By: Karen Willoughby- Baptist Press
NASHVILLE – The 973 Korean Southern Baptist churches in the United States unanimously passed one resolution at their annual fellowship meeting in mid-June. It was to tell the government of the Republic of Korea (South Korea) they oppose that nation’s efforts to pass an “equality act” that would in effect silence preaching on biblical marriage.
The fellowship’s executive board dealt last summer with the same issue in the United States.
“It was important to act quickly,” Executive Director James Kang told Baptist Press. “We agreed last summer to send a letter to all the [Korean] churches in America to ask them to pray about this and sign a petition to their senators objecting to it because it could limit what a pastor could preach about a biblical view of marriage.”
This year’s resolution was to send to the South Korean government notice of the fellowship group’s objection to what is going on in the Koreans’ homeland.
Praying, worship and preaching formed the basis for each day’s schedule, supplemented by reports from each of the Korean Council’s ministry departments, small group breakout sessions for in-depth training and network-building, and fellowship times at breaks and at meals. Business matters were handled in morning and afternoon sessions of the group’s final meeting day.
That’s when the Korean Council discussed a constitutional amendment, passed a “conservative” budget and elected officers during its three-day meeting.
Of the 2,017 Asian American churches in the Southern Baptist Convention, 973 relate to the Korean culture, according to 2020 ACP reports. That’s up more than 100 from 2019 statistics.
They gather each summer for a three-day annual meeting at the same time and in the same city as does the SBC and its auxiliary meetings. Known formally as the Council of Korean Southern Baptist Churches in America, the fellowship group drew nearly 600 people June 14-16 to First Baptist Church of Goodlettsville, a north Nashville suburb.
“Everybody was really happy to meet and excited to meet,” Kang said. “We missed each other after a year. Every speaker focused on this year’s theme of evangelism and missions, and truly everyone’s heart has been revived with passion for the global mission.”
Volunteers from Tennessee Korean churches as well as the host church worked from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. each day on kitchen duty. Korean churches in Georgia and Florida also helped support the ministry of providing Korean cuisine to people who prefer bulgogi and rice to hamburgers and fries.
“It’s been a great experience for our church,” Lyle Larson told Baptist Press. Larson has been pastor of First Goodlettsville for 14 years. “It gives you a taste of what international worship is like, what heaven will be like, and cooperating together like this helps us grow in our love for Christ.”
The heart of the Korean Council’s annual meeting starts each day with early morning prayer, a typical Korean practice. Men and women alike entered the worship center at 6 a.m., bowed their heads before the Lord, and made their petitions aloud to Him. The ebb and flow in the spacious worship center of multiple soft and loud voices simultaneously seemed to encourage more and more impassioned prayer.
Each day’s messages focused on an aspect of the Korean Council’s 2021 theme: Revive the passion for the Great Commission.
Ki Dong Kim, pastor since 2011 of Precious Community Church in Yorba Linda, Calif., and a former evangelist in Korea, preached Monday evening from Romans 1:16-17 on four basic components of a Gospel presentation: God, humans’ sin, Jesus and faith.
Kim spoke of a sweet potato as a way of discerning a person’s readiness to give his/her life to Jesus. To find out if a sweet potato is fully cooked over an open fire, it is poked with a chopstick, he said. If it’s not ready, the chopstick won’t go in. Keep poking, a bit at a time so as not to injure the sweet potato, and in time it will be ready, Kim said. Poke easy. The first poke might be, “Do you believe in Jesus Christ?” If they say no, back off and come back later with another poke.
“By asking different questions you can measure how ready they are to receive the Gospel,” Kim said. “Keep saying, ‘It is good to believe in Jesus.’”
Before Jason Allen, president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, preached Tuesday morning, he announced that Midwestern has more Asian students than any other Southern Baptist seminary: 790 Asian students, out of a campus – online and in person – of 5,000. Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary is a distant second, with 270 Asian students, Allen said.
