Finding Our Voice: A Vision for Asian North American Preaching

Written by Matthew D. Kim and Daniel L. Wong Reviewed By Brian H. Tung

Pastors of Asian North Americans (ANA) face the daily reality wherein they tread between multiple cultural and generational contexts. In Finding Our Voice, Matthew Kim and Daniel Wong provide clarity and propose a way forward so that the ANA church can develop a “unique homiletical voice akin to other minority groups” (p. 12).

The first chapter explores distinctive aspects of ANA identity. Here, Wong “contend(s) that the ANA experience is unique and different from both the white experience and the immigrant Asian experience” (p. 22). Immigration history, parental expectations, and experiences of marginalization are factors to which ANA ministers should be attuned. “Sermons in an ANA context cannot remain generic and culture free” (p. 45).

Chapter 2 argues that the in-betweenness of the ANA experience necessitates a hybridizing hermeneutic through which ANA ministers read and interpret Scripture. From a Western standpoint, the ANA context often involves a familiarity with redemptive-historical or law/gospel frameworks of biblical interpretation. An Eastern standpoint might involve Confucian, pilgrimage-marginalization-liberation, postcolonial, or blessing focuses. ANA preachers need to be sensitive to this background as they move from exegesis to application.

In chapter 3, Kim outlines the common influences on ANA theology and proposes his own model as a way forward. In the ANA context, identity formation is often a pressing issue, necessitating a more developed understanding of the image of God. Living between cultures also exacerbates the experience of liminality, leading to focuses on pilgrimage and finding a home in Christ. Kim then sets forth his model of “incarnational duality,” analogous to Jesus possessing two full natures in one person, ANA individuals experience the “dual reality of being Asian and North American” (p. 95). Understanding the tension between these two aspects will open the door for the preacher to powerfully bring Scripture to bear on the ANA experience.

Chapter 4 presents common features of ANA preaching. He begins by exhorting the ANA preacher to conduct the threefold exegesis of Scripture, the ANA congregation, and oneself. Effective ministry requires dedicated study and continual reflection upon each of these objects of exegesis. Wong then observes seven characteristics of ANA preaching: (1) contextual, (2) incarnational, (3) intercultural, (4) Holy Spirit-led, (5) transformational, (6) narratival, and (7) collaborative. Common themes in ANA preaching include the relationship between law and grace, leadership (especially intergenerational), familial relationships, culture and identity, self-esteem, and social justice.

Kim and Wong conclude Finding Our Voice in chapter 5 by presenting their closing recommendations and a joint vision for the future of ANA preaching. Hermeneutically, ANA preaching should be aware of nuances in differing cultures and generations. Illustrations should speak to the ANA experience engaging the congregation in diverse ways. Drawing helpful sermon applications will involve wrestling with the text on one’s own and exploring a variety of applications. Sermon delivery should be developed as a skill while also allowing one’s personality to shine through. In preaching, ANA ministers should consistently revisit topics like identity, shame and pain, God as Father, reconciliation and healing, and social justice. To close the chapter, Kim and Wong propose some avenues of development for ANA preachers: prophetic voice against injustice, sensitivity to multicultural settings, distinct ANA-style worship, racial and ethnic bridge-building, and vision-casting.

The strengths of Finding Our Voice can be summed up in one word: clarity. Throughout the work, Matthew Kim and Daniel Wong display a clear-eyed view of the ANA context, which reflects their many fruitful years of ministry. This clarity is most evident in their focus, sourcing, and succinctness.

The clarity of focus in Finding Our Voice is apparent from the outset. Kim and Wong immediately establish their audience and aims, both of which are successfully addressed throughout the book. This laser-focus continues throughout the following pages, especially in cases where Kim and Wong are careful not to overstate their general categories and observations.

Kim and Wong richly source their respective chapters, displaying a clarity regarding the resources already available to ANA audiences. This work would be worthwhile for the paper trail alone, providing many helpful avenues for further study and investigation. However, this does not discount the contributions made in the book, as both authors’ awareness engenders confidence that the reader is being guided not merely by isolated observations but by years of research and reflection.

Finally, the succinctness of Finding Our Voice is refreshing. Kim and Wong set about their task with pin-pointed efficiency, never wavering from the clear course they set in the opening pages. They move at a brisk pace and address every topic with enough generality, casting a large umbrella and enough specificity to provide helpful observations. The downside is that this book may leave readers wanting more. So many topics are left to explore further (which, admittedly, was not the stated purpose). The discussion questions at the end of each chapter and the appendix materials provide helpful guidance for group conversation and personal sermon preparation.

For anyone ministering in the ANA context or even seeking to understand this sphere better, I heartily recommend Finding Our Voice. It naturally fits in a seminary’s pastoral ministry/homiletics curriculum and would be particularly fruitful in pastoral cohorts. Even so, its accessible and engaging prose allows a layperson to pick it up, read comfortably, and become much more aware of the dynamics at play in a typical ANA congregation. As a survey, it whets the appetite for what else may come from these authors, other ANA writers, and ANA preachers as this genre continues to grow.

Brian H. Tung

Brian H. Tung
Mandarin Baptist Church of Los Angeles Alhambra
Alhambra, California, USA

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