“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.