NAMB contributors include Mark Hobafcovich, manager of People Group
Services, Church Planting; Van Sanders, associate of People Group Services,
Church Planting; Jason Kim, interim manager of Mutliethnic & Cross-Cultural
Evangelism, Evangelization; and Darwin Sokoken, national missionary and people
group coordinator (Filipino and multi-Asian) for the Church Planting
Driving through Silver Spring, Maryland, you will
find multiple religious sites dotting the skyline a microcosm of what is
happening in most metro areas in the United States. It isnt unusual to find a
Buddhist religious center, an Islamic mosque, a Hindu temple, a Jewish
synagogue and a church located in the same neighborhood. One of the driving
forces behind a growing multi-religious America is the tsunami of Asians who
emigrated to the U.S. in the 1990sa great and untapped mission field.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Asian-Americansnumbering 13.1 million
in 2004are growing faster than any other racial group.1 They are projected to grow to 33.4 million by
STATES WITH THE HIGHEST NUMBER OF
(including Asian in combination with another race):
1 California (4,155,685)
2 New York (1,169,200)
3 Hawaii (703,232)
4 Texas (644,193)
5 New Jersey (524,356)
6 Illinois (473,649)
7 Washington (395,741)
8 Florida (333,013)
9 Virginia (304,559)
10 Massachusetts (264,814)
Source: U.S. Census 2000
Asian-Americans (including Pacific Islanders) tend to be in households
consisting of families (73 percent), live in the western United States (49
percent), are affiuent (2002 median household income was $52,018 compared to
the national average $42,409), and are highly educated (47 percent have a
bachelors degree or higher compared to 27 percent of the general
population).3 In 2001, they made up 4.4 percent of
the U.S. population. In Canada, 58 percent of those who immigrated into the
country in the 1990s were from Asia (18.4 percent of Canadians are
foreign-born). China and South Asia were the two leading immigrant-sending
THE MISSION FIELD
Although Asian-American is a term of convenience to lump people coming from
Asia into one category, in reality Asian-Americans consist of a highly diverse
mix of cultures and religions. Most Asian-Americans are not Christian. They
come from countries where they have probably never had a chance to clearly hear
the gospel even once.
Some may consider Christ to be a great teacher; others may even see Jesus as
one of the many manifestations of God (or gods). It is heartening to note that
many churches in America are reaching out not only to Asian-Americans, but also
to the many sub-groups represented. The fact that many such people-groups are
living all around us is Gods invitation to reach them with the good news of
The Church Planting Group and the Evangelization Group at the North American
Mission Board can assist you in effectively sharing the gospel with and
reaching out to these people groups. You can contact the Church Planting Group
at firstname.lastname@example.org and the Evangelization Group at 770-410-6336.
ASIAN-AMERICANS BY ETHNIC ORIGIN
1 Chinese (2,734,841)
2 Filipino (2,364,815)
3 Asian Indian (1,899,599)
4 Korean (1,228,427)
5 Vietnamese (1,223,736)
6 Japanese (1,148,932)
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Asian American Population 2000
ASIANS IN AMERICA
About one-quarter of the foreignborn people in the United States were born in
Asia. Almost half have a bachelors degree or higher (compared to 27 percent of
the general population) and 16 percent have an advanced degree (compared to 9
percent of the general population). About 15 percent of all physicians and
surgeons in the U.S. are Asian- Americans. Witnessing to someone with an
affiuent, educated background demands that we be able to present the gospel in
an intellectual manner and be prepared to answer questions relating to
DID YOU KNOW?
1. More than half of Asian-Americans live in just three statesCalifornia,
New York and Hawaii.
2. The top 10 locations with the highest proportion of Asian-Americans are
in the western U.S. (nine are in California).
3. There are 351,000 Asian-American military veterans.
Source: U.S. Census Bureau
THE NEED TO BELONG
Most Asian-Americans come from a collectivist culture where belonging to a
group or family is valued more than being individualistic.
Those who have recently come to the United States are yearning to build
meaningful communities. This is where the church and Christians can step in.
Start by inviting them to non-threatening church events such as picnics,
potlucks, concerts, plays, festivals, etc. Get to know your Asian friend and
concentrate on building a relationship.
Chances are, even if your Asian friend is convinced of the truth of the
gospel, he or she will consider accepting Christ in light of how it will impact
his or her family. Family loyalty is strong. Be sensitive and pray diligently
if you see your Asian friend struggle with this issue.
In the next section we will cover two of the largest Asian groups in our
midstChinese-Americans and Asian Indians. We hope you will see and better
understand who these people are and how God can use you to plant the gospel in
1 Source: U.S. Census Bureau publication titled Asian
Pacific American Heritage Month: April 2004.
