,” in the last issue of ABOUT FACE. Our respondent understood

and appreciated the main thrust of that article. It was more targeted at

Christian parents than at young people contemplating marriage. In

essence, the message of that article was: Parents, establish a family that is

truly Christian so that your ABC children will grow to embrace the Lord

Jesus Christ on their own initiative. Make sure that your church provides

strong, relevant Christian nurture and challenge suitable for your family

from childhood to adulthood; then grown-up children will more likely

choose the way of the Lord when they leave home.

Too few families and churches are providing suitable Christian

discipleship in the Word, Spirit, and practice for their ABC children; and

when they get to the place where they can opt out, these children,

unfortunately, more often than not, do just that.

So our brother wrote, “There must be a lot of Christian parents

in pain and struggling with the agony of how to bring back their children

to God. They are crying out for help. I know, because I am one of these


It tears our hearts as we sense what they are going through. We

ABC pastors who are directors of FACE have seen too many ABC friends

dropping out. It is for this very reason that we have been doing our best

for about two decades to stem this loss. We have been trying to help

church leaders to see what needs to be done to be more effective in

ministry to ABCs; and in the mercy of God we have witnessed some

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improvement. But we have done virtually nothing to help parents whose

ABC children opted to leave the church and forsake their walk with the

Lord when they were free to choose their own paths.

Just recently the five of us FACE directors met to begin the

process of revising and updating our mission statement. It is obvious that

we must not only encourage the Chinese churches to become more

effective in ministry to ABCs; we must draw alongside of parents, and

particularly OBC parents, who are in great anguish over the loss of their

children from the life of the church. In this effort we face two fronts: (1)

Restoring grown-up ABC dropouts to Christian living and fellowship, and

(2) Helping OBC parents to cope with their pain and providing guidance

for them in their efforts to bring healing with their ABC children who are

dropouts. For now, perhaps the following observations and suggestions

will help.


A prior question must be, “Why did the grown-up ABC drop

out?” A high priority of junior-high and high-school students is to

establish friends outside the home. They also need a formidable challenge

in their lives, one which the church should be able to provide if only it is

focused on fulfilling the needs of its young people. How do we expect

growing young people to choose to continue participating in a church

where they are bored because the activities are tailored for some other

culture? Thus, it is understandable when they go outside their church

home to find camaraderie and challenge.

Radical measures

Reprogram. It is a rare church that, having failed one year to

provide for its youth, is able to mobilize rapidly enough to meet their needs

the next year. It would take a Herculean effort by a very cooperative

leadership who together sense the Holy Spirit’s leading to accomplish this.

But a few churches have done it to bring their young people back.

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Switch churches. Where it is unlikely that a given church can

reprogram quickly enough, some parents have switched to some other

church for the sake of their rapidly growing children. Sometimes this has

worked to keep their children interested in Christian fellowship.

Move family. In cases where the young people have already

quit the church and have established their best friends elsewhere,

sometimes a family has to actually move to a new city so as to break those

outside connections. Then in that new location where the children have to

find new friends, the new church is a likely and attractive place for them to

begin again.

How some return

The very reason why many ABCs have quit the church sheds

light on how to bring grown-ups who have dropped out back into the

fellowship of the church.

Senior ABCs. There are some good examples of ABC senior

citizens who grew up in the church, dropped out for decades, then re-

entered the fellowship. What brought them back was their finding new

social connections with friends of their own age and with similar interests.

Young marrieds and young families. Must parents wait so

long, until their children are mature adults, even senior citizens, before

they can find them responding to the Lord? There are some other common

windows of opportunity for their children to return to the Lord. One is

when the young adult dropout gets married, and another is when they have

children and these young ones begin to need exposure to their peers

outside the home.

Dropouts, not blackouts. Many of these ABC dropouts do not

acknowledge that they have given up their faith. They left because they

were dissatisfied with the church they were attending. When they marry

they wish to establish a Christian home, and when they have children they

come to realize that Christian values are important to build into their

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children. Or when they retire they are moved to take a more serious and

mature look at their faith. If they were to return to the church in which

they were raised, they would be motivated to do what they could, now as

young families or older adults, to help shape the church so that it would

have effective ministry for ABCs. At the time of their re-entry, if the

church has a good Bible-teaching ministry to adult ABCs, they personally

begin to seriously reconsider the claims of Jesus Christ.


Try as one might to raise a child in “in the nurture and

admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4), and to “train up a child in the way

that he should go” (Prov. 22:6a), there is no guarantee that “when he is

old he will not depart from it” (Prov. 22:6b). It is not that the promise of

God’s Word is invalid, but that our method of nurturing, admonishing, and

training is faulty. To say this is not aimed at increasing one’s sense of

guilt or resentment, but to encourage a serious look at what was lacking.

When parents are raising young families, because it is their first

attempt, they are on an experiment. They are not professionals; they come

at the task without expertise. Especially in view of the greater cultural

expanse, OBC parents need to bridge with the environment in which their

ABC children are being brought up. In addition, the fact that OBC parents

themselves are having to make so many personal adjustments – moving

across an ocean and leaving their familiar surroundings in Asia, adapting

to a different educational system, establishing themselves in new

neighborhoods and in their professional careers, etc., -- it is all they can

do to find a good church in which to worship and serve.

A church which is suitable for them is not likely to be suitable

for their ABC children because they are of a different culture. For the

sake of the children, the adaptation should be made by the parents in favor

of the children, and not by the children in favor of the parents. Few OBC

parents, however, realize all this until their children begin to feel intensely

uncomfortable in the Chinese church. To attempt to make changes quickly

enough to meet their rapidly growing children’s needs is often too great a

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hurdle. So the children suffer and drop out, and the parents feel angry,

guilty, disappointed, regretful, ashamed and helpless.

Too often these parents, wanting to be proud of their children,

will highlight their academic and economic successes and attempt to

ignore or conceal their spiritual failures.

Obviously, true healing help for these parents will first require

some personal soul-searching on their part. Why the guilt, anger, shame,

and pride?

On the other hand, dwelling too much upon the question, “What

have I done wrong?” – a question many parents of every culture ask – is

not constructive and could be harmful. Remember that “all things work

together for good to them who love God and who are called according to

His purpose? (Rom. 8:28). There are very few irreparable mistakes we

make in life as we walk with the Lord.

The very fact that parents carry their burden in such pain shows

the degree of love they have for the Lord and for their children who have

dropped out. As they shift their focus from their anguish to their love for

the Lord and for their children, there are three efforts they could launch

that would be constructive: prayer, reconciliation, and service.

Prayer. Heightened intensity on prayer for their children would

release the blessings of God to work in the circumstances of life around

those children. Joining with other parents who are carrying the same kind

of burden and sharing one’s load would be a means to interact and

fellowship honestly about the burden being borne. Ask God to place

around those children other Christians in their place of work or on the

campus, and in the marketplace. Appeal to the Lord to spark an interest in

them to seek Him. Keep pursuing the Lord about bringing those children

back to Him.

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Reconciliation. This may be the most difficult task for parents,

but they actually have a way available to them to communicate with their

grown child so that what is said would be received and taken to heart. It is

not the giving of advice; it is the making of a heartfelt confession. When a

parent confesses to a child that he has made a mistake, and asks, “Will you

forgive me (us) for …..?”, you can be sure that the child will be all ears.

The crucial matter is how you fill in the blank. It is not a time to

charge that child with any of his/her errors. It is only a time to

acknowledge one’s own ignorance and anxiety and anger and

authoritarianism. It is a time to repent and acknowledge that decisions

made before the child dropped out were not decisions to meet the needs of

the child, but to keep the parents themselves comfortable in their church

setting. A parent’s confessing that he should have been more concerned

for the child’s total need than for his own would be readily received by the

child. There is an amazing capacity in young people to sort out the matter

in their minds and join with the parent sympathetically to do what they can

to make reparations for the harm that has been done.

Service. Where adequate and relevant Christian encouragement

is lacking in the church and in the home, a major effort needs to be

launched to rectify the situation. One such father whose children have

dropped out has turned his pain and energy outwards to do everything

possible to reach ABCs and to improve their lot in the church and in their

families. To take one’s own loss as a challenge to double the effort to help

others succeed in raising their children so that they will choose to love the

Lord is a worthy goal and yields precious eternal fruit.

Building the Lord‘s church requires sacrifice and suffering –

suffering that may strike right close to home. But let not failure be the

final note. May the Lord hear the prayers of His servants and bring those

children back to Himself, and may He use the devoted effort of their

parents to bring glory to His victorious name.

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Young adult ministry must refocus on a return to basics because

this generation has largely no familiarity with the Christian faith since they

were not raised in the church. The church must clearly tell them the fact

that they are guilty before a holy God and that is why they need Jesus.

This next generation does not just want to feel good about themselves.

Some churches may have to start with the Ten Commandments because

today’s young adults do not know them. Paul said that the law is a tutor to

lead people to the gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ. The Christian faith

must be seen in both leaders and adults experiencing the “I-you”

relationship with the living God in worship as well as in daily living.

Give them a lot of freedom from the very beginning. Disciple a

few key leaders. Indeed when these young adults serve together with each

other as well as caring leaders, the relationships formed in such an

involvement will lead to long-lasting ones. This will draw other young

people into the church. And the long-term effect will be that these college

graduates or working young adults will be the local church. They will

develop long-term friendships, maybe made during high-school years.

