URS: White Pastor in Chinese Church: The Big White Bridge

By Shawn Isaacs, Youth Pastor, Cincinnati Chinese Church.

Photo 1: Some messages need translation.
圖1: 有些信息需要透过翻译。

作者: Shawn Isaacs, 新城教会青年部牧师
翻译: 庄文菁

“Are you prepared to be wrong even when you’re right?” said the wise, seasoned Pastor.

“即使你是对的,但仍被认为是错的,为此你准备好了吗? ” 明智且经验丰富的牧师问我。

I was. And I wasn’t.

“You’ll never truly belong here,” he added, himself a white American Pastor. I listened, but disagreed. If the Gospel is true, wouldn’t barriers of race and ethnicity be broken down? Certainly, differently races and cultures do belong together if the Gospel is true, I reckoned.
“您永远不会真正属于这里。” 这位白人美国牧师说。。 我听了,但不同意。 如果福音是真确的,不应该打破种族和种族的障碍吗? 我认为,如果福音是真确的,那么即便是不同的种族和文化,也该属于同一国度。

“Yes,” I said. “Of course, no problem!” I said to his warnings. Excited to have the opportunity to start working as a Pastor, no obstacle seemed too great, no problem too significant. My interview (or interrogation, as it felt!) ended soon enough, and after months of meetings and prayer, I was the Youth Pastor of the Cincinnati Chinese Church. The white, American, 23-year-old, chubby Youth Pastor of a congregation that valued ethnicity, seniority, and physical fitness, among many other things. I’d fit right in!
对于他的警告,我回答,”我明白,没问题!” 我很兴奋即将开始全职牧师的工作,在此时,没有任何问题会是严重的问题。我的面试(或者说是审问!)很快就结束了,经过几个月的聚会和祷告,我成为了辛城教会的青年牧师。 白人,美国裔,二十三岁,胖乎乎的青年牧师,带领的聚会重视种族,辈分和身体素质等诸多方面。 我可以胜任的!

I did. And I didn’t.

Photo 2: Difficult to beat the hospitality.

After the honeymoon period, problems emerged. I did not fit in. My wife was not the Pastor’s Wife Chinese churches expect – she was not a free employee, nor was she going to lead all the children’s activities. My kids were loud, liked hugs, and knew nothing of Chinese social mores. Other church kids were quiet and reserved. I’m emotional. Some believed emotions to be a sign of weakness. My preaching led youth to know God more deeply and love Him more truly. But it did not always result in more measurable obedience at home, which parents sometimes desired even more than the salvation of their children. Another Pastor even accused me of “Americanizing” the youth. Maybe I had, but I supposed their growing up in America was responsible for that. I was by no means the Pastor they expected, but I was the Pastor who had committed to loving and serving their youth.
蜜月期过后出现了问题。 我并不适应。我的妻子不符合中国教会对师母的期待–她並不是免费雇员,也不打算领导所有孩子们的活动。 我的孩子很大声,喜欢拥抱,对中国的社交习俗一无所知。 教会的其他孩子则安静而保守。 我不掩饰情绪与情感,但有些人认为这是一种软弱的象徵。 我的讲道使青年人更加深刻地认识神,更真实地爱祂。 但这并不能保证他们在家会更服从,有些父母重视孩子的服从胜过于孩子的救恩。另一位传道人甚至指责我将“华裔青年美国化”。 也许我有,但我更认为主因是他们在美国长大。 我绝不是他们所期望的牧师,但我是致力于爱护和服务他们的青年孩子。

In spite of the problems, joys were innumerable. It took nearly a year for the church to decide to have me on as a Pastor but, once affirmed, I had their respect and support. I have been humbled deeply by youth and parents alike pouring out their hearts to me. Fears that their children would wander in college, fears that broken relationships would never be healed, fears that parents would never love them or think they’re good enough.
尽管存在问题,但仍有无数喜乐。 教会花了将近一年的时间决定,一旦教会确定邀请我做牧师时,我就得到了他们的尊重和支持。 这些父母与青年对我倾诉他们的心,对此我深感谦卑。这些倾诉裡,有担心自己的孩子上大学后会漫无目标,担心破裂的人际关系永远不会得到修復,有些担心父母永远不会爱他们、或认为父母总觉得他们不够好。

A critical moment in working cross-culturally came on the Psychiatric floor of the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital; it captures both the joys and the challenges of cross-cultural ministry. Chris (not his real name) had been admitted after making suicidal threats. He was not truly suicidal, but was exhausted and tired from all the pressures cast upon him. His parents were scared and did not understand what they had done wrong — they’d worked so hard and provided him with so many opportunities, opportunities far beyond anything they’d ever had! After listening to him and to his mother it became clear to me –- they love each other but keep failing to communicate love in meaningful ways.
在这份跨文化的工作裡,曾有一个关键时刻,那是发生在在辛辛那提大学附属儿童医院的精神病学楼层。这个事件具备了跨文化宣道的挑战与喜乐。克里斯 (化名)因为企图自杀而被收入住院。他其实不是真想自杀,而是因为所有加在他身上的压力令他困倦。 他的父母吓坏了,不知道自己做错了什么。他们一直辛勤工作,为孩子提供了很多资源,这些资源远远超出了他们过去拥有的! 在听完他和他的母亲的谈话后,我很清楚,他们彼此相爱,但却没有用正确的方式交流、表达爱。

