By Shannon Baker
SILVER SPRING, Md.—Over 40 Asian American lay church leaders, mostly younger professionals, gathered at Global Mission Church on Aug. 29 for the first of many “A2CP2” conferences sponsored by local Baptist churches and the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention.
“A2” stands for “Asian American” and “CP2” stands for “Church Planting/Cooperative Program,” explained Paul Kim, Asian American Relations Consultant for the Executive Committee, SBC. He organized the event with Robert Kim, language church strategist for the Mid-Atlantic Baptist Network, Columbia, Md., and Chaplain (LTC) Felix Sermon, U.S. Army, Woodbridge, Va., who serves as the A2CP2 state coordinator for Maryland, Delaware and Virginia.
The “A2CP2″ conference is designed for laypeople, especially for next generation of Asian American college students and young adults, to learn about SBC life, church planting, and pastoral ministry from the Asian American Relations Consultant and other respected local church leaders who are involved as bi-vocational ministers.
During the event, Paul Kim, pastor emeritus of Antioch Baptist Church in Cambridge, Mass., shared a video about the church, as presented at the first Korean Baptist World Mission Conference in Honolulu, Hawaii in 2014. The video showcased how first generation Asian believers who led at Berkeley (Calif.) Baptist Church moved to poverty-stricken cities in the world to plant churches, start orphanages, and provide medical care for the sick.
“Several young professionals left their jobs in the U.S. to serve alongside these churches,” Kim explained, urging the participants to get involved in Southern Baptist efforts. “You can do even greater things than this.”
He challenged the group to truly follow Jesus, who has given each purpose in life. “God has allowed you to be born in this nation—as a second or third generation Asian—to be ‘fishers of men,’” he said, noting they should be proud of their culture and heritage.
Pointing to a 58-page summary report of findings of the involvement of Asians in the Southern Baptist Convention, Kim said there are nearly 1,800 Southern Baptist churches, including Cambodian, Chinese, Filipino, Hmong, Japanese, Korean, Laotian and Vietnamese Baptist churches.
Comparatively, other reports revealed there are about 3,300 Hispanic churches and about 4,000 African American churches in the SBC.
Kim noted Southern Baptist churches are “mostly smaller churches” with 90 percent of all SBC churches having 250 members or less. Moreover, churches with 250 or less members give twice as much to the Cooperative Program (CP), Southern Baptists’ unified plan of giving to fund Southern Baptist missions and ministry.
“Smaller churches drive CP!” he said, before showing the importance of CP’s history in the video, “Forged By Faith” (http://www.sbc.net/forgedbyfaith/). “Smaller churches are Plan A in the Cooperative Program strategy.”
Also on the program, three Southern Baptist lay leaders shared their testimonies about following Jesus.
Joon Yim, M.D., now Director of Pathology at the Foot and Ankle Specialists of the Mid-Atlantic, did not grow up in church. Nothing mattered more to him than success. He shared his journey of working really hard to succeed in school, college and eventually at medical school, only to realize his ambition had become a stumbling block that prevented him from experiencing God fully.
He soon met spiritual leaders in his life who were “quite accomplished people who had laid worldly opportunities down to follow after Jesus,” he said. “My idol had been my ambition and my future, which I ultimately surrendered to God.”
Over time, Yim, now a member of WorthyLife Church in Washington, D.C., said he realized that commitment to God required a commitment to a local body of believers. He faced the choice: do I forgo medical school, which required a move or do I leave church?
He knew in his heart he would choose medical school—his own ambitions—and moved to study at UCLA’s medical school. There, he admits, he experienced the lowliest time of his life.
“People underestimate the importance of church,” Yim explained. “Where does it say one’s location should be based on one’s job or school instead of Christ’s mission?”
It was during this time when God really spoke to him about repentance and full surrender. Accordingly, he wrote a letter to his former pastor in repentance, only to discover the “seemingly random” letter was confirmation to the pastor to start a new church in Los Angeles.
“By the grace of God, I was a part of the church again,” Yim celebrated. He went on to choose a medical profession that would not require an excessive amount from his schedule so he could stay involved in ministry.
“Though my best [medical school] rotation was surgery, I wanted a field that would give me flexibility and time to minister at the church,” he said, explaining he also chose a smaller hospital in which to do his residency.
Since then, Yim witnessed as God opened doors for him to minister to other medical students through his position as an adjunct faculty position and as a pathologist. “There’s so much God can do through these students with their professional careers,” he said.
David Tan, Ph.D., who earned a doctoral degree from Johns Hopkins University and is employed at the United States Navy – Naval Surface Warfare Center in Washington, D.C., also shared his testimony.
Also a member of WorthyLife Church, Tan attended youth group growing up but he was far more engrossed in playing video games—so much so that he found himself delaying a visit to see his mother who had been rushed to the hospital.
“Through this incident, I became very concerned about my hardened heart,” Tan recounted, sharing even though he wanted out of the mess, he felt increasingly helpless. “No one could rescue me except for Jesus.”
Tan, originally from Singapore, became a Christian and saw his addiction to video games broken. His grades at school dramatically improved. But then he spent two years in mandatory service in the Army, a time he calls his wilderness experience.
“I realized I had gradually become like my old self before I had become a Christian,” he said, indicating he was merely going through the motions of Christianity but was not experiencing its depth. He eventually studied at the University of Michigan for his undergraduate degree and at the well-known Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) for grad school.
While at grad school, Tan got involved at Antioch Baptist Church, where he found spiritually mature leaders who really took the time to disciple him.
“This family of God was very concretely living out Christ-centered relationships” despite their very busy schedules, he said.
Over time and several life changes—marriage, moves back to Singapore and then back to the U.S.—Tan eventually finished his doctorate at Johns Hopkins University, all while maintaining his relationship with his mentors. He served in ministry on the Johns Hopkins campus and now serves, with his wife, at Georgetown University ministering to the many Asian American and international students who study there.
“I am attempting to shine God’s light on this campus” in the same way leaders in his life has done over the years, he said.
Felix Sermon, in his remarks, shared how he is the product of SBC mission work in the Philippines and working hand in hand with IMB missionaries in planting churches. He now serves as a North American Mission Board missionary as a chaplain in the U.S. Army. He also serves as the Volunteer Asian American (A2CP2) State Coordinator for Maryland, Delaware and Virginia.
Sermon explained chaplains serve in prisons, healthcare, corporations, and in public safety and disaster relief efforts as well as in the military.
Presently, there are over 3,600 Southern Baptist chaplains (military and civilian) under the leadership of Chaplain (Major General) Douglas Lanier Carver, a retired United States Army officer who served as the 22nd Chief of Chaplains of the United States Army. Carver was the first Southern Baptist chaplain to be promoted to the position of Chief of Chaplains in more than 50 years.
“We are Southern Baptist pastors in uniform,” Sermon said, urging his listeners to consider chaplaincy work. He detailed the requirements to be a NAMB military chaplain: undergraduate and master of divinity degrees, active duty experience, ordination, as well as age and fitness requirements. Candidates must also be members of Southern Baptist churches.
Next year, Global Mission Church will host a second annual “A2CP2” Leadership Network Conference, which will include testimonies and skits about Cooperative Program giving and church planting as well as a panel discussion.