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Follow to lead

Leaders must first follow Jesus, says APCE Educator of the Year

February 14, 2013

ORLANDO, Fla.

Widely recognized for his contributions toward Christian education in Asian-American congregations, the Rev. David Chai was honored as 2013’s Educator of the Year by the Association of Presbyterian Church Educators (APCE) Feb. 8.

“What an honor to be an Educator of the Year,” Chai said. “I would like to share this honor with my fellow Asian-American and Canadian church educators.”

A founding pastor of Korean Community Presbyterian Church and Korean Presbyterian Church of Rockville, Md., Chai also served the General Assembly for 16 years as associate for Asian-American leadership.

Hailed as a visionary, Chai saw the need for Christian education in growing Korean-American immigrant churches. He founded many programs to develop young and lay leaders, including the Young Adult Leadership Coalition, Korean American Student Empowerment, National Korean Presbyterian Youth Council, Roots and Wings (Taiwanese young adult conference), Filipino American Young Adult Conference Ministry, Educational Ministry Team and the Confluence Institute (resourcing for church leadership).

In his 35 years of ministry, Chai has had many rich experiences, he said. In the theme of the APCE conference — “Let us play!” — he decided to share a few stories.

Once while on a visit to Queenstown, New Zealand, Chai went paragliding for the first time. He found that the hardest part wasn’t the flying, but carrying the parachute up the mountain. The promised five minutes of instruction consisted of one minute of directions and four minutes of breathing and mental preparation leading up to the leap from the cliff. That experience taught him a story about faith.

“Faith requires action, not so much thought,” Chai said. “It requires 100 percent courage to act.”

In 1994, Chai joined the General Assembly staff as an associate for Asian-American leadership development.

“It didn’t take long to learn that leadership development means following Jesus faithfully,” he said.

In fact, there are two elements of leadership: following and leading.

“Followership is a prerequisite of leadership,” Chai said, adding that there can be no shepherds without sheep. “Our role is to work to become followers while Jesus equips and prepares us to lead people to the Kingdom of God.”

Also honored at the awards luncheon were Mary Emery Speedy and Tom Malone, who both received APCE’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

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