Another beneficial outcome is the development of relationships that lead to

Christian marriages and further strengthen the church’s ABC adult


Middle Adult Ministry

Fowler’s Stage 5 - Conjunctive Faith is rarely seen in persons

before they have reached mid-life. This stage is marked by openness of

attitude. Such faith permits one to see both sides of an issue and does not

have to settle every issue immediately or file every belief neatly into its

proper category. An ABC in this stage of faith development is open to

insight from those who are of different religious communions of other

cultures. A person in this stage does not automatically accept other points

of view but is willing to listen to them. This position implies no lack of

commitment to one's own faith. Conjunctive-faith's openness to the truth of

the other stems precisely from its confidence in the reality of the Christian

faith. ABCs of Stage 5 need leaders who will guide them to experience

Christ's principles. Such ABCs then will be able to test other religious

claims to truth by the truth that they have learned from God's Word.

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Looking Beyond to See the Potential

The Chinese church needs people who can look beyond persons'

outer appearance to discern their ultimate potential for becoming disciple

makers and co-laborers in ministry. See beyond those ABCs who are

spiritually dead without Christ, dead in their sins. Spiritually dead ABCs

cannot respond to Christ except as the Holy Spirit through your witness

draws them. When Christians bear witness to them, then they can repent

and put their faith in Christ's sacrifice and receive eternal life. You may be

that disciple-maker who can help ABCs become the spiritual children of

the Heavenly Father. And if you continue to disciple them, you can help

these ABCs to grow and become spiritual disciples. As they mature, if you

do well, they will learn to disciple others in the same growth process. And

if God is willing and you are faithful, these ABCs will go full circle to

become co-laborers with you in the ministry of the church. You can see

them continue to reach the lost and make disciples. The mission, then, is

to develop disciples as Jesus did, who will make disciples of all nations.

Overcoming Barriers to Join the Church

Those ABCs who become born-again Christians need to see their

connection to the larger Christian community that is the church. They

must not be kept out, chased out, pushed out, or left out from the Chinese

church if the church would be whole. There must be unity through the

diversity of ABC believers being enfolded into the larger Chinese church.

These potential workers and leaders of the church must be given the truth

fleshed out by the local body of believers. But if the identity of most

ABCs were to be complete, it would have to be found in the context of the

Chinese church. It would be seen in the genuine spiritual modeling of

Chinese living under the authority of Christ.

Finding and keeping ABCs in the Chinese church means giving

them ownership to what the ministry for ABCs would be like. This also

means that authority must be delegated to those ABCs who are qualified to

fulfill that ministry. Let them earn the position given. Mature OBCs and

ABCs alike must model brokenness. Allow these potential workers to fail;

allow failure to shape their character. If they leave, they cannot learn.

You must invest and pour yourself into potential workers for the kingdom,

and sometimes this may mean not necessarily in your own church. Mentor

those who are now in your church. Focus their search on the Christ life in

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the inner man, not some outward program or agenda. Help them to shape

the desire and yearning that will not quit when the ministry becomes harsh.

Older Adult Ministry

Babyboomers born after the World War II are entering retirement

age. Below is an ABOUT FACE article describing how some Chinese

churches have been trying to reach these older ABCs.

“Kill the Fatted Calf for the Older ABCs” by David Woo

(ABOUT FACE, vol. 12, no. 2, May 1990)

In the late 1800s Chinese began immigrating to the U.S. in large

numbers and settled primarily in the major cities. There they worked as

houseboys, laborers for other Chinese proprietors, or operated their own

restaurants, laundries, grocery stores, produce markets, etc. Today in

these metropolitan areas are found considerable numbers of ABCs over

the age of fifty who are the descendants of these early settlers.

Most of these older ABCs grew up in Chinatowns or in other areas

where Chinese concentrated. As it was in these enclaves that the first

Chinese churches were planted, most older ABCs had some contact with a

Chinese church during their childhood because they attended either the

Chinese language school, Sunday school, or fellowship group sponsored

by the neighborhood Chinese church. There were generally no secular

Chinese social organizations in existence for children and young people

(the family associations had little appeal to the youth); consequently, much

of the social life of the young people of the Chinese community centered

around the neighborhood church. As a result, most older ABCs had some

extended contact with a Chinese church sometime during their growing-up


Many of these ABCs dropped out of church during their younger

years because the church had not yet learned to be sensitive to the needs of

ABCs and because they became so involved with raising families and/or

achieving worldly success that they found the church irrelevant.

Today, at True Light Presbyterian Church in Los Angeles, the

Chinese Presbyterian Church of Orange County, and perhaps some other

Chinese churches, we are beginning to see the fulfillment of God’s promise

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that if we train up a child in the way he should go, when he is old, he will

not depart from it. We are witnessing the return of the prodigal children.

Some older ABCs who have stayed away from the church for twenty to

thirty years are returning home. They have had their fling in the world,

attained a measure of success, and yet have not had the God-shaped

vacuum in their hearts filled. Now they are finding in the church the water

of life that quenches their previously unsatiable thirst.

Without a doubt their pilgrimage into the world and back again to

the church is not the desirable route for Christians. Older ABCs who have

gone this way have missed the priceless opportunity of raising their

children in Christ-centered homes, and they have missed the supernatural

work of the Spirit in enabling them to be the kind of spouses and parents

that God wanted them to be. But, it’s better late than never.

What were the factors that led these older ABCs back to the


1. Some had Christian children that prayed for them, witnessed to

them, and invited them back to church.

2. Older ABCs already in the church made a special effort to invite

these dropouts back and warmly reached out to them when they came to

visit the church.

3. Regular social events were planned specifically for this age

group so that they could enjoy themselves and feel comfortable with their

peers in the church.

4. Contacts with some unchurched people were developed through

informal tennis or ping pong get-togethers on a regular basis.

5. Because of the necessity of a soft-sell approach in reaching

turned-off older ABCs, in some but not all the social events, short

devotionals or personal testimonies were shared. At other events no

formal talks were given because only personal fellowship was relied on to

develop relationships.

6. Evangelistic Bible studies were held in the church during the

Sunday school hour and in homes on week nights. These studies were

purposely kept simple and informal by emphasizing that participants were

not expected to know anything about the Bible and could ask any kind of


7. After people attended these church activities regularly for about

six months to a year so that they began to feel a part of the group, efforts

were made to share the gospel with them on a one-to-one basis.

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Although significant numbers have been turning to the Lord, there

are still many attending regularly who have not yet received Christ. We

think it is only a matter of time until they do.

Today all over the U.S. there is a large crop of unsaved older ABCs

who are ripe for the gospel. Since they are beginning to see more of their

contemporaries dying and since their worldly success has not filled their

emptiness, they are becoming more open to reconsidering their childhood

faith which stemmed from their early roots in the Chinese church. Now

they are ripe for picking. Who will harvest them? At the eleventh hour the

Lord directs us, “You also go and work in my vineyard.” (Matt. 20:7)

Realize that these older ABCs have lost their children who have

grown up outside the church. These are now returning to the church they

themselves left as teens.

They are returning, hoping to get their

grandchildren to come to church. They remember the hymns they sang

then and are not familiar with the praise songs of the younger generation.

Traditional forms of worship are what they are comfortable and more

familiar with. So some churches have added a second English service to

accommodate a ministry suitable for this older adult generation.

Fowler’s sixth stage, known ass Universalizing Faith, may apply to those of

this generation who continued in the church through their middle

adulthood. This final stage seems to imply that the essential difference

between conjunctive faith and universalizing faith is not so much a

difference in belief, but in the willingness to act upon belief. ABCs at

Stage 6 put into practice and externalize what Jesus taught regarding His

kingdom. At stage 5 these teachings are just partially understood and

internalized. Leaders are needed who themselves have experienced that

universalizing faith and have moved into Kingdom life. However, there

are so many new believers in this stage, and they need discipleship just as

those in children’s Sunday school. There are also those born prior to

WWII in the 1930s and early 1940s.

Senior ABCs can be found on cruises, recreational facilities at local

community centers, volunteers at local charitable organizations, traveling

in the national parks and on guided tours. Many have the time and

financial ability to do this. They also have the time and energy to do

volunteer work in your church with the nursery, children, and even some

youth ministry. Ask them to volunteer. See them as potential Kingdom

workers as well. Your church’s short-term mission efforts will find a

ready supply from retired seniors who are committed to missions.

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“Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their

synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every

disease and sickness. [36] When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on

them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a

shepherd. [37] Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful but

the workers are few. [38] Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send

out workers into his harvest field.’" (Matthew 9:35-38 NIV)

What You Can Do

1. Pray for an ABC and see the potential in him. See the product as God's

future minister for the Gospel's sake.

2. Teach that ABC to know Christ, to know his identity in Christ, that he

has been freed from condemnation. And so by knowing His Lord, that

ABC comes to know himself.

3. Teach him the way of the Cross, the path of suffering, and self-denial

even as John the Baptist confessed, “He must increase and I must

decrease.” (John 3:30) No one can be first, but first he must learn to be


4. Teach your ABC that nothing he does, nor anything Satan does, can

snatch him out of the Father's hand. No one can belittle him if he

magnifies the Lord in his life.

5. Teach your potential ABC worker to pray. Help him learn that God

trains us for heavenly authority by yielding to the Lord and being under

His authority in faith.

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Chapter 8

Effectively Promoting Missions among ABC Christians

By Peter Yuen

• How earlier ABCs went out in missions.

• Societal Changes Affecting ABC Missions

• ABCs Need to See Examples of Sacrificial Service.

