Bio: Senior pastor, Evergreen Baptist Church of Los Angeles.
Web site: www.ebcla.org
- Evergreen Baptist church’s vision statement is to be “a faith village.” Where did this vision come from? American Christianity is so individualized and privatized. But God wants us to have a corporate mentality. The old word “village” came to us. It’s kind of quaint, but it’s a subtle challenge to this rampant individualism. In this faith village, people should be able to see the supernatural work of the kingdom coming to earth as it is in heaven.
- How did your church grow to be a leading multiethnic congregation? We began 85 years ago as a mission outreach to Japanese-speaking poor immigrants in East LA. When I came in the late ’70s, the church started attracting Chinese people and a couple years into my being there, more and more Chinese-American young adults began coming. In 1990, I attended my first Urbana conference. I realized then that God cares about the poor, racial reconciliation, and justice, and this was not the God we worshipped at our church. By the mid-’90s, I was different and the messages I was preaching were different. Today, we are seeing 10 to 12 different Asian and Pacific Islander groups, whites, blacks, and up to four different generational groups in our church.
- Describe a moment of biblical reconciliation that happened in your congregation. One of our members left our church four times in 10 years. When he first came to Evergreen, he was quiet and physically intimidating. He was a bouncer at a club by night, and a FedEx driver by day. He had been involved in gangs. He had been in prison. Even though there were hardly any Mexicans at our church at the time, he started coming out on Sundays. But no one was really befriending him. He was not Asian and he was too intimidating. He kept leaving, and I would say, “I understand. You’re just from a different culture and you need to be at a place where there are more people like you.”
But he kept coming back because he couldn’t find a church that had the same vision as us. The fifth time he was about to leave our church, I asked him to help with our outreach to a drug rehab agency for Asian-American kids. I said to him, “I need you to stay.” Now he is one of our staff members.
- What is the unique place for the Asian-American community as the church becomes increasingly reconciled? The Asian-American community knows what it is like to be bicultural, “bridge” people. First, however, Asian-American Christians need to make peace with the part of the image of God that is embedded in each of our cultures. After all, how can you bring about racial reconciliation when you are not reconciled with yourself?
- What gives you hope? No gathering of Christians has any choice but to start where you start, but you don’t stay where you start—there is supposed to be redemptive movement. The whole purpose of Christ coming here and dying and rising again was to create in himself a new humanity, something that didn’t exist before. This profound sense of a redemptive hermeneutic gives me hope.