Mom worked to provide opportunities such as learning a musical instrument and going to college after high school graduation. Chris, meanwhile, simply wanted a hug and to be told, “I love you.” Chris showed his love through words and physical embrace. Mom, meanwhile, wanted obedience, and she wanted to know that in the future her son could take care of himself. As we sat together in a bright, white hospital room, I was able to help each one see the acts of love the other had shown. Slowly but surely, the light in the room became nothing compared with the light in their eyes as they truly began to see that they really did care for one another. Feeling loved, her love, Chris was inspired to obey his mother’s wishes. Feeling loved, his love, his mom was inspired to tell her son she loved him.
妈妈努力提供各种资源,像是让孩子学习乐器,并且提供孩子上大学。 但是,克里斯只想要一个拥抱,以及一句从妈妈来的“我爱你”。 克里斯通过言语、和身体上的拥抱表达他的爱。 可是妈妈却只想着要孩子听话,并想知道将来儿子可以自己好好照顾自己。 当我们坐在明亮的白色医院房间里时,我帮助他们彼此看到对方表达爱的方式。 渐渐地,他们看着彼此的眼光闪烁着光芒,他们在这一刻真切地看见彼此是非常在乎对方的。克里斯终于感受到爱,这样的爱让他愿意顺从母亲。 他的母亲也感受到爱,因着儿子对她的爱,他的母亲终于说出她爱他。

No matter someone’s ethnicity, age, or health, people long to be loved. To belong. To have their fears and tears wiped away. It doesn’t matter if a church is African-American, Hispanic, or Chinese -– people yearn to be loved. Cross-cultural ministry is like lowering a raised draw bridge. Two sides are convinced each one is doing and saying the right things but no one can go anywhere, no progress can be made, because the two sides are fixed and locked in an upright position. They’re not connected. It’s the Pastor’s role to slowly help lower the bridge so both sides can fulfill their purpose. Communication of love and truth can then pass from one side to another like cars and trucks going back and forth across the bridge to new destinations.
无论种族,年龄或健康状况,人们都渴望被爱、渴望一份归属感,渴望有人能消除他们的恐惧、擦乾他们眼泪。 不论教会的会众是非裔美国人,西班牙裔还是华裔,人人都渴望被爱。 跨文化宣道就像连接一座吊桥 (注:这裡指的是一种开合桥,能从两岸收起桥身,使底下的大型船隻通过,再放下接合) 。兩方相信对方都在做正确的事情,说正确的话,但却没有任何的沟通与交流,因为双方都是固定的,并锁定在直立的位置。 他们没有连接。 牧师的角色是逐渐的帮助降低桥梁,使双方都能达到自己的目标。 因此,爱与真理的交流可以从一侧传递到另一侧,就像桥面上来回往返的汽车和卡车一样。

I’ve asked many youth, “Do you feel more American or more Chinese?” In nearly all cases the response I get is, “It depends on where I am!” They’re Chinese at home, American at school. But what about at church? This is where a major conflict emerges. On the one hand, parents are present. The kitchen smells like a Chinese kitchen. The walls feel like a Chinese home, lightly and efficiently decorated. But friends and peers are also present. English is spoken and heard.
我问过许多年轻人:“你觉得自己是美国人还是中国人?” 几乎所有情况下,我得到的回答是:“这取决于我处在哪里!” 他们在家里是中国人,在学校是美国人。 但是教会呢? 这是让他们产生认同挣扎的地方。 一方面,父母在场, 厨房闻起来像华人的厨房, 墙壁上简朴的装饰,感觉就像是华人的家。 但是朋友和同伴也都在场, 而且使用英语沟通。

As a white Pastor, I have to admit my limits in guiding the youth through this struggle. Navigating issues of identity is critical to cross-cultural ministry. Youth have told me they were concerned when the church brought in a white Pastor because I would not understand their struggles and would not be able to truly relate with them. There’s truth to that! But I can also be a wise, trusted American in their lives who can help them work through that aspect of who they are.
作为华人教会的美国白人牧师,我承认自己在指导青少年面对认同挣扎时能力有限。 处理身份认同的问题,对于跨文化宣道的事奉至关重要。 青年们告诉我,当教会邀请白人担任牧师时,他们感到担心,因为我可能不理解他们的挣扎,也无法与他们真正建立联系。 这是事实! 但是我也可以成为一个明智,值得信赖的美国人,我在他们的生活中,帮助他们度过经历定义自我认同的过程。

