Beyond Korean-American Church

“The Korean Church” in Norcross, Georgia

A Recognizeably Korean Congregation

Our neighboring residents know us as “the Korean church”.  In many ways, we are a typical Korean church that you would find anywhere in the U.S. We have two congregations: the Korean-speaking one and the English-speaking one. Our street sign has Korean words, the preaching, singing, and printed material are all in Korean, and each Sunday there is a traditional Korean lunch prepared by congregation members. The smell of traditional Korean cooking waft through the building as it draws closer toward Sundy lunch. Congregants smile and bow to greet one another. The Korean speaking congregation allows our ministry to use its building and refer to us as “Yung-uh-kwon,” which means, “English Ministry.”

A Not-So Korean Neighborhood

Our immediate neighbors who are literally down the street from our church building are racially black and hispanic.  In times past, there has not been much interaction between the church congregants and the neighborhood residents for a variety of reasons. Residents pass by and once in awhile, there would be some brief contact, but we might as well be on different continents. But these days, things are changing. God has been bringing the two worlds a little closer together.

Trinitarian Ministry

Balancing Family and Ministry

A year ago, my wife and I were talking about how to balance family time with ministry time. We didn’t like how sometimes “family centerd” tended to neglect the church and how sometimes “church centered” tended to neglect the family. So I suggested to her that why don’t we combine family time with church time? When going on family outings and when having family dinner, why not invite people from our church as if they were just a part of our family? And why not spend time at church as a family as if the activities within church was a natural part of our family life?

That is when she compared that approach to the Trinity. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit all were perfectly happy and united. But the Son took on flesh to turn his enemies into not only his kingdom subjects, not only his friends, but as part of his own family. He not only justified us but adopted us and will perfectly unite us to himself one glorious day.  

Incorporating church members into our family time has been a great way of balancing our family time with ministry time without neglecting one for the other. This is the approach we are taking on the ecclesiastical scale. 

Applying Trinitarian Ministry to the Korean-American Church Context

Korean-American congregations, like other racially homogeneous congregations are content being homogeneous. And like many of those congregations, we were content too. 

God began moving in our congregation through a visitor who came asking for help in time of need. Our assistant pastor was the first to meet her need and from there, God has led us to a mercy ministry that not only meets the need of those we come into contact with but are able to meet them relationally with gospel without depending on a program or event. 

The reason for this is that from the start of our mercy ministry, we wanted to not merely reach out with outreach events and programs (which there is a place and use for those) but wanted to move the people we showed mercy to into discipleship and full involvement and relationship with our congregational body on a weekly basis. We wanted them to become a part of our church family, even though they didn’t look like us, talk like us, or live like us.

Beyond Korean-American Church

It’s not just about “us” anymore

We have much to move forward on in resembling the kingdom of God in glory. But certain advancements are in place that may seem small to some, but are significant steps forward in terms of Korean-American ecclesiastical practices. 

Planning

From the beginning, the three major focuses of our ministry were worship, discipleship, and mercy. Reaching out to our immediate neighbors and building long-term, regular relationships was important to do. We would not relegate this responsibility to occasional, impromptu interactions we all knew would not last, nor did we compartmentalize our responsibility to show love for our neighbors to short-term mission trips and spot-treatment, come-in/come-out programmed events throughout the year. Our mercy ministry is a means of reaching the lives of those different from us and to give them opportunity to be treated with welcoming love and acceptance as any Korean-American visitor that would enter our doors.

Giving

This has been an amazing encouragement to us. I have witnessed the generosity of those here. Not only do we attribute a significant amount of church funds to mercy ministry, but on top of that, our congregants have given personally even more to meet some pressing needs that have come to our attention.

Discipleship

We are working with a family to move them toward discipleship and relationship with the congregation. Our goal is to find a God-prepared family who will be the channel through whom God will pour out His grace and bring transformation to the people they know. For that to happen, we believe they need to be a part of our community and grow in fellowship with God’s word and his people. That family can’t do that if we hesitate, forget about, and ignore the call to welcome them into our church community as we would anyone who looks like us, talks like us, and lives like us.

Running on Grace

We’re a small church in Norcross, but to many of these families, we might as well be the only church. Lacking the means to get around town, a walk down the street is the best way to hear the gospel and interact with a Christian community. 

Being a church plant within a church, God has been providing the means to love our neighbors as we seek to love our God. We are thankful for what God has been doing here and are prayerful and confident that He will shepherd our hearts and provide what we need to glorify Him as a small, not-so Korean-American congregation in Norcross, Georgia.

2nd Generation Church Planting: How to Start Healthy

On April 9, 2017, Siloam Korean Church of Atlanta (PCA) launched its English Ministry (EM) as an independent church. Siloam Community Church (formerly Siloam English Ministry) is a result of God's providential work in the KM and EM. Here are some of the things that we as a congregation are not only thankful for, but believe is important in having a healthy start to a 2nd generation church plant within an asian-american (specifically Korean-American) context.

The EM should financially support its own pastor before planting.

Two years before our launch service, Siloam EM called Tae Chin as its EM pastor. His financial support all came from the EM. It was not only a good statement of commitment and investment into a more responsible approach to its pastor, but it was good ground for a culture of "standing on its own feet" that began. 

When second generation EM's still have the mindset of a graduated youth ministry, they will not understand the need to financially support their own pastor. They will default that responsibility to their ecclesiastical parents, the Korean Ministry (KM). Although it seems like a great position to be in (get all the benefits without paying any costs), the EM will not be able to "count the cost" of being its own church. They will want the independence and freedom but not consider the real responsibilities that KM's have been burdening for years.

Hence, financially supporting its own pastor is discipleship for an EM. It teaches a body of believers that has been accustomed to having everything done for them to take ownership and grow through the challenges of sacrifice and others-oriented ministry.

The EM should be very cautious about planting in reaction to the KM.

Reacting instead of thoughtfully responding may be an unwise approach to any situation. Seeking congregational independence from a KM is no exception. An EM should not allow for a congregational culture by its divergences from and frustrations with the KM. Some may say that EM's should never seek independence from a KM when the KM is not convinced that an independent EM is right for its vision and context.

The KM should not fear a loss of "owning" the EM.

It was the session of the KM that initiated the move to plant Siloam EM as an independent church. Not only was the session in agreement on this, but the congregation was in agreement as well. The excitement, anticipation, and support that the KM communicated to the EM leading up to the launch service was encouraging and humbling. It was even more so because we, the EM, were not looking to become independent. The KM did not see it as losing ownership of a part of its ministry, but as a better way of serving the kingdom of God together.

The EM should be devoted more to God's will being done than building its own religious kingdom.

Sometimes, it can be easy for an EM to be more committed to building its own ecclesiastical kingdom than Christ building His church. What if it is God's will that an EM not be independent? How open would an EM be to such a calling? What if God wanted to close doors on an EM? How willing would an EM be to accepting such a providential move? Should there be a willingness to surrender and abandon one's own ministerial vision if it is not in alignment with God's will for that congregation? Such questions, though difficult to answer, need to be considered and answered by EM's. 

We, as a church, exist to be faithful and do the best that we can for this church plant. But may our ecclesiastical vision and commitment never compete with or replace the will and direction that Christ desires for our ministry. To affirm the possibility of God's will being different from the desires we may have for ourselves is not a lack of commitment to our church plant, but rather evidences a greater commitment to what our church plant should be as long as God sees it fit for us to continue ministering to the people He sends us and to the community He has placed us in today.