On the first Sunday of August, 2015, our church members and I began to worship together. After resigning my previous church, three churches offered me the position of senior pastor. One was in South Korea and another from Dallas. These two churches are stable both financially and spiritually. The last church, however, had no building, staff, or budget. The church was new and had only eight church members. Around two months ago, a small group started to worship and prayed for a pastor. As I prayed for these three churches, God led me to be the founding pastor of the last church, even though my wife and I were really interested in the first two. Nevertheless, we chose to follow God’s guidance instead of our reasonable needs (Matt 7:13-14). Below is my story in God’s kingdom from a new believer to a senior pastor.
The Christ-driven life: Sola fide!
I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Savior when I was a middle school student. I was reared in a Christian family. Many of my family members are Christians. However, as far as salvation is concerned, I mistakenly thought it was something that would just happen naturally and as time went by. In 1985, I joined a Bible study group for youth to study about God and the Bible. I wanted to know more about them. I wanted to lead my life in a way God that pleased God, but I did not know how or what it meant to walk with Him. I did not have any specific dreams or plans for my future life, but I kept seeking God to figure out his will.
One hot summer night in August, 1987, I attended a revival meeting that our youth pastor, Jea-gil Jun, was preaching. At the first service, I discerned God loved me very much and wanted me to repent of my hidden sins, so I did. I cried and confessed my sin and came up on the stage to confess my faith in front of all of the attendants. At that time, God seemed to tell me that my old life had gone and a new one had come to me similar to 2 Corinthians 5:17. I realized I had been justified by His blood like Romans 5:8-9, and was convinced that I received Jesus Christ as my Savior so that I can have eternal life according to John 1:12 and 3:16.
My salvation experience reminds me of how God makes people repent and be renewed. Ever since that time, I have tried to maintain a good life by following Jesus. I was convinced that Jesus had chosen me to be a Bible teacher and preacher, teaching at a seminary or church. After accepting Him as my personal Savior, I joined a Bible study for youth with my youth pastor and read the Bible everyday in my house and school. When I read and studied Ezra 7:10 with my youth pastor, Jea-gil Jun, God confirmed His call on my life to be a Bible teacher and preacher like Ezra. This impression was so strong that I have never forgotten that moment.
The Scripture-Centered Ministry: Sola Scriptura!
After I graduated from high school, I entered Korea Baptist Theological University/Seminary to be trained as a Bible teacher and preacher. At this seminary, I built a theological foundation for the pastorate. I have worked as a Bible teacher and speaker for Sunday school teachers, college students, and children since 1997. I met many Sunday school teachers and college students, and heard about how hard it is for them to understand the Bible and theology. I felt this was an area where I could take part in helping them teach the Bible clearly to others.
At the end of college, I was given the opportunity by the senior pastor at Doma-dong Baptist Church in Daejon, South Korea, to preach every Sunday. I was also the main speaker for children’s revival conferences from 1998 until I came to the United States [US] for further study. I became a fairly well-known speaker through using creative methods in presentations. I was pleased God had called me as His messenger, but I was not a skilled biblical exegete. In those days, there was little information on biblical exegesis in South Korea. I spoke with my senior pastor and took his recommendation to go to the US to study in a more specialized and advanced program at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.
Southwestern Seminary opened my eyes to the world of biblical exegesis. With the help of the exegesis-focus curriculum of the seminary and much hard work, I learned how to examine and interpret the Bible. Dr. George Klein, Professor of Old Testament, helped me in my academic endeavors. It was difficult for me to understand Western ways of studying, speaking, and writing. Some professors forced me to use a Western style in their classes. He, however, was different.
He understood my situation because his wife was Japanese. He explained that there are differences between the oriental way and Western style in thinking, writing, and speaking. He advised me how to study in America. I will not forget his guidance and consideration toward my school life in America. There were many trials and errors in those early years, but by the end of my studies, I had become proficient in writing and communicating in English. However, I realized I still needed work in the area of biblical exposition. After speaking with several professors, I decided to develop those skills and quench my thirst for greater understanding at Dallas Theological Seminary [DTS].
The outstanding curriculum at DTS focused on both biblical exegesis and exposition. Professors of scholarly ability and good character helped me develop skills and influenced my preaching style and understanding of the Bible. Particularly, the preaching classes of Dr. Timothy Warren, Professor of Preaching, served as a catalyst for my transition from exegesis to exposition. His introductory class helped me obtain a basic understanding and skill set, which I developed through his other classes such as Preaching Old Testament Narrative and Topical Expository Preaching. After taking his classes, Dr. Warren gave me a nickname: “the Korean Dynamo.”
Moreover, Dr. Eugene Merrill, Distinguish Professor of Old Testament, also impacted my life. Through his class, Old Testament Theology, I recognized the value of seeing the Old Testament as a meta-story and the importance of a historical-theological discipline discovering both what the text “meant” and what it “means.” After his class, I was able to make my own proposition of the entire Old Testament: “The Old Testament is God’s everlasting love story with His people in this kingdom.” His teaching and guidance laid not only the cornerstone of my teaching and preaching, but also it fleshed out my ministry. Through the years, he has given me I insight and encouragement in both my family and ministerial life.
Since graduating from these two seminaries, I have continued my development as a Bible teacher and preacher, children’s, and youth pastor at the Round Rock Korean Church. I have taught and preached the Bible for children (in Korean) and youth (in English) every week. I am creating a study guide for them based on the principles I learned at the seminaries. One of the most essential features of this study guide begins with a “Big Idea” of the passage. Also, I designed a “Teaching-preaching Chart” for my students. The teaching-preaching chart has several important elements of expository preaching such as keywords, the main question, plot, exegetical idea, theological idea, and preaching idea in a chart. This well-balanced chart aided my communication of the text as well as the context, my congregation. I have already preached several books of the Bible using this preaching chart: Exodus, Judges, Jeremiah, Matthew, Acts, Galatians, 1 Corinthians and Revelation.
