Minding the Gap:

Minding the Gap:

Navigating the multicultural, multilingual, and multigenerational issues surrounding the Chinese Christian community

“In my culture, I see things a certain way and young people see things a certain way,” says Rev. Dr. Samuel Chan. Dr. Chan is the Senior Pastor of Richmond Hill Christian Community Church. He also teaches in the Pastoral Chinese Ministry program at Tyndale.

“We call ourselves a 3M church,” says Dr. Chan. “We are multicultural, multilingual and multigenerational.” He was able to understand the nature of his church more clearly through studying the Word of God, engaging in dialogue with other people and, most of all, through Tyndale. “Tyndale itself is already a 3M environment.”

As Dr. Chan pastors and teaches the next generation he wants to share more than what he knows—he wants to share what he lives. “I think this is what Tyndale is all about…to share fruitful experiences and difficult experiences so that ministry will become real and by faith we understand ministry can grow and become strong.”

In looking to the future, Dr. Chan sees three main challenges for the Chinese church in Canada. First, “It’s time all churches need to think about the concept of being missional. The church does not exist for itself but it’s a place where the gospel is going to be preached both locally and globally,” says Dr. Chan. “It’s not projects or programs but who we are and the kind of people God wants us to be.”

The second challenge: “We need to not just minister to the older generation, the immigrant generation, we need to look to the young adult generation,” says Dr. Chan. “The thinking is different to us and the way they do things is different. We need to talk to them, understand them, and pray together. The future is the young adult generation.” And that leads right to the third challenge: “A succession plan is very important for Chinese churches,” says Dr. Chan. He wants to see a plan in place so that there will be no big roadblocks for the next generation of leaders.

Scarborough Chinese Baptist Church caters to three language groups across three generations – another 3M church. Anthony Cheung serves the congregation as a post-graduate intern in the area of children’s ministry. While studying in the Pastoral Chinese Ministry program, at Tyndale Anthony wanted to explore his ethnicity. “I’m living in Canada but I’m Chinese. Kind of like Paul being a Roman citizen in his time,” says Anthony.

Minding the GapAnthony’s most valuable lesson at Tyndale was to understand that being a servant of God is not being a superman. When he thinks of bridging the gaps between generations and cultures he simply says: “I don’t think I can do it. Christ can do it. He uses each and every one of us.”

He sees the immigrant experience as being good preparation for his task. In his own experience learning English has prepared him to cross generations and cultures. “We’re between two generations. We’re slowly learning about the uniqueness of each group,” says Anthony. And Christ is the one thing everyone has in common.

Jaisy Tam is an intern pastor at Onnuri All Nations Community Church (OANC) while studying in the MDiv program at Tyndale. When Jaisy describes her church she refers to it as “pan-Asian.” The congregation is predominantly Canadian-born Koreans with a large group of Chinese and a few people from other South Asian countries. Jaisy herself is Chinese. She became a Christian four years ago.

OANC is made up of young adults. In many ways it is a 1M church – it’s multicultural but not really multilingual or multigenerational. The spoken language is English. OANC shares a building with the Korean Onnuri United Church. “It was planted with the understanding it was going to be separate,” says Jaisy. “We’re trying to fill the gap, that often happens in Chinese and Korean churches, between leaving and growing up.” Jaisy describes OANC as the middle solution between listening completely to the established leadership and severing ties with them.

Being that OANC is made up primarily of young adults, with some young families also attending, most everyone is career oriented and it is culturally ingrained in them to be successful. “The drive has been driven into them,” says Jaisy. “This time in life is very self-consuming.” The pressure from parents is that church is something to be done later in life, once a career has been established. “Equipping and empowering them is hard. They expect us [the pastors] to do everything,” says Jaisy.

The OANC pastoral team has been inspired by David Gibbon’s idea of a third culture church: “The mindset and will to love, learn, and serve in any culture even in the midst of pain and discomfort.” To that end, OANC has partnered with many different organizations locally and globally to create opportunities to step into the pain and discomfort of others.

“We’re partaking in a journey,” says Jaisy, “We’re not walking into something that’s already established.” Sometimes the journey can be discouraging and lonely but Jaisy’s time at Tyndale has given her the opportunity to cross generations and denominations and to know that she is not alone.

Dr. Chan’s accurate description of Tyndale being a 3M environment is borne out in his, Anthony’s and Jaisy’s experiences, which illustrate just how important sharing life, and not just knowledge, can be.