"Just call me, L.T.," he laughed. "If my name and face didn't give me away, you'd think I was just another Texan."
Lam "L.T." Chuong is the lead pastor of A Seat at the Table Church, a small multi-ethnic church here in Houston. As an Asian-American refugee growing up in a Buddhist family, he never dreamed he would become a Baptist pastor.
"My older brother almost became a Buddhist monk, because he feared death so much. Asians really fear death—won't even talk about it—and we were the same."
Today, though, he and two of his older brothers are pastors in churches across the United States.
The Long Road to Faith
When L.T. was 15, his mother sent him to Houston to live with his siblings because he was "too wild." It was here that he first encountered God. After a dramatic spiritual experience at home in his room, L.T. poured over the Word of God and came to faith in Jesus. From there, he dove right into being a "full-blown Jesus freak."
He and his family became heavily involved in several churches and were disappointed by a few along the way. At 20, he came very close to walking away from the faith altogether when he met a man and woman who would become his mentors and spiritual parents—Jay and Sharon Gartman.
Jay modeled what it looked like to work hard as a bi-vocational minister and care for his family well. He showed L.T. what it meant to see the investment in others as God's calling on his life. These lessons still follow L.T. and shape the kind of ministry he pursues today.
Finding A Seat at the Table
After being involved in several church plants, L.T. and others around him felt he was being called to use his gifts in a teaching role. As he started to focus on evangelism, two couples approached him and asked him to lead a Bible study in their restaurant during the off hours.
Once a month, a few families met on Sunday afternoons around a communal table to discuss the Word of God. In time, this monthly meeting became bi-weekly, then weekly. The group grew and decided they needed a name for their new church.
They wanted the church to be a picture of Mark 12:30-31 and Revelation 3:20, where Jesus says:
Behold I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him and he with me.
In Asian culture, many are concerned with social status and being part of the "in crowd." However, Jesus says that one day, everyone who responds to him will have a seat at the table. Thus, A Seat at the Table Church found their vision and their name.
Since then, God has grown A Seat at the Table Church (ASATT) into a multi-generational and multi-ethnic church. It's still a small church with an average attendance of 37.6 people per week, but it is growing in size and influence. Though ASATT started with mostly Millennials, they now have many senior adults. They also have a variety of Vietnamese, Chinese, Brazilian, Latino, and other members, as well as people who regularly watch their live stream from countries all over the world. Instead of focusing on creating a church culture from one specific background, ASATT aims to foster a "Jesus culture" that transcends these boundaries.
It is not without its challenges, though. Sometimes, leadership has to address cliques that form among the groups and remind members that they are all one in Christ. Sometimes, there are also those who would like to be in leadership but are not gifted or talented for it. ASATT's leadership has had to learn how to humbly address those who disagree while keeping a listening ear.
As a bi-vocational pastor, L.T. also has to manage his time well. Between being a husband, father, small business owner, and pastor, there are a lot of things to juggle. He also feels a deep burden for the many unreached Asians and other immigrants in the greater Houston area.
L.T. and A Seat at the Table Church eventually got connected with Union Baptist Association through local city outreaches and relationships with other UBA pastors and leaders. In an area as large and as diverse as Houston, L.T. and ASATT saw the necessity of working together with other believers if they were going to advance the gospel among unreached peoples.
In becoming a member of UBA, L.T. and ASATT hope to be able to better bridge the gap between foreign-born Houstonians and their 1st-generation American children. They also hope to be a voice advocating for ministry among the more self-sufficient unreached immigrant groups, such as Asians, who are less likely to seek or accept help from churches.
L.T. asks that you pray for continued wisdom and provision in leading his family and A Seat at the Table Church. Pray for his wife, Lucia Chuong, and their three daughters to be in ministry together with L.T. Ask that he would find a balance between work, ministry, and life at home.
Pray for divine favor for A Seat at the Table Church in finding strategies and people to help reach the community. Pray that the burden they have for the unreached Vietnamese, Chinese, and other peoples in their area would turn to effective ministry. Many of the members at ASATT have family who are not believers, so pray that they would come to faith. Also, pray for God to raise up the next generation of believers in their church as they do not have much of a youth presence, now.
Address: 6300 Westpark Drive, Ste. 310A
Houston, Texas 77057
Marie Burrus is UBA's Communications Specialist. She manages, edits, and contributes content for UBA's blog, website, UBA Voices newsletter, and social media outlets.