• Who Is Qualified to Send Out Missionaries?

• Should OBC Leaders Send ABCs into Missions?

• The Need for Broader Horizons

The purpose for this book is to assist Chinese churches and their

leaders to increase the effectiveness of their ministries to ABCs. Up to this

point we have outlined some of the basic factors that would help a Chinese

church to accomplish this goal. The first requirement was that a Chinese

church must have OBC leaders who are sensitive to the differing cultural

needs of their ABCs. A second requirement was that a Chinese church

needed to have an effective model for ABC ministry within their church.

A third essential was that a Chinese church needed to have spiritually

mature ABC leadership. Fourthly, the church needed to have programs

that minister effectively to ABCs. In this chapter the focus will be on the

fact that Chinese church must be able to promote a vision for world

missions among its ABCs.

How can the Chinese church help its ABCs gain a deeper vision for

God’s plan for the world? First, let us look at how earlier ABCs developed

their vision for the world and went out as missionaries.

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How Earlier ABCs Went Out in Missions

Before considering how ABCs could be encouraged to participate

in missions in another land today, it would be useful to review how ABCs

in the past determined to go to the mission fields. What motivated them,

and what obstacles they cleared before they successfully went forth, would

be helpful to today's prospective missionaries and helpful to those who feel

called to guide and encourage them to go.

Basic in the heart of every missionary is the personal response to

the Great Commission. For some it is simply the ultimate answer to the

call to belong to Jesus Christ. He calls every believer to follow him. When

a Christian grows to know the Lord and walk with him, his understanding

of the need to give of himself as an obedient disciple ultimately results in

personal sacrifice. Surrendering himself to do what God wants becomes

ever clear.

Jesus came to do God’s will, so it is now up to the followers of

Jesus to do his will. Jesus said, "As my Father sent me, even so I send

you" (John 20:21).

Some ABCs were convinced to go to the mission field because of a

special unmistakable in-breaking of God. It might have been a growing

conviction of the Holy Spirit in the heart. Or it might have been an

occasion when special words from scripture were especially impressed

upon one's soul. When this happens, one can do no other than to obey in

order to find peace and a sense of rightness in the path of life.

Armed with such a firm heart conviction, the ABC lives a life ever

open and alert to the leading of God. In that process of walking daily by

faith, some possibilities may emerge as a realistic option to go to the

mission field.

For earlier ABCs who have gone into missionary service, the

factors that entered into their decisions were generally the same kinds of

factors that might have led Caucasian believers. Both groups were

convinced by similar reasons that it was the will of God to go into

missionary service.

Having said this, there were some early limitations for ABCs that

did not restrict Caucasian believers. Before 1965, many Western mission-

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sending boards restricted themselves to send only Caucasians. But over

the years, the Holy Spirit enlightened these mission board members to see

that their discriminatory practices were inconsistent with the gospel of

Christ. Therefore, these boards began to change their policies and

welcomed ABCs.

Despite such restrictions by mission boards, some ABCs were still

able to find their way into missionary service. They were challenged and

motivated in the same way that their young Caucasian counterparts were.

They read the same devotional books and the same missionary stories like

Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret. They followed the same examples of

self-sacrificial missionaries. They understood the same cost of

discipleship; they made the same kind of dedication to place themselves on

the altar just as any Caucasian brother or sister did. Some of these ABCs

were able to discover mission-sending agencies that were not

discriminatory toward non-whites and went under their auspices. Others

had to develop unique and creative ways to enlist supporters to pray and to

give to enable them to go.

I’m Going, Anyway…an ABC in Asia” by Madeline Wong

(ABOUT FACE), Vol. 13, No. 4, November 1991)


“But do you know what your gifts are?” asked Bob Downs, the

mature, spiritual leader of the Chinese Mission in Philadelphia’s

Chinatown. Mil quickly replied, “I don’t know yet what they are, but I’m

going.” And so an ABC missionary was born that day, resolved to cross a

culture and learn a language while serving Christ among the Chinese in


Mildred Young’s spiritual journey began in the 1930’s when, as

a young girl, she began attending Sunday school in a storefront mission up

the street from her home. This was maintained by American Christian

women from affluent churches in the Greater Philadelphia area. Early on,

Mil’s heart responded to the invitation and promises of Christ as Margaret

Carter led her to accept Him as Savior and Lord. Happy Sunday

afternoons were filled with scriptural teachings and lessons on the

Christian life. Occasionally, in the ensuing years, she had opportunities to

hear great Chinese evangelists such as Andrew Gih and Leland Wang.

Then one day, in her high school years, she listened to a Henry Webb

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speak of his work in China under the China Inland Mission … and that

very evening, “all things worked together for good” as she sensed an

undeniable calling to world mission and Asia.

At the urging of a Christian acquaintance and her high school

principal, Mil enrolled at Wheaton College to major in Bible and Greek.

Daily campus prayer meetings for China, close friendships with several

students from China, and the weekly Foreign Missions Fellowship

meetings kept clear her focus and the glow for missions. Following

graduation, she remained on the Wheaton faculty as a Greek instructor

while pursuing a master’s degree in biblical literature. She enjoyed her

teaching and interacting with students, all of which were shaping her for

mission work abroad. God was disclosing now what she had not fathomed

then before Mr. Downs.

Subsequently, Mil returned to the Philadelphia mission now

known as the Chinese Gospel Church. Recognizing her commitment and

endorsing her call, the membership of approximately twenty people

commissioned and sent her forth in 1953 under the Far Eastern Gospel

Crusade (now SEND International). The members undertook her full

support, believing this was the biblical pattern in the Early Church. Mil’s

missionary career had begun! God had faithfully shown the way and

provided the means.


Thirty-eight years of conscientious ministry ensured, beginning

with the Far Eastern Bible Institute and Seminary in Manila. Following

the completion of her term there, she began an extensive period of time in

Hong Kong working with the Fellowship of Evangelical Students (FES),

the China Graduate School of Theology (CGST), and finally, with the

Wanchai Church. At convenient intervals she served two-year stints in

Ethiopia among the university students and at the Discipleship Training

Center in Singapore. Though she enjoyed teaching Greek, Mil longed to

touch students in a more personal and spiritual way. She then began

mentoring students in Bible study skills, opening up broader and deeper

vistas of God’s truth. For to her, a disciplined and careful study of the

Word was basic to spiritual growth and maturity in service.

The Reverend Lawrence Chan, dean and lecturer of CGST and

one of Mil’s earlier protégés, underscored the effectiveness of her ministry

in Hong Kong as follows: (1) As FES staff worker, she had a keen and

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quick analytical mind which challenged the staff and students to probe and

think deeply about the inspired Word. Mr. Chan himself remembered that

the basic Bible study skills he acquired helped him greatly in his biblical

and theological studies in seminary. (2) As lecturer on the faculty at

CGST, Miss Young developed the course, “Principles of Bible Study,”

which remains today as a core course in the school curriculum. “It is not

too much to say that Mildred initiated the ‘Bible Study’ movement at

CGST,” attests the dean. Finally, (3) as resident missionary at Wanchai

Church, she introduced solid Bible studies and their practical life

applications to the church members. She became their beloved teacher

and a gentle, winsome influence by her life and personality.

During her twenty-nine years of ministry in Hong Kong, Mil’s

natural gifts of love and friendship extended beyond the classroom as she

personally cared for those who needed encouragement and direction. Her

spirituality, sensitive and listening ear, and wise and insightful counsel

made her a friend and mentor to her students and the members of Wanchai

Church. In time, Mil saw many of them go on to useful and strategic

ministries, doing effective work as respected leaders. This was her joy and



June, 1991, marked Mil’s retirement from SEND International

and her long-term commitment overseas. Now settled in Pasadena,

California, she hopes to continue training English-speaking Chinese

Christians in Bible study skills. Doing this is doing what she does best and

loves most. For she still believes that to know and obey God’s Word is to

experience the fullness of life in Christ.

In sum, Mildred Young is a thoroughly committed and focused

ABC herself. She is an example for us all. Her thirty-eight years of

service abroad speak for themselves. Acculturation and language-

learning were disciplines she accepted as basic to the ministry she was

called to do. In all this and more, Mil was a model, going out with little

ABC precedence and at a time when ABC awareness of mission

involvement and prayer support was rare. These things did not just

happen … the stamina of her ministry lay in a deep love for God and a

resolute decision to do His will. She obeyed the very Scriptures she taught

others to obey. Her statement, “… but I’m going,” resonates loud and

clear for us to hear … and to emulate!

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The challenge resonates before us ABCs as well. For the

Chinese segment makes up the largest unreached people bloc today.

Beyond that, half the population of this teeming global ball is yet

unreached. And the Lord of the harvest is still calling and sending. As

part of the Asian mosaic, ABCs can play a unique role in frontier mission,

to others as well as to the Chinese.

If you feel the Spirit nudging you into mission work, never mind

now your gifts, or your circumstances, or plans now laid yet to be fulfilled.

Keep a clear and focused heart on this calling and take active steps of faith

toward that goal. God will keep moving you in the direction of that faith,

providing signposts to steer you along the right path. And he will not only

send you but accompany you every step of the way. May your next thirty-

eight years of life truly count for Christ!

During the era of the early1950s, several ABCs went overseas

serving as missionaries on a long-term basis. In those days no one went on

short-term missions. Like Caucasian missionaries of that period, by and

large missionaries traveled to the mission field by ship and anticipated

staying terms of four to seven years before returning to their homes and

families for a furlough. They all were open to making missionary service

their careers.

