NEW ORLEANS – About 185 people from at least eight Asian ethnic groups met at the New Orleans Convention Center in the days preceding the 2023 SBC Annual Meeting for the third annual Asian Collective Kickoff.
It was a three-hour gathering emceed by Carter Tan, who identified himself as a Malaysian Chinese. He’s an English Ministry elder at Grace Chinese Baptist Church of Richmond, Va.
“We are so excited to share what God is doing through Asians in the Southern Baptist Convention,” Tan told listeners crowded into an energetic room.
The gathering opened with a video produced by the SBC Executive Committee showing what God is doing with and through its 46,000 affiliated congregations. Worship followed, a team led by Augustine Hui, Chinese heritage pastor of what Hui called the “diverse” Metairie Church of greater New Orleans.
Vietnamese Pastor Christian Phan quoted from Revelation 5 before praying: “We are one in Jesus Christ and further, we are one to the nations.”
New Orleans Baptist Association Executive Director Jack Hunter spoke next.
“We have much to learn and unlearn about each other,” Hunter said to approving applause. “Welcome to New Orleans.”
Fourteen members of the Myanmar National Baptist Fellowship – set to meet Monday for their first annual meeting as a Southern Baptist fellowship – gathered onstage to sing a Burmese hymn in their language. Executive Director Hre Mang told listeners only 8 percent of the Burmese population identifies as Christian, so members of those churches have double duty as a matter of course: to reach out both locally and in Myanmar, formerly known as Burma.
Jamie Dew, president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, was the Asian Collective’s first guest speaker. He spoke from John 13 about discipleship and the need to follow Jesus’ example by serving others, just as Jesus washed His disciples’ feet.
“What God actually seeks is humility,” Dew preached. “Our God hates pride.”
Peter Yanes, the SBC Executive Committee’s Associate Vice President of Asian Relations and Mobilization, shared about his team’s efforts to encourage Asian groups in the SBC that have not yet formed national fellowships to do so for mutual encouragement and support.
Of the 27 Asian ethnicities that are part of the SBC, only eight have a collective voice, but some are edging closer, such as Brazilian Asian groups and South Indian groups, Yanes said.
“We are in a new day of unifying, of becoming one,” Yanes said. “We want to hear Asian voices being heard throughout the Southern Baptist Convention.”
Chu Soh is one of those voices. He is Chief Operations Officer at GuideStone Financial Resources, the highest-ranking Asian American in the SBC, Yanes said.
Soh, Jeremy Sin, National Church Planting Catalyst for the North American Mission Board, and Ezra Bae, Asian Church Mobilization Strategist for the International Mission Board all spoke at the Asian Collective.
“We use different chopsticks but we all have the same purpose, coming together,” Sin said, to the appreciative laughter of his listeners, who could relate to the analogy.
Bae spoke of the 280 IMB missionaries of Asian heritage, outpacing all other ethnic groups. Fourteen more Asians are in line to be appointed, Bae added.
“Your church has 3,600 missionaries,” Bae said to one pastor, and then to two more, driving home the point that because of the Cooperative Program, each Southern Baptist church can make that same claim.
Asian initiatives in the SBC
Three ministry initiatives of interest to Asians are underway across the SBC, Yanes said, paving the way for Minwoo Jang, John Barnett and Minh Ha Nguyen to speak.
A Global Theological Initiatives has been started at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Jang said. “Our goal is to train the trainers.”
IMB is setting up a Diaspora Missions Collective, Barnett said, because 100 million people are on the move, worldwide, as a result of various conflicts. “Let’s work together to reach the nations.”
Nguyen and his team at Radius Global Cities Network are developing the SBC’s Ethnic Research Network. “We can’t really know where we’re going unless we know where we’re coming from and where we are,” Nguyen said.
“Until lions have their historians, the hunter will always be the hero of the story,” Nguyen added, quoting an African proverb.
Greetings from SBC leaders
Willie McLaurin, interim CEO and president of the SBC Executive Committee, was welcomed with exuberant applause.
“We not only serve the Lord and others, we serve each other,” McLaurin said in a message of encouragement. He cautioned his listeners to be filled with the Spirit, to be faithful in service to God and the people He loves, to be fruitful as God provides, to be fortified by the Word of God with endurance and patience, to be focused on the future, and to be faithful in praying for others.
SBC President Bart Barber dropped in to greet the Asian Collective despite the grief he was feeling from the death of his mother who passed away earlier in the day. Former President Ed Litton gathered pastors around Barber as Litton prayed for Barber to have the strength to endure despite his grief and in praise of a mom who could be proud of her son.
Litton told the group about the Unify meeting set for 9 p.m. Monday in the same building. He and New Orleans pastor and former SBC President Fred Luter plan to unpack the Unify Project to help bring together all nationalities and people who together comprise the Southern Baptist Convention.
Excitement of Asian Americans
“I love the Asian Collective,” said Gideon Lee, pastor of Crosspoint Church of Silicon Valley in Milpitas, California. “To see the presentations by Asian leaders is very much appreciated.”
Yanes, who led in the formation of the Asian Collective that brings together all Asian groups across the SBC, said he was pleased with the development of the gathering.
“There is an excitement among the different Asian leaders for the current SBC engagement among Asian churches,” Yanes told Baptist Press. “We look forward to a time when each Asian ethnicity is represented, engaged and participating in different SBC mission endeavors.”
Victor Chayasirisobhon closed in exuberant prayer. He is pastor of First Southern Baptist Church of Anaheim, California, associational mission strategist for the Orange County Southern Baptist Association, president of the California Southern Baptist Convention and first vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Monday’s events concurrent with the SBC’s annual meetings include the Asian Collective NexGen Pastors Network.