Interview with Dr. Peter T. Cha

09.29.2020  |  Season 2  |  Episode 3



SHOW NOTES

In this episode, Dr. Madison Pierce and Dr. Josh Jipp interview Dr. Peter T. Cha, Professor of Church, Culture and Society at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, who is also one of the directors of Mosaic Ministries that serves our campus (and beyond).

Josh and Madison learn about what led Peter to study sociology and the connections he sees to his work as a pastor and church planter. They also learn about his experiences serving in and studying immigrant churches.

Peter also helps us think through how to move forward in our own ministries of reconciliation and partner together.

Be sure to tune in to learn more about Peter’s tremendous service to our community.

And before the interview, we learn a little about what it means to be the “the Real Josh Jipp.”

Transcript

[THEME MUSIC BEGINS]

Intro
[00:00:00] You’re listening to Foreword, a podcast from faculty at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, hosted by Michelle Knight, Josh Jipp, Madison Pierce, and James Arcadi. Foreword invites listeners into the mission of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School through conversations with faculty, staff, and guests.

Madison Pierce
Josh, it’s really good to be back hosting with you! It’s been like, I don’t know, eight months or something like that? It feels like forever.

Josh Jipp
I know. It feels like so long. So long.

Pierce
Yeah.

Jipp
Today was one of the best days of my life in the past eight months.

Pierce
[LAUGHS] I’m so…I’m so glad.

Jipp
Yeah.

Pierce
Um, but, I’m also really glad because I kind of feel like I’m in the presence of greatness. You’ve had kind of a big week. Can you tell us about some of your recent fame on Twitter?

Jipp
Ohhh. Yeah! Well, um—

[THEME MUSIC ENDS]

If you follow me on Twitter—@TheRealJoshJipp—[PIERCE LAUGHS] it’s not “@JoshJipp” or “@JoshuaJipp.” It’s “TheRealJoshJipp,” to, um—

Pierce
I think this actually raises some fan questions, because I think some people are wondering, “Who’s ‘the fake Josh Jipp’?”

Jipp
There are none yet. I’m just anticipating—

Pierce
Okay, just…just in case. Okay.

Jipp
—at some point, there’s probably going to be a few of those people coming. They…they’re not there yet, but, you know.

Pierce
And this is like an intermediate thing—

Jipp
Wait and see.

Pierce
—like, you’re not at “blue checkmark” status, so you’ve got to, like, verify in your name.

Jipp
I don’t even know what “blue checkmark” status is.

Pierce
[PIERCE LAUGHS] Of course you don’t, Josh.

Jipp
Is that a big deal?

Pierce
Yes. Ok.

Jipp
But anyway, my…@TheRealJoshJipp, again, if you go there, or if you follow me on Twitter, you’ll notice I tweet…what would you say I tweet about?

Pierce
[LAUGHS] Uh, sports…uh—

Jipp
Sports. Nobody ever likes my sports tweets.

Pierce
No. We don’t care—

Jipp
No?

Pierce
—because it’s mostly Iowa sports, and…and then, like, The Twins—

Jipp
Twins…yeah.

Pierce
Yeah.

Jipp
I’ll be doing some Bears in a little bit, maybe.

Pierce
That’s true. That’s true. So, sports, there’s a lot of work stuff—

Jipp
Yeah, mmhmm.

Pierce
—it’s good. We…we’ve learned a lot about Stoicism recently—

Jipp
Okay, yeah.

Pierce
—um, and then like some significant Jason Isbell, like, fanboy stuff.

Jipp
Yeah, yep. He…I’m not clever enough to get him to interact with me, but it’s one of my goals.

Pierce
I’m trying to help you.

Jipp
Yeah, I know you are. And…and sometimes a book recommendation, but then, none of that really connects with that many people. So, uh, you know, it just kind of came to me, [PIERCE LAUGHS] I’ve been making meals like, for, you know, six months. Like, I’ve been making dinner and I’ve been trying to do different dinners, and I just got tapped out like about a month ago. You know. And—

Pierce
Yeah.