For virtually all of these earlier ABCs, unlike many of their

Caucasian counterparts, their parents were not Christians. These parents

sought to discourage their children’s involvement in the church and in the

practice of their faith. Above all else, they opposed their children going

abroad as missionaries. So parental opposition had always been a major

hindrance to ABCs serving in foreign lands.

Societal Changes Affecting ABC Missions

Several factors in the world impacted the old time missions pattern.

In the latter 1960s, American churches and mission boards were finding it

increasingly difficult to recruit new missionaries. At the same time air

flights were becoming more prevalent and cheaper so that they competed

against ship fares favorably, to say nothing of travel time. Some mission

agencies began to encourage short-term missions. In these the prospective

missionary would be able to go to a mission field for a few months or

weeks to see if they would adapt favorably to missionary life. Short-term

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missions made a commitment to missions not a complex ordeal.

Preparation for a short term was much simpler than preparing for a

missionary career.

At the same time, as young Caucasian missionaries became rare

commodities for mission boards, it became more feasible to change the

policies of the boards to include "international" workers. Mission boards

saw the need to drop their policies of restricting the membership of the

mission to Caucasians only. This factor also encouraged ABCs to join

boards from which heretofore they were not welcomed. So both in long

term as well as short term missions more ABCs were encouraged to enlist.

However with new doors opening to service abroad, there were

also growing hindrances to serving in overseas ministry. Materialism

became an increasingly larger barrier. Not only did higher education and

professional status with all its material benefits make the contrast of life

style a greater challenge, but all things being equal, the standard of living

in America for all Americans, ABCs or otherwise, had taken continued

leaps upward over the last several decades. A family with one car forty

years ago now "needs" at least two or three or more. And to contrast this

kind of living with life on the mission field where a bicycle may be a

standard means of daily transport, climbing to greater spiritual heights is

indeed sometimes a downward material journey.

The prevalence of higher education became an important deterrent

to long term missionary service for ABC Christians because each had to

weigh the life of a professional living in the comforts of America to going

abroad and adapting to life on the mission field. This was not only a

greater challenge for the ABC believer, but also for his or her parents who

in many cases were not believers. Their opposition created greater

resistance to their son or daughter leaving their professional work and

salaries for missionary life.

ABCs Need to See Examples of Sacrificial Service

Since there are new barriers continually being erected to discourage

ABCs from going into missions, Chinese churches must do everything

possible to overcome these barriers. What helps an ABC to take personal

initiative to move forward in his/her missionary career is seeing and

knowing living examples of those who have personally taken steps of faith

to follow the Lord’s leading to sacrificial service. For earlier generations

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of ABC missionaries, those examples were from Caucasian Americans and

British missionaries who have demonstrated a walk of faith and followed

God’s leading to foreign fields of service. More recently there are some

ABCs who have themselves experienced the adventures of walking by

faith as the Lord led them out to the field. These also serve as examples

and sources of encouragement to upcoming generations of ABCs who

consider serving in missions. And of course, there are also OBCs who

have demonstrated faithfulness in following the Lord’s leading to fields


Who Is Qualified to Send Out Missionaries?

Another way the Chinese church can encourage its ABCs to

consider a call to missions is be sure that its local leaders are growing in

their own spiritual maturity. Generally those who send out missionaries

are local church leaders or mission board members. These senders must be

fully surrendered to the Lord and willing to go abroad for mission work if

the Lord were to lead them. If no realistic personal sacrificial steps have

been taken by senders, they will have a difficult time finding followers.

Perhaps it is not whether one has been on the foreign field or not, but

whether one has a genuine self-sacrificial faith and would certainly go out

if God were to open the door.

Senders who emerge through the leadership ranks of the home

church structure as “arm-chair” missionaries become mere theoretical

missions officers. Such need to do some soul searching to determine

whether they are doing with their lives all that God wants them to do.

Effective church missions leaders need to demonstrate self-sacrifice in

their personal lives. It would be of great value that church missions

leaders are also those who have experienced the life of faith on the mission

field. To be leaders in missions departments making decisions to deploy

resources of money and personnel would be hollow if their dedication and

experience in Christian life is only theoretical.

Should OBC Leaders Send ABCs into Missions?

Some OBC church leaders believe that sending ABCs overseas as

missionaries is a logical goal because ABCs know English well. Also,

since ABCs are more Americanized, they are less expected to obey their

parents who would want them to be well educated and earn a good living

in America as professionals. These ABC Christians who feel freer to cut

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the apron strings and do what they themselves choose to do may feel freer

to go overseas as missionaries than those who are more tightly controlled

by their parents. Some OBC parents have such tight control over their

children that they could require them to stay close to home to work.

Some OBC church leaders who would not allow their own children

to serve in foreign missions would not hesitate to send out ABCs. They

themselves might never want to go to the mission field, but they would be

happy to send others. OBC leaders in the church who have never

personally made sacrifices cannot be models for or senders of ABCs. No

one can successfully send another out who has not gone down that road of

self-sacrifice. OBCs or ABCs who do not have a background of personal

self-sacrificial service do not qualify to be senders. To qualify, they need

to get that background. They must have given life-long self-sacrificial

service before they can qualify to be senders of others. And it takes a

lifetime or a generation to gain that qualification.

OBC and ABC church leaders who are living examples of self-

sacrifice for the Lord would have the greatest impact on helping ABCs

become effectively involved in God’s plan for reaching the world. Are

there such qualified mission leaders, whether OBC or ABC? Have they

lived a life of sacrificial service themselves first? These kinds of leaders

will be able to help prepare and send workers to do missionary work that

would be effective for the Kingdom of God. This is the way to advance

missionary service in the world, one generation building the next

generation of servants.

The Need for Broader Horizons

The first ABCs to become missionaries served primarily in Asia.

Today, a new generation of ABCs have a broader vision involving the

whole world. Many are serving throughout the world and even in the

Muslim countries of the Middle East, Africa, and Asia.

The Chinese churches in the U.S. used to have a mission vision

primarily directed to Chinese living in various parts of the world. That

narrow view has subsequently expanded to a whole-wide one. They are

beginning to think of world missions from a strategic viewpoint. They are

starting to ask themselves, “What is the most strategic way in which our

church can be God’s instrument in bringing about the final goal of having

people from every ethnic group in the world gathered around the throne of

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God praising Him?” The Chinese Christians of the world are waking up to

see themselves as one of God’s strategic instruments to reach the world.

They are growing in their knowledge of God’s calling that they are to be

“Chinese for the world!”

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Chapter 9

Planting ABC Churches

David Woo

• Are ABC church plants necessary?

• Reasons for planting ABC churches.

• Steps for planting ABC churches.

Are ABC church plants necessary?

There are some who think it is unnecessary to plant ABC churches.

They state that if the Chinese churches have effective ministries to their

ABCs, then it is unnecessary to plant ABC churches. Is this true? No!

Even if Chinese churches have superb ministries for their ABCs, additional

ABC churches are still essential.

Reasons for Planting ABC Churches

Cultural Diversity of ABCs.

Could ABCs attend Anglo churches in the neighborhoods where

they live? Some ABCs would be willing to do so, but not all because of

their differing rates of acculturation. In Chapter 2, “Who Are the ABCs?,”

it was stated that ABCs can be so different from one another in terms of

the rates of their acculturation to the American culture. These differences

could be so vast that a wide range of culturally diverse churches would be

necessary to meet their needs. Perhaps the following descriptions might

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serve to illustrate how ABCs might fit into a diversity of churches. These

descriptions would vary from urban to suburban areas and from region to

region in the U.S.

• Small numbers of ABCs might feel most comfortable in a Chinese-

speaking church.

• The vast majority of ABCs might feel most comfortable in an ABC


• Large numbers of ABCs might feel most comfortable in an Asian-

American or multi-cultural church.

• Small numbers of ABCs might feel most comfortable in an Anglo


Some sociologists estimate that it takes about seven generations for a

person to be fully acculturated. Since the Chinese culture is such a strong

one, it is likely to take even longer. Therefore, the above descriptions

might hold true over many generations. This means that the need for ABC

churches will continue for several generations. Continual Chinese

immigration also adds to this necessity.

ABC churches will be necessary for many years into the future;

however, the ethnic ratio of their congregations will be changing. English-

speaking ethnic churches are often in a state of flux regarding the ethnic

ratio of their members. For example, since an ABC church uses the

English language in its services, it will also attract non-Chinese who feel

comfortable in that church. Therefore, what might have begun as an ABC

church will possibly in time become multi-cultural to some degree.

However, for many more years there will be a need for churches geared to

the needs of ABCs.

ABCs Living Far from Chinese Churches

It is necessary to plant ABC churches today because existing Chinese

churches are not able to minister to those ABCs who live beyond a

reasonable commuting distance to their churches. It takes a strong

commitment for one to drive a long distance to church. There are some

ABCs who live in a distant suburb who are willing to drive into the central

city to attend a Chinese church. However, those with weaker

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commitments will easily drop out. Therefore, the geographical location of

a church must not become a barrier to one’s growth in faith. There must

be a church conveniently located in one’s neighborhood if possible.

Distance to One’s Church Becomes Major Barrier to Evangelism

It is almost impossible for an ABC living in the suburbs to invite his

unchurched neighbor to attend the ABC’s church in the central city.

