Category Archives: leadership

blog archive of L2 Foundation articles

This is an archive of L2 Foundation blog articles, kept online for historical purposes. We hope you find this to be a useful reference and resource.

Hope for the World Through Asian Americans: 4 Unique Gifts We Bring

Paul Tokunaga (Vice-President, Director of Strategic Ministries at InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA) shared this powerfully encouraging message at the Mt. Hermon JEMS Family Conference in July 2013. [Published here with permission.]

“Hope for the World Through Asian Americans: 4 Unique Gifts Asian Americans Bring”
Listen/Download Audio (mp3) | Manuscript (pdf)

And a summary about this talk was posted by Cyril Nishimoto (Executive Director at Iwa) ::

Paul Tokunaga and the Gift of Community Glue

… He launched into it with an imagined story about his bringing what he thought was a small, insignificant gift to a classy dinner party. But the gift turned out to be an enormous crowd-pleaser and the very thing the hosts were hoping for to make their special evening complete. With that, Paul asserted that Asian Americans have gifts to bring to the party that no one else can bring.

… Contending that Asian Americans have unique gifts to bring to “the party,” Paul identified four: the capacity for developing deep friendships and being “community glue;” wealth (higher personal and household income than the average in the U.S.); intellect and education; and Level 5 leadership.

* article cached from

Paul Tokunaga and the Gift of Community Glue

On a warm 4th of July evening on a stage set up on the recreation field on the grounds of the Mt. Hermon Conference Center, Paul Tokunaga, Vice President/Director of Strategic Ministries of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF) and long-time supporter of Iwa, delivered his fourth of five messages entitled “Hope for the World Through Asian Americans: The Gift We Bring.” He launched into it with an imagined story about his bringing what he thought was a small, insignificant gift to a classy dinner party. But the gift turned out to be an enormous crowd-pleaser and the very thing the hosts were hoping for to make their special evening complete. With that, Paul asserted that Asian Americans have gifts to bring to the party that no one else can bring.

Growing up in the San Jose area, Paul used to think that white people were a 10 and he, a Japanese American, could only maybe be as high as a 7. But after discovering that “God don’t make no junk,” he has come to believe that God loves him as much as the white leader and the black musician, and he and other Asian Americans are a vital, unique part of the Body of Christ.

Contending that Asian Americans have unique gifts to bring to “the party,” Paul identified four:  the capacity for developing deep friendships and being “community glue;” wealth (higher personal and household income than the average in the U.S.); intellect and education; and Level 5 leadership.

In expanding on the gift of “community glue” that group-oriented, harmony-seeking Asian Americans bring, he gave credit to his “pal” Stan Inouye for teaching him a word that might be considered a defining characteristic of Japanese culture–omoiyari, which roughly translated means “empathy.” One aspect of omoiyari is the ability to anticipate another person’s needs and desires and to meet them without the other person needing to ask. Paul noted that it has been an amazing experience at this conference that, for example, all he had to do was think “coffee” and two cups of coffee would magically appear, one from each side of him. He felt “omoiyari-ed to death” during the entire conference.

His ideas about Level 5 (executive level) leadership came from Jim Collins, author of Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap . . . and Others Don’t. Collins found that all the CEOs in the 11 out of 1,435 companies he and his colleagues studied that made the transition from good to great had “a paradoxical mixture of personal humility and professional will. They are timid and ferocious. Shy and fearless. They are rare—and unstoppable. . . . They were seemingly ordinary people quietly producing extraordinary results.” When Paul read that, he jumped up and down and exclaimed, “He’s talking about my people!”

His idea that Asian Americans have what it takes to be Level 5 leaders inspired him to create an Asian American leadership development project for IVCF called the Daniel Project. The 18-month project resulted in 12 of the 14 Asian Americans who went through it being placed in significant leadership positions. As a result, IVCF staff began to see the beauty of the way that Asian Americans lead—using their value for hospitality and community to build teams that others wanted to be a part of, and handling conflict sensitively and discreetly. The project was so successful, they ran two more, and they started ones for blacks and Latinos, as well as other parts of IVCF that wanted it as well.

Asserting that there were closet Level 5 leaders in the audience, and giving a reprise of the dinner party story, Paul ended his message imagining himself leaving the party and singing the words that the Black Eyed Peas made famous in their song, “I Gotta Feeling”: “Tonight’s gonna be a good night! Tonight’s gonna be a good night!”