Jipp
—so, I…I got my church cookbook. I started flipping through, and I noticed on…on…there’s like, this whole section is devoted to ham balls, [PIERCE LAUGHS] and some people have never heard—

Pierce
Five…there are five recipes for ham balls.

Jipp
Five. Yeah, and then the last one is actually ham loaf, [PIERCE LAUGHS] which has ham loaf as an ingredient in it. You’ve got to get ham loaf to make the ham loaf. Anyway, I took a picture of that, and I, you know, sent it out into the Twitterverse, and was like, “Hey, if you need a recipe on ham balls, you know where to get it!” [PIERCE LAUGHS] “My Iowa ancestors have got your back, I’ve got your back, I’m here for you.” And, I went to bed, totally forgot about my ham ball tweet. I wake up the next morning. It’s…just going crazy. For me…for me, it’s a viral tweet—180 likes. This guy at the Iowa Hawk Blog who has…like Beth Moore following, almost.

Pierce
Wow.

Jipp
He, um, he retweeted it, you know, Skye Jethani retweeted it. Um, there were a lot of other people that I don’t know or care about that retweeted it—so many retweets. [PIERCE LAUGHS] And now…now I’m basically just, like, I’m going to be…for my Twitter brand, hitting a lot of the cookbook recipes—

Pierce
I saw you—

Jipp
—church cookbook recipes. So, did one today—

Pierce
Yeah, you’re trying that again. Yeah, I saw that. I hope it takes off. That will be—

Jipp
—“Heffer in a Haystack,” you can make “Heffer in a Haystack.” You can make jelly-glazed chicken, you can make mozzarella-stuffed meatballs—“Not your momma’s meatloaf!” There’s all kinds of amazing stuff in these cookbooks, and, uh, if you go to “TheRealJoshJipp,” you hit me up, let me know if you want one of these cookbooks. [PIERCE LAUGHS] I can probably…I can probably hook you up.

Pierce
Yeah. And, uh, you know, let us know, listeners, if you’re interested. I’m sure that we can convince Josh to start his own kind of “segment” on…on this cooking.

Jipp
Mmhmm.

Pierce
We could probably get him—actually film, you know, film him cooking these things.—

Jipp
Oh yeah, totally.

Pierce
—He’s uh, quite the chef…quite the chef!

Jipp
Yeah, yeah. How do you like this one—“Achan’s Sweet and Spicy Bacon,” and then in parentheses, “Joshua 7.”

Pierce
Wow. Yeah.

Jipp
It’s just bacon with some extra sauce, but, you know.

Pierce
Who puts sauce on…sauce on bacon?

Jipp
I don’t know. I guess if you’re making “Joshua 7” bacon you do, but—

Pierce
Okay.

Jipp
Yeah. Alright.

Pierce
[LAUGHS] Well, turns out, Josh, we’ve actually got a pretty good conversation on the docket for today. I think we’re going to talk to…to Peter Cha.

Jipp
Alright. I love Peter Cha. I probably won’t talk about cooking to him. We’ll take it in a different direction, but I’m looking forward to our conversation.

Pierce
Yeah, please…please don’t bring up the ham balls with Peter. Please.

[THEME MUSIC BEGINS]

Jipp
We’ll see.

Pierce
Okay.

Jipp
We’ll see if the conversation goes there or not.

Pierce
Pl…please. [JIPP LAUGHS] I won’t host with you any more if you bring up ham balls. [LAUGHS]

Jipp
Alright, I promise. I won’t. I won’t.

Pierce
[LAUGHS] Alright, let’s get to it.

Jipp
Alright, sounds good.

[THEME MUSIC ENDS]

Pierce
[00:06:21] Welcome to Foreword. I’m Madison Pierce.

Jipp
And I’m Josh Jipp.

Pierce
[LAUGHS] Today on Foreword we have the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Peter Cha. Dr. Cha is professor of Church, Culture, and Society here at TEDS, and he’s been a member of our faculty since 1997. He’s pastored, planted churches, and contributed to international conversations about immigrant churches, Asian American contributions to theology and ministry, as well as the Korean War. Here on our campus, in addition to his teaching, Dr. Cha serves as one of the directors for Mosaic Ministries, and we’ll hear some more about that today. So, thank you so much, Peter, for joining us!

