If you look at the bag of rice in the graphic, it is fronted by an image of the Chinatown gates with icons of San Francisco in the background. Yet the whole image sits in front of a map of the world. All these elements together highlight two understated realities, two realities that will have a profound effect on evangelism and missions in this generation and ones to come.
- Asian culture can bring tremendous untapped assets to God’s Kingdom in theology, discipleship and evangelism. In my experience, the legalism, shame, lack of focus of a more subjective emotional experience of God’s truth in Asian culture are seen as liabilities to following Jesus. The truth is, there is huge potential to be found in group-oriented cultures like Asian ones that can powerfully influence intimacy with God and how we reach neighbors across the nations.
- The world is migrating to cities now more than ever before; the church needs to continuing shifting its perspective towards cities, to see the brokenness and pain as God sees it, but also to see all the beauty, creativity, and collaboration that reflects God in cities. Altogether, there is huge discipleship and evangelical potential in cities. Though the “church-flight” from urban places we’ve seen for decades speak otherwise, the urban context is very much on God’s heart. Looking at where the population of Christians have shifted in the last hundred years (from rural to urban), God is using urbanization to impact the world more than ever before.
- Taken together, these two realities are utterly underestimated and underdeveloped: In the words of theologian Ray Bakke, “The world is Asianizing as fast as it is urbanizing.” (Raymond J. Bakke. A Theology as Big as the City (Kindle Locations 63-64). Kindle Edition.) In his words, “Asianization’ and urbanization are the twin engines propelling the planet into the next century… Missions is no longer geographically distant, they are culturally distant.”
“Kingdom Rice” is strategically bringing together these twin engines, “Asianization” and urbanization, to impact how we reach diverse cultures for Christ. Kingdom Rice has been bringing together work from scholars on these subjects, along with local pastors, professors, and missionaries, then delivering this “Asian-urban” body of work to missionaries here and abroad through direct ministry to ministry practitioners who are on the forefront of these issues. Direct ministry means I’m serving, teaching, and equipping alongside effective church and parachurch ministries in an urban context. Ministry practitioners are the ones faithfully getting their hands into the soil of an urban context where, at least in San Francisco, dozens of people from unreached people groups have come to live.
Another way to say it, Kingdom Rice is an advocate for an “asian, group oriented” approach to ministry. I use to word “advocate” because this approach is not only underdeveloped, it is passed over, marginalized. For example, the themes of honor and shame are all over Scripture, but often passed over by most. Despite its biblical weight, open up the index of any theological text and you’ll rarely find group-oriented themes of face, shame, or honor. The more our theology actually reflects the biblical weight of Scripture, the more God can use it.
What Kingdom Rice is known for:
- Urban missional training: training to see cities as God sees it, not as capitalists and consumers, but as “sent ones” seeking to bring blessing. I’ve used many parts of San Francisco as backdrops for this training, but the tours through Chinatown have by far been the most well-known.
- Training in reaching “nations in our backyards.” I’ve been asked numerous times by churches to speak and train on this subject. They realize they want to train their members to be more “missional.” I’m very well aware members will soon hit a ceiling if their very leaders and pastoral staff are not pursuing this themselves. So I use the latter potential as criteria to discern if I accept the invitation. (I don’t blindly accept speaking invites.)
- Evangelism: I have two big buckets here. The more structured bucket is the secular job I hold down, a commercial sales job for a floor refinishing company that my friends started some 9 years ago to be a missional presence here in San Francisco. A “normal” job gives me tremendous credentials for being in the City, and puts me in the very trenches where I have to apply to very things I teach others. The other huge bucket is evangelism as a missionary in a foreign country would do. I learn the culture of circles of people, discover what they value, and then intentionally engage in intentional spiritual conversation. I’ve had dozens of these conversations this past year alone. Atheists commonly seek me out for coffee to talk about world view; I’ve even guest blogged for an atheist.
- Partnerships: I have a few huge buckets here, each one playing a significant role in the ministry. Scholars and authors: Most of these write from an overseas Asian or Central Asian context, where the culture lends for them to adopt a group-oriented approach to missions. Without these servants, my work would have no backbone, and I’d have no one to “head-test” my work with. The work here represents my “R/D.” Local Pastors and Missionaries: I pray with a select few twice a month and they are my spiritual backbone and accountability. But I partner with many more and have preached in many kinds of churches, spanning denominations and ethnic groups (Baptist, Pentecostal, AOG, Indonesian, Korean, Chinese, etc.). I’ve been a consultant and mentor to church planters, life coaches, missionaries, and more. Mission organizations are like my spiritual feet. They are the ones using the resources among their staff here and overseas. Here is where I deliver and beta test. Here is where I can write, produce, and train at the highest levels because I’m serving those on the field. To be honest, I enjoy time with missionaries much more than seminary students because the former have already shed tears on the field, and are more often protected from the kind of lifeless theology that can get stuck in a classroom.