After the evening session ended, Cyril had the great privilege of greeting and chatting with Paul’s stepmother. Residing in nearby Campbell, she, along with other family members, had come to hear Paul speak. She remarked that she was so glad she came and was delighted that she lived so close to such a wonderful camp that she never knew existed. After letting her know how much he and others appreciated and valued Paul’s leadership and ministry, Cyril congratulated her on her 90th birthday that he knew her family would be celebrating with her on Sunday, and mentioned that his own mother was 92. Establishing a friendly connection, he was able to engage in a warm, pleasant conversation.

At the beginning of his final message the next day, Paul thanked the audience for making his family members feel well-received as they all came away having had a very positive experience. Seven family members came, and for about half of them, this was the first Christian gathering they had attended, and the first time they heard him speak. It seems that the group-oriented, harmony-seeking, omoiyari-endowed Asian American Christians put into action their unique gift of “community glue” and warmly embraced Paul’s family with a special Christian welcome that had significant impact. It’s what Iwa likes to emphasize as the way to reaching effectively people of Japanese and Asian ancestry for Christ— through the ministry of hospitality. And Paul’s family got a good taste of it on the 4th of July.

When he “sang,” “Tonight’s gonna be a good night,” little did Paul know how true that would be. It could only be the work of an amazing and loving Lord God who not only blesses an audience by having the speaker lift up the special gift He has bestowed upon them (namely, community glue), but also blesses the speaker with that very gift He had him lift up. Praise be to God!

lessons learned on developing leaders

Pastor Bob Roberts shared these amazing insights about what he’s learned in developing leaders:

  1. You live the life and do the stuff you talk about.
  2. You teach first from what you’ve experienced.
  3. They have to be around you in your context.
  4. You have to hold people accountable.
  5. You give them bite-size things and watch them.
  6. Watch what’s unique about them and help them discover their own uniqueness.
  7. You have to let them see you for who you really are–your good and bad.

Read the full blog post for how all of this plays out.

Dr. Bob Roberts, Jr., founding pastor of NorthWood Church, a fast-growing church near Dallas/Ft Worth, TX, is a leading practitioner and writer on glocal—local and global—transformation of individuals, churches, communities and nations. Roberts’ unique principles have transformed the people and ministry at NorthWood and its 80 (and counting) church plants and impacted “adopted” nations throughout the world. He is the founder of GlocalNet, a network of like-minded leaders who are advancing a glocal church multiplication movement that connects the body of Christ worldwide. He has also authored 2 books, Glocalization: How Followers of Jesus Engage a Flat World and Transformation: How Glocal Churches Transform Lives and the World.

challenges in reaching the next-generation ethnics

In this NAMB Church Planting Update article titled “Evangelism and the Next-Generation Ethnics“, Kenneth C. Tan notes distinct challenges in reach the next generations:

There is also the challenge of reaching the next generation. Whether we call them postmoderns, second generation ethnics, or the marginalized generation, these groups are bound by racial issues that have been imposed by society. For example, second and third generation Asian-Americans adapt easily to adopting an American lifestyle but have difficulty assimilating into an American society on an equal basis. In dealing with the next generation, you see the issue of race among African-Americans, Hispanic-Americans, Native Americans, and so on in contrast to an Anglo society. Stereotypes are formed out of experiences of cultural bias and persistent racism. As a result, assimilation to the dominant culture no longer becomes their goal. A mosaic of various cultures and ethnicities emerges. They are the in-between generation that is caught between two worlds—that of their parents, and that of the dominant society in America. How are we to reach this marginalized group? They are the dash between Asian-American and other ethnic Americans, believing they are molding a new culture that is more accepting of diversity a combination of a both/and culture. They believe they can be true Asians and true Americans in a pluralistic society. How can we assimilate them if our churches are divided along racial lines rather than culture or affinity?