Peter Cha
Well it is certainly my privilege and pleasure to be with you this afternoon in this conversation. I really look forward to this generative conversation.

Pierce
Thank you, Peter. Well, you’ve been a part of our community for…for a long time—since 1997, like I said. So I imagine that a lot of our listeners are very familiar with you, but why don’t you tell us a little bit about your background—some of your studies and kind of how you got to be here.

Cha
Sure! Um, so, my background is I’m a Korean American immigrant, so I grew up in an immigrant home, immigrant church. I came to the United States when I was 12 years old, so I’m somewhat of a bicultural, bilingual, and really that shaped me from early on, about different experiences that are possible in the United States—different social locations that I’ve been part of because my dad was a church-planting Pastor. We moved around quite a bit. So, it sort of created in me early on this interest about different cultures, different socioeconomic classes, and so forth. But, um, academically, I decided to go into sociology for doctoral studies while I was a pastor. Actually, this was 1992. I think two things happened around then that propelled me to further studies. So this was about seven years after my M.Div program. I was an Intervarsity staff member during the weekdays, and I was working at a Korean American church on weekends, and that’s the year that the Los Angeles riot happened in 1992. And basically, that event created a lot of questions for Asian American Christians, and particularly Korean American Christians. Because, if you remember, that whole LA riot happened initially because of a conflict between Korean American merchants and African Americans. And here up until then, again, I and other Korean Americans thought that racial conflict in the United States is largely between Black and Whites, and that Asian Americans are sort of—we can sit out—but that LA riot changed the whole configuration. And that raised a huge question for me, as a pastor, as an Asian American pastor, “What might be a role of an Asian American church in working through this ongoing challenge of racial conflicts and racial reconciliation?” The second question was a whole question about the future of ethnic immigrant churches. We were taught in history classes that, you know, primarily looking at the 19th century European immigrant church experience, that immigrant church is a one generational experience, so when the second and third generation come, they just melt into assimilating into broad American churches, and we weren’t sure if that’s going to be happening for ethnic immigrant churches in the 1990’s and 2000’s. So in order to study those two questions, I launched into a doctoral program.

Pierce
Wow.

Cha
So for me, going into a PhD program in sociology was not so much to teach later. At that time, I did not have that vocational expectation or vision, but I just wanted to be a better pastor. So I jumped into a PhD program while leading an Asian American church plant.

Pierce
Wow.

Jipp
[00:10:27] So Peter, while you were—that’s really fascinating. While you were doing your sociology degree—it was at Northwestern, is that right?

Cha
Right. Yes.

Jipp
What were some of the ways that it intersected, then, with your ministry as a pastor and church planter and so forth in those early years?

Cha
Right. So, one of the ways was, by studying more intentionally the race relations in the United States, was very helpful, and the particular social location that Asian Americans seem to occupy in this sort of landscape of racial groups within the United States. And, as you know, Asian Americans are often identified as “model minorities” and they’re also often identified as perpetual aliens. So these group identities were beginning to emerge, and so, that was one important question that I had to wrestle with. The other one was, in some ways, understanding how, particularly in many Asian American churches, there was ongoing conflict between first generation immigrant parents and then American-born second generation. And there was a very painful conflict that separated parents from children, and it was also impacting many Asian American churches. So, trying to understand the generational challenges in Asian American contexts. So, I ended up studying Confucianism to better understand the Asian worldview, and I also learned how to do congregational studies through sociology, so that I began to study many congregations to learn how each congregation is sort of negotiating some of these challenges that they all face. So it was very practical and helpful, and I’m glad that I did that, but then, it made my life so full. [JIPP LAUGHS] Trying to do full time PhD work and I was a full time church planter, and then my wife’s working full time and I had two young children to care for—

Jipp
Yeah, yeah.

Pierce
Wow.

Cha
—[LAUGHS] so it seems like those days are really blurry.

