Women Pastors- I Just Couldn’t Picture It

I’ve always seen myself as a leader. But I never saw myself as a pastor. I assumed it was because I chose to work for a para church campus ministry and that I wasn’t drawn to church ministry. But as time has gone on I realize it was more complicated than that.

The real game changer was when male peers- men I had gone to college with, ministered with, was friends with began to step into pastoral positions. I felt like Scooby Doo- “Raggy? Is that roo?” How are my guy friends pastoring churches? It wasn’t that I didn’t think they could. But these were my peers. Suddenly my peers were in this role that I had never identified or connected with. Up until that point we had done the exact same ministry.  And now I had to grapple with the dissonance that I felt. I realized that though I believed in the Biblical basis for women in leadership I was uncomfortable with it in praxis. I was guilty of the same kind of subconscious male bias that I had experienced through others towards my leadership. I couldn’t picture myself as a pastor because I was woman.

Head pastors have always seemed like wooly mammoths- some other weird species. Growing up in the Korean Church, pastors were always older men. All my youth pastors, all my head pastors, even when I changed churches in high school and again when I moved in college, were always older white men. I simply couldn’t envision myself in that role.

But then my peers, my friends, became pastors.

I thought about their leadership. I knew that I could  lead as well as them.

I thought about their preaching. I knew that I could preach as well as them.

I thought about their ability to gather people. I knew that I could gather people as well as them.

I realized that I had never thought about pastoring a church because I couldn’t see it.

It was a position that seemed “other.”

But when my peers suddenly started stepping into these roles, I felt frustrated. Why did they feel so confident of their ability to carry that kind of leadership- but I had never considered it?

People talk about the need for role models and this may be the situation where I most identify with that. Last year I visited a friend who was attending a conference of Covenant pastors. She introduced me to her friends there, many of whom were ordained women working as head pastors and associate pastors in churches. It was like being at the world’s most amazing zoo- everyone was a sparkly unicorn. If I didn’t have some sense of social decorum I would have pet their heads and cooed.  “I’ve never seen one of you before. Lady pastors are neeeeeeat.” I was interacting with them differently because I was identifying with them. I wasn’t viewing them as people in a role far far away, I could see myself in them.

A couple weeks ago I was catching up with a couple girlfriends. And as I looked around the table I realized that two out of four of us were church pastors. Now even my peer women are pastoring churches. I felt so proud. Of course my friend Latina is the most bad ass picture of a pastor ever. As an African American woman from Detroit who cruises around LA on her motorcycle wearing head to toe leather,  she is in a category of her own.

Realizing that having so few role models has deeply impacted me I wanted to shine the light on some women pastors that inspire me and give me a picture to look at.

First I have to express gratitude to the African American church. I think that all of the first women pastors I saw were in the African American church. Black women have been pioneers in terms of being preachers, not only for me, but in this country.

bsm2012-whoweareLet me give a tip of the hat to Rev. Brenda Salter McNeil. As a student in InterVarsity Christian Fellowship I was exposed to Rev. Brenda at Urbana Missions conferences and various other conference. She has amazing rhetorical style, theological depth, and conviction. She would preach on racial reconciliation, Jesus, purpose, justice in an exuberant and thoughtful manner. She is currently the teaching pastor at Quest Church in Seattle.



Reverend Alexia Savatierra is ordained in the Evangelical Lutheran Church and she rocks a collar- which is a whole other  alexialevel. She is a founding leader of the National Evangelical Immigration Table. What strikes me about her as a leader and speaker is the gentleness and clarity with which she addresses issues of immigration. She has helped build a coalition between Christian leaders of wildly different backgrounds. She has so many deeds done in the social justice world, but she carries herself with grace and kindness.



IkomaMotzkoReverend Jennifer Ikoma-Motzko was just installed as Senior Pastor at Japanese Baptist Church in Seattle. I emailed Jennifer out the blue a few days ago and she told me she had just become a pastor. It was special to see an Asian American woman my age stepping into this role.  I first met Jennifer when she was working on staff with InterVarsity. I felt inspired to see that she had pursued her M.Div. and then stepped into leadership of an Asian American congregation.



And just to leave you with one final picture. This is what a group of Christian ministers and pastors looks like.  This is me with the aforementioned group of friends. 1450959_10151936811894192_1717388789_n

From Left to Right.

Natalia is an amazing ministry planter. She has successfully planted multi-ethnic ministries at commuter campuses in both San Diego and Los Angeles.

