Since I arrived in Seoul, South Korea in February 2015, I was in awe of the many steeples that dotted the mountainous skyline throughout the city.
According to The Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, South Korea sends out 1,014 missionaries per 1 million church members, putting them at number five on the list of missionary sending countries in the world.
How did this once predominantly Shamanistic (and later Buddhist) nation turn out to be one of the top missionary senders in the world in such a short amount of time? As a Christian history geek, I was eager to find out.
A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to tour Yanghwajin Foreign Missionary Cemetery in Seoul with a local English ministry I serve alongside. We set up an English tour guide to take us through the cemetery and accompanying museum.
Overlooking the Han River, the cemetery is surrounded by large, modern buildings. The guide explained to us that when Catholic missionaries came to Korea in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s, the king sentenced them to death along with thousands of newly converted Koreans. To sum it up, the main problem that Korea had with Christianity at the time was the fact that, under God, we are all equal. Traditional Korean society had (and still has) many cultural barriers due to age hierarchy, as well as economic status.
Over the next few decades, a handful of missionaries tried to enter Korea, but most were killed almost immediately upon arrival. One soldier was even later converted after he killed a missionary, when he later discovered and read the missionary’s bible.
In 1863, things began to look up for missionaries to enter the Hermit Kingdom. King Gojong, the final king of the Joseon Dynasty, came into power wanting to establish diplomatic relations with western civilizations. Finally, the door was opened for missionaries to freely come to Korea. These missionaries were able to minister to the physical needs of the people by providing medical care, opening schools, and caring for orphans.
I don’t have enough space to write about every single missionary buried in this cemetery, as there were so many, but I picked out a handful who caught my eye to give you a few highlights.
Henry Appenzeller came to Korea before it was legal to preach in public. He set up a missionary house and traveled on foot and bicycle around Korea preaching the Gospel. Even though he wasn’t a doctor, he was able to save many lives with only a little training in western medical care. At the time, all Bibles were written in Chinese, which was only studied by the royalty and upper-class citizens. Appenzeller opened a publishing company that provided the first Bibles to Koreans written in the common language.
Sooda Gaichi was a drunkard who collasped and almost died, when a Korean Christian man saved his life and shared the Gospel with him. After this, Sooda and his wife dedicated their lives to raising Korean orphans. Due to Korea’s relations with Japan at the time, it is quite remarkable that a Japanese person wanted to serve even the lowliest of Koreans. I think this is great evidence of his changed heart.
The last person I have to share with you is Horace Grant Underwood, who is oftentimes called the pioneer of missions in Korea. He helped found the first Presbyterian church in Korea, as well as establish Christian schools. Most importantly, he was able to assist in translating the Old and New Testaments into Hangul, the language of the Korean people. He passed away in 1916, but his family stayed in Korea until 2004!
As I visited the gravesite museum for these missionaries, one thing stood out to me: none of these missionaries became very famous.
There aren’t any famous biographies written about them, and even the museum in their honor didn’t contain much information to tell.
Many of them died when they were only in their thirties.
Many of them lost spouses and children.
They all gave up the comforts of the Western world to come to a place where they were unsure of their safety.
The power of the Gospel drives us to do amazing things for the fame of Jesus.
Zeal without Burnout: Seven Keys to a Lifelong Ministry of Sustainable Sacrifice by Christopher Ash
Christopher Ash's wisdom has been distilled into this short, accessible book, in which he reveals a neglected biblical truth and seven keys that flow from it. Understood properly, and built into our lives as Christians who are zealous to serve the Lord, they will serve to protect us from burnout, and keep us working for God's kingdom and glory.
The Legends Club: Dean Smith, Mike Krzyzewski, Jim Valvano, and an Epic College Basketball Rivalry by John Feinstein
The riveting inside story of college basketball's fiercest rivalry among three coaching legends—University of North Carolina's Dean Smith, Duke's Mike Krzyzewski, and North Carolina State's Jim Valvano—by the king of college basketball writers, #1 New York Times bestseller John Feinstein.
The Pillar New Testament Commentary: The Letter of James by Douglas J. Moo
This highly original commentary seeks to make the Letter of James clear and applicable to Christian living today. Interacting with the latest views on James but keeping academic references to a minimum, Douglas Moo first introduces the Letter of James in its historical context and then provides verse-by-verse comments that explain the message of James both to its first readers and to today's church.
The New American Commentary: James by Kurt A. Richardson
THE NEW AMERICAN COMMENTARY is for the minister or Bible student who wants to understand and expound the Scriptures. Notable features include: * commentary based on THE NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION; * the NIV text printed in the body of the commentary; * sound scholarly methodology that reflects capable research in the original languages; * interpretation that emphasizes the theological unity of each book and of Scripture as a whole; * readable and applicable exposition.