Jipp
I think of you, Peter, as such an encourager, but I remember my first couple of years at Trinity, and I had mentioned, “Boy, you know, I’ve got a lot on my plate. My kids are so little,” and you’d be like, “Well, it could be worse. Let me tell you.” [LAUGHTER]

Cha
[LAUGHS] Well, I don’t know if that’s a gift of encouragement if someone says that. [LAUGHTER]

Jipp
[LAUGHS] No, I just—I’m putting the “Josh Jipp spin” on the story. [LAUGHTER]

Cha
[LAUGHS] Okay!

Pierce
It’s okay…we’re used to that around here.

Jipp
Yeah, I know.

Pierce
Peter, I’m so fascinated that you were wanting to become a better pastor and went into sociology. I…I mean, I think that speaks to a lot of our students on campus, so, I mean, they have the pleasure of learning from you as a sociologist. What are some of the things that sociology contributes to our ministry, and, you know, why…why should we be, you know, so thankful that we have a sociologist around?

Cha
Well, thank you. Um, I think for me, I am grateful that I had the opportunity to learn both in the fields of sociology and theology. I believe sociology brings to us some of the most pertinent and relevant questions of today. It raises good questions. But then often, sociology is not equipped, in my view, to come up with a long term solution to these human problems and challenges. So sociology provides really great questions that are relevant to today’s churches, but I believe it is theology and deeper theological reflections that often point to the long term solutions that we have as human communities. So one of the things that I ask students in my classes is to use tools of sociology to identify, “What are questions that are emerging right now that needs response from theology and from church?” And I think the other issue is that these days, there are so many competing perspectives about everything, so we constantly hear from political rhetorics about the “fake news” or “fake information” and this. And more than any time before, I think our pastors, Christian leaders, need to develop a discipline to study and investigate and see things with more clarity, and in a more complete picture. And I think as both of you are teaching students how to exegete the text, what I hope to do is give them tools and discipline to learn how to exegete today’s sociocultural context of our mission field, so that churches do not stay behind 2, 3 decades when it comes to responding to some challenging issues that we’re facing today, but we are able to respond theologically as well as in terms of ministerial and missional focus in a real time response.

Jipp
Mmhmm.

Pierce
Yeah.

Cha
And, you know, when I was at TEDS in the 1980’s, we all had to take a class that taught us how to do contextualization if we were to go overseas. It was a missions class. But I think we assume that if you’re doing ministry in the United States, you don’t have to think about contextualization—you somehow intuitively know what to do, and I’m not sure if that assumption was safe, even back then.

Jipp
Yeah.

Cha
But even…especially today, though, when so much change is taking place, and such diverse cultures and social locations that are coexisting in the United States, if we are going to train pastors who would know how to bring the Good News of Jesus into these various settings, I do believe our future pastors need to study and learn even more so today how to exegete our context well.

Jipp
Yeah.

Cha
So sociology is helpful in that way.

Pierce
Yeah.

Jipp
[00:17:06] Yeah. Well I just say “Amen!” to that, Peter, I mean I think theology and exegesis—we love it, and it’s great, but if it’s not attuned to the world we actually live in, there’s some real problems. The challenge, I think, is we…you’re one sociologist at TEDS, I don’t have a sociology degree. I’ve never had an actual course in sociology. Have you, Madison? I’m just curious.

Pierce
Um, I mean, I took our cultural anthropology class—

Jipp
Okay.

Pierce
—so that…I mean, that’s anthropology, not sociology—

Jipp
Yeah, right.

Pierce
—so…but that’s the closest I got.

Jipp
Okay. Okay. So we’re both—I have nothing, Madison has a little bit, right? [CHA LAUGHS] How do we…what…what are some practical tools, or tips, or maybe just even habits you might recommend for us and for our students to cultivate as we think about—not being a trained sociologist, but being deeply attuned to the world that we live in?

