Being in vocational ministry can be lonely and isolating. I have really been feeling it these days — my struggle with depression has left me worn out, on edge and easily angered. This leaves me feeling like a failure as a husband and father which, in turn, leads to more depression and on and on. Ugh. I can recognize what’s happening inside of me — which is a pretty big step for me — but it is very difficult to actually break free from it.
Part of my sadness comes from feeling out of place. I don’t blame our church. In fact, I think they would be much better off with someone who understands the language and culture. Although I know it is commonplace in first generation immigrant churches, I find myself increasingly intolerant of “family ministry” meaning essentially “I want to get rid of my children for as long as possible while you supervise them.” Some of the things that are most important to me in life don’t really have a realistic place in the first generation immigrant church context, and that makes it extremely difficult to keep forging ahead in the same direction.
However, as much as I know there is no future for me in the first gen church, I have a hard time picturing myself in a second generation Asian American church context — or, at least, with many of these churches that I have encountered. Let me illustrate: we have a couple of close friends from Orange County who are part of an Asian American church. When the leadership team found out that his background was in the PC(USA) they joked that he was “just barely” a Christian. Sigh. I am weary of this kind of theological arrogance — what good does it do if I can quote Calvin and Piper verbatim, but still act like a gigantic jerk most of the time?
So, then, do we plant a church? Maybe one day, but for now the last thing I would want to do is try to build a new faith community out of frustration or hurt. There is holy discontent, and then there is just plain bitterness. I think I just want to be part of a community where we can be honest and open — maybe not constantly spilling our guts (that’s not really in my personality anyways), but at least one in which we don’t have to go through an elaborate charade every week (and in which “church” is more than once or twice a week in the first place).
Yes, I want to do everything I can to build the kind of community I believe in right where I am. But I would love to be a part of — and contribute to — a church that I am genuinely passionate about, where we have more than “vision statements” that sound great but have little bearing on our reality. I have to admit, though, that dream always seems just out of reach.