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IMB, churches call Shin as Korean Baptist mobilizer

SEATTLE, Wash. (BP)–Gihwang Shin, a church-starting missionary to the 177 language groups in metropolitan Seattle, has been called by the International Mission Board — and funded in partnership with Korean Southern Baptist churches –- to enlist Korean Southern Baptists to get involved in going, giving and praying for international missions.

During the five years Shin has been ethnic church-starting strategist in the Puget Sound Baptist Association, at least 30 churches have started in a variety of settings — including cross-cultural, such as a Cantonese-speaking church that called a Korean to start a Mandarin-speaking church.

Shin’s responsibilities recently have become even more global in scope. The title of his new job at the IMB is mobilization strategist for Korean-American churches.

“We’re very excited to have an experienced church strategist assisting us with the mobilization of our Korean Southern Baptist churches,” said Jerry Daniel, leader of the IMB church and partner services group. “We’ve been experiencing an increased involvement of these churches in global missions over the last three years and have been looking for someone to nurture those relationships.”

Korean churches across the Southern Baptist Convention have become increasingly strategic in their global focus, said David Gill, pastor of the Concord Korean Baptist Church in Martinez, Calif. Where Koreans once focused primarily on the needs of Koreans in the United States and abroad, today they’re reaching out globally to many people groups. And increasingly they’re doing it in partnership with the International Mission Board.

“We have 6.5 million Koreans in 172 countries,” said Gill, former second-vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention. “It is God’s providential will to spread so many Koreans in so many countries for world mission.”

Gill arranged a meeting last May that brought together 11 pastors of Korean Southern Baptist churches in the United States with IMB leaders and 11 pastors of Baptist churches in South Korea to discuss what they saw as God’s direction.

“We wanted to learn and discuss how Korean churches can work together with the IMB to reach out to other people groups in the world,” Gill said. “We have 213 (Korean) missionaries; we are aiming for 1,000 with God’s help. So Gihwang Shin will be a tremendous asset for this recruiting and mobilizing.”

During the meeting, the Korean pastors from the United States told IMB leaders their churches would cover a significant portion of the salary for five years if the mission board were to call a Korean to help Korean-American churches increase their global missions involvement.

Gill became chairman of the search committee that quickly settled on Shin.

“He is very much a mission-minded man,” Gill said of Shin. “He knows Southern Baptist dynamics in working with Southern Baptists for a long time. He is bilingual -– Korean and English –- and he is very good at (using) the computer. People really like him, and I think that says a lot. He is very good at people skills.”

“This is a kind of giant step -– for Korean Baptist churches to work with the IMB with the same goal and same vision,” Shin said. “In the past, Korean churches had a focus on missions, and especially overseas, but they didn’t know how to do it in a cooperative way. They just did it by themselves.

“In the past two years they have seen more power and more fruit with the IMB and Cooperative Program. Many laymen are ready to go out and serve -– both in career and long-term (volunteer) missions.”

IMB President Jerry Rankin noted a growing interest on the part of Southern Baptist Korean churches to partner with the mission board.

“(SBC Korean churches) are catching the vision of cross-cultural witness to unreached people groups, and hundreds of their members are surrendering to missionary service,” Rankin said. “Gihwang Shin has been a key influence in helping to nurture our relationship with these churches and will be a great asset in training and equipping them for involvement in our Great Commission task.”

The International Mission Board has led at least 10 missions-awareness programs in Korean churches in recent years. At one of the first such meetings, conducted at Los Angeles’ Berendo Street Baptist Church in May 2003, more than 400 people accepted a call to career or long-term global missions involvement. In all, more than 800 Korean Baptists have made similar responses.

“This is a pretty amazing thing,” Shin said. “Now is the time to follow up.”

The calling of Shin flows out of an intentional IMB effort to better serve and lead Southern Baptists in being on mission to the ends of the earth, said Ken Winter, the board’s liaison with strategically involved Southern Baptist partner churches.

“Gihwang’s background and experience will be a tremendous resource to the churches as they respond to God’s activity to be on mission with Him,” Winter said. “And he will be a great asset to the IMB in helping us to better serve the churches.”

Shin, his wife, Hyesun Kim, and their three children moved in December to Richmond, Va., where the IMB is located.