Cha
Wow. That’s a great question, and how much time are you giving me to answer that great question? [LAUGHTER]

Jipp
[LAUGHS] 90 seconds. Go. [LAUGHTER]

Cha
90 seconds, right? [LAUGHS] So, during my PhD years, and since then, I have developed forming questions that I try to teach to my students in my classes—I teach an M.Div program—and I…I tell them, “These are four fundamental questions when it comes to doing social analysis.” One, is “What exactly is happening…what exactly is happening?” And we…this seems like a simple question, but it is asking us to move from tacit knowledge, or intuitive knowledge, to very discursive knowledge, seeing the bigger picture of what exactly is happening. That means you have to read widely—

Jipp
Right.

Cha
—and read works that are very credible. And then the second question is, “Why is this happening?” And often I think Evangelicals tend to avoid this one—“Why is this happening?” I mean, there’s a famous saying that was once said by a Latin American Christian theologian who said, “When I feed the poor, they call me a saint, but when I ask why they remain poor, they call me a communist.”

Jipp
Mmhmm.

Cha
Now, I believe Scripture mandates God’s people not just to be merciful toward those who are poor and hungry, but also think about removing the yolk that oppresses people. And in order to do that, we have to think about, “Why is this happening?” and it usually leads to some systemic or structural issues. And then the third question is, “What’s it like? What’s it like to be in that condition?” Because here as Christian leaders, our task is not necessarily to do statistical analysis of some sociological questions. It is about the people.

Pierce
Yeah.

Cha
So what’s it like to be a single mother living in an economically depressed area, trying to raise children where the school is failing? What’s that like? It’s a question of empathy. And then finally, “Is this right? Is this just?” And to me, that’s an ethical question, where we need to turn to the Scriptures and see carefully, “What is God requiring of us? Is this right? Is this just?” So I tell my students, “Break it down to those four categories of questions. Discipline yourself to keep asking those questions, even as we go through this era of a racial pandemic. “What exactly is happening?” “Why is it happening?” “What’s it like?” “And, is this right, is this good?”

Pierce
Yeah.

Jipp
That’s really helpful.

Pierce
[00:20:57] Mmhmm. That is really helpful, Peter. And I appreciate that you are doing a lot of this work to try and diagnose, and to figure out what’s going on, but beyond that, you’ve also done some work to try and mend, or really strive towards reconciliation. And I think that’s where Mosaic Ministries, as we mentioned at the beginning of the interview, is so important. Could you tell us what Mosaic is, just in case those outside of the community don’t know, and could you tell us, you know, why…why we need Mosaic at TEDS, and really, why we need Mosaic in a lot of places?

Cha
Thank you, Madison. Well, about 10 years ago, it was a very collaborative effort that involved some staff, faculty, and some student PhD, M.Div students to form a new space on our campus where we would intentionally bring together multiracial individuals to learn from one another, learn with one another, and that we would intentionally study and try to grow as agents of reconciliation. And I think initially, I was thinking about offering a class on reconciliation, but I opted not to do that, partly because we wanted to create not just another class or program on campus, but we wanted to create a new space on our campus. When I was a youth pastor, I went to one of the youth pastor’s conferences, where the final talk was given by a plenary speaker—and now, I don’t remember anything about that whole conference, except I heard this one statement that stayed with me. And he said, “You cannot make your students grow. That’s the Holy Spirit’s job, but you can create a space in which they can grow. That’s your job” And of course, that space that he’s talking about is that spiritual space, that emotional space, that cultural space. So what we envisioned 10 years ago was to create a small but growing space on our campus, where there would be intentional values and practices that would cultivate a certain kind of community of learning that would journey together, right? And in terms of program end, what we have is a Mosaic formation group that meets every week, where we really invite these individuals to function as student leaders, and then Mosaic gathering on Wednesdays where we discuss all of the critical issues we are facing today. So we’ve dealt with issues like immigration reform, the criminal justice system, the gender inequality in the church as well as in society, how do we talk about human sexuality. And as you know, at Mosaic, we ask the presenter to give their presentation for 15-20 minutes, and to us, that’s like an appetizer. The main meal is what happens in terms of the discussion around roundtables. And we really emphasize the generativeness of conversation and ongoing conversation. So in some ways, the pedagogical approach taken at Mosaic gathering is quite different from classroom teaching and learning experience. And I think those who talk about education theories, they talk about “formal education” and “non-formal education,” and Mosaic has decided to adopt non-formal education as a way of doing collaborative learning and so forth. So, you know, it’s been a 10 year journey. There have been many fruits that have come out of it, but it also has been a really hard journey, because we learned, in the end, reconciliation is a hard process. And it is a work of God, primarily, but even us as human agents participating in it, we often have to experience very challenging discussions around the roundtable. In fact, some students of color sometimes feel that’s not a safe space anymore for them, and then some Anglo students would say, “Wow. That’s some really tough issues they’re talking about, and I’m not sure if I would be welcome there,” and so they would sometimes choose not to participate. In some ways, I’m glad that that space is creating some level of discomfort for all, because if you’re genuinely about reconciliation, there should not be one people group who feel like they own that space, and everyone feels like guests there. So we’re still learning, we’re still improvising, so we always have to seek God’s wisdom because we don’t have a roadmap. There are not other organizations that we can turn to that we can say, “Oh, they’re five years ahead of us. We just need to learn from what they have done.”

