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Cooperation modeled at leading Korean Baptist churches

LOS ANGELES (BP)–More than 760 churches in the Southern Baptist Convention provide worship services in a Korean context. This makes the SBC the largest denomination of Koreans in the United States.

The six Southern Baptist seminaries played a major role in the growth of Korean churches, as did the denomination’s theology, said Dan Moon, longtime SBC Korean church starting strategist.

“The Korean Christians are mostly very fundamental in their belief in and commitment to the Word of God,” Moon said. “We receive high respect and recognition for the vital role we play in the globalization of the Gospel.”

It is well-known that Southern Baptist churches work together out of conviction, Moon said. This also appeals to Koreans.

“I believe that the number of churches is not a serious issue but if each one is engaged in reaching out for the Lord, that’s God’s design and purpose,” Moon said. “To have more churches to reach more people, that’s God’s plan.”

Berendo Street Baptist Church in Los Angeles, founded by Don and Esther Kim in 1957, is considered by most to be the “mother church” of SBC Korean congregations because of the leadership role it has taken from its earliest days. With about 2,000 people in worship each Sunday and still among the nation’s most influential Korean churches, Berendo Street will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2007. Sung Kun Park is senior pastor.

“Dr. Park’s ministry practically doubled the number of people in the congregation,” Moon said. “He is one of the leading pulpiteers among Korean churches in North America.”

Among other noteworthy Korean churches:

— Concord Korean Baptist in Martinez, Calif., which is sending a 70-member choir to Nashville, Tenn., in June to participate in Crossover evangelistic outreach preceding the SBC’s annual meeting. About 850 people worship each week at Concord Korean, which has started 10 other churches with members who have been trained for leadership. Pastor David Gill also is second vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention.

“Concord is somewhat sophisticated with very affluent and well-settled Koreans,” Moon said. “David Gill is a class guy. He’s very much influential and has a very significant influence over the Korean work in Southern Baptist circles because of his personality and spirituality as well as his openness to be proactive.”

— Global Mission Church of Greater Washington, in Silver Spring, Md., which has planted churches in Virginia, Baltimore and Seattle and has plans for at least three more by 2010. Manpoong “Dennis” Kim is pastor; about 1,500 attend one of eight Sunday worship services. Kim also is president of the Council of Korean Southern Baptist Churches in America.

“Dennis Kim was a Presbyterian guy who earned his Ph.D. from Boston University in pastoral care,” Moon said. “He was willing to work with Southern Baptists and went to Southern [Baptist Theological] Seminary for an M.Div.”

— Korean First Baptist Church in Dallas, a congregation of 1,400 on Sunday mornings which sends out teams of lay ministers to help build up other laypeople “to the great potential God has provided them with,” said Pastor Daniel Park.

“Park in Dallas is somewhat the new kid on the block but he’s learning,” Moon said. The former pastor, who was there 26 years, is now in a restricted area in Asia doing mission work (with security reasons preventing his name being used is this article). “To me, [the former pastor] is the outstanding role model among immigrant pastors. He’s 66. When he was 64 he resigned his church and by faith he went to the most difficult region in Asia to do what the Lord wants him to do.

“He’s homesick and lonely, but he challenges everybody,” Moon continued. “He’s very secure with the Lord, very, very secure. He knows exactly what to do in the field, and he challenges all Korean Southern Baptist pastors in North America to do something extra, coming out of their comfort zone in stateside ministries.”

— Tacoma (Wash.) First Baptist Church, where about 1,500 worship each Sunday, is the largest church in the Northwest Baptist Convention. Each of Tacoma First’s 60 cell churches sponsors a house church in East Asia. Chang S. Moon is pastor.

“Brother Moon to me is a saint,” said Moon, who is no relation. “Moon is the true sense of a pastor and preacher, and the most selfless, most proactive obsessed Korean pastor I’ve ever seen. He’s carries a pretty heavy weight of influence and role model. He’s always looking for new ideas and is a team player.”

(SBC President Bobby Welch stopped at Tacoma First during his nationwide bus tour last fall, and an article appeared in Baptist Press Oct. 6, 2004, so the church’s story is not being retold as part of this series on Koreans in the Southern Baptist Convention.)

“We’ve got a few churches we need to develop to the level of these, about four or five,” Moon said.

— San Jose (California) Korean Baptist Church, which Moon said has a solid membership of about 800. Pastor Sung Kook Kim resigned in February 2004 and started Living Word Baptist Church in Malpitas, Calif., which already has more than 600 people attending Sunday worship.

“He has a very bold and daring vision approach,” Moon said. “I’m sure his church will excel soon.”

That vision is for this generation of adults to do all they can, while preparing the next generation for doing more, Kim said.

“We would like to set a model of family ministry which has been long forgotten in the church,” Kim said. “Our time is short; we have a very conservative lifestyle. But our children are open and daring. When we mobilize our children, we’re expecting great things will be done through them. The highest priority is our children because they are those soldiers who will conquer the world.”