This spring, two major ministries have named Asian Americans to fill their top positions of leadership.
Earlier this week, Taiwanese American Tom Lin was announced as InterVarsity’s new president, and in April Rev. Sharon Koh was announced as the new executive director of American Baptist International Ministries (IM). Lin’s Taiwanese American heritage makes him the first non-white president InterVarsity has had. Koh is the first woman to hold the director position of IM.
In an interview with Christianity Today, Lin commented, “It is significant … for any large, North American evangelical organization to have a non-white president.”
Lin is the first president of InterVarsity to work with the ministry while he was still a student. Lin started the Asian American chapter of InterVarsity at his alma mater, Harvard.
Koh grew up on the missions field, living with her parents in Singapore, the Philippines, Korea and the U.S. She is no stranger to missions work, an attribute that will certainly serve her well in her new position.
These appointments are noteworthy, not only for their historical significance, but also because they allude to the fact that the church in America is becoming increasingly diverse. InterVarsity has purposefully sought to empower ethnic minorities in positions of leadership. The election of Lin to the office of president is an indication of a goal met in their eyes.
It makes sense for major ministries in the U.S. to diversify. Not only does it provide protection against the temptation to elevate one tradition of man over another (instead of uniting around the gospel), it also speaks to the changing demographics of the American church and our nation at large. In recent years, Asians have surpassed Hispanics in terms of new immigrants to the U.S. We are seeing this influx in our churches as well. In fact, according to a 2012 Pew study, 31 percent of the Chinese immigrants coming to the U.S. identify as Christians.
Our prayers are with Lin and Koh as they take over their respective appointments later this year. My the Lord use them, their histories, gifts and leadership skills to spread the gospel.