Pierce
Yeah.

Jipp
[00:26:22] That’s really powerful, Peter. I’m wondering…I mean, as I’m hearing you articulate trying to create a healthy organizational culture for all people to be a part of and to learn and be disrupted by and challenged by. But then on one side, some students feeling, “This isn’t,” persons of color saying, “This isn’t safe enough,” or maybe, “It’s not disruptive enough.” and others on the other side that are frustrated, probably that youre talking about structural sin or structural issues, and, you know, too much lament…I don’t…How do…how do you, Peter—and I’m asking this, in part, because I think this could be helpful for students who are going into pastoral ministry and are going to be trying maybe to replicate something in their churches—how do you not burn out? What are some practices, or something, what…what resources do you draw upon that encourage you so that you don’t just lose heart and give up when it becomes so difficult?

Pierce
Yeah.

Cha
No, that’s a great question, Josh. In our Mosaic ministries, there’s one of the books that we use as our basic textbook. It’s called Reconciling All Things, by Chris Rice and Emmanuel Katongole. And in that book, one of the themes that they strongly lean in to, is that reconciliation, in the end, is God’s work. He’s the main agent who is facilitating that and making that happen. And God graciously invites His people to participate in it. So in some ways, I don’t feel the weight of responsibility for the work of reconciliation through Mosaic on our campus, or I don’t think any of us do. It is God’s work. We need to acknowledge that, and that means we need to be very attentive to the Spirit of God that would direct or indirect us—direct us either way. And so, prayer becomes a very important part of our listening, together and individually. And the other thing is, I think we can avoid the burnout that you talked about, Josh, if we are able to develop a very healthy and strong collaborative team that will work together. And I found this collaboration sometimes causes us not to move as quickly. It causes us to slow down, but at the same time, it protects us from that whole movement just coming to a halt because of one or two people—

Jipp
Right.

Cha
—feeling the burnout symptom or situation. So that’s a second one. And then a third one I’ve found is that, at Mosaic we had to identify and partner with and be supported by and support other communities like Mosaic that are happening in other parts of the United States. So, we identified early on Intervarsity Christian Fellowship as a like-minded community that is working on these issues. So we’ve often invited their leaders to come visit us, and we would collaborate with them. We also identified…the denomination that I belong to is called Evangelical Covenant Church, and they’re also working on projects like this, and so we collaborate in some ways with them. CCDA is another organization that has been doing some active work. So while we may be the only organization on our campus to work on this at this point, we have these other sister organizations that we can constantly partner with, receive encouragement from, and so forth, and that’s been a really lifegiving thing. It is our hope and prayer that we might be able to start something like this at Trinity College, because their student diversity is even greater than that of the seminary. So if we start something like that, again, that could be a very lifegiving partnership with another entity on campus.

Jipp
That’s great.

