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Why Reaching 2nd Generation Chinese Americans Is Crucial but Difficult

From the series Reaching 2nd Generation Chinese Americans for Christ

Asia has always held a special place in my heart. Perhaps it was the martial arts or Godzilla movies I watched as a child. Maybe it was a fascination with the people, the culture, and the differences I saw. As that interest grew, a special love for China and the people developed within me. In 2008, I worked at a theme park and met some Chinese co-workers, who were working at the park for the summer. I befriended them, shared the gospel, discipled one of them and had my first taste of authentic Chinese food!

Then in 2009, I visited China for the first time and had the opportunity to work with students in a university. The Lord blessed and many heard the gospel. That was followed up in 2010 with a second trip to China. This time my role was to help train house church leaders. In 2011, I was able to do that again, met some of the same people from the previous year, and it was at that time, the Lord pierced my heart to serve those who could not go to seminary or Bible school, particularly in Asia, and specifically for our Chinese brethren. Shortly after that, from 2013-2014 I worked with a campus worker reaching out to international students at a university in Florida, mainly reaching Chinese students and scholars with the gospel.

In 2014, I moved to Japan as a self-supporting cross-cultural worker and was able to go to China once again with a ministry that trains leaders in the registered church. Initially, I was only to observe, but was asked to teach Revelation 13 one morning when the teacher did not feel well. It was a unexpected honor.

Though I have been to other countries, China has a special place in my heart. My love for the Chinese church is greater today than years ago. In fact, the Lord blessed me with a wife from Singapore, of Chinse descent. We met in Japan while she was serving with her church, and we have a son who is just over two years old. While in Japan, I made friends with some Chinese students and discipled one, and they all heard the gospel. One came to Christ later.

Why do I share these things? Not only does it help you see my background, but it helps you see that this is not just a theory for me, but part of my life. In my own home, East meets West. The Lord knew this, and it frames the dissertation I did for my Doctor of Ministry degree, completed in May 2020. That project took roughly three years to complete and it revolved around reaching second generation Chinese Americans for Christ.

It was at a meeting with various Chinese pastors in Central Florida that the project began. I learned that there was a great concern for the second and following generations of Chinese Americans, because so many were leaving the church, and not following the faith of their parents. This “silent exodus” has concerned many Chinese church leaders and families for decades and it is still occurring.

One of the pastors at this meeting told me about these things, helped me form the project, and then train the leaders and some families in the church where he served to help them reach the second generation. Though I am an outsider, my heart was to serve them, based on the research, my experiences, and education. I wanted to do what I could so their children and grandchildren would not become statistics as well.

In the training I developed I found many important aspects that will be summarized in this series. Among them is the importance of family. Parents must be involved in their children’s lives, particularly in a culture that is foreign to them. Parents, by God’s design, have the most crucial role in reaching their kids for Christ, whether 4 years old or 40 years old.

I will talk about the differences between Eastern culture and Western culture. These differences are real. America is very individualistic, whereas Chinese culture is very family and group oriented. The matter in which conflict is addressed is also very different. In China, you are taught to “save face,” and not embarrass someone. Yet, in America, it is more “in your face,” so to speak. These two different worldviews can cause great conflict within the individual, and also in the family.

Many also struggle with how education fits into their lives. Their families carry over their view on the importance of education, and the pressure to succeed that goes with that. While education is important in America, it is not as much of a focus and this can cause tension in the home.

I will discuss the impact of social media and while every child, youth, or young adult has to deal with these matters, the second generation has additional factors. There is a deep identity problem the majority of them face. Language is also something that some struggle with, at home they may hear their family’s language or dialect, but outside of the home, on social media, on television and films, and in school, they only hear and speak English. All of these factors—and more—make it difficult to reach the following generations with the gospel.

Please note, while the focus of my research was Chinese Americans, the principles apply to other second generation groups as well, such as: Vietnamese, Spanish, Japanese, Korean, Russian, Filipino, and more. Also, you don’t have to live in America to learn from and implement the principles that would be helpful for you, your family, and your ministry where you are. There will be several topics addressed, and while there is no “one size fits all,” the principles are helpful to church leaders and families, whether you live in America, China, Europe, Africa, Australia, or Japan. My hope with this series, is to help you to reach the second generation within your sphere of influence.

The next blog post will focus on the importance of family and church leaders. Throughout the series, helpful resources will also be highlighted for each aspect of reaching the second generation.

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Image credit:  Peggy und Marco Lachmann-Anke from Pixabay.
Michael Weis

Michael Weis

Michael Weis was born in West Virginia, heard the gospel in upstate New York, and put his faith in Jesus as a young boy. Upon graduating from college with a Bachelor's degree in Technical Theatre, he moved to Florida to work in the entertainment industry and began studying Christian …View Full Bio

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