1924: The Year That Made Hitler by Peter Ross Range
Until now, no one has fully examined this single and pivotal period of Hitler's life. In 1924, Peter Ross Range richly depicts the stories and scenes of a year vital to understanding the man and the brutality he wrought in a war that changed the world forever.
The Search for Significance: Seeing Your True Worth Through God’s Eyes by Robert McGee
Robert McGee's best-selling book has helped millions of readers learn how to be free to enjoy Christ's love while no longer basing their self-worth on their accomplishments or the opinions of others. In fact, Billy Graham said that it was a book that "should be read by every Christian."
Ordinary by Michael Horton
Radical. Crazy. Transformative and restless. Every word we read these days seems to suggest there’s a “next-best-thing,” if only we would change our comfortable, compromising lives. In fact, the greatest fear most Christians have is boredom—the sense that they are missing out on the radical life Jesus promised. One thing is certain. No one wants to be “ordinary.”
Parables by John MacArthur
Master expositor and Bible commentator John MacArthur has spent a lifetime explaining the Word of God in clear and comprehensible terms. In Parables he helps Christians understand the essential lessons contained in the most famous and influential short stories the world has ever known.
Prayer by Tim Keller
With his trademark insights and energy, Keller offers biblical guidance as well as specific prayers for certain situations, such as dealing with grief, loss, love, and forgiveness. He discusses ways to make prayers more personal and powerful, and how to establish a practice of prayer that works for each reader.
When Sinners Say I Do by Dave Harvey
Dave's writing style embraces the reader as he speaks honestly, and sometimes humorously, about sin and the power of the gospel to overcome it. He opens the delightful truth of God s word and encourages the reader to see more clearly the glorious picture of what God does when sinners say "I do."
Unashamed by Lecrae Moore
Two-time Grammy winning rap artist, Lecrae, learned this lesson through more than his share of adversity—childhood abuse, drugs and alcoholism, a stint in rehab, an abortion, and an unsuccessful suicide attempt. Along the way, Lecrae attained an unwavering faith in Jesus and began looking to God for affirmation. Now as a chart-topping industry anomaly, he has learned to ignore the haters and make peace with his craft. The rap artist holds nothing back as he divulges the most sensitive details of his life, answers his critics, shares intimate handwritten journal entries, and powerfully models how to be a Christian in a secular age.
Beat God to the Punch by Eric Mason
Jesus demands your entire life. In Beat God to the Punch: Because Jesus Demands Your Life, Author Eric Mason succinctly articulates God's call of discipleship on every person. In a winsome, persuasive tone, Mason calls people into a posture of submission to the gospel.
INTRO to THEOLOGY
Growing up not loving theology, I learned that it ruined my understanding of Global Missions. When I was a young Christian, I was never motivated to do missions because I had a poor understanding of who God is and what He has done for me through the cross of Christ. But God was so gracious to me, that He used my close friends who introduced to me a God-centered theology that leads not only to doxology (praise/worship) but also to missiology (study of missions). At that moment, I fell in love with it.
It changed my thinking and motives toward missions. I give thanks and glory to God for it!
I've come to find out that many Christians believe that theology is only for seminary students or for pastors, but not for normal Christians who do not attend seminary or are not pastors at the local church. I believe that that is a wrong approach to and understanding of theology. I believe every true and genuine Christian must study theology for the sake of their growth in Christ and Christian discipline.
I believe that that is why so many Christians do not want to do missions, or they do poorly in the mission field, because of the way they approach theology.
They need to see why theology matters.
Theology matters because it helps us to see who God is and what He wants to accomplish through us for His glory and for our joy.
Theology matters because people are dying and going to hell.
Theology matters because God loves the nations.
Theology matters because God loves His own glory!
THEOLOGY DRIVES MISSIONS
By God's grace, I've learned and am continuing to learn more about theology, because I want to be effective in my mission work that Sovereign God has called me to do. God-centered theology showed me the need for missions and God's passion for the nations.
That is why I am doing missions.
I know that I cannot do missions well if I ignore theology. I know that I cannot preach the good news of Christ if I ignore theology. I know that I cannot love people well if I ignore theology. And I know that I cannot plant healthy churches if I ignore theology.
Dear friends, we need theology for the sake of missions, because God honors, loves, and blesses missions when it is driven by God-centered theology.
BOOKS on THEOLOGY
Theology books that helped me to understand theology:
1. Systematic Theology, by Wayne Grudem
2. Institutes of Christian Religion (2-Volumes), by John Calvin
3. A Theology Of Lordship (3-Volumes), by John Frame
4. Systematic Theology, by Louis Berkhof
5. Desiring God, by John Piper
Go read good theology books, and obey, because Theology leads to Missions!