Pierce
[00:30:57] That’s wonderful. Peter, I want to just ask a clarifying question, because I love what you’re saying. I mean…certainly want to acknowledge that the work of reconciliation, the work of mending is the work of God. But, you know, some might take that to be a sort of excuse to kind of sit back—

Cha
[LAUGHS] Yeah. Yeah.

Pierce
—and to let things just get worked out.

Cha
[LAUGHS] Yeah.

Pierce
So I wonder how, you know, how you kind of find that balance between remaining active, you know, advocating and pressing for change, while also, of course, you know, yielding to the Spirit and…and probably being more patient than is sometimes easy for some of us.

Cha
No that’s a great question, Madison. So not too long ago at Mosaic gathering I gave this presentation. When we look at passages like Ephesians chapter 2, clearly, Apostle Paul states that on the cross, Jesus accomplished reconciliation among Jews and Gentiles as well as vertically with God. It’s an act accomplished already. And then we’re invited to live into that reality, and steward that gift that has been so costly for our Savior. Now having said that, I…I introduced to my students Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Cost of Discipleship, where he talks about “cheap grace,” where he talks about many Christians of his days regarded God’s saving grace that is offered to us as “cheap” because it did not cost them anything, while it did cost God everything. And so, the Christians of his days, because they embraced this notion of “cheap grace,” they began to talk about forgiveness without repentance. You know, they thought about Christian discipleship without carrying the cross, and they thought of themselves as the masters of their own lives and without yielding to the lordship of Christ, and, you know, the argument he makes. And I told my students, “In a similar way, we can embrace what I might call ‘cheap reconciliation.’ Yes, Christ has accomplished a reconciliation on the cross, but that does not mean it is a cheap reconciliation that we have nothing to do with.” Right? So I told the students, “I wonder what we’d embrace as a cheap reconciliation if we…if the reconciliation we’re envisioning and talking about does not lead to genuine repentance.”

Pierce
Yeah.

Cha
If the reconciliation that we are pursuing does not cost us anything in any way, if the reconciliation we are seeking does not involve truth telling, if the reconciliation that we are seeking does not transform each of us—how we think, how we feel, how we prioritize things in our lives—so if it does not transform us and if it does not cost us anything, if it does not constantly bring us to that place of truth telling…I think truth telling here involves both speaking from God’s word about how God sees injustice and so forth. But it also is a truth telling in terms of what is actually happening, and then truth telling that also involves us to carefully, empathetically listening to our Black brothers and Brown sisters about their lived experiences today. All of those things are truth tellings. And I’m afraid that there are too many Christian communities today—they may say they are “about reconciliation,” but they’re not really engaging in what I would call “costly reconciliation,” but the cheap reconciliation. And as you know, Cost of Discipleship was published in 1937, I believe, when Germany was being overtaken by Nazism. And I think Dietrich Bonhoeffer mentioned that cheap grace to primarily highlight the fact that the German church of his days lost their…lost their moral strength to stand up against Nazism because they embraced a cheap grace. And I hope and pray that churches in the United States today—they may talk about reconciliation, but the question we need to wrestle with is, “What kind of reconciliation?”

Pierce
Yeah.

Cha
Right? Is it just a rhetorical or just a nice “theological” idea that makes us feel warm about, or is it something that causes us to be on this lifelong journey and it’s an important part of discipleship that we take on? And I think the outcome would be very different, depending on which of the two types we embrace.

Jipp
Mmhmm.

Pierce
Yeah. That makes a lot of sense.

Jipp
[00:35:55] Peter, I’d love to kind of just shift gears a little bit and basically ask you the question, “What’s…what’s next?” Um, I know in the past, you alluded but you didn’t mention one of the books you co-authored—and I don’t have the title in front of me, but it had to do with the question of how to…was it “how to honor…how to follow Jesus without dishonoring your parents”? So you’ve written, you’ve also brought churches together in ways to collaborate and done some sociological studies from there. Are you…what kind of goals do you have?

Cha
Yeah.

Jipp
What questions are driving you right now?

