Last night, Pastor Scott, some members of the Boon Church servants team, and I had the wonderful opportunity of having dinner with Reverend Wayland Wong at Pastor Don’s house. A seasoned minister, Wayland is one of the most respected Chinese-American pastors in the country. Based out of Orange County, CA, he has been working with Chinese churches and is incredibly knowledgeable in the area of Chinese ministry and the unique cultural challenges with running a one in America. He has more decades of ministry experience than I have years (even including my years in HS as a youth leader).
I was really excited to meet him and drill him with questions because Chinese-American ministry happens to be my passion. I had been reading articles from a newsletter called FACE (Fellowship of American Chinese Evangelicals) that he started in the 70s. In addition, I had spent the last summer interning with ISAAC (Institute for the Study of Asian American Christianity) and was all ready to pick his brain about all the challenges and strategies of running a Chinese church. I had pictured him as someone very strategically-minded, a visionary, an outside-the-box thinker. I imagined he was sly, clever, perhaps even a little devious. I couldn’t imagine a person with any other kind of personality who would survive that long in his chosen field. As someone with so much experience, I was all ready for him to lay down some secrets, some dirty moves, some trick plays in order to get ahead of all the church bureaucracy. I was really expecting him to say things like “This is how you get a Chinese board of deacons on your side” or “When you start a ministry you know that they won’t like, make sure you do this and this”.
It turns out my expectations were way off. Instead of church-building strategy, he spent most of the night preaching to us, imploring us to have unity and love in Christ. He warned us multiple times about the dangers of “doing church” and missing the point of all of that church-building. He reminded us that ultimately we are called to build God’s kingdom, and not fight the Chinese board for more rights. He reminded us that no matter what circumstances we’re placed in, whether the English Congregation has its own budget or not, whether our voice is heard in church governing or not, we have the command from Christ to make disciples and to strengthen one another in Christ through the Word.
I was surprised, but when I got home, I began to understand it all. After a lifetime of serving the church, Reverend Wayland Wong had learned this precious piece of wisdom, and that is to bear in mind always what our ultimate purpose of doing church is. It is to glorify God and to see him magnified in the eyes of as many people as possibly in the world. He had probably seen time after time how easy it is for church leaders to lose sight of this and disintegrate into bickering, gossiping, slander, and church-splitting. He had probably felt the passion in each of our hearts in PD’s house that night, and recognized that same danger within us, and that was why he chose to spend most of the night reminding us of the true purpose of church.
He gently encouraged us to seek change and revival not in grand church changes, not in a parallel church-leadership (that is to say, a Chinese board AND an English board), not in new programs or events, not in coffeehouses or praise nights or revivals, but in individuals. He reminded us that revival starts with individuals gripped with a powerful desire to return to God, and those individuals seeking out other individuals to teach, admonish, encourage, rebuke, pray with, and search Scripture with. And those individuals forming groups, and those groups coming together to be the body of Christ. As he spoke, my eyes were opened to how much more I could be doing RIGHT NOW, with the circumstances that God has placed me in.
I am so young. Within me there is still so much fight, so much fire, so much youthful passion. Yet another thing Reverend Wayland said was how important it was to choose your battles, and not just that but know who you’re battling. The enemy is not other people. It’s not another congregation or another church or another church leader. It is Satan, who’s work is to divide God’s people and destroy the work of the gospel. If we don’t keep that in mind, we’ll be lost within our own selfish desires and deceptively personal causes and the work of the kingdom will not be done.
I want to challenge you, Christian. What’s important in your life? What battles have you fought and are they the one’s that will win ground for Christ’s kingdom? If you’ve lived your life safely, always seeking stability, keeping your head down and trying not to offend anyone, then where is your passion, your urgency to see the gospel go out? Do you have that fire in your belly, that devotion in your will? Tonight, I was reminded of what ought to be the most important thing in my life. I hope reading this gives you an opportunity to reflect on what that is for you.