My first full-time pastoral position was in a large Korean American church in the suburbs of Washington D.C., in Vienna, Virginia. I took the position as Associate Pastor of English Ministry, (EM Pastor). During the years I was there, we saw our ministry blossom from a small young adult community, with a few married couples, to a growing, vibrant congregation of 280 with college, young adults, young married couples and families. This English speaking congregation was the fulfillment of my dreams as a young pastor. I had the opportunity to lead with vision, preach God’s word weekly and disciple people into a growing community of faith. As a young Asian American pastor, this was a dream come true.
However, one day, I awoke from the dream when I realized something was missing in this model of church within a church. While the model itself was not the problem, there were some inherent challenges working in an immigrant culture. One such challenge was the limitation in outreach because of an ethnic culture.
As our young adult ministry was growing, I approached one of our young adult members. She had been working in Washington D.C., in a government position. As we were talking about reaching out to our friends and co-workers, I mentioned to her that she should bring some of her friends to church. She looked at me as if I had something wrong with me. With her eyebrow raised and her eyes wide open, she said, “Pastor Ray, there is no way we can invite my friends to our church.”
I assumed, like every almost every pastor, that we had a growing vibrant ministry. We had an open door approach to our ministry. The welcome mat was clearly marked, “All Welcome.” We wanted to be a church for all people. Also, we were seeing people who were growing in their faith. This was a gospel-teaching church. So I asked her, “Why can’t you invite your friend?”
Her response was simple and concise, “I’m sorry Pastor Ray, but this is a Korean American church. My friend won’t feel comfortable here.” Continue Reading…