Cha
Thank you. So from early on I realized that if I’m going to make any meaningful contribution to the church today, particularly in the Asian American context, let’s say, I cannot write something on my own because I’m just a Korean American, and as you know, there are like 26 different ethnic groups in Asian America. So I decided to work on a lot of collaborative projects. So that book you mentioned, Following Jesus Without Dishonoring Your Parents is a collaborative project between five different authors who come from different ethnic backgrounds. I wrote a similar book called Developing Healthy Asian American Churches—again, very collaborative work. And then, with the Henry Center’s grant, I brought together about 60-80 Asian American pastors and theologians from Canada and the United States, and then we wrote a book together out of that. And then the last one was bringing Hispanic and Asian American church leaders—we called it “HANA,” Hispanic Asian North American—and then we…we wrote some things together. So those have been…those projects have been really meaningful because it reflected voices from the academic theologians, as well as practitioners, and from various different ethnic backgrounds about our similarities as well as our uniqueness in the different segments we’re in. The final project that I hope to do is that I wrote a grant for Lilly Foundation’s five year project on immigrant churches. And I think we’ll find out in October about that grant—

Jipp
Okay.

Cha
—but if we do receive it, I will be working with the Paul Hiebert Center for Global Christianity—

Jipp
Oh, great!

Cha
—and bring together various immigrant congregations to particularly work on this ongoing challenge that all immigrant churches are facing, and that is, how the first generation immigrant parent’s generation and their children collaboratively partner together for the common mission of the church. That’s been such an elusive goal that created so much pain, and I want this Lilly Project to basically directly look at that issue, and using theological resources, cultural resources, and other resources—socialogial resources—to come up with some findings that might be really helpful to immigrant churches. I think they say right know there are 50-60,000 immigrant congregations in the United States—

Jipp
Wow.

Pierce
Wow.

Cha
—that’s a very large size of an ecclesial body, and if this project can really offer these congregations and church leaders a hope as well as a strategic way to negotiate some of these challenges, I think that would be a great project to…to do.

Jipp
Absolutely.

Cha
Yeah.

Jipp
And I think we have a lot of listeners from the Lilly Foundation that are probably tuning in right now [CHA LAUGHS], so get it done! [LAUGHTER] But no, that sounds…that sounds really…that sounds really cool. How could you not fund that? And I hope…I hope…in October? That’s when you find out?

Cha
I think so, yeah. And you know…as you know, we received—Mosaic received a $1.5 million dollar grant from Lilly. We’ve been working on a Mosaic initiative up in Waukegan.

Jipp
Yeah.

Cha
That’s been going very well, so I’m hoping that Lilly is pleased with the work that we’ve been doing, and that they might trust the Hiebert Center and Trinity one more time—

Jipp
Absolutely.

Cha
—but it’s all in God’s hands.

Jipp
Yep. Yep.

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Pierce
Yeah. Well wonderful. Thank you so much, Peter. It’s so good to hear all of these things. I…I’m struck continually in this conversation, or I have been, that you really are a bridge builder and really promote so much unity on our campus, so thank you so much for the work that you do. Um, I wish that we could keep talking for the rest of the day—maybe even beyond that—but I think we’ll have to thank you for…for joining us. So that’s just the foreword. If you want to learn more about Dr. Cha’s life and ministry, we recommend that you check out some more information on his faculty page at the TEDS website. Thank you so much, Peter, for joining us. Thank you to our fabulous and handsome producer, Curtis Pierce. Thank you to our Graduate Assistant, Lauren Januzik, for her wonderful work. And finally, thank you to y’all for listening. I’m Madison Pierce.

Jipp
And I’m Josh Jipp.

Outro
Foreword is a podcast hosted by faculty at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. You can subscribe to our newest episodes on your preferred podcast app or at forewordpodcast.com. Be sure to follow us on Twitter and Facebook @forewordpodcast to get updates and additional links to content. Trinity Evangelical Divinity School is located 25 miles north of Chicago, with extension sites across the country and online. Trinity educates men and women to engage in God’s redemptive work in the world by cultivating academic excellence, Christian faithfulness, and lifelong learning. You can find more information at teds.edu.

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