Members of Foursquare’s Chinese community are seeing great results from an unusual method of sharing the gospel—staging events in which, rather than do the preaching, they give visitors the microphone.
Scores of people have taken part in gospel karaoke competitions where participants get to sing a mix of Christian and other well-known songs. The events tap into a widespread love of karaoke among the Chinese community, and provide a low threshold for introducing people to the church.
Plans are currently being finalized for the third annual Ark Cup Gospel Karaoke Tournament, to be held at Angelus Temple in Los Angeles, August 30. Organized by a group of Foursquare Chinese churches in the city, last year’s event was funded in part through a grant from Foursquare Foundation and was attended by around 1,200 people.
“People like to sing together as families; they like to sing karaoke,” says Daniel Shiao, senior pastor of South Bay (Torrance Chinese Foursquare Church) in Lomita, Calif., and Greater Los Angeles divisional superintendent for Foursquare Chinese-speaking churches. Televised singing competition shows such as American Idol and The Voice have also fueled interest in music contests, he notes.
In addition to the annual contest, local weekly karaoke evenings are hosted by South Bay and The Ark Gospel Church (San Gabriel Chinese Foursquare Church) in San Gabriel, Calif., where Assisting Minister Steven Ho serves; he was formerly a professional musician in Taiwan.
“Through karaoke, we are building friendships first before we start to preach the gospel,” explains Daniel. “There’s mutual trust and relationship, so when there are difficulties, we can come in and pray for them.”
Though they are often open to the gospel, people of Chinese background can be slow in coming to faith, he observes. Most would consider themselves Buddhist. However, some have come to Christ through singing Christian karaoke songs.
“They say that they feel different when they are singing the Christian songs,” Daniel shares, “like there is a power that comes to their lives when they sing them.”
As well as demonstrating creative ministry, the karaoke outreaches offer an example of how it’s possible to make an impact with limited resources. Though Foursquare’s Chinese community is growing, numbers are still small in comparison to the four million or so Chinese population in the U.S. Chinese speakers are now the second-largest immigrant group in the country, behind Hispanics, Daniel states.
His church, where services are bilingual (Mandarin and English), has a weekly attendance of around 20. Members of the congregation—which includes people from Taiwan, China and Korea—also lead a monthly service at a local home for senior citizens.
“We don’t want to be just sitting in church listening to the sermons, but taking what we receive out into the community,” Daniel asserts. “It’s not just about receiving, but giving back.”
Daniel points to Jesus’ parable about the servants with the different talents: “It’s not about the size of the church, it’s about what God has entrusted to us. If God has given us one talent, then let’s make good use of it.”
Many times churches wait for people to come to them, “but there are more people out there, needing to hear the gospel,” he says.
Daniel has been senior pastor at South Bay—where he came to Christ as a teenager, having come to the U.S. from Taiwan with his family—for 10 years. Prior to that, for three years he served as a missionary based in Singapore with Foursquare Missions International (FMI).
He wrestled with God about the call he felt to come back to a country where there are so many churches and Bible colleges, while the needs are huge in other parts of the world. But he realized that there is a need to develop team ministry and leadership in the Chinese-speaking church.
Collaboration and partnership—such as with the annual karaoke contest—has been one of the factors in the growth of Foursquare’s Chinese-speaking ministry, he says.
“We can achieve more as we each contribute our different giftings and help each other out in different ways,” Daniel affirms. “We see there are other people out there who are like-minded but who may have different gifts or talents we can use together.”