I’ve been a part of FFC’s children and youth programs since Wednesday nights meant Gamemo and Sunday mornings meant helping fold curtains at the Nevele Center, and it’s been awesome. I’ve experienced the growth and progression of our ministries, from activities to Awanas, through different leadership, even through different types of snacks (I miss the gummy worm days).
These days, I still hang out with the kids (it’s funny to hear them call me “Miss Zoe”, because I’m sixteen and I have no authority. I just sing Veggie Tales), but I spend most of my time in the youth ministry, hanging out and sharing with my fellow high schoolers and singing and talking with the middle schoolers.
These are the highlights of my week.
I don’t know how much of adult-kind knows this, but First Family Church has the best youth group in Ankeny. I listen to my friends from other churches describe their youth groups, and they make it sound like dragging themselves to youth group is a ten thousand mile run they slog through just so they can flop down in a chair, be yelled at for being a terrible person, maybe play dodgeball, and go home. I don’t know how accurate that is, but that’s how it comes across to me. Sometimes, these friends learn I volunteer not just with little kids, but also with middle schoolers. Gasp! The horror! Like I’m herding rabid squirrels or something. Then, when these friends visit my youth group, they’re like, “Hey, you’re right, your church is pretty cool.” Well, yeah, we have the best youth group in Ankeny (in my opinion, at least). And to think, these people haven’t even gotten the full experience yet!
The full FFC Youth experience is an amazing thing.
It’s when you walk into the youth room and all these people are hanging out together in the back, and when you walk over, it feels comfortable, like you’ve known them forever, even if it’s onlyyour first week.
It’s when you play stupid games and don’t have to feel awkward because you know nobody cares how gross you look trying to sing while gargling. It’s a regular opportunity to praise God with your friends.
It’s when you sit down and listen to Travis preach the Gospel every week, and even though you accidentally choose the seat where the air conditioning would chill a penguin, and who knows what’s wrong with the projection screens this time. That doesn’t matter because the message cuts through. It reverberates through us.
Any baggage is checked at the cross, any prayers are pored over in small groups. Any question can be answered, every ear open.
Our youth group is great because it doesn’t matter where we are, what we’re doing, or what we’re talking about. We’re going to have a great time and walk away encouraged even if we’ve just spent a half hour reading and talking through Ecclesiastes 7 (which is great for providing perspective but not so much for breeding joy).
Our youth group is great because we’re great at being all for each other and all for Jesus.
That’s why we have the best youth group. That’s why I spend as much time as I can there. That’s why I want my friends to come. We support each other and we lift up our saving Creator, all while playing ping-pong and eating junk food.
And come on, if that’s not good community and fellowship, I don’t know what is.
Gary, along with his wife and children, minister to the people of Lille, France.
Jesus prayed in John 17 for us—his Church, his Bride—that we may be one. When I look at our small church plant in France, I marvel at how God put us together. After all, it is God who builds the Church, and we rely on him for unity.
Some church bodies in the U.S. are formed with people of the same type of socio-economic status, some with the majority falling in the same age group, and sometimes with those who dress practically the same way. Only after looking deeper into the matter would we find that the location of a meeting place or the doctrinal alignment with one’s beliefs were considered in someone choosing a church. In our new church, most of the above considerations, as important as some are, seem to be discarded.
How would you react and how could you pursue unity in a church where…
As far as divorce, it happens when reconciliation is not possible. The response of the church in terms of community is to see that each person is loved, and each person is accompanied in spiritual growth. We praise God that even with our small number we are able to accompany each divorced person so that they are one with us.
As far as children who don’t come to church with their parents, there would seem to be a clear lack of unity. However, when I or others on the leadership team conduct family visits, we actually see the “missing” children in their homes. They know us, and we can have at least a limited relationship with them. Yes, we would love to have them participate in our community and in our classes and programs for their age. Surprisingly enough, our small church does have something regular for all age groups, and many of our leaders are involved in a teen ministry and in a children’s group. I also have college student ministry ties for the young adults. Family ministry is critical for us, and we really do need God’s help for there to be unity in the community.
As far as unmarried couples living together, we work with them towards marriage or living apart, despite heavy economic burdens that may result (yes, also from marriage; no time to explain that here). Purity inside and outside of the boundaries of marriage will help us towards unity, in accordance with God’s will.
As far as our distinct active cultures present in our community, we praise God for diversity, which actually brings us to unity. We hear prayers in other known languages, and we rejoice that God hears them. We have Bibles present in different languages, and we praise God for Bibles in English, French, Arabic, Kabyle, and Spanish, so that God can speak directly to the hearts of each one.
Unity is not possible in our church context if we try to base it on similar clothing styles or economic background, or even age. It is only based on God unifying us in Him, in the blood of Christ, and in love, that which Jesus said is the distinguishing mark of his disciple (John 13:35), of unified Christians everywhere.
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