A third challenge in reaching people groups is in the area of raising indigenous leadership. Most of our ethnic churches are being started and pastored by first generation ethnics that cater mostly to first generation immigrants. Our seminaries and Bible schools are lacking in second generation ethnics. The next generation ethnics have continually stayed away from full-time vocation to bi-vocational type of ministry. Why is this so? The models for ethnic churches in a dominant Anglo society have been limited to ethnic types of churches and many are barely surviving, reaching primarily first generation immigrants. The language skills and cultural barriers have relegated ethnics to form ethnic conclaves. We see Chinese, Korean, Hispanic, and other minority groups coming together for support. However, the next generation that has grown up in America and is versed in both cultures has been left on the fringes. The first generation leaders find it difficult to train new leaders. They fear they might lose control, or even their heritage, as they give in to a generation that is perceived to be influenced by an immoral, postmodern society. How can we reach this generation if they are not affirmed or seen as a group that can lead us to the next century?

Read the entire article for full context >>

L2 Foundation’s first 7 years

L2 Foundation is a private foundation that seeks to develop the leadership and legacy of Asian Americans by providing support and resources. L2 Foundation serves ministry and professional leaders, empowering them to fulfill God’s calling.

  1. bless & affirm & encourage & empower the next generation Asian Americans
  2. connecting Asian American leaders for innovation and healthy leadership development
  3. connecting & mobilizing Asian American legacy partners to invest in the next generation Asian Americans

These are all wonderful words that describe the exciting vision of L2 Foundation to invest in the next generation, also known as English-speaking 2nd generation. There is so much potential in this next generation, and our role is to discern the appropriate strategic initiatives that can make a greater impact to benefit many people. Often I’ve explained this at a 10,000-foot view, and I thought it’d be helpful to provide a historical review to show you what that actually looks like. Click on the green “play” button below for a pictorial history of L2’s first seven years.

You may also view the video of the founders Paul & Alice Chou to get an inside look at why they started L2 Foundation and the Triangle Youth Fellowship.

definition of leadership

Center for Creative Leadership takes a look at everyday leadership in their recent report, mentioned in their July 2007 update.

Much of society’s knowledge about leadership is focused on who we conventionally think of as leaders, such as heads of corporations, highly-ranked armed forces officers and powerful politicians. But what about our non-traditional leaders — stay-at-home moms, small business owners, students, doctors, educators? Are their leadership practices all that different from traditional leaders? CCL researched the topic of “Everyday Leadership.” Download and read the full report (Adobe PDF, 1.9 MB).

In the “Everyday Leadership” report, leadership is collectively defined as:

Leadership is the ability to create of a vision for positive change, help focus resources on right solutions, inspire and motivate others, and provide opportunities for growth and learning.

This suggests that the quality of leadership can be developed and cultivated for people of all kinds of professions, and does not necessarily require having a position at the top (or near the top) of some sizeable organization. What have you found helpful in developing leaders with these qualities?

Raising up women leaders and voices

5 Asian American women InterVarsity ministry leaders put together this book, More Than Serving Tea: Asian American Women on Expectations, Relationships, Leadership And Faith, bringing out diversely rich perspectives about gender and identity issues through their personal narratives. Nikki Toyama, Tracey Gee, Kathy Khang, Christie Heller de Leon, and Asifa Dean shared the tasks of authors and editors, and they’ve been blogging over at, creating a space to dialog about the intersection of gender, race, and faith, particularly concerning Asian American women.

Nikki’s most recent blog wonders out loud about boundaries of the Asian American context:

I’m beginning to wonder if boundaries are the luxury of the middle class. Is there such thing as boundaries when you’re doing justice work?

I’ve wondered about boundaries, Asian American families, and Christian discipleship. What therapists call “enmeshment” is a common occurrance in Asian American families. Is it an issue that we need to fight against in the Asian community. Or is family therapy culturally bound.

What some might called “enmeshed” has great characteristics. There’s a wonderful sense of involving everyone, and a corporate identity that is a healthy antidote to a narcissitic individualized model. But it has its problems too.

From my limited vantage point, it comes across as parents who are very upset at a young person’s decision. A lot of emotional pressure lands on the young person to comply to their wishes. I’ve heard extreme cases of threatening suicide unless a young person changes their plans. More common examples are sleepless nights, extreme anxiety, etc. Are the young people just clueless and self-absorbed? Or is the older generation enmeshed? Both?

Is this just how things get done in Asian American households? What’s the Christian response?

Bo Lim has mentioned that an event may well be in the works specifically toward Asian American Christian Women in Seattle, possibly in 2008.