Somehow, I’ve joined a wonderful crew of friends in launching a new podcast, The Shape of a New Thing to Come.

Jason has been a lifeline to me in so many ways. As many pastors know, life and ministry in a church context can be an isolating experience. There was a point several years ago when I felt adrift for a number of reasons. I felt compelled to reach out to Jason because I had read about the intentional community he led here in San Diego and was drawn to our common love of DIY punk and hardcore. I still remember fondly the first lunch we shared at Sipz (yes, with a “z”!). Finding a kindred spirit — in life, ministry, and music — made all the difference for me.

Speaking of kindred spirits, if you listen to this first episode, you will hear a moment of what I can only describe as profound serendipity when my new friend Adam and I connect over our mutual love for Seam. This blog, and pretty much all of my social accounts, are named after an album by Seam called Headsparks. So, when I found out that Adam used to run Seam’s MySpace page, this basically confirmed our music-nerd-best-friend status!

Check out the playlist we curated for this first episode:

Come join us on our Facebook page as we build a community celebrating punk, hardcore, and new faith communities! We’d love to hear from you.


It’s September, yeah, but Asian August forever and ever… 

For someone who is not a fan at all of rom-coms, I thoroughly enjoyed Crazy Rich Asians — and, apparently, so do well over $100 million worth of other ticket buyers. Mindy Kaling expresses so much of what makes CRA great here and here and here and here and here (for reals, Mindy, use the thread feature!).

However, I found myself identifying more naturally with David Kim, the father character played by John Cho in SearchingAs Director Aneesh Chaganty put it so well in this great live podcast episode of It’s Been A Minute:

In most films with Asian American actors, Aneesh said, “You usually have to explain — what is the Asian hook? Like, why is this family Asian?” But in Searching, he said, “there’s nothing about this film that explains it.”

That an actor of any race could have played the lead, John added, is precisely the point. “The fact that it doesn’t have to be an Asian-American film makes me want to claim it as an Asian-American film,” he said.

Also, key takeaway: No vlogging. Ever.

Semi-spoiler alert: Does that intro rival Up, or what? I sort of wish I had been given an emotional heads-up beforehand!


On top of all this, having smart, tenacious, faithful, talented Asian American friends who also happen to be authors sharing much-needed insight & guidance? You can read my review of Adrian Pei‘s fantastic book, The Minority Experience: Navigating Emotional and Organizational Realitieshere.

I’ll post a more robust review soon (hopefully!), but for now I’ll say this: Kathy Khang is the real deal and Raise Your Voice: Why We Stay Silent and How to Speak Up reflects her authenticity and passion. Particularly in this surreal age in which we live, silence is not an option for people of good faith and good will. As Elie Wiesel says, “We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”


I thought I’d resurrect the old blog for a couple of books written by friends, both of which I highly recommend. Let me start by saying that in The Minority Experience: Navigating Emotional and Organizational Realities, Adrian Pei crafts a compelling vision for leadership that the church needs today.

As an Asian American follower of Christ, I’ve experienced the often-harsh dissonance between the vision for diversity that many churches, organizations, and ministries proclaim on paper and the reality of living out that vision with purpose, love, truth, and grace. Many of us have been burned by the “Benetton ad” effect of organizations seeking only cosmetic diversity (i.e., trying to find “one of each” for a “diverse” group photo, which is then placed on the cover of the next brochure — but nothing actually changes in the culture of that organization). Others have felt the frustration of tokenism, being “given” a seat at the table only to discover that their voice is consistently discounted. And, that’s not to mention the toxic brew of racist microaggressions, blatant discrimination, and backlash for pointing out injustice (e.g., “Why can’t you take a joke?”) that many of us face.

I could go on, but I think you get the idea. The point is: this is hard work. This is exhausting work.

However, particularly for those of us who believe that a diverse church who reflects the joy and creativity of Jesus is a beautiful, credible witness to our divided, broken world — and that this is a glimpse of the fullness of redemption on the way (Revelation 7:9-10) — this is essential work.

That’s why I’m thankful for Adrian’s voice. The Minority Experience is a thoughtfully-researched, clearly articulated vision of how organizations can take steps to lead change in diversity. His wisdom earned in the trenches of leadership will strengthen any organization that is serious about initiating change around diversity.

I deeply appreciate Adrian’s willingness to display honest vulnerability in sharing his own minority experience. He speaks from his life as an Asian American, but I believe his insights will be relatable to and have implications for people from many different ethnic and cultural backgrounds.

