I am very excited to be a part of Talbot School of Theology’s Asian American Ministry Doctor of Ministry track. Students self-study for most of the year but come to Biola’s campus as a cohort for in-person residences for two weeks each May. This track will be taught and guided by some of the most experienced leaders, instructors, and practitioners in Asian American ministry. The track is geared towards anyone who pastors or leads Asian Americans in a church or parachurch setting.
The big question that is often asked is “why an Asian American Doctor of Ministry program to begin with?” Shouldn’t seminary training or a bible college degree be enough? These are excellent questions and there are many valid reasons for this program. First, most seminaries in America are typically geared towards preparing students to serve in more Westernized churches and ministries. While this kind of training may be helpful in learning one’s theology, learning how to preach, studying the Scriptures, and grasping church history, there are some important cultural aspects that are missing. The Asian American church is very different from Westernized churches. The people are different. The languages are different. The theology is different. Even the humor is different. But most all, the way that Asian Americans do church is pretty different as well. For this reason alone, a program such as this at Talbot is valuable. Our goal here is to re-train pastors and leaders in order to empower them in their cultural context of ministry.
A second reason is that many Asian American pastors and leaders are very tired and discouraged. They are desperately in need of renewal. The original intent of a Doctor of Ministry program was to help pastors who have been out of seminary for a few years to get some re-tooling and renewing for personal learning and growth. After serving in an Asian American church for many years myself, I knew that I needed some refreshment and renewal for my own soul. Being a part of a group of fellow co-laborers who are together for 3-5 years will create a supportive accountability group that should aid a person in his/her ministry.
A third and final reason for the track is to bring training to reform the Asian American churches of the future. This will happen through the training and mentoring of leaders so that they can be equipped to train and mentor future, up-and-coming leaders. Our aim is to raise up the next generation of pastors and spiritual leaders. The result will be healthier and better equipped leaders who will be able to affect the Asian American community for the future.
We have gone to great measures to bring a team of stellar teachers and practitioners to be a part of this track. These instructors understand both the culture and ministry through years of experience in serving the Asian American church. First, we have Reverend Cory Ishida, the founding lead pastor of Evergreen Church San Gabriel Valley. He has served at the church for over 42 years and he brings a wealth of ministry experience to the track. Next, we have Dr. Sheryl Silzer, a Japanese-American missionary who has served in Indonesia doing Bible translation for many years. She is also a cultural expert in Confucianism, Buddhism, and Daoism and continues to train missionaries in cultural awareness. Finally, I will be the directing faculty mentor for the program. I have served as a pastor, professor, and parachurch leader for over 25 years. My areas of teaching will be in Asian theology, hermeneutics, and leadership. I will also bring my encouragement along with guidance and mentorship to all the participants in the cohort. My main focus has been in working closely with Korean-American churches in the United States.
I am thrilled to be a part of this special Doctor of Ministry track. Talbot School of Theology has supported this program fully for the last 8 years. I believe that it is a unique program and a first for any Evangelical seminary in the United States. We limit the number of students for each residency to 20 so that we, the cohort instructors, can have a personalized and focused emphasis on mentorship with each student. Please inquire further for more information on the program webpage. You can also apply online at the same site. I hope to see many of you join this track in 2022!