Allen preached from 2 Timothy 2:2-4 about the resolutions pastors need to make: to have courageous ministry, to endure through hardship, to keep a focused ministry, to guard their heart, and to be Christ-centered.
After a “free afternoon” so Koreans could vote at the Music City Center for 2021-22 SBC officers, Johnny Hunt brought the Tuesday evening message from Psalm 126:5-6. Hunt is senior vice president of evangelism and leadership at the North American Mission Board.
In addition to sharing his testimony, Hunt talked about Who’s Your One, a NAMB evangelism strategy.
“His message was very well received,” Kang told Baptist Press. “People were very touched by his passion, his personal testimony. We could really feel his love.”
When Hunt finished talking, Kang took the unusual step of interrupting the planned order of events to approach the podium and ask permission of Hunt to translate the Who’s Your One materials into Korean, which already are available in English and Spanish.
“We will work on translation in cooperation with NAMB, and make it available to churches,” Kang said later. “That will be a good result that came from this annual meeting. Johnny Hunt was very happy. He said, ‘No problem. We are with you.’”
Edwin Y. Lim, pastor of Shining Star Community Church in Falls Church, Va., spoke Wednesday evening from Daniel 12:3 on the blessings that come from being missions-minded.
The church he pastors has sent out 100 missionaries so far, Lim said. When he planted the church in 2005, he set a goal that 75 percent of the church’s income should be used for missions. To date, about $1.5 million is used for missions, which is at least 50 percent of its income.
“I have many examples of how God meets needs when it comes to missions,” Lim said.
Kyung D. Kim, pastor of Flower Mound Korean Baptist Church in Flower Mound, Texas, was unopposed as president for a one-year term, and elected unanimously. Haeng Bo Lee, pastor of Korean Unity Baptist Church of Antioch, Tenn., a Nashville suburb, was elected first vice president. Young Ha Kim, pastor of Shalom International Baptist Church in Buena Park, Calif., was elected second vice president. Dong Soon “Daniel” Moon was elected secretary. He is pastor of Korean-American Baptist Church in Annandale, Va. Pil Sung “Cornell” Yi, pastor of Korean Baptist Church in San Diego, Calif., was elected auditor.
James Kang was re-elected nearly unanimously to his second four-year term as the Korean Council’s executive director. He was first elected in 2017.
“I’m ready to do more work,” Kang told Baptist Press. “I’m planning to develop more software for the churches to use. You may have a really fancy computer, but without good software, the computer is not worth very much. Sometimes even a good ministry project is not effective without good software.”
The Korean Council’s 2020-21 budget was set at $950,000. Despite the pandemic, $1,231,533 was received, in part to help churches hard-hit by COVID-19. In all, 77 churches each received $1,000.
Members passed a 2022 budget that totaled $1,032,000. Of that amount, $651,200 was earmarked for missionaries supported in part by the Korean Council’s member churches. Another $130,000 was allocated for the Home Mission Board.
In all, 57 Korean missionaries serving in 20 regions received support from the Korean Council’s churches: Africa, East Asia, Cambodia, Cuba, Guatemala, Jordan, Korea, Laos, Myanmar, Nepal, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine and Venezuela.
In other business, outgoing President Sung Kwon Lee, pastor of Power Mission church in Cincinnati, discussed the need for an amendment to the Korean Council constitution, to allow for options to in-person meetings in case of obstacles such as the COVID-19 pandemic. In keeping with governing documents, the matter was tabled until the Korean Council’s 2022 annual meeting.
“The Council of Korean Southern Baptist Churches in America is a key partner of the Asian American Collective in advancing the gospel here and abroad,” Peter Yanes told Baptist Press. Yanes is executive director of Asian American relations and mobilization for the SBC Executive Committee. “I congratulate Dr. James Kang and the officers in leading the 40th year celebration of God’s faithfulness in the life and ministry of the Korean American churches.”
Kyung Won Song, pastor of Korean Baptist Church of Binghamton, New York, reported and translated for this article.