Better late than never

Finally, I posted some thoughts on the emergent group blog.

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Thanks Jason for inviting me to this group blog. In Malaysia especially in Kuala Lumpur we have a tendency to be late for appointments and we usually blame the traffic (which has gone nuts lately). Anyway, introductions are necessary since I stay on the other side of planet earth and sometimes wonder why I’m attracted to the conversations revolving around the “Emerging Church” (maybe because in Asia we never managed to really emerged yet or are still emerging?!) Lines of convergence: global-urban-postmodern by Geoff Holsclaw is interesting in this regard.

My full name is Sivin Kit Hsiao Ming (here’s my blog for more current thinking). Kit is my surname, Sivin is my English name (it”s origins is a strange story) and Hsiao Ming (in Chinese means the voice of a bird singing in the dawn or one who knows how to sing). I’m 32 year old Malaysian Chinese married to one wife and have a 16 month old son. My education in Mandarin, Malay & English (I spent five memorable childhood years in England). I think I’m middle class by our standards but I wouldn’t consider myself affluent. In many way I would see my generation as the one who grew up in the Dr. Mahathir Era (prime minister for 22 years, phew!) and now experiencing the changes with a new prime minister (who’s just completed his 100 days yesterday) – we’ve just been going through changes after changes & challenges after challenges as a nation and as Christians (all of us globally too haven’t we?). Presently, I pastor a young four year old church ~ Bangsar Lutheran Church. Before this I served as a youth & worship pastor in the home church I grew up in. I pretty much grew up in the city, so I’ve got minimal experience in the rural areas personally and pastorally. I was wondering the past week what to write. I think I’ll start from a personal question:

Why do I (on this side of planet earth) feel at home in some of the discussions around the “emerging church” (which some might think is only western church phenomena) and would be willing to join the conversation? Well … let me try to answer that:

1. I felt some issues were converging. It was rare to read stuff that resonated with some (not all) the questions and experiences I faced starting especially during seminary days and since starting & pastoring this young church. We still don’t have much written from an Asian perspective, so we’re still dependant on a lot of material from the west. So all the Brian McLaren stuff was very refreshing (that was four years ago and still is today). For me it wasn’t whether it’s from the east or west, I felt many issues raised were very human issues …. first & foremost.

2. The “willingness to initiate conversation and listen” to a variety of voices is one value I feel is very valuable especially at this global level. Though in many Asian churches here this may not be the case because conformity, control and submitting to authority seem to be the dominant driving force at leadership levels. But I believe the reality is at a deeper level many would hunger and yearn to be heard and mutually work towards a solution. I see myself as one of these. It’s ironic that especially in the business sector there’s such a strong drivenness and yet there’s also this talk about good relations (“Guan Xi”) which demands respect conversating and listening.

3. The conscious effort to go beyond mere surface issues of methodology and style and get into theological thinking, and contextual awareness .. and missiological innovations. Pragmatism rules here in Malaysian churches. At seminary I could see how some of my teachers struggled to see how they could counter this kind of “framework”. Every sort of methodologicial package has been introduced to Malaysia in all sorts of shapes and sizes (cf. seminars), some helpful, others harmful. The gap between the more reflective thinkers (e.g.. seminary lecturers)and the pragmatic practitioners (e.g. Pastors & church leaders) may drift too wide if nothings done about it. Thus, I appreciate what Emergent is doing with dialogues with people like NT Wright & Walter Brueggamen. It gave me some hope and ideas what could be done (I’ve been talking with one of the seminary’s principal on possibilities, and hope to initiate a informal group of 4-5 end of this month to see where it goes from here).

4. All this not done in an ivory tower manner. The beauty of this whole thing is we’re very much on the ground level trying to work things out and think things through while in the midst of slogging in out in daily life & ministry in and through the church. And since I started blogging and reading other people’s blogs, i’ve found mirrors that not only reflect what’s going on in their particular context, at times it serves to to help me see myself. We’re not just looking into the sky for help, we look at one another and keep our eyes on the ground. That’s valuable.

I was reading the revised and expanded version of Models of Contextual Theology by Stephen B. Bevans and found some ways to think about the context I’m in right now which is the background which the above 4 poins arose. Because it’s hard to say whether how Malaysia fits into the whole modern/postmodern discussion (Wikipedia has a good summary on Malaysia) ~ maybe that’s why I feel more included in the term “emerging”. I’ve already mentioned the more personal stuff …

Next , on a more public level, Like many other South East Asian Countries we’re in the post-colonial era, and overwhelmed by the forces of globalization (whatever that means), struggling to achieve the vision to be a developed nation. Islam is the dominant religion here (60% of the population are muslim). The Chinese would mostly be nominal Taoist or Buddhist , and the same could be said of the Indians for Hinduism. Of course, there’s always the mix of atheist or independent religious groups. Often religion goes along the racial lines and is still a very sensitive matter. The 11% Christians (including the Roman Catholics) have a mixture of races (except there would be few Malays who are Christians ~ that’s another long story). Then there’s the more “modern” or “postmodern” influenced people … whether it’s from money to MTV. McDonalds to Movies.. etc.

As for churches or para-churches, most people probably would have heard more about the “cell church” than the “emerging church”. Almost all churches have Evangelical, Pentecostal & Charismatic influences (hardly any liberals here!). To many of my teachers in seminary, there’s was a great concern that we’ll drift more and more into anti-intellectualism here. Some groups like Fellowship of Evangelical students & Kairos Research Centre would want to encourage more critical thinking (sound very “modern” huh! *grin*) some newer churches are “emerging” inside and outside “traditional denominational structures”. For example, I see the church I serve as one within a denominational structure (Lutheran), I know a friend left a Charismatic church and more like a house-church, another friend who had always led a “para-church” youth organization starting his own church (which to some might look like a youth church), and so on all of us below 40 years old. All of us are extremely different apart from enjoying each others company and encouragement once a while. That’s just the surface …. a little bit about where I come from.

wow! I realized this is a long post … it’s late and it’s long. Thanks for your patience & listening ear.

Posted by Sivin Kit on February 11, 2004 at 05:26 PM | Permalink
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