Therefore, the ABC often does not even try to do so. ABCs living a far

distance from their churches often have a non-existent or very weak view

of local evangelism. Since they know their unsaved neighbors would not

be willing to drive such a long distance to their churches, the thought of

inviting them does not even come to mind. Church becomes the place

where they feel comfortable with no thought to reaching out to the


This barrier can be overcome by planting ABC churches where ABCs

live. Geography must never become a barrier to evangelism. Evangelism

must always be an integral part of one’s faith. We are uniquely placed in

our neighborhoods to reach those around us.

Some believers might say that this geographical barrier can be

overcome by using local cell groups for evangelizing one’s neighbors.

Yes, this is a better way to reach one’s neighbors. However, where do you

plug them into a local church after they receive Christ? Do you send them

to a neighborhood church while you drive into the central city to attend

your own church? Does a mother give birth to a child and then turn him

over to someone else to raise?

The Most Effective Means for Evangelism - Church Planting

“The most effective means of evangelism under heaven is church

planting.” (Peter Wagner) More people are saved through church planting

than through any other form of evangelism. Church planting involves

more lay people in evangelizing their friends and neighbors than any kind

of mass crusade or any other organized effort to reach the unsaved.

Church planting makes it easier for believers to reach out to non-Christians

and to incorporate them into a local church. Since we are called as

Christians to reach the lost, church planting must always be a part of the

strategy of churches.

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God Is Glorified

We are called to build the Kingdom. Everything we do must

contribute to the net gain of the Kingdom. We exist to glorify God. We

must declare his glory among the nations. We must do everything possible

to increase the glory given to him by humankind. We plant churches to

give more glory to God.

We ought not to plant churches for personal gain, to foster our pride,

out of anger or jealousy, or for any other unhealthy human reason. We do

not do it to gain authority and power in a church. We do not do it out of

anger at the immaturity of the church leaders and their neglect of the

church. We do not do it because we think we can do a better job than they

can. We do it to glorify God.

Steps for Planting ABC Churches

In this section only some of the basic steps in church planting will

be discussed briefly so that one can see the total picture. Much more

detailed planning will be required. Many books have been written on this

subject and should be consulted.

Promote the Vision

Pray that the leaders of your church will catch the vision for ABC

church planting. This is a must. Chinese church leaders need to spearhead

the vision rather then simply allowing it. They must give leadership to

church planting. They must come to see it as an effective means for

ministering to her ABCs both saved and unsaved. They must be willing to

give up some of their ABCs for church planting in order to further the

Kingdom. They must be willing to promote the Kingdom even at the

expense of their own local church. As they give up their people and

resources to this new venture, God will bless them with far more than they

have given up

Pray for Workers

Pray that the Lord of the harvest will send out workers into his

harvest. A pastor, lay leaders, and other workers will he needed for the

church plant. Ideally these should be ABCs although it is possible to use

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some non-ABCs to assist in an ABC church plant. Workers must have the

vision for an ABC church plant. Pray that the Lord will provide such


Need for a Call

At the beginning of the church plant, it is important for many of the

lay workers to have a call from God to be involved in the church plant.

They should have a firm conviction that the Lord wants them in the work.

This calling will give them assurance and perseverance to carry them

through the difficult times that any new church plant will face. Everyone

gets excited about getting on board a new church plant. They are

enthusiastic and have high hopes. They have grand visions of how the

church will quickly multiply.

However, earnest prayer and persevering work are required in this

pioneering endeavor to release the power of the Spirit to convict the

unsaved of their sin. Most non-Christians may require a long, slow

process by which they come to conviction of sin. The conviction process

may take a year or two in which the believer is the Spirit’s instrument in

the watering process to bring the plant to fruition. This slow process might

cause the believer to get discouraged because he does not see any of the

immediate fruit which he had expected from the church plant. Having a

clear sense of the Lord’s call to this work will help the believer persevere.

Find a church-planting pastor

Ideally the church-planting pastor would already be a part of the

pastoral staff of the Chinese church. The mother church would then send

out one of its ABC pastors together with ABC families from its church to

plant the new church. If no ABC staff from the mother church is available

for this undertaking, one must be recruited from outside the church.

Build a Core Group

The core group must have lay leaders and workers who will be

recruited, trained, and led by the pastor. Many workers will be needed

because in order to attract Christians and to reach non-believers, there must

be an effective program in place at the beginning if possible. The larger

the core group, the better. It takes people to attract people. There ought to

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be a core group of at least fifty people if possible and with families being

an important part of the core.

The core group can be ABCs and non-ABCs; however, a

significant number should be ABCs because the church plant is trying to

attract them. The core members can come from other churches that are not

a part of the sponsoring churches.

Some Models for Planting ABC Churches

Sponsored by a Single Church: Mother Church Sends a Pastor

and Members

The least complex model is for the mother church to send out its

ABC pastor with some of its ABC members who live in the area where the

new church will be planted and who have a call from God to be involved

in the project. ABCs who do not live in the area where the church plant is

located, if called by God, can also be involved.

The mother church will provide financial support for the church

plant. Financial support should be provided on an annually declining

basis. For instance, support could be provided for five years with each

successive year’s support twenty percent less than the first year’s support.

Thus the church plant would be expected to be self-supporting in five

years. Adjustments and allowances can be made for special circumstances.

Sponsored by Multi-Churches: Group of Churches Jointly

Sponsoring a Church Plant

A denomination or several Chinese or non-Chinese churches may

cooperate to jointly sponsor an ABC church plant in an area where the

ABCs from their churches live. Pastors, lay leaders, and workers would

come from these churches and could come from non-sponsoring churches

as well. Financial support from all sponsoring churches would be provided

on an annually declining basis over a certain number of years as

specifically outlined in the previously described mother-church model.

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No Church Sponsorship: “Lone-Wolf” Church Plant

The “lone-wolf” model is not recommended; however, it is

described because some church planters do follow this model. This

involves an individual leader or a group of people who try to plant a

church on their own without any church backing or support. This

approach is fraught with many dangers. Seeking church backing can be a

way of confirming God’s call to this new work. If no church is willing to

support the project, perhaps the church planters should have second

thoughts about the Lord’s call to the project. Also, church planting after

the initial euphoria, can be discouraging because of the difficulties of the

work. Having church sponsorship can be a source of prayer,

encouragement, and financial support. Also, church sponsorship provides

oversight over the project and requires accountability from the leaders of

the church plant.

In the past, some “lone-wolf” church plants have been very slow in

growing and have not thrived. However, if a church planter has a very

clear call from the Lord to be a “lone-wolf” church planter, he must by all

means obey. William Carey, was discouraged by some local church

leaders from going to India even though he had a very clear sense of God’s

call to go. He obeyed the Lord and went. God blessed his labors in India,

and he has become known as the father of the modern mission movement.

There is no question that ABC churches should be planted. The

primary questions to be asked are:

Have I been called to promote ABC church planting?

Is our church called to sponsor an ABC church plant?

Have I been called to participate in an ABC church plant?

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Part IV. The future of ABC ministries.

Chapter 10

Is There a Future Need for ABC Ministries?

By Joseph Wong

• ABC ministries are essential for the future immigrant Chinese


• Relationships between OBC and ABC church leaders as equal


• The future picture of ABC ministries.

• Asian American churches.

• Parallel ministries within an ethnic church.

ABC Ministries Are Essential for Future Immigrant Chinese


“Change and decay all around I see,

O Thou who changes not, abide with me.”

The above portion of a hymn points out the contrast of life in this

changing world with the constancy of God’s truth. Human and earthly

change is always taking place around us. The business world recognizes

this inevitability of change and tries to stay ahead of it by recognizing new

trends and adapting to the new environment. Some businesses that were

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slow to change used to be number one in sales in the U.S.; but now they

are left behind by new upstarts who have far surpassed them.

No matter how much the American society changes, the immigrant

Chinese churches will always have a need for ABC ministries. An

irrefutable fact is that immigrants will birth and raise ABC children.

Parental love and care for their children require an effective ministry to the

ABCs in their churches. To commit that ministry to another church is to

choose death for their church.

As long as the annual influx of Chinese immigrants continues to be

in the tens of thousands, the immigrant church will flourish. Contributing

to the growth of the immigrant churches is the immigrant's need for a

social and community center, a gathering place for immigrants of the same

culture, speaking the same language. Due to the gracious nature of

Christianity, churches easily become care and help centers for those

arriving in this country. But each immigrant church must not ignore their

need to provide good ABC ministries.

Counsel and guidance are needed for these churches to understand

and develop healthy ABC ministries as discussed in earlier chapters of this

book. Should this not happen, these immigrant churches will have great

difficulty surviving. Not only will there be the sad experience of seeing

their children abandon the church, but also because of inadequate teaching,

they will also see them even leave the faith of their parents. This has

already been the experience of many in the Chinese churches in the United

States and will continue to be so unless the Chinese churches give high

priority to developing healthy ABC ministries. Chinese churches that have

difficulty developing such ministries must seek outside counsel and

guidance from churches having healthy ABC ministries.

Relationships between OBC and ABC Church Leaders as Equal


A critical characteristic of future ABC ministries is the need for

comradeship among the OBC and ABC church staff. It is not easy for the

leadership of one culture to embrace the importance of a different culture

in the church. However, the OBC leadership must take the initiative to

seek out ABC leaders and welcome them into their church’s life. Such a

partnership must abandon the paternalistic pattern, where one group sees

themselves as the parents and the others as children, or as teachers and

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students. Still there is wisdom in seeking to learn from each other without

the imposing of one view on the other.

