The 3rd Generation

English: Three Generations

Image via Wikipedia

I’m currently reading David Kinnamin’s You Lost Me. He writes about how the 3rd generation is no longer aware the language, values and culture of the first generation.

My parents are First Generation Koreans, or Immigrant Koreans. While, technically, I’m Generation 1.5 (because I was born in Korea and moved to ‘Merica! when I was young), I consider myself a 1.8(ish) Generation. For my definition of 1.5ers, someone would have to be born in Korea and lived a significant part of their formative years in Korea, then move to America. That way you have a good understanding of the Korean culture (and Korean education) and a grasp of the American culture as you get immersed and grow in it.

I moved to America when I was 6. I barely knew how to read Korean and my Korean education level is that of a Kindergartener. Therefore, I can’t say that I’m a pure 1.5er.

My brother is a 2nd Generation Korean. He was born in South Carolina.
When God finally heeds my fervent prayer and blesses us with a child, that child will be the 3rd Generation.

My parents would probably consider themselves Korean or at best (..worst..?), Korean-American. They are through and through Korean. Their worldview is still based in the Korea of the 70′s and 80′s. Sure, they have adapted to some of the “American” ideals and culture. But push come to shove, they’re more Korean than American.

Me, I consider myself American-Korean. I lived in America for the most part of my life. But there’s a distinct Korean-ness in me (My body does still crave Korean food if I go without for a long time…). Some of my values are grounded in the Korean culture I received from my parents. But most of my values, thoughts, ideas and dreams are formed by the American culture (that I received from MTV).
For (a broad and general) instance, just because you’re older than me, doesn’t mean that I ¬†automatically have to respect you. Respect needs to be earned (regardless of someone’s age or position). That’s more American than Korean, I think. (Or, I’m just a punk.)

My language of preference is American… er English. In fact, my Korean is getting worse and worse. If it weren’t for my parents, I think my Korean would be all but gone. I notice that I’m stammering more when I speak to my parents. I see that the words are harder to say and find… but, listening to Korean, I have no problem. I can translate from Korean to English, but for the life of me, English to Korean is next to impossible.

And that’s my worry. I believe that cultural identity is heavily wrapped in language. My wife and I communicate to each other in English. The only time we use Korean to one another is when we need to say something (usually something bad) without anyone understanding a word that we say.
When we have kids, outside of a few Korean words and phrases, our kids most likely will be English speaking. Their worldview and values will be completely shaped and formed by the American culture (and yes, I’m a bit scared).
They’ll be American-American. They’ll just look Korean, but may not be a trace of the Korean culture and essence in their identities.
They may find Kimchi repulsive. They may have no interest in who Kim Sejong is or the significance of August 15 would be outside of history lessons. While many of my 1.5 and 2nd Generation Koreans went through a Korean Pride phase in our lives… this may completely be lost on the 3rd Generation of Koreans. They’ll just be Korean by physically, but American in everything else.

Where am I going with this?
I can’t help but relate this to Church (well, because of David Kinnamin).
While I can touch on many aspects of Church, today for the sake of this post, I’m going to just focus on worship.

(And these are generalization, I know. Bear with me.)
The “First Generation” of church leaders like the highly liturgical worship services. They feel the presence of God through liturgy, organ, robes, choral music… they prefer what we would call the “traditional” worship services.

My generation of pastors, “the 2nd Generation” have been a part of both traditional worship services and contemporary worship services. As formal as being robed up on Sunday mornings to as casual as having devotions around a camp fire. And we value both experiences deeply. We’ve been part of and designed worship services that are liturgical and formal but also worship services that have the beating drums and a driving bass line.
I know many of my fellow “2nd Gen’ers” who prefer the highly liturgical worship over the contemporary, and just as many (myself included) who prefer the drums, bass guitar, electric guitar, acoustic guitar and a bunch of hipster Christians leading worship. They can go either way.

In the summer of 2011, our church hosted an intern. I wish we had chosen better, because this intern was just… boring and ineffective… I’m kidding. I had a blast spending the entire summer with Dae. He did a fantastic job and I knew he would. He was my youth kid when I was a youth pastor in Hawaii. (In fact, I think he’s a great writer too. Go visit his blog and “pressure” him to regularly update it.)
Dae has a strong sense of calling in ministry. You meet Dae, and you can see and hear his passion for God and God’s people. He’s called into ministry. Dae is, what… 20 years old?
He had never (read: never) been in a traditional worship setting until he interned at our church. (And our first service isn’t “traditional” traditional, either).
He shared how it was different from all the things he’d experienced in his church lifetime.
“It was good. But different. Weird. But not in a bad way.”

There are other kids I worked with who are now exploring their call into ministry.
And all these kids have never truly experienced a traditional worship. And they’re definitely not accustomed to “Open your hymnals to…”
In fact, they’re more the Hillsong United generation than the Hillsong generation. Even more, in fact, Dae the Intern doesn’t even like David Crowder (!!!!!) and prefers Jesus Culture and The United Pursuit Band. (It’s David Crowder, bro… and don’t get me started on your thoughts of the Dark Knight…)

So, David Kinnamin writes:

The first generation speaks only the language of the country of origin. The second generation is fluent in both languages. The third generation speaks only the new language and has little esteem for the cultural traditions that have been lost in translation.

When I was between the age of 12-14, my dad had the opportunity to move back to Korea. He thought long and hard about it, until he realized that it would totally mess me up. He felt it would be different to move to America from Korea at that age, but not the other way around. He was worried not just about all the language difference, but also just the life of being a Korean teenager and the culture shock I may receive from it. He worried that things would be so different, that it would stunt my mental maturation. (Thanks for giving so much credit…)
Basically, I was too Americanized to ever feel comfortable or be productive in Korea. I’m thankful that I didn’t have to move back to Korea. Though I can’t put into words why, I do agree with my dad that I wouldn’t have fared well in Korea.

But, that’s what I feel that we may be guilty of doing to these upcoming young pastors.
Whether intentionally or unintentionally, we may have monopolized the idea of worship; that it has to happen a certain way and during certain times.

We have these young, gifted, God-called people stepping into ministry and instead of thriving in a world where they can make a difference, where they can be fully utilized by God, they end up struggling to find a place (and meaning) in a world that doesn’t exist outside the walls of the local church.

As Kinnamin wrote, these upcoming pastors may have little to no esteem for the traditions that is strongly held by the “first generation” church leaders.
Yet, we try and fight to get these “3rd generation” pastors to accept and uphold the model and values of the “first generation” church.
So these young people become disenchanted with bureaucracy and the seemingly inflexible polity of a denomination and find other ways to be utilized by God.

Tradition is good.
Tradition is important.
But tradition is man-made and not of God.
Once tradition gets in the way God, it’s no longer holy and we end up fighting against the movement of the Holy Spirit.

I know time will come when I realize that the young kids are messing everything up and confusing what is holy and what is not; what is worship and what is not; what is church and what is not.

But hopefully, I’ll remember how I feel now 20 or so years later.
Instead of trying to fiercely hold onto what I knew and loved, essentially forcing them into a box, I hope that God will use me to help them to articulate their vision and help them chase their dreams and visions that God placed in their hearts, instead of forcing my dreams and visions on them.

Of course, only time (and God) will tell what kind of mentor I will be when I live in a world with flying cars, self drying apparel and self tying shoes. 

And let me just say, I’m thankful for the mentors that I have now who give me freedom to explore my call and help me chase God’s dream for me. I only hope to be given a chance to return the favor to the next generation.