On any given Sunday at Hmong Christian Alliance Church in Winder, Georgia, Dr. Shahlahng Herr is found preaching to his congregation in two languages—Hmong and English—at the same time. A doctoral graduate of Anderson University, Herr has an unconventional way of preaching and a story that exudes God’s faithfulness.
“I want to be able to present the Gospel in a way people can understand and open their eyes to Scripture through preaching,” Herr said. “Preaching is one of the gifts God gave me.”
Herr realizes his gifts in his role as pastor of Hmong Christian Alliance Church, a congregation made up of Hmong immigrants in the Atlanta area. Herr’s ability to clearly communicate to his church is influenced by his heritage and his experiences.
Herr’s story begins in Laos of Southeast Asia, where he was born. As part of the Hmong people group in Laos, Herr’s childhood was marked by the effects of war.
After fighting for the American military in the Vietnam War, the United States government evacuated the Hmong, first to Thailand and then to the U.S. when the war ended, Herr said. Consequently, he and his family moved from Laos to Thailand before settling in Wisconsin in 1980, when he was about 10-years old.
Though conflict and displacement caused by the war resulted in an unsettled childhood, it served as his path to ministry. Herr’s native culture is now formative in his ministry, providing him a basis for relating to his congregation of Hmong people.
By the time Herr began his college education, he knew God had called him to ministry. Planning to become a missionary, he enrolled at Crown College in Minnesota, a school affiliated with the Christian and Missionary Alliance. After his graduation, he served a local congregation for a couple of years before entering the mission field.
Somewhere along the way, his passion changed to preaching. Herr shifted his plans and committed to serving the local church.
When speaking about his vocation, his words are filled with zeal, and his joyful spirit reflects his dedication to his calling. His love for sharing the Gospel urges him to continually learn how to better communicate his message.
In 2004, Herr decided to continue his education at Crown College, earning his Master of Arts in Church Leadership. “I wanted to be able to serve the church better,” he said. That desire led him to Anderson University’s College of Christian Studies, where he completed his doctorate of ministry.
The College of Christian Studies offers academic excellence in programs that emphasize practical ministry training for a new generation of Christian leaders.
“Anderson helped me to be able to clarify my own preaching,” Herr said. “It helped me to be able to study scripture, to communicate the truth of scripture in a clear and precise way to my church and to make the Word of God understandable.”
Herr believes that Anderson University played a large role in equipping him to pastor Hmong Christian Alliance Church. Reaching the culmination of his cross-cultural experiences at Anderson, Herr was struck by the way God uses different denominations, different people, and different places for his glory. “There’s more than one way to do church,” he said.
“Shahlahng desires to use the knowledge and expertise he gained in the program to help other Hmong pastors become more effective in their preaching ministries,” said Dr. Kris Barnett, Associate Dean of Clamp Divinity School at the Anderson University College of Christian Studies. “He recognizes that God has entrusted him with an opportunity to learn and that he has a responsibility to share his knowledge.”
Now, he leads his own services with that perspective, thoughtfully structuring his service and sermons in biblical ways that fit Hmong culture. His background helps him to relate to his church uniquely.
“Culture is a big thing,” Herr said. “It’s about being sensitive to who they are.”
His ability to speak both Hmong and English helps him care for both younger English-speaking and older Hmong-speaking members of his church, creating a multi-generational environment.
Herr has seen God open doors to encourage the congregation and meet their spiritual needs. Trusting in God’s faithfulness that he has continually experienced in his life, he is confident that God is able to help him lead his church.
Herr’s life has brought him in a full circle—from Laos to the Hmong people in Atlanta. His hope is that it is all for God’s glory.