Future Picture of ABC Ministries

Developing ABC ministries in the Chinese churches has been slow,

and they face a catch-up condition as well. What the Chinese churches

have done in the past in their ministry to ABCs, largely have not

succeeded. This means that an evaluation of past efforts in order to

improve them is only part of the process. Some rather forward thinking on

the part of the church’s leadership is needed to address the changing ABC

culture. The ingredients used for a successful ministry in the past will

provide insight into a future ministry that can be successful. But there are

few examples of successful efforts in the past which leave the Chinese

churches with a great challenge.

It is hoped that future development of ABC ministries can be

dynamic and fruitful. Therefore, deliberate and large-scale efforts to

recruit and train future pastors are essential. ABC seminarians must learn

the pitfalls, as well as the ingredients in effective ABC ministries and not

just learn to survive in a Chinese church. In the American society there

has been a practice of relaxing the qualifications to give the people of a

newer ethnic background the opportunity to catch up. This might be a

practical approach to assist those inexperienced with the Chinese culture to

gain expertise.

The future of ABC ministries will remain not only in immigrant

churches. There already exists ABC churches which are ministering to

third, fourth, and even fifth generation ABCs. Acculturated OBCs who

have become comfortable in a Western style church life will also

participate. In these churches the Chinese language will be unnecessary.

Since ABC churches will use only English, other Asians will also

be attracted to these churches. In time these churches will attract Asian

Americans in varying degrees. Other Americans of Asian origin will

readily relate to an ABC church’s life style. Their national and cultural

identity is American while their racial roots will be Asian. It seems to be

close enough for a common identity. The hostilities resulting from the

history of their ancestral countries do not exist among the Asian

Americans today.

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Since the needs of Asian Americans have been neglected in the

immigrant Asian churches, Asian American church leaders have planted

churches that minister to English-speaking Asians. However, many of

these new Asian American churches have a common weakness. What has

developed are Asian American churches that have no relationship with a

mother church or with any immigrant churches. They are missing the

mature counsel and wisdom of the leaders from the established immigrant

churches or a denomination.

By far, the greatest weakness of the Asian American church is its

inability to minister to the needs of the Asian American’s immigrant

parents who are not comfortable with English. Asian American churches

sometimes produce divided families where the children attend an English-

speaking church while the parents attend a non-English-speaking one.

Sometimes concerned Christians attending an Asian American church will

call a pastor of an immigrant Asian church for help in reaching their

immigrant parents. The challenge given to immigrant churches to be

concerned for their ABCs is also valid for Asian American churches to be

concerned for their immigrant parents.

In spite of these weaknesses in the Asian American church, it is a

concept which has quickly caught on. The Asian American church

possesses great potential. The unreached Asian American is an exploding

community. It is probably true, that the future belongs to the Asian

American church.

“ABC vs. Asian-American Ministries” by David Woo

(ABOUT FACE, Vol. 20, No. 1, February 1998)

I have noticed that many American-born Chinese seminarians or

recent seminary graduates prefer to serve in Asian-American (by Asian-

American I also mean multicultural) churches rather than Chinese

churches. They have this interest for various reasons. Some of them do

not want the extra hassle of working in a church with more than one

language or culture. Others do not like the idea of working under an

overseas-born Chinese senior pastor or OBC-controlled church board

both of which may not be culturally sensitive to the needs of ABCs. Other

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ABC seminarians and recent graduates look upon Asian-American

ministries as the wave of the future, and consider ABC ministries today to

be anachronistic, applicable to the 1960s but not to the 1990s. And there

are those who have a legitimate call from the Lord to minister specifically

to Asian Americans. The problem I want to address is whether ABC

ministries are being neglected or overlooked today because they are seen

as out-of-date while Asian American ministries are seen as being on the

cutting edge.

Before I continue this article, I need to give you my own

background in ministry so that you may know the perspective from which I

write. I was born and raised in Los Angeles, attended a bilingual Chinese

church from the age of eight, and was saved and active there for eighteen

years until I graduated from seminary and moved from the area. Then I

served as an associate pastor for seven years in a bilingual Chinese

church in Chicago. From there I was involved in planting an Asian-

American church in the north suburban area of Chicago in 1971. This

church plant was possibly the first church founded in the United States

specifically targeting Asian Americans. (If someone can inform me of a

church planted before 1971 that was established specifically to target

Asian Americans, I would like to know about it.) I served as the pastor in

this Asian-American church for fifteen years. From there I was called to

serve as an associate pastor in a bilingual Chinese church in Los Angeles

where I served for six years. My present ministry in the Los Angeles area,

where I have been serving for five years, is as the pastor of a multicultural

congregation. In summary, I have served in Asian-American churches for

twenty years and Chinese bilingual churches for twelve years.

First of all, I would have to say that there is a legitimate case

for Asian-American ministries. I do not wish to denigrate this need. There

are many unsaved Asians that cannot be reached by mono-ethnic churches

and can only be reached through Asian-American works. More power to

these ministries. May the Lord richly bless and multiply them through

evangelism to the unsaved. (Church growth by transfer-growth is valid but

I would much more rather see growth by evangelism.) May the Lord send

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more workers into this harvest.

Although the case for Asian-American ministries is legitimate, I

believe that more ABC seminarians and graduates should be open to the

Lord calling them into ABC ministries. The case for ABC ministries is

strong and valid. Here are a few reasons:

1. The number of Chinese bilingual churches looking for ABC

workers far exceeds the need for workers in Asian-American ministries.

Chinese churches throughout North America are looking for ABC workers

while Asian-American ministries are few in number and primarily centered

on the West Coast.

2. Some Asian-American churches tend to minister to the dropouts

from the Chinese churches. But by the time these Christians leave the

Chinese churches, many of them have been so turned off that they are

extremely difficult to reach even by the Asian-American churches. Why

not strengthen the ministries to the ABCs while they are in the Chinese

churches rather than wait until the damage is done and then try to pick up

the pieces? Let’s correct the problem at its source.

3. Many ABC seminarians and graduates are products of Chinese

churches. They know firsthand the needs and opportunities in the Chinese

churches and are the most suitable ones to minister in these situations.

Could the Lord be calling so many of them away from ABC ministries?

Perhaps the Lord has His ways, but I wonder about it.

4. ABC ministries by and large tend to be more difficult than

Asian-American ministries because most ABC ministries take place in the

context of a bilingual church, unless one serves in a church specifically

planted for ABCs. Should the degree of difficulty be the measure of God’s

call? Does the Lord not call people to leave easier ministries to go into

more difficult ones?

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5. ABC seminarians and graduates who were saved and nurtured

in OBC churches have managed to survive the many barriers that have

caused many ABCs to drop out of the OBC churches. These survivors

have hearts of compassion for those remaining. Do we who managed to

survive now pull up the rope and walk away saying to those remaining, “I

survived on my own; now you do the same”? I do not want to accuse ABC

pastors who do not serve in Chinese churches as being deserters because

the Lord calls each into a particular ministry, and I must not question

whom the Lord calls into what ministry. It is between each person and the

Lord. But I would wish that more ABC pastors, having come out of OBC

churches and having a heart of compassion for the ABCs in those

churches, would be moved to serve among them.

6. Today, the Chinese churches are filled with ABC children and

young people who are much in need of sensitive pastoral leadership. Do

we write them off? Do we say to them, “You are not a part of the wave of

the future”?

The title of this article is a misnomer. There is not a conflict

between ABC and Asian-American ministries. Both are valid ministries,

and the Lord calls people to both. Let us rejoice and celebrate with those

whom the Lord has called to each – while not forgetting the ABC part.

Parallel Ministries within the Chinese Church

Few, if any, immigrant churches of Asian ancestry have caught the

vision to start English-speaking versions of their ethnic churches, much

less start Asian American churches. Though such a situation is

unfortunate, it is understandable. The immigrant church is so concerned

for her immediate needs, that many of them have over-looked the other

need in the Chinese populace, the ABCs. These also are the children of

earlier immigrants who have yet to come to Christ.

Are the Chinese churches in North America able to address this

challenge? Will they acquire a vision for this ministry? It will happen

when some church leaders are able to lift up their eyes to this need and

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realize it is a ripe harvest field. The challenge will not be simply reaching

and discipling ABCs, but reaching and discipling Asian Americans as


The future of ABC ministries is NOW! May the churches in the

U.S. that minister to immigrants in Korean, Chinese, Japanese, Filipino,

Vietnamese, etc., catch the vision for Asian American churches and

consider taking on the responsibility for establishing them. A

characteristic of being a biblical Christian is learning to look beyond one’s

personal needs and in love, undertake the task of meeting the needs of

others. It is time for the Chinese churches to look into her role for the

future of ABC ministries.

The developing Asian American or ABC churches are themselves

faced with the significant question that was addressed above, "How shall

we minister to the immigrant parents of our Asian American members?"

Leaving that ministry to the immigrant churches will result in dividing the

families. This problem confronts the Chinese churches in America,

whether they are ABC or OBC churches. Is it acceptable to be a mono-

cultural church while dividing the bi-cultural Chinese families?

An ABC church can theoretically ignore the OBC culture by

ministering to second, third and later generations Chinese in America.

Some first generation Chinese who were raised in America may find these

churches comfortable. Still, it is not improbable that ABC young people

who are being evangelized, will have parents who find it very difficult to

fit into an ABC church.

