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Lack of Asian Responsiveness


At the gospel coalition conference, someone made a comment that even white people (compared to black people) can be outwardly responsive to preaching. I think this comment arose because in the African-American contexts I've observed, the listeners practice "call and response". It is truly an interactive experience. The preacher makes a statement - usually a truth or moral teaching ("the call") and the audience echoes back their sentiment through enthusiastic nodding, a verbal "amen", standing up or some other kind of encouragement, verbal or otherwise ("the response"). Have you ever seen a gospel choir sing? You don't just hear them, you experience them. They are rocking back and forth, clapping their hands or raising them in the air, smiling broadly and swaying in rhythm . It is so awesome. I love this kind of interaction. I dream about preaching in a black church. I crave that level of audience connectedness. It can be very emotional and anti-intellectual but its just so inspiring and just fires me up. So where am I going with this?

Asian people make white people seem black. Most Asian congregations I've preached for - people just sit there and stare at me. I have no idea if I'm getting through or not. Many people are not even making eye contact with me. Maybe I'm boring but I've noticed the same outward responsiveness with other people who are much more dynamic than I am. If I'm lucky, some people might nod their head once during my message.

On the other hand, I've preached a couple times in "white" contexts and just loved it - people nodding, more laughter, and afterwards, lots of interaction and questions (not all of it positive but I love the dialogue). I know the affirming Asian side of me is like "Well, the reasons Asians aren't outwardly responsive is because we're being respectful to the preacher and to each other and internalizing the truth in a deeper way". Yeah, I'm just not feeling that. I don't want to be interrupted every sentence but I think there is something about the encounter between speaker and listener that should be outwardly expressed.

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