This is definitely one of those books where I have so many bookmarks, margin scribbles, and highlighting marks that it’s almost easier to show what I did not note than what I did. Turning around a big ship can be overwhelming; through The Minority Experience, Adrian helps us chart a new course.

This is the fourth, and final, post in this series I’ve written with my good friend Jason Evans (You can also read part one, part two, and part three).


At a time when there was a lot of unrest about unemployment and social problems, punk music suddenly burst onto the scene like a slap in the face. It said to the world, ‘Wake up; we’ve had enough of meaninglessness!’ 
— David O’Brien1, Northern Soul: Football, Punk, Jesus

Let’s review.

The two of us have attempted to share with you how punk rock may have saved our faith. In our youth, we found parallels between punk rock politics and the Christian tradition that reaffirmed what we had learned in Sunday School classrooms. Like punk rock, the Biblical figures we had been taught about challenged the status quo, calling God’s people to live differently than what popular culture expected. Similar to the DIY ethic that encourages every participant to find a way to contribute, passages of the New Testament were to read us which encouraged us to be active members in the Body of Christ.

Open critique of prevailing systems. Open communities where all can contribute. Totally punk rock. Completely biblical.

There is little that is unique to our experience. Many have found an analog to Christian faith in communities formed through other musical genres, as well as, sports, recovery groups, and more. Part of this is simply due to how the gospel works; it finds its way into the everyday lives of ordinary people — no matter where that might be. As Justo Gonzalez writes in The Story of Christianity, Vol. 1:

The missionary task itself was undertaken, not only by Paul and others whose names are known—Barnabas, Mark et al. —but also by countless and nameless Christians who went from place to place taking with them their faith and their witness. Some of these, like Paul, traveled as missionaries, impelled by their faith. Both mostly these nameless Christians were merchants, slaves, and others who traveled for various reasons, but whose travel provided the opportunity for the expansion of the Christian message.

As this Advent season comes to a close, what might be next for us? Where do we go from here? Well, we’d like to offer a few recommendations.

Start the Conversation
Punk rock shows were always great places to get educated about the issues of the day. At shows, there would be tables set up in the back of a room with folks concerned about any number of agendas. In between sets, you would hear lively discourse about conservative and liberal economics, science, feminism, sexuality, gun control, the treatment of animals and more.

We were young and there were times when debates grew heated, even violent, but most Friday and Saturday nights were absent of this. What brought us together was that we were all punks and while we might disagree on some issues, we knew we needed space for each to find her voice.

There is a growing divide in this country along political and social issues. It is increasingly difficult for folks to talk to each other about the issues that most concern them and impact how they vote.

Create a safe space for dialogue. Provide opportunity for folks to hear differing opinions. This may be (or, frankly, will be) uncomfortable, but when has growth ever been easy? Pay particular attention to people whose voices may go unheard in your community.

Ask a friend with a different point of view in theology or politics for one book recommendation and commit to reading it. Or, if you don’t have any friends with differing opinions, consider how you might genuinely connect with someone who sees the world differently.2

Leverage the power of social media for the common good. Read and share meaningful articles on your Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter streams. On social media, follow one or two thoughtful people outside of your usual circles.

Get Involved
Our words certainly matter but, as they say, talk is cheap. Or, to phrase it biblically, “Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”3 Find ways to act on your convictions, even if they seem small.

For example, as you hear about the atrocities committed against children and families in Aleppo, refuse to give into despair. Give $20 to the Preemptive Love Coalition to provide a warm sleeping bag to one person on the run from violence, just as winter is beginning.

Find Your Voice  
As Ted Bond of California punk band, Craig’s Brother once wrote, “The gospel is punk in that it recognizes all governments as false gods. There is only one King. His name is Jesus, and he does not rule through fear.”

In the punk rock community, we found our voice. The church should be the same. There is no reason to hide your faith. As you boldly proclaim your allegiance to our unKing Jesus, again, you will certainly be misunderstood by people from all sides — continue in faithfulness and humility anyways.

You Are Not What You Own
In Merchandise, Ian Mackaye reminds us, “You are not what you own.” Actively resist our culture’s attempt to assign you value or worth based on outward appearances or more stuff.

Advent is a particularly important time to remember this, as you fight for your life amidst the bloodthirsty shoppers at Target. You were made for more than that. Find your worth (and see worth in others around you) by remembering that we have each been created in the image of God.

The notion that each of us is created in God’s image is very punk rock and incredibly good news! During this season, we read the announcement that a Savior has come, a Savior who embodies the ancient name Immanuel, God with us. God entered into this world in Jesus to be with us. You do not need anything else to attain access. Advent is the all ages, all access show. You are invited. You are welcome here.