FACE recommends that although the planting of Asian American

churches are viable options, the Chinese churches in America should give

their first priority to providing parallel ministries to OBCs and ABCs

within their churches. In time, perhaps there will be a significant lessening

of the need to minister to immigrants. But for the foreseeable future, the

need for Chinese churches with parallel ministries will remain and is the

ideal church structure for providing suitable ministries to both OBCs and


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Chapter 11

Power for future ABC Ministries

By David K. Woo

• Obstacles to effective ministries to ABCs.

• Need for God’s passion to burn within us.

• Need for power of the Holy Spirit to enable us.

• Need for consistent practice of the spiritual disciplines.

• Need for persevering prayer.

In previous chapters we have been offering practical suggestions

for making ABC ministries more effective within the Chinese churches.

Among the ideas promoted are the need to have culturally-sensitive OBC

leadership, have an effective model for ABC ministry within the Chinese

church, have spiritually mature ABC leadership, design church programs

that minister effectively to ABCs, and the need to plant churches for

reaching ABCs.

Implementing these ideas within a Chinese church can go a long

way toward making its ministry to ABCs more effective. However, we all

know the problem. It is easier said than done. We can have great ideas

that when applied within a church can improve that church’s ministry one

thousand percent. The problem is always in the application. How do we

go about starting or implementing it?

Besides knowing the right steps for implementing these ideas, and

knowing when and how to go about taking these steps, church leaders

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needs to be aware of the obstacles that will be encountered as they go

about attempting to put these steps into practice. The obstacles will be

formidable and require great perseverance. Church leader must know that

many other optimistic and enthusiastic church leaders have quit in mid-

stream while attempting to implement these ideas. The road is littered

with exhausted church leaders who have tried and failed. They became

discouraged, burned out, gave up after meeting so much resistance, and

quit the Chinese church to attend a more flexible church.

What will be some of the obstacles that church leaders will face as

they attempt to improve their church’s ministry to ABCs? And how can

they effectively deal with them? These obstacles cannot be overcome by

laboring in our human strength alone. There is power to overcome them.

How can we appropriate that power? Although the barriers can be almost

countless, only a few of the common obstacles will be identified at this

point. Some of these obstacles have been discussed in more detail in

previous chapters.

Obstacles to Effective Ministries to ABCs

Sinful Pressures of the American Culture

ABCs and OBCs can easily be caught up in the sinful pressures of

the American culture. They face the same pressures that the average

American Christian faces in this country. The American culture is very

materialistic. Since the average American is much better off economically

than people of most other cultures of the world, it is easier for American

Christians to be caught up in accumulating material things. The financial

pressures connected with owning a home, driving more than one late-

model automobile, owning a house full of electronic gadgets, going on

expensive vacations, wearing the latest designer clothing, spending large

sums on personal recreation and eating out, owing large balances on one’s

credit cards, etc., consume many American Christians. These financial

pressures are a major distraction for many American believers and keep

them from living fruitful Christian lives.

Many ABC and OBC Christians are easily caught up in this same

consumer mentality. They may be so distracted from being effective

servants for our Lord that they cannot provide the Spirit-led leadership for

ABC ministries within the Chinese churches. They are likely to lack the

wisdom and perseverance that is required of ABC leaders who have to

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labor against the tide of OBC leaders who may lack sensitivity to the needs

of ABCs within the Chinese churches.

The American culture is becoming increasingly more secular.

Politically correct thinking is rapidly growing in its antagonism to

Christian values. For instance the importance of the individual has

overshadowed the worth of the family or corporate values. Relative

morality has replaced absolute morality. Each individual has the right to

decide for himself what is right or wrong. No one has the right to impose

his morality upon another. Inclusive thinking has now become the rule.

No one is to be excluded from exercising his personal freedom to live life

the way he chooses. Freedom of speech protects the purveyors of

pornography. Some Christians have become trapped in pornographic

addictions while other Christians may take adultery very lightly.

Tolerance has become the standard by which people are to live. Anyone

who is intolerant of another’s lifestyle or personal habits is a bigot.

Narcissistic thinking gives one permission to satisfy one’s own lustful


Many American Christians as well as ABC and OBC Christians

have been blindsided by the onslaughts of politically correct thinking.

They have incorporated secular values into their Christian worldview

without even realizing that such thinking is contrary to scripture. They

think that they are good Christians because they have adopted the

politically correct values of our society. ABC and OBC Christians can

easily fall into step with this kind of thinking.

These kinds of Christians are almost of no value within the

churches. They are often detriments within the churches diverting the

churches from becoming fruitful for the Lord. They block the churches

from being lights on the hilltop to guide society into knowing the truths of

God’s Word. They prevent the churches from being the salt of the earth,

from being God’s moral compass for the world. They nullify any attempts

on the part of churches to practice evangelism. They are satisfied with a

maintenance mentality. These kinds of ABC and OBC Christians would

be major obstacles within the Chinese churches preventing them from

being effective or fruitful.

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ABC Leaders Need to Learn to Be Sensitive to OBC


ABC Christian leaders need to learn to look at life through OBC

eyes. ABCs need to learn about the values that OBCs place on the family

and on Chinese culture. ABCs need to learn to think on a corporate level

instead of just looking at everything from an individualistic viewpoint.

ABCs need to learn how important the concept of “saving face” is to the

OBC. The ABC needs to learn to pick his battles. Some things are worth

fighting for while others are not. The ABC needs wisdom to discern the

difference. Otherwise, there will be times where he will win the battle but

lose the war. When the ABC chooses to battle with OBC church leaders

over low priority items and wins, he may be setting the battlefield for a

major loss over higher priority items in the future. The ABC needs the

wisdom to know when to yield and when to stand his ground, when to

overlook a minor infraction, and when to confront in love.

Preservation of Chinese Culture

OBCs may easily fall into the temptation of seeking to preserve

Chinese culture at the expense of building the Lord’s Kingdom. The OBC

attaches high value to the Chinese culture. The need to transmit Chinese

cultural values to their offspring could likely be their highest and most all-

encompassing aspiration. This desire can be so strong that it could occupy

a higher priority than any longings that their children be Christians or

mature fruitful Christians. This desire can move the average OBC to

strongly prefer that their children attend a bi-lingual worship service so

that their children can be more exposed to the Chinese language and

culture at the expense of their greater spiritual growth through a separate

English-language worship service.

The ABC Christian leader working within a Chinese church

containing strong OBC leadership may encounter this battle on many

fronts. The priority of a separate English-language worship service will

become a major battleground. The priority of a Chinese-language school

over Sunday school, church fellowship groups, or other important biblical

teaching programs, may become a hot issue. The priority of the use of

church facilities by non-Christian Chinese cultural groups versus their use

for essential programs of the church may become a large issue.

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The ABC Christian leader must patiently and wisely try to help

OBC church leaders who have the wrong priority of placing Chinese

culture over the Christian faith. These kinds of OBC church leaders must

be helped to see that it is far more important that their children experience

eternal life with the Lord than to be steeped in the Chinese culture. What

would it profit them if they become experts on Chinese culture and lose

their own souls.

ABCs Tend to Be Good Administrators But May Be Weak in

Spiritual Fervor

Because ABCs are raised in the U.S. they tend to easily pick up

American ways of being well organized and efficient in their work. They

learn to be excellent administrators through their secular jobs. As a result

they may think that because they have extensive administrative skills, they

are well qualified for leadership in the church. They may rely purely on

human experience and overlook the importance of spiritual maturity or

spiritual fervor. They may be great administrators but lack the fire of God

burning deep in their bones. However, they may see themselves as well

qualified for church leadership. They will tend to run the church like a

secular corporation. They may be very well organized and efficient in

running the church. However, the church will lack spiritual power to do

God’s work. Without spiritual power the church will be open to attacks

from the evil one, and the church will languish and be unfruitful. These

kinds of church leaders may easily become involved in fighting among

themselves which may cause some to leave the church with bitter feelings.

ABCs May Be Weak in the Practice of the Spiritual Disciplines

The American culture tends to promote outward action rather than

inward meditative skills. The American way emphasizes what one

accomplishes rather than waiting on the Lord. In the American style of

life, it is the tangible results that are most important. “We want action; we

want to see results!” Meditation tends to be an eastern practice that has no

vital role in the American way of doing things. ABCs while growing up in

the U.S. pick up the way of thinking which places action over meditation.

Therefore, they tend to be people who prefer outward activity rather than

inward contemplation. They want to do it now!

Americans tend to be self-confident and to act independently. Self-

reliance is one of the basic qualities of the American culture of

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individualism. They see themselves as capable of taking care of

themselves and able to handle things on their own without outside help.

They tend to think that they can do it all themselves. “Do it yourself” is a

slogan that reflects the American way of thinking.

I once overhead two young single women talking about an

attractive young man. They mentioned many of the strengths of his

personality. However, they disappointedly added, “But, he still lives at

home with his parents.” These two women were caught up in the

American way of thinking that young adults after getting a regular job are

expected to move out of their parents’ home and live on their own. Those

who do not follow this “American norm” are looked down upon. This is

an example of American individualism at work

This independent thinking which says “I can do it all by myself”

tends to affect American and ABC Christians to a large degree. As a result

ABC Christians tend to be weak in the practices of the spiritual disciplines

because they do not see any need for the extra spiritual power which

comes through practicing them. In many Christian ministries in which

ABCs are involved, little is said about the importance of the spiritual

disciplines. The value of meditation is seldom heard. As a result much of

the work of ABC church leaders operates on a sub-par level because they

have not been experiencing the power of the Spirit which comes through

the practice of the spiritual disciplines.