Sandra is  a preacher, trainer, and worship leader. She currently serves as pastor of Grace and Peace Community, an urban church on Chicago’s west side.

Me- Leader, Singer, Social Justice and  Multi-Ethnicity specialist

Latina- aforementioned biker pastor who just became minster at Tribe in Los Angeles.


I’m excited that my generation is stepping into leadership in the church in ways I never saw growing up. I can’t wait to see what that will mean for the next generation.

PS- There was recently a bit of hubbub on the internet about not being able to find qualified women speakers, particularly ethnic minority women speakers for Christian conferences. Well, internet, here are seven great options.



Frat Bro gives pretty awesome apology- Christian leaders take note

A couple weeks ago a very gross and pretty disturbing email from a Phi Kappa Tau brother at Georgia Tech became public. Matthew Peterson, the social chair, sent out an email giving step by step instructions on how to hook up with a girl at a party. The email included helpful bits of advice such as

“Here is how to dance: Grab them on the hips with your 2 hands and then let them grind against your dick. After that slowly alternate between just putting your hand across their stomach, but make sure don’t to go to high (keep it under the boob) or too low(dont try to finger her… yet). After a song, start putting your cheek on the side of her cheek. ALWAYS USE YOUR HANDS OR ARMS TO GUIDE THEIR DANCING in order to maximize your pleasure.”

“If the party is going good (a.k.a. there are a lot of open girls) try to escalate cause it’s awesome. Here is how to escalate: Try to twist her hips around to face you and dance front to front. FROM THERE THE OPTIONS ARE UNLIMITED!”

You can read the letter in it’s entirety here.  But trust me- you won’t be any better for it.

But the story took and unexpected turn. Several days after the letter went public, Matthew Peterson published a letter of apology. And it was pretty good. And I believed him. Which is saying a lot, since we’ve all gotten used to canned, crisis driven, media pandering apologies.

Here are a few snippets of his apology. ( You can read it in full here.)

“Misogynistic behavior is everywhere online and unfortunately, my attempt to ridicule it in an immature and outrageous satire backfired terribly and in a manner I mistakenly underestimated. In fact the “locker room” banter that characterizes this email was wrong in and of itself whether or not contained in a written communication. I am both embarrassed and ashamed at this dialogue and realize now that any sexual statement that is demeaning to women is never a joke.”

He goes on to say “I understand the magnitude and seriousness of this issue and the pain I have caused this community. I certainly have been forever changed by this incident. I have resigned as my fraternity’s social chairman and have proactively identified and implemented actions in consultation with the Office of Student Integrity.I know I cannot fix all the damage I have done, but I will strive to become a better man as I work through this episode in my life.”

Here is why I actually took his apology seriously.

– It was a proportional response. The length of the apology, his acknowledgement of the consequences of his actions, his acknowledgments of what he had learned, and his acknowledgement of dynamics that he had not taken into consideration reflected a genuine teachability and humility.

-He took responsibility for his actions and its consequences. He says he is sorry. Not-I had good intentions, so sorry if you are offended.

– He acknowledged that what he did was misogynistic and a misguided attempt at humor.

– He accepted consequences for his actions, stepping down from his position as social chair and taking ongoing steps to learn.

– In my estimation he appears genuinely remorseful and like he is learning and changing from the experience. ( I could be wrong, but I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt here. )

I wanted to write about him because I like it when people defy expectations. I wasn’t expecting a frat bro who wrote a very douchey rapey email to come back with such a genuine and thoughtful apology. Also, I’ve been thinking a lot about apologies lately as I’ve watched the Asian American Evangelical community try to engage with Pastor Rick Warren about a comment he posted on his Facebook page. If you’re unaware of this fiasco I suggest you read up. But my thought has been- if only Warren had given a satifying apology from the start things would not have blown up in this way. There is currently an open letter from Asian American Evangelicals circulating on the internet. You can read it here.

Warren posted a very brief apology in the comments section of a blog. But I think that Warren’s apology was dismissed because it wasn’t proportional. His apology wasn’t proportionate to the level offense that had taken place. He didn’t seem changed, truly sorry, or like he had learned from the experience. In fact, he seemed dismissive. He didn’t take responsibility.

It’s interesting that a frat bro made a better apology than a Christian leader. Especially when acknowledging that we’re jacked up people who sin and make mistakes is supposed to be a fundamental tenant of Christianity. I feel for Warren- I think he has no idea what is happening and how a single facebook post could have spiraled into such a huge public debate. I think it’s in the apology. Maybe this frat bro can teach us all something about how to set things right.