Merry Christmas.


1. Once a street punk in the UK, O’Brien is now an Anglican vicar.

2. But, please, do not go and grab some random person of color, woman, etc. and thrust yourself upon them. Gene Demby and company offer keen insight here.

3. 1 John 3:18. John’s always messing with our comfort.

This is part three of a series I’m writing with my good friend Jason Evans (Part one and part two).


Perhaps our culture’s strongest signifier that the holidays are upon us is the annual trampling of humans and merchandise that begins the day after Thanksgiving, Black Friday.1 While the spectacle of people camping out for a week to be the first in line for an oversized flatscreen television or shoving grandmas out of the way to snag a snack-retrieving drone2 still manages to elicit tongue-clucking editorials, it feels sadly appropriate for our consumer culture to ritualize the height of the consumer spending season3 in this way.

For Christians, Advent is an invitation to live an alternative story, one in which giving is better than receiving, where the unKing arrives amidst a violent empire as a vulnerable infant. Advent, not Black Friday or the ball dropping in Times Square, marks the beginning of our year.4

A Mechanic’s Guide
In 1991, Simple Machines published and sent out 10,000 copies of their Introductory Mechanic’s Guide to Putting out Records — a DIY how-to guide that explains the record manufacturing process in simple language. Originally, the guide was released as part of a larger booklet released in conjunction with Dischord and Positive Force DC (a DC-area activist group that works for social change and youth empowerment) called You Can Do It, which covered topics such as how to organize an activist group or put on a show.

The Mechanic’s Guide has been influential in a number of other ways, as described in the introduction:

This booklet is just a basic blueprint, and even though we write about putting out records or CDs, a lot of this is common sense. We know people who have used this kind of information to do everything from putting out a 7″ to starting an independent clothing label to opening recording studios, record stores, cafes, microbreweries, thrift shops, bookshops, and now thousands of start-up internet companies. Some friends have even used similar skills to organize political campaigns and rehabilitative vocational programs offering services to youth offenders in DC.

Discipleship, Movie Theaters, and Shopping Malls
In the Western church, we have become painfully dependent upon a spiritual hierarchy. We have professionalized the idea of ministry – with the amateurs sitting back passively and watching the ordained professionals “do ministry” for them. It has been grossly misused by paid ministers and has been the excuse of many to treat discipleship to Christ as a casual hobby.

In this scenario, one might picture church as a movie theater, where people purchase a ticket, sit back comfortably, watch the show, and then get on with the rest of their lives or church as a shopping mall, where shoppers survey the many purveyors of religious goods and services, expect and receive attentive customer service and then, again, get on with the rest of “real” lives.

Get Up, Get Into It, Get Involved5
Scripture paints a very different picture: rather than passively consuming religious goods and services, we are called to make, create, and participate. In 1 Peter 2, we are told that, as a people belonging to God, all of us are part of a “royal priesthood” — not only the religious professionals or those on the stage. Scripture urges us to do more than “go to church” but to be the church. As 1 Corinthians 12:27 shows us, “You are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.”

You don’t have to search hard to find talk, both within church circles and in the broader culture, about finding your calling or chasing your dreams. This provides a unique opportunity for the church to remind Christians of our primary calling as the beloved people of God in Christ, and our primary vocation to seek the Kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven, as Jesus prayed. And, like early DIY punk scene, this challenges us to help the church live out our secondary callings in every sphere of life — everywhere we live, work, and play — and find a place for everyone to contribute so that the church becomes a dynamic, creative force for good in our local communities, rather than simply a destination to consume religious goods and services.

From Mass Produced to Artisan Crafted
From local craft microbrews and coffee roasters to artisans and makers, some in our culture have begun to shift from mass-production’s emphasis on efficient, scalable, and uniform to thoughtful, crafted, and unique. When the church calls everyone to participate in joining God’s mission of redemption, we may lose a bit of the slick, high-gloss sheen of big-budget productions, but we will gain much more — particularly in the unexpected joy of discovery as God’s dream for more of the church is awakened and unleashed.


1. This day wears black on the outside, because black is how it feels on the inside.

2. Look, I don’t need a jetpack in my future — is it too much to ask Elon Musk to make a drone that will get me a Diet Coke from the fridge?

3.  To the tune of almost $800 billion this year. Yikes, indeed.

4. Many Christian traditions recognize Advent as the beginning of new liturgical year.

5. We could use some more Soul Power, too.