Finding Purpose in Life: The Story of McYoung Yang, Crown’s Newest Theology Professor

Finding Purpose in Life: The Story of McYoung Yang, Crown’s Newest Theology Professor

By Destiny Maddox

What is the purpose of life? As a teenage boy, Crown College professor McYoung Yang wanted to know the answer. Was it in sports? Teaching? Being a youth pastor? The route he took wasn’t what he expected, and he experienced a few setbacks early on.

Yet, the Crown administration selected Prof. Yang because he displayed an obvious gift for connecting with students. He also showed a well-rounded academi and ministry-related career, and he possesses a special “spark” that made him a stand-out.

“Professor Yang competed against several outstanding candidates, many with more experience and education,” says Scott Moats, the Crown College Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost. “The compelling aspect that stood out with Professor Yang’s candidacy was his passion for Biblical education, students, and Crown College.”

Early years before Crown

Yang grew up in Indiana, in what he described as a traditional Asian family where his parents made education a priority. They expected nothing but excellence from their children whether that meant becoming a doctor, a lawyer, or an engineer.

While Yang’s parents stressed the importance of excelling inside the boundaries of education, the young high schooler had his eye on the ball–the football, that is.

“[Football] was my world. I existed for that,” Yang explains. To say that his life was consumed with football would be an understatement. Too soon, senior year began to approach. Yang began to ask himself… “What else is there to life?”

Following graduation, Yang decided to attend Indiana University-Purdue University in Indianapolis, concentrating on secondary education. “My goal was just to go be an educator and a football coach, and then just see where that took me,” he says.

Halfway through his first year of college, Yang felt like he ran head-first into a wall. “I just kind of hit a time in my life where I asked, ‘What is the point of life? Why do I want to be a teacher?’”

Doubt and uncertainty crept into Yang’s mind on a daily basis. As a result, his grades dropped and he failed out of the university. His parents insisted he wait out his semester, complete the probation period, and apply again the next year. Yang decided to give it one more try.

After a few months of getting back on his feet, Yang tried to fix the past. He stuck to a routine of going to classes everyday, but he still didn’t see the purpose.

During this time in college, Yang struggled to understand where he belonged. In an effort to find answers, he became more involved in church. “I had [just] come to faith in Christ,” says Yang. “But because of a lack of discipleship, I kind of backslid. For lack of a better term, I considered myself a cultural Christian.”

As the summer of his sophomore year approached, Yang became more involved at Hmong Hope Church in Indianapolis. Eventually he was elected to be the Youth President. He accepted the leadership opportunity, but in leading others he experienced real spiritual growth and discipline.

In youth group, he started reading and teaching from the Book of Matthew and it began to transform his own outlook on life. Something sparked inside of Yang–he explains the discovery was like finding a buried treasure. This spark then spread among the youth in this church.

“Our youth group just began to grow,” says Yang. “It wasn’t like a strategy that I had or like a five year plan, it was just me seeing spiritual insights in Scripture and wanting to model that behavior, and watching as the Lord began to bear fruit.”

Yang–even as young college student–started to think about being a youth pastor. He wondered if God was calling him to ministry instead of following his own plan to be a teacher.

Pursuing a youth ministry degree at Crown College

The idea of becoming a youth pastor itched in the back of Yang’s mind. Yang explains how the job seemed daunting. He was still very new to Christianity and the church.

“I didn’t even know how to go about pursuing a job in ministry,” says Yang. “I knew the process of becoming an engineer or a lawyer. But for a youth pastor, I just didn’t know. As a member of the Alliance [denomination], I decided to go to an Alliance school.”

Yang started looking into colleges, but did not find any with a football program. One particular Christian and Missionary Alliance school did, however.

In the fall of 2002, Yang and his dad visited Crown College. Along with the promise of playing football again, Yang also noticed a significant Hmong population in the Twin Cities.

“Right when we hit the turn onto campus, I said, ‘This is the place for me.’ I just knew it,” he recalled.

As he began the application process, Yang was concerned about the impact of his previous college work and his prospects of gaining admission to Crown. “In my application process I actually wrote a long letter pleading with the admissions team to let me in,” he says.

After a thorough review by the Admissions Committee, Yang was notified of his acceptance much to his surprise and excitement. “I was allowed to attend Crown by sheer grace–that’s kind of how it started. I wasn’t a genius or a protégé. It was by God’s grace,” he says. Yang started at Crown in the spring of 2003.

“When I attended Crown I was rough around the edges, to say the least,” says Yang. Ministry began to speak into his life and mold him. Change didn’t occur overnight, but Yang slowly learned what it truly meant to live a life for Christ.

First Hmong professor at Crown

After graduating from Crown in 2007, Yang accepted a position in Admissions at Crown to support his family while his wife finished her degree. About six months later, an old classmate from Crown reached out to Yang with a job opportunity. His father pastored the Twin Cities Hmong Alliance Church, and they were looking for a new youth pastor. In April of 2008, Yang accepted his first position at the church.

After a few years of youth pastoring and gaining significant ministerial experience, Yang applied to enter a master’s degree program at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He was admitted to the renown seminary and enrolled there as a graduate student, continuing his academic studies. At seminary, his direction and ministry continued to be refined.

“[My seminary experience] was amazing,” says Yang. “It began to transform my strategy and outlook on youth ministry. I really desired to give students more substance.”

While working toward his degree, he noticed a position at Crown College that was posted in the alumni Facebook group. The position was for a Professor of Theology.

“I told my wife I was just going to give it a try. I sent in my resume and received a message from Dr. [Dean] Erickson, the Department Chair of Biblical, Theological, and Ministry Studies, that they were interested. I just thought they were being nice,” Yang says.

After extensive interviews, Crown offered Yang the position. The husband and father moved onto campus with his family, becoming the first full-time Hmong professor at Crown College.

More than just a professor

During his first semester at Crown he taught Christian Doctrine, Theology II, and Christian Ethics while also pursuing his doctorate degree.

Yang is passionate about his new role at Crown. As a professor for Christian Doctrine, he strives to help his students see theology as more than a mere academic exercise. Through what he calls a “gospel lens,” seeing the world with God as a reality, he hopes to educate and remind students that theology is more than a class–it actually determines how we live out our lives as believers.

As a young teenage boy, McYoung Yang struggled to find the purpose of life. Through years of doubt and confusion, he explains how his direction becomes clearer everyday.

As a Crown College professor and a minister with an active leadership role in the Hmong Christian Missionary Alliance, Yang sees his purpose in a new light: to be helpful and make an impact.

“I think that is the word that God keeps giving me–to be helpful,” says Yang. “Whether that be within the local church, or with students at Crown, or through academia. That is my hope.”