Don’t be Sorry

I’m not a very good basketball player. But ever so often I’ll get out there and shoot around a bit. I always feel kind of self-conscious and every time I shoot the ball and miss, I apologize.

Sorry. Sorry, my bad.

A few years ago I was playing with a couple friends, and I noticed that one of the guys kept missing most of his shots. But he never apologized; he just took the ball and shot again. I started to compare my skill level with his- and noticed it wasn’t that different. But his assumption was that he belonged, and my assumption was that I didn’t.

I noticed this phenomenon again when I was in music school. I would be jamming with friends, or in a rehearsal, and when I made a mistake I would constantly apologize and make some sort of disparaging remark. I felt bad, cause it seemed like I was messing up more than the guys. But then I started to notice, the guys made mistakes too. But they didn’t apologize for it. They would just try again, or make someone explain it to them, or ignore their error until it was pointed out.

I’ve thought a lot about this phenomena since then. I see other women do this all the time- apologize, draw attention to mistakes. I’m often jealous of the male ability to plow right through. I realize that in certain situation I carry the underlying belief that I don’t belong – I don’t belong on the basketball court. I don’t belong in this jam session. So when I make a mistake it just reinforces this nagging insecurity. A mistake reinforces my fear.

Over time I’ve realized that there is a cost to this habit. I watch others address a mistake by learning from it. But I’m so self conscious about my mistake and throw so much energy into apologizing for it- I don’t learn and I feel afraid to try. I can’t separate my sense of self confidence from the skill I’m attempting, and it shuts me down.

I thought about this phenomena again as I was  reading good old Sheryl Sandberg’s book – Lean In. She talks about how women often feel like a fraud. Even very successful women will feel like they don’t belong in male dominated work situations. “Multiple studies in multiple industries show that women often judge their own performance as worse than it actually is, while men judge their performance as better than it actually is.”

( Is it me or do Sheryl Sandberg and Tina Fey sort of look related?)

Tina and Sheryl

I would be curious to hear your own experiences with this phenomena. And what’s the solution? I’m pretty deliberate now about not apologizing. I often have an inner chant that says- “Do it like a white guy”  when I head into meetings or rehearsals. And honestly- it helps. But I’m not sure if I always have the courage to learn from mistakes.

And like most things- I wrote a song about it. Here’s my musical take on this phenomena. Its called Push Back. Its a rough recording, but the lyrics are in the video.




Why It’s Sad that I had the Best Summer Ever

I wrote this post several months ago- but didn’t have a place to share it until now.

This summer I am directing Los Angeles Urban Project, a really amazing Christian ministry that puts college students in the inner city for six weeks. We talk about Social Justice, and God’s heart for the city, and building relationships across class and race.

I’ve had a great time kicking butt for Jesus. I preached or trained at least 8 times during our orientation week. I’ve lead worship, trained leaders, and exposed students to a whole new side of Scripture and their Christian discipleship.

As I’ve stepped into this role I have been surrounded by a wonderful group of supporters. Kevin Blue- the former Director of LAUP, for almost 13 years, checked in on me during our orientation week. He prayed for me and came to speak for us in the midst of his busy schedule. Dennis Ortega, the Director of LAUP when I was a student, is currently on my leadership team. That’s right. The man that was directing the program when I was 19 years old, is now serving on the leaders team that I am leading. He has been encouraging, supportive, and helpful. My co –worker Scott Hall, who is not here this summer because he is on sabbatical, has texted me consistently with things he has heard in prayer for me.

I’ve felt affirmed, encouraged, and respected. And it’s sad. Because I realize this experience is extremely rare for Christian women in leadership. I have no war wounds coming into this role and I’ve experienced only affirmation and respect from my male co-workers and predecessors.

It’s also sad because I know that most of the students in this program will never hear a woman preach as much as they will this summer. I know that they will probably never see a Christian man in leadership joyfully pass positional leadership to a woman. They will not see male predecessors rally in encouragement for the first woman in a leadership position. But all that has happened this summer.

I have deep gratitude for the many men that have mentored me, trained me, invested me as a leader, and who now respect me as a co-laborer and listen to me preach, follow my leadership, and encourage me on the journey.

But it’s sad. Because this happens so rarely.


Dennis Ortega, Chizu Shimizu, herself, and Kevin Blue