ABCs Can Be Satisfied with Biblical Knowledge at the

Expense of Application

The American society is an information society. Knowledge is

heavily promoted and highly regarded. “Experts” are often interviewed on

TV talk shows. Their knowledge is highly valued. Christians growing up

in the U.S. tend to have this same high regard for knowledge. “It is what

you know that really matters.” Therefore knowledge of the Bible is held in

high esteem.

ABC Christians place a similar high value on Bible knowledge. I

have found many ABC Christians with healthy appetites for Bible study.

Many of them meet together regularly in small groups for Bible study.

Those who have been meeting regularly for many years have come to

know the Bible very well. Their knowledge of the contents of the Bible is

extensive. Many of them make regular use of commentaries to increase

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the depth of their knowledge. Their efforts at Bible study are


However some ABC Christians do not go much beyond Bible

knowledge. Their efforts to apply the Bible into every segment of their

lives are weak. The average small group Bible study may spend one to

two hours studying the content of the Bible and five minutes discussing the

practical application of the passage. The incongruity between their Bible

knowledge and its application goes largely unnoticed. As a result their

labors for the Lord may be largely in the flesh without fully experiencing

the power of the Spirit in their work.

ABCs and OBCs Can Be Weak in Their Vision for Outreach

Among many of the ABC Christians I have known, I have found

them to be hard working. They were willing workers who were eager to

serve in the church and very capable in carrying out the work entrusted to

them. They were excellent teachers of the Bible and possessed many other

gifts for serving the Lord. However, I did notice a weakness in the

spiritual maturity of many of them. This weakness was in their vision for

outreach. This vision seems to be lacking in many Christians. Many very

capable and effective Christian workers are strong in every other area

except in the area of having a vision for the lost. Some ABC and OBC

church leaders are among those lacking this vision and do not sense this


The Solution

Need for God’s Passion to Burn within Us

Because of the numerous obstacles OBC and ABC church leaders

face in attempting to do ABC ministries, they have many personal needs

that have to be filled before they can be fruitful in their attempts. First,

both OBC and ABC church leaders need to spend so much time in the

presence of the Lord that their faces shine with God’s glory like the face of

Moses after he had spent extended time in God’s presence. Chinese

church leaders need to walk so closely with the Lord that the fire of his

heart ignites a fire within their own hearts.

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One time some mischievous boys who wanted some excitement

threw a lighted match into tall dry grass. The grass instantly ignited, and

the flames began to spread rapidly. The boys who numbered about six

began to stamp out the fire with their shoes and with shovels. They

succeeded in extinguishing the fire but only after it had burned an area of

about fifty feet in diameter. They learned that day that dry grass could

ignite very quickly and burn very fast.

The hearts of ABC and OBC church leaders need to be like that dry

grass, highly combustible with the fire from God’s heart. Their hearts

need to be tender and sensitive to God and close enough to him to be

ignited from the sparks leaping from his heart. ABC and OBC church

leaders need to have hearts that are after God’s own heart. As Jesus

looked on the crowds and wept for them with great tears of compassion, so

we must walk so closely with him that our hearts are consumed with his

same compassion for the lost. We need to have Jesus’ vision for the world

and his passion for the lost. We need to catch what is on his heart.

Without God’s passion burning within our hearts, we will not be able to do

effective ABC ministry.

Need for Power of the Holy Spirit to Enable Us

ABC and OBC church workers need to be fully convinced that

“Unless the Lord builds the house, the laborers labor in vain that build it.”

They need to see that trying to do spiritual work without the power of the

Spirit is fruitless. They need to be reminded that unless the Holy Spirit is

working through their efforts they are merely spinning their wheels on the

slippery ice while their car is not moving. It is only the Spirit who can

convict people of their sin. It is only the Spirit who can empower a person

to change his life from living in sin to living a holy life and becoming

more like Jesus.

ABC and OBC church leaders need to be reminded of Jesus living

within them in the form of the Holy Spirit and of his promised work within

them. Some of the verses upon which leaders need to dwell are as follows:

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me

and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do

nothing” (John 15:5).

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“But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into

all truth... He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine

and making it known to you” (John 16:13,14).

“But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send

in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of

everything I have said to you” (John 14:26).

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on

you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea

and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience,

kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control”

(Gal. 5:22,23).

ABC church leaders need to overcome their American tendency to

feel self-reliant, remind themselves that trusting in their own human

wisdom and strength will be fruitless in the spiritual realm, and seek to live

their lives through the Spirit’s power. They need to see that they cannot do

it in themselves. They need to know that the Holy Spirit will enable them

to do all that God wills for them to do. They need to act on this knowledge

by faith by believing God will enable them and then venturing out in

obedience and actually trying to do it.

Need for Consistent Practice of the Spiritual Disciplines

How can Christians live their lives through the Spirit’s power? A

person cannot change himself into becoming more like Jesus. Only the

Holy Spirit can do this. And he does it through the tools he has made

available for us to use. The tools that the Spirit uses to change us are the

spiritual disciplines such as prayer, meditation, worship, solitude, fasting,

etc. As Christians diligently make use of these tools, the Spirit will

empower the believers to do that which they could not do in their own

human strength. The Spirit uses the spiritual disciplines to enable a

Christian to live on a supernatural level rather than merely on a human

level. As Christians run the race of life practicing the spiritual disciplines,

the Spirit will enable them to complete the race fruitfully and victoriously.

Diligently practicing the spiritual disciplines can ignite our hearts

with fire from God’s heart. The spiritual disciplines will enable us to walk

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very closely at his side. This involves spending much time in his presence

through daily times and extended times of prayer and meditation on his

Word. Perhaps once a month or every other month a person can set aside a

half-day or full day for extended solitude, reading, prayer, meditation, and

journaling. Such practices will enable the Spirit to change our hearts and

make us more like Jesus.

Need for Persevering Prayer

The most important spiritual discipline is prayer. Prayer does make

a difference. Richard Foster in his book, Celebration of Discipline, says,

“To pray is to change.”

To pray is to change. Prayer is the central avenue God uses to transform

us. If we are unwilling to change, we will abandon prayer as a noticeable

characteristic of our lives. The closer we come to the heartbeat of God the

more we see our need and the more we desire to be conformed to Christ.


Prayer Really Does Result in Changes that Would Otherwise

Never Occur

ABC and OBC Christians need to develop extensive habits of

persevering prayer. They need to learn to wait regularly upon the Lord for

his will, his plan, his timing, his power, and his results. ABC and OBC

Christian workers in their own personal prayer lives need to model to their

congregations the critical need for prayer. Answers to prayer should be

shared with the congregation so that they can be encouraged to pray.

If one were to conduct a study of all the healthy, growing Christian

churches in the world, one would be able to identify certain factors that all

these churches have in common that could be regarded as essentials for

healthy church growth. One common factor is that all of them have strong

ministries of prayer. In all the churches of the world that are growing at a

rapid rate and effectively winning and producing fruitful believers, there is

a strong emphasis on prayer. Prayer is given highest priority in these

churches. Without such a high value given to prayer, these churches

would be weak and ineffective. Prayer is the primary key to their


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God’s work in all parts of the world runs into fierce opposition

from the evil one. There is severe spiritual warfare fought all over the

globe between the forces of the Holy Spirit and the forces of the evil one.

This warfare is primarily waged through prayer. Paul after naming the

spiritual armor for which we are given to wage warfare against the devil’s

schemes, concludes by identifying prayer as the essential hand for holding

and using the armor. “Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the

Spirit, … And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers

and requests” (Eph. 6:17,18).

Jesus’ disciples were trying to cast out a demon from a boy and

were unable to do so. When Jesus came upon the scene, he succeeded in

casting out the demon. Later, in private, his disciples asked Jesus why

they were unable to cast the demon out of the boy. Jesus said, “This kind

can come out only by prayer” (Mark 9:29).

Certain levels of spiritual warfare can only be waged by prayer.

Without prayer the believer cannot be engaged in victorious spiritual

warfare. Prayer is the most effective weapon against our spiritual enemy.

Therefore, healthy, growing churches must have strong prayer ministries.

One would never find a fruitful church that does not also have a strong

ministry of prayer. In the same way one would never find strong, healthy

ministries to ABCs in Chinese churches that do not also have powerful

ministries of prayer.


In previous chapters of this handbook we have outlined suggestions

by which Chinese churches might make their ministries to ABCs more

effective. We have glanced at some of the obstacles Chinese churches will

face in attempting to implement these suggestions. We have been

reminded that these obstacles are so formidable that they cannot be

overcome by human effort alone. Again we have had to go back to the

basics, the spiritual disciplines. The spiritual disciplines are the backbone

by which the Christian life is lived, by which spiritual warfare is waged,

and by which ABC ministries will bear abundant fruit.

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This entire book can be summarized in one sentence.

Effective ABC ministry will result when both OBC and ABC church

leaders are being changed by the Holy Spirit as they fervently practice the

spiritual disciplines and are earnestly obeying him as he gives them

wisdom and power to do his work.

In this way they will hear the voice of God giving them vision and wisdom

to do ABC ministries. They will receive his power to do it. As they trust

in his power to enable them, they will work diligently and witness the fruit

of the Spirit being manifested within themselves and within the ABCs they

are serving. Because it is all accomplished in the Spirit’s power, he alone

will receive all the glory.

With the Spirit’s help, you can make a difference in your church’s

ministry to ABCs. It is in your hands. God can use you to affect the

direction of the ABC ministry in your church. God can use you to make a

difference; and he will be glorified through you.