Wednesday, July 8, 2009
Dr. Soong-Chan Rah is the Milton B. Engebretson Assistant Professor of Church Growth and Evangelism at North Park Theological Seminary, and prior to joining the NPTS faculty in 2006, he was the founding pastor of the Cambridge Community Fellowship Church in Cambridge, MA. He has been active in urban ministry, mostly in Cambridge and Boston, and has also worked with Intervarsity and been part of four church planting efforts. Dr. Rah has extensive experience in cross-cultural preaching and currently serves on the boards of Sojourners and the Catalyst Leadership Center.
I remember hearing him speak for the first time at the Pacific Southwest Conference's Celebration 2007 in Simi Valley, CA. He was provocative, compelling and funny all at the same time, and I definitely felt uncomfortable as I began to look again at the reality of white privilege and my role in sustaining unjust systems. (It was at that same conference that I spoke for the first time with Sherwood Carthen, pastor of BOSS, about his vision for a multi-ethnic church community.)
I was impressed enough with Soong-Chan's preaching and convicted enough by his message to look him up online and check out his blog. As I read about him and some of his past work, I was astounded by the racism and insensitivity that he had been dealing with for a long time. The first article I found had to do with a Lifeway VBS curriculum called "Rickshaw Rally." Soong-Chan had drawn attention to this racially offensive and stereotype-perpetuating material. The "Vacation Bible School Wars" really heated up in the spring and summer of 2004. You can read about the controversy at Christianity Today's website and find out more information at the "Reconsidering Rickshaw Rally" website.
(A much more encouraging article can be found here. In 2007, Soong-Chan confronted another publisher about some racially insensitive material, and it turned into a redemptive experience for all involved.)
This past February, he was a speaker at the Connection 2009 for the Evangelical Covenant Church. Again, I was challenged and encouraged. I ran into him again that week at a dinner. I can't remember why, but we started talking about our mutual love for Mike Roe and The 77s. Any professor/prophet/preacher who challenges and encourages me IN ADDITION TO being able to converse in fluent 77s automatically goes up several points on the coolness scale.
I just finished reading his new book, "The Next Evanglicalism: Freeing the Church from Western Cultural Captivity." I'll post a separate review in a bit.