4 Source: Statistics Canada (www.statcan.ca)
Chinese first arrived on our shores for the same
reason that people from many other parts of the world dideconomic opportunity.
Stories of discrimination against the early Chinese settlers are
However, most Chinese-Americans in the U.S. today arrived more recently.
According to the U.S. Census, there are 2.7 million
Chinese-Americans.5 About 2 million people in the
U.S. speak Chinese at home.6 Its the third most
widely spoken language in the United States (after English and Spanish). In
Canada, more than 1 million people identified themselves as Chinese in 2001, a
growth of 20 percent since 1996.7 Chinese is also
the third most widely spoken language in Canada.
The Chinese market in North America has reached a critical mass, and
businesses and organizations are paying attention to that trend. A PR firm in
Vancouver launched its own Chinese New Year festival and 376,000 attended in
2000.8 Northwest Airlines launched an advertising
campaign targeting Chinese- Americans.9 Several Las
Vegas casinos are also targeting Chinese- Americans through themed events and
You will be able to build a bridge quickly if you know just a few words in
Good Morningza-o (informal)
How are you?knee-how-ma?
Very wellhen how
Although atheism is promoted in China, the Chinese-American community consists
of people from many different religious backgrounds and beliefsChristians,
Muslims, Taoists, Buddhists, Confucianists and so on. Ancestral worship is
common and is practiced in combination with rituals and beliefs borrowed from
Buddhism, Taoism and/or Confucianism. Chinese-Americans tend to work hard to
keep their lives in harmony. Respect is very important. The good news is that
God is raising a growing number of churches to reach out to Chinese Americans.
One study reports that there are 158 Chinese Protestant congregations in five
Bay area counties in California.11 However, there
is much more work needed.
THINGS TO REMEMBER
WHEN INTERACTING WITH A CHINESE-AMERICAN
Handshakes are common among Chinese-Americans, although many dont like other
kinds of physical contact.
A relatively large number of Chinese-Americans are affluent and
highly-educated. Be prepared to present the gospel intellectually.
Since the Chinese culture promotes harmony and abhors conflict, avoid
arguments. If you feel a conversation is turning argumentative, drop the
subject. You can pick it up later.
Chinese-Americans tend to be Internet savvy. Exchange emails to keep in
Hospitality is prized so be willing to go over to your Chinese friends house
if invited. If eating with chopsticks, place them on the table after you are
finished. Sometimes guests bring a gift of chocolate or fruit.
Learn about Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism. These religions place a lot
of emphasis on leading a good life. The concept of salvation and life beyond
death are not major concerns for many Chinese. Learn the chasm diagram (God on
one side, man on the other, with Christ bridging the chasm of sin), and be
prepared to talk about why it makes sense to believe in Christ not just in
terms of eternity but while we are here on earth. (For more tips and ideas, see
the authors book Reaching the World in Our Own Backyard.)
Politeness is valued, and respect is very important.
Safe topics for conversation include family and hobbies. You can also ask
your Chinese friend about his or her culture.
Be aware that practicing multiple religions is not uncommon. Be prepared to
explain why Christianity is so unique.
Quite a few elderly Chinese- Americans suffer from poverty.12 Find out ways you can show Christs love in a practical
If you have Chinese-Americans in your church, enlist their help in starting
a ministry to Chinese- Americans in your community. Chinese-Americans will be
more willing to come to a church event if invited by another Chinese person or
if they know other Chinese people are going to be there.
Avoid giving gifts of knives, clocks or gifts made of straw these items are
associated with funerals.
Most Chinese- Americans find speaking mock Chinese very offensive.
Avoid talking about politics or communism. If your friend brings it up, do
more listening than talking.
Dont criticize your Chinese-American friend in front of others. If you have
to do it, do it privately.
Avoid making any comments about Chinese dragons, customs or other items you
might find displayed in their homes or places of business.
Dont touch or make fun of idols of Buddha that you might see in the home or
office of a Chinese American.
Avoid discussing Hong Kong, Taiwan and Tibet. If your friend brings these
topics up, do more listening than talking!
Above all, pray that Chinese-Americans will know there is only one, true,
living God and that they can truly experience an abundant life through Christ.
Pray for the many on mission churches and Christians who are trying to
5 Source: U.S. Census Bureau publication titled Asian
Pacific American Heritage Month: April 2004.
6 Fetto, John, Chinese at Home, American
Demographics, Feb. 1, 2003, v25 i1.
7 Source: Statistics Canada (www.statcan.ca)
8 Emmons, Natasha, Canadian PR Firm Draws 376,000 to
Chinese New Year Festivals, Amusement Business, Feb. 21, 2000, p.19.
