@RegentCollege this summer: Cultural Intelligence for a Changing Church – with Dr. Soong-Chan Rah

Following on the heels of my previous post re: summer classes @ Regent College… the above video is a preview of yet another upcoming summer course – this one taught by Soong-Chan Rah, a fellow Covenanter, really hitting on some important issues concerning race that I have been talking about and vibing on for a long time now:

We ended up retreating into our own ethnic communities w/ very little interaction across these different boundaries… and I wonder if we do that with the Gospel as well… at the end of the day we retreat into our own sequestered communities… Cultural captivity means we operate under theological / sociological assumptions… shaped by cultural forces… practicing faith in such a way that we don’t realize how much is Scripture / and how much is the celebrity, big shot evangelical consumer culture we have developed for ourselves… we make superstars out of individuals who might not have much to say… and we end up diminishing the role of immigrants, women, senior citizens… we don’t hear from them.

This is precisely the critique I have felt – especially recently at the Exponential ’13 Conference (yes I am publicly calling you out) which was basically a one-sided perspective on church planting from & for a vastly Anglo, middle-class society. At one point, one of the presenters broke out (on video) in mock Karate Kid antics, poses, noises that really revealed the drastic cultural blind spot of this conference; perhaps this should’ve made another post, but that is precisely what this post is about: Cultural Intelligence for a Changing Church – and I didn’t see this cultural intelligence at Exponential at all. I just saw one way to reach one demographic in a vastly changing Western landscape. Rah is right; skinny jeans abounded, hip young things platformed on the strength of their few published books, but at the end of the day, there was no depth. Now btw, I must clarify, the opinions written here reflect MINE and MINE ONLY – and I don’t speak for Soong-chan – so this is me – not him – talking. But I was pretty ticked off, enough that I got up and walked out in the midst of thousands of people, in the middle of that session.

Afterwards, I was surrounded by black church planters who were somewhat intrigued and drawn in to me for the fact that I was countenancing an angry asian voice… one African-Am colleague told me “I didn’t know there were angry asian men; angry black men yes, but angry asian men – thank you for raising your voice; I too was offended by what I saw.”

Which brings me back to Regent College <smirk>

This is a class I want to take. I want to talk about this stuff, deal with it, apply it. I think you should too. Church planting for the next 20 years is not going to be about slick missional lingo, theo-jargon and hipster jive; it is going to be about the driving minority voice and growing presence in America of non-white churches, minority evangelicals. Why don’t more people get that?

Published by Wayne Park

Asian-American clergyman thinking about issues of faith, place, race and culture-making in the vast city of Houston, TX

11 thoughts on “@RegentCollege this summer: Cultural Intelligence for a Changing Church – with Dr. Soong-Chan Rah

  1. If any are interested in taking the course with Soong-chan up at Regent (College, that is, up in Vancouver), I can find you some discounts. DM me if interested.

    1. My church pastors were there too with the other onnuri plant churches in the US. I asked them “how was it” and they simply said “it was good”
      Which means they probably will be finding ways to do the same with the Korean population as well. Model minorities even in the religious sphere. *sigh* (I hope they don’t see this, but I doubt it.)

      BTW, I’ll probably be remote-editing this class. (Hey baby.. auditing for free!!)

      1. I am of the opinion that the applicable from that conference to the spheres of ethnic-American church planting are limited; and if applied are like foreign wineskins for a new wine. Maybe you can share the results when u see them…

        Enjoy editing :) miss seeing you in that basement room…

  2. I really appreciate this Wayne. I’ve not been to this conference, though I had the chance the past couple of years. The reality “on the ground” where I pastor (and, despite the significant differences, you as well from what I can tell) is so different from the ethos of this conference that I can’t work up the interest to go.

    To your final question – “Why don’t people get that?” – I have two thoughts. One, there are plenty of areas in the country where one could remain mostly unaware of shifting demographics. This isn’t an excuse for the culturally offensive and ignorant aspects of the conference; nor does it address the deep theological wells available outside mainstream, white evangelicalism. Second, there are plenty of folks who are aware of the dynamics you’re pointing out but who, consciously or not, are pushing back against these shifts. Power isn’t typically released voluntarily and that, I take it, applies to the power dynamics at play in these sorts of conferences.

    Grateful for your perspective on this as well as your willingness to call this stuff out.

    1. Thanx. I appreciate your articulation of the realities “on the ground.” Sometimes these conferences seem so far-fetched from the particularities in our contexts that the idealism we gain from there can actually be harmful & counter-productive.

      Per your reflections on power and shifting demographics – I had my suspicions about the targeted audience of this conference and that perhaps it was intentional; I don’t know what more to say about that. If that is what they want…

  3. When my husband and I spent 13 years in Africa the questions that dogged me the whole time was ‘How much of my Christianity is my culture? What could I let go of and still be Christian? What could I accept of my new cultural surroundings and still be Christian? Since then I have learned much about culture – the main thing is that we are all blind to our own culture – it is only with the work of much reflection, new encounters and searing honesty that we can recognise the cultural layers that we wrap around ourselves. Only then can we let them go and leave ourselves free to engage in depth with other cultures. (Regent MCS ’00)

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