Moreover, I presently am teaching adjunctively at two seminaries: the Global Baptist Theological Seminary in Dallas and the Central Baptist Seminary in Kansas City, Missouri. I serve the Global Baptist Theological Seminary, a Korean seminary in Dallas and Waco, Texas, as an adjunct professor in Old Testament studies and Homiletics as well as an administrator (2009-present). I have taught classes using my own charts: Introduction to the Old Testament Historical Books (Spring 2010), Introduction to the Old Testament Prophetic Books (Fall 2010), Preaching the Old Testament Narrative (Fall 2011), Preaching and Interpreting the Psalms (Spring 2012), Preaching the Major Prophets (Fall 2012), Introduction to the Old Testament (Fall 2013), Expository Preaching to the Book of Jeremiah (Spring 2013), Expository Preaching to the Old Testament Historical Books (Spring 2014), Old Testament Theology I (Fall 2014), and Preaching the Genealogy of the Old Testament (Winter 2014), Old Testament Theology II (Spring 2015). This class emphasizes the nature and theological interpretations of the Old Testament and its contemporary applications in the light of developing God’s temple such as the temple-garden of Eden, the tabernacle, the Jerusalem temple, the church, and New Jerusalem as the Bible’s story-line. In other words, these lectures provide a theological foundation for the Bible, showing how teaching and preaching are better accomplished through seminary contexts.
Additionally, I am teaching the class, Intergenerational Ministry and How to Read the Bile at the Central Baptist Theological Seminary in Shawnee, Kansas. Through this class, I am teaching students how to think and communicate biblically in contemporary terms for a changing generation, especially when the two also have been acculturated differently. This not only gives me another opportunity to experience the Word of God, but also it challenges my ministry as David exclaimed, “One generation shall praise Your works to another, And shall declare Your mighty acts” (Psalm 145:4, NASB).
Through these ministries, I believe that good theology at the seminary always has pastoral implications for the local church. In other words, there are critical relationships between teaching and preaching at the church as well as at the seminary. My study guides for my students in the church are foundations for my lectures in the seminary. Also, teaching principles or skills used while at the seminary have impacted my ministry in the local church. Now, I am trying to not only interpret the text, the Word of God theologically and spiritually, but also apply it to my church members practically. These experiences have paved the way for me to build a churchcentered vision for God’s kingdom.
The Church-focused Vision: Soli Deo Gloria!
The vision of my ministry is to restore God’s glory in the church. This focuses on recovering one’s relationship with God, self, the community, and the world. God created heaven and earth perfectly. However, after the Fall, man damaged the lands, afflicted his neighbors, abused his ability, and established idols. In other words, it isolated him God (spiritual separation), from self (psychological separation), and neighbors (sociological separation). As a church, we must restore these separated relationships for His glory.
The church must recover a communion with God for His glory. This is an important foundation of the church as God created Adam to be a priest-kinglike worshipper (Gen. 1:26-28, 2:15). God made man through His image to have fellowship with Him. He walked with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, the first communion center (Gen 3:8). At the time, they were true and perfect worshippers who glorified God through communion (Gen 1-2; Cf. Rev 4). However, they were deprived of their privileges through expulsion from the Garden because of the dereliction of their duty as a priest-kinglike worshipper (Gen 3:24). In doing so, there was no more communion with God, and they were separated from Him. Their descendants followed their ancestor’s behaviors, so that this gap between God and human beings became gradually wider.
Yet, God began a restoration project through Jesus’ first coming which He will completely accomplish at Christ’s Second Coming. Many churches, both in South Korea and North America, are becoming religious institutions because of failure of communion with God, like the first human beings and their offspring’s. Some churches are controlled by business minds or secular philosophies without communion with God. Through Jesus Christ, the church should return to the perfect communion with God to see HIs glory and proclaim His Word. In doing so, the church will be a place where God’s glory is a restored communion.
The church must restore holiness. In general, the word “church” comes from the Greek word Ekklesia which is defined as “an assembly” or “called-out ones.” 1Corinthians 1:2 describes the primary character of the church as Christ Jesus. It is possible to deduce its correct meaning: the church as a sanctified assembly or called-out holy ones. Moreover, God wants His church to be holy (1 Cor 3:16). Leviticus 11:45 says, “For I am the LORD who brought you up out of the land of Egypt to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy” (ESV). Jesus gives His disciples guideline to be holy through ‘The Sermon on the Mount’ (Matt 5-7) and His last prayer (John 17:14-19). Some churches see little importance in this holiness and regard it as a hackneyed word. Moreover, churches are trying to get rid of this element of the church by pursing new things such as New Age material. The church must recover holiness from secularism. When the church keeps God’s holiness until Jesus’ Second Coming, it will be the place where the glory of God is full like the New Jerusalem (Rev. 21-22).
The church must also recover its community as God’s covenant people. In Exodus 19:5-6, God said to them “You” which did not mean each of them but all. Also, He regarded them as ‘a kingdom of priests’ and ‘a holy nation’ as His promised community. The Israelites were not a person but covenantal community. Moreover, God Himself is communal being. The Trinity refers to one God in three persons: God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit. God has given to man three communities: family, church, and nation. God made the Christian family to be the ambassador of heaven. Husbands and wives symbolize a relationship between Christ and the saints. They are one in Christ (Eph 5:22-27). The family is the most important mission center for the nations and the most effective tool to transfer familial faith to the next generation (Gen 18:19-20; Deut 6:4-9). If the family is restored, the church and the nation will be recovered.