It doesn’t matter that I take off my shoes when I enter my house, that I have high academic expectations for my kids, or that I love Chinese food. I’m not Chinese! But I don’t have to be Chinese to Pastor these youth. Being a white American has its obstacles in cross-cultural ministry, but it’s also a great asset, as I can help parents better understand their kids’ American tendencies, and I can likewise help the youth own that facet of their own identity. More importantly, I can direct everyone’s attention to the Cross, the foundation of one’s identity. Christ must come before culture, and all Pastors, working cross-culturally or not, must be sure to model this in their own lives as well.
儘管我进屋時會脱鞋、像亚裔期待孩子在学校成绩优异、喜爱中国菜,但我仍旧不是中国人。不过,我不需要是一个中国人,才足以牧养这些孩子。作为美国白人,跨文化宣道的事奉确实有障碍,但这也是一项珍贵的资产,因为我可以帮助父母更加了解孩子的美国倾向,也可以帮助年轻人找到身分认同。 更重要的是,我可以将所有人引向十字架,这也是每个人的身份认同基础。 基督仍是一切之首,理当先于文化,而所有牧师,无论是否涉足跨文化宣道的事奉,都必须树立这样的榜样。

A temptation of cultural churches is to put serving the culture above serving Christ. At times the church seems to be a Chinatown of sorts, a place where congregants can escape American culture and retreat to the familiar and the comfortable. (To be fair, the same can be said of American churches –- retreating from the “sinful world” to a safer space to consume sports and entertainment.)
对许多文化教会(一种有别于当地的主流文化的教会。此处指的是在美国的华语教会)来说,有一种陷阱是服务文化高于服务基督。 有时,教堂似乎是种唐人街,在这里,会众可以迴避美国文化,撤退到熟悉而舒适的地方(公平地说,美国教会也可以这样说–让人从“有罪的世界”撤退到 更安全的运动和娱乐空间)。

But there’s immense joy and blessing in being a cultural church -– as a cultural church we recognize there will be some doctrinal differences, we know there will be some awkward gatherings, and we know there are some people present whom we must accommodate to include and to serve. As such, a commitment to being united in Christ is paramount for cultural churches.
但是,做为一个文化教会会,也给我们带来极大的快乐和祝福-我们认识到会有一些教导上的不同,我们知道会有一些尴尬的聚会,还有必须接纳和服务某一些人。 因此,在文化教会中,彼此联合在基督里的承诺至关重要。

Photo 3: A graduation destination different from the usual path.

Hospitality in the Chinese church is unmatched. “Love” may be challenging to verbally express, but there’s no doubt the church shows it in the form of potlucks, baptism celebrations, and Chinese New Year celebrations. Cross-cultural ministry exposes one’s own cultural sins but also reveals where other cultures magnify and glorify the name of Jesus.
华语教会的热情好客无与伦比。 “爱”在口头表达上可能具有挑战性,但是毫无疑问,教会透过家庭聚餐、洗礼、庆祝和农历新年庆祝展现了爱。 跨文化宣道的事奉能揭露人们在文化上的罪,但也能透过其他文化的形式放大并荣耀耶稣的名。

Approaching ten years in the Chinese church, I still reflect back on the counsel of the wise and seasoned Pastor who prepared me for ministry. He was right -– there have been many occasions when I have been wrong even though I was right.
在华语教会中待了将近十年,我仍然回想起一位明智而又经验丰富的牧师的忠告,他为我做好事工的准备。 他那句话是对的–即使我是对的,在很多情况下我还是错了。

Having a network of other pastors and mentors has been essential to ministry. Being able to unload on others outside of the church has helped me be more loving, more spiritually and emotionally present for my congregation. Knowing I am covered in prayer and encouragement gets me through the darkest of days. Pastors without a support system won’t last long.
与其他牧师和导师的形成一个彼此支持的网络,对于事工至关重要。 能够从自己的教会外的人身上减轻负担,使我对我的会众更加充满爱心,在精神上和情感上都更加活跃。 大家为我祷告和给我鼓励,所带来的支持与保护,帮助我度过了最黑暗的日子。 毕竟背后没有支持系统的牧师,是无法持续很长久的。

But do I truly belong?

I do. And I don’t.

One of the greatest compliments I received was when a mom greeted me with “Ni hao!” instead of “Hello!” She saw me as a part of the church, a part of the Chinese church family.
我收到的最大的称赞之一是,当妈妈用中文向我打招呼:“你好!” 而不是说英文“哈囉!” 她把我视为教会的一部分,也是华语教会家庭的一部分。

Photo 4: A rose Pastor among many.
图4:” 万绿丛中一点红”白人牧师。

But I’m not Chinese. Thankfully, to belong, I don’t have to be. I’ve grown in my love and appreciation for the church and the Chinese culture. They, too, have grown in their love and support of me in spite of differences. Problems will always exist, but this commitment of love and service to one another is true belonging, true partnership and fellowship, in the Christian sense of the word.
但是我仍不是一个中国人。 值得庆幸的是,我不必成为也能为主做工。 我对教会和中国文化的热爱和欣赏与日俱增。 尽管有分歧,他们对我的支持和爱也不断增长。 问题将永远存在,但是从基督信仰的意义上来说,这种相互爱心和奉献的承诺是真正的归属感,真正的伙伴关系和团契。