"Ministry is not easy by any stretch of the imagination; it's such an empowering truth that the Needed One in the church/congregation is not sinful, imperfect me, but the sovereign, all-caring, all-powerful, all-knowing, and ever-present God."
- Pastor Jonathan Lau
From time to time we'll be highlighting members of our CPD family to get to know them better. The questions and answers below are from an interview with English Pastor Jonathan Lau at San Francisco Chinese Alliance Church.
Please give us a brief introduction.
My name is Jonathan Lau. I'm the English Pastor at San Francisco Chinese Alliance Church (SFCAC), a multi-lingual, multi-cultural, multi-generational Chinese-American C&MA church in the City's Sunset District. I've been at the church since 2004, serving first as the Youth Pastor and then in my current position pastoring the English-speaking (predominantly American-born/-raised) congregation since 2007.
I've been married to my wife Vincci for almost 11 years now. Together, we have four young children - Haley, Nevan, Jared, and Renee.
On my off-time, I enjoy sci-fi and comic books and movies. I am originally from San Diego, born and raised in SoCal. So, I tragically love the Padres, USE to love the Chargers (but now no more since they moved to LA), and have happily adopted the Golden State Warriors after growing up with no favorite NBA team.
What drew you into full time ministry?
I was first drawn to full time ministry in my high school years. I had the great experience of being discipled by my youth pastor back in San Diego. He was one of the men God used to instill in me a passion to lead, teach, and care for others. Other people, like my parents, opened my life to what it means to love and give my life to Jesus. When it came down to it, I could not figure out how I could honor Christ with my life other than going to pastoral ministry.
What are you most passionate about in your ministry?
I am most passionate about people and teaching the Bible in a way that helps another realize the full implications of Gospel on their lives. I just love people and rejoice the most when I see them coming closer to Jesus every day.
Tell us a little about the church you are in, or about the ministry you are involved with.
My church is in San Francisco's Sunset District, which has a large Asian-American population. It was established in 1969, originally in Chinatown. The majority of the members are Cantonese-speaking Chinese from Hong Kong and other parts of Asia. Many of them have been in the U.S. since their high school or college days.
The church itself is organized into three congregations based on language - Cantonese, Mandarin, and English. The English congregation I pastor, goes by the name of "The Bridge" and is the second largest in terms of size. It includes people ages 11 to 75, so it's a multi-generational ministry that works hand-to-hand with our Youth ministry.
The Bridge people are mostly American-born, if not American-raised, and we represent many whose families have been American for 2 to even 4 generations. We even had a member whose family came to the U.S. back in the late 1800's. Most still understand Cantonese or Mandarin, but prefer to speak, fellowship, and worship in English. A growing number of Bridge members are non-Chinese-speaking American Chinese (like myself). The Bridge also has members who are of different ethnicity.
What are you dreaming about for the future?
God is currently teaching me to concentrate on the here and now, to pay attention to the needs and ministry in front of my nose. With that said, I have been submitting to Him a dream to increase the Gospel's presence in the City by being involved in more church plants, although I myself sense no calling to be a church planter.
My goal is that the Bridge congregation continues to make more and more disciples to the point we also give birth to another church in San Francisco, while continuing to strengthen SFCAC's ministry to the city and to the world. So, in accordance to this, it's my personal goal to grow in helping and training others to lead the church, regardless if it's SFCAC, another church, or a future plant. This has led to a great desire to form a ministry internship program at my church one day.
Please share with us a faith story about what God is doing.
There are times and moments in ministry when one feels ineffective. In my early years at SFCAC, at times I was plagued by thoughts that I was making no difference. The youth and later the congregation seemed to be not responding to my leadership or teaching (and to be fair, I admittedly was young and pretty inexperienced at the time). At one point, an elderly member of the English congregation told me that the Holy Spirit was not with me. All of this pushed me to work harder and be harder on myself. I would go many nights getting no sleep working on a sermon or fretting about some ministry.
Then, in late 2010, I spiritually, physically, and mentally crashed. Depression and anxiety set in. By gracious serendipity, this burn-out coincided with my scheduled sabbatical. During the time of mandated rest, God not only healed me through His word and the ministry of others, including my wife, but he also used the time to change my view of myself and approach to ministry. I had unknowingly removed Jesus from the center of ministry and had made it about myself and proving to others I could do the job. This realization led me to repentance and to wholly place my trust in Jesus with everything.
In mid-2011, after the sabbatical, I resumed ministry at SFCAC. Yet, this time, I returned with the whole intention to "hold all other things lightly and to cling onto Jesus tightly." God has shown himself faithfully. Due to the wounds I was given during my burn-out, I am now better experienced and positioned to minister to those in their hurts.
Young people who were in the youth group are returning from college as mature young adult disciples. They are now adding so much to our congregation and church now. God has made me realize that I'm not in this alone as my eyes have been opened to others at the church, young and old, who love and serve passionately for Christ.
Most importantly, I've learned that I'm not indispensable to the ministry. The Holy Spirit is. And although ministry is not easy by any stretch of the imagination, it's such an empowering truth that the Needed One in the church/congregation is not sinful, imperfect me, but the sovereign, all-caring, all-powerful, all-knowing, and ever-present God. So, since that time, I have regained much joy in serving and been able to see fruit produced, which I totally give credit to the Lord, who has graciously made use of me in His plan.
How can we pray for you?
>> That I continue to grow in love and dependence on God.
>> That I continue to grow as a father and husband; to trust in God's provision for my family in an increasingly expensive place to live.
>> That I continue to grow as a pastor.
>>That God will continue to help SFCAC grow in our witness to not just the Chinese-American community, but also San Francisco as a whole and to all nations.
We would love to be able to share your thoughts with our CPD family. If you write a blog, or do other forms of writing, we'd like to consider utilizing you as a guest blogger. Please contact us if you're interested!