9 ADWEEK, March 27, 2000, p.8.
10 Ebenkamp, Becky, Year of the Rat Pack?,
Brandweek, Nov. 27, 2000, p.27.
11 Chuck, James, Growth of Chinese Protestant
Congregations from 1950 to Mid-1996 in Five Bay Area Counties, Chinese America:
History and Perspectives, Annual 2001, p.63.
12 Wu, Dana Ying-Hui & Jeffrey dao-Sheng Tung,
Coming to America: The Chinese-American Experience, Millbrook Press,
Brookfield, CT, 1993, p.58.
The Pluralism Project of Harvard University lists
nearly 700 places of worship for Hindus in the United States
today.13 Most of these temples have been built
since 1990. The Asian-Indian population has doubled every 10 years since 1970.
Today, there are some 1.9 million Asian-Indians in the United
States.14 In Canada, 917,075 people identified
themselves as South Asians in the 2001 census a growth of 37 percent since
1996.15 A majority of Asian-Indians are
Although India is the birthplace of several religions (Hinduism, Buddhism,
Sikhism, Jainism), the majority of Indians are Hindu. Hinduism is more a way of
life than a religion. According to Hinduism, there is one god who has
manifested himself in millions of gods and goddesses. Since no one can possibly
remember all of them, most Hindus pick and choose what they want to believe or
Start by finding out a little about Hinduism and the major differences it
has with Christianity. There are several good resources available. (If you want
a quick guide, you can see the authors book Reaching the World in Our Own
Backyard. Or visit www.namb.net/beliefbulletins.)
TOP STATES WITH ASIAN-INDIANS (2000)
1 California (314,819)
2 New York (251,724)
3 New Jersey (169,180)
4 Texas (129,365)
5 Illinois (124,723)
Source: Embassy of India, Washington, DC
THINGS TO REMEMBER
WHEN INTERACTING WITH AN ASIAN-INDIAN
The Indian culture is collectivist which means your Indian friend will
consider accepting Christ in light of how it will impact his or her family.
Many Hindu coverts are disowned by their family members. Converting to another
religion is seen as a betrayal of ones family and even as abandonment of ones
culture. Be supportive, prayerful and patient. Gently remind your Indian friend
that Jesus was not a westerner, nor was He an American!
Indians tend to be philosophical. Be prepared to explain why Christianity
makes sense from a logical viewpoint.
Cricket is the most popular sport, making it a safe topic for conversation.
Other popular games are football (known as soccer in North America) and
badminton. Indian culture, heritage and food are also good topics for
Indians tend to be very hospitable and friendly. Concentrate on building a
relationship before you bring up the topic of religion.
Many young Asian-Indians who have arrived recently in the United States tend
to work very hard and long hours. Theyre looking for meaningful community
experiences during weekends. Start by inviting them to non-threatening church
Keep in mind that Asian-Indians are a diverse mix of people representing a
long historical fusion of cultures, religions and race.
A whole new generation of Asian-Indian children and youth are finding it
increasingly hard to balance their strong traditions at home to fit into
mainstream American society.
Education is highly prized by Asian-Indians. Only 3 percent of Indian
arrivals lack a high school diploma, and 75 percent of Indians working in the
U.S. have a college degree.16
You will be able to build a bridge quickly if you know just a few words in
How are you?ahp kai-say ho?
I am finemay theek hoo
Although handshakes are common among Asian-Indians in America, men should
wait for a woman to extend her hand first.
Dont initiate a conversation on politics. Avoid talking about the
India-Pakistan conflict. If your Indian friend brings it up, do more listening
The left hand is considered unclean, so avoid using it when giving or
Dont let the sole of your feet point toward your Indian friend that is
considered highly offensive.
Treat copies of the Bible, and other printed materials, with respect. Hindus
treat their holy scriptures with much respect.
Avoid touching idols or portraits of gods and goddesses, and never make any
jokes about them.
Avoid comparing India with the United States.
Colossians 4:5 exhorts us, Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders;
make the most of every opportunity (NIV). With the growing numbers of
internationals in our midst, opportunities are everywhere. You can become a
missionary to the nations without even leaving your zip code! Pray that
internationals will know that true fulfillment and joy can be found only in
Jesus. Pray also for the numerous on mission churches and Christians
who are trying to reach them.
13 Source: www.pluralism.org
14 Source: U.S. Census Bureau.
15 Source: Statistics Canada (www.statcan.ca)
16TIME, The Golden Diaspora, June 19,
Rajendra Pillai, originally from Calcutta, India, speaks on
crosscultural issues across the continent. He is the author of Reaching the
World in Our Own Backyard (WaterBrook Press, 2003) and lives in Damascus,
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