On Being A Leading Korean Male In A White Christian Culture

I am cheering on Glen from the Walking Dead. (No spoilers, no worries).

Glen gives me hope. In a bigger sense, outside of the show. More in a societal sense. Ten years ago a leading Korean male on any show of TWD’s caliber would be unthinkable. But we saw the beginnings of it with characters like Sun & Jin on Lost:

Now, Glen, played by Steven Yeun, has proven to us a Korean-American leading male is not only feasible in our culture today, but can gain a very strong and loyal following. Of all the characters alive in a show that kills off its characters quite unceremoniously, Glen is repeatedly the one who shows us that people can get quite attached, and can really rally behind the idea of and cheer on a Korean male lead.

Perhaps I’m overthinking it, but as a Korean-American male, this is encouraging to me. As a Korean-American lead pastor in Houston, TX where most lead pastors are white males, I wonder if I will disappear into the woodwork, go unnoticed, or be relegated to “ethnic church leader” and generally go unnoticed. And it’s not that I’m hungry for attention, but I wonder from time to time if Texas, Houston, my city, my home, society at large, the South… is really ready for somebody like me.

And not as supporting cast either.

The church I am planting has no intention of being an “ethnic” community. I don’t want to be misunderstood a la Hershel as “that oriental pastor.” I want to tap into some of the larger market share around me. I want to be a prophetic voice to a larger culture. I want to plant a church that society recognizes as legit, be a pastor in a legitimately recognized lead role. Is Texas and the South ready?

Well in Glen’s case, Georgia is…

Really, what I am reflecting on is what it means to be a leading Korean male in a white Christian culture. And I think it’s feasible. I think the time is ripe for a church like Woven. That’s why I’ve dedicated the rest of my career to this calling and this place. It makes sense to me. Yes, I think Texas is ready. I think Houston is ready.

So amidst the ups and downs of church planting I am reminded with this thought; am I called? Yes. Am I called to this place for this time? Yes. Is this place ready? I really think, Yes.

Speaking of Faith & Race in Katy, TX…

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This week at Woven Church, we are embarking on a two-week discussion about faith & race thru the lens of Scripture and also the movie Selma. As I’ve lived in Katy TX, a suburb of Houston now for over four years, I’ve just begun to deeply understand the nuances of race and religion in Texas.

While on the one hand it is not as simple as some might believe – there are complex hues to the discussion of race down here – on the other hand, the city I live in falls victim to its own caricatures of what a southern city might be like when it comes to race & ethnicity; for example, nowhere have I seen a city more segregated on Sunday than here in Houston.

Some might think it fighting an uphill battle and swimming upstream to try to plant an intentionally multiethnic church here; what I see is a vast untapped and ignored demographic. I’d say “marginalized” but the notion is not in vogue here.

And I don’t entirely disagree.

Which is why people from ethnic backgrounds should get involved in the discussion about race, and not wait for the dominant culture to start it. We’re only marginalized as far as we stay silent and unengaged; and so this daring and bold attempt to start a discussion about faith and race in Katy and the suburbs of Houston – it might be the start of something… which I hope will better not just this “city of churches” we live in, but the entire community as well.

Celebrating Easter Week in Katy, TX

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8 months ago, I set out with a group of 30 adults and 20 kids to plant an intentionally multiethnic church in the west suburbs of Houston, in Katy, TX. Why Katy? In the past year, the 77494 zip code has been recognized as THE fastest growing zip code in America. And Fort Bend county has been recognized this past year also as THE most diverse county in America (Fort Bend stretches in the north from Katy / I-10 to the south well through Sugarland, Missouri City, and Sienna Plantation. In the east it includes Fresno and stretches west past Rosenberg and Fulshear. While this may seem like a large geographic spread, it is relatively not. From my days back in the borough of Queens, NY, I don’t think this is that much larger.

Woven Covenant Church meets in the top right quadrant of Fort Bend county, well-within all of this growth and diversity.

When we started this church back in July, it was all I ever hoped for in a church when I moved to Houston over 4 years ago. This is a church I would go to myself, as an attendee, let alone shepherd as a pastor. It is a great privilege to lead this body of couples, families, young adults, children, teens, new infants. What started out as predominantly Asian is making sure strides towards diversity with no one ethnic group more than 80%, and that is shrinking as we draw more and more new folks who are appreciative of the emphasis on diversity.

Diversity for us is not a token word, a political ploy, or marketing strategy. For us it is Gospel. It is the very reason we planted this church in the first place. It is taking “love your neighbor” quite seriously.

This Easter won’t you join us?

We worship at 6161 S. Fry Road, Katy, TX 77494 every Sunday morning at 10:30am. This year our Easter will be especially fun for the kids (bounce castle, egg hunt), we’ll have free food, and will be kicking off a new, stimulating preaching series called GOD on FILM which examines the stories of our culture (on the silver screen) that evoke a significant conversation about faith and spirituality.

See you April 5th!

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