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Lay outreach helps Korean church move beyond its comfort zone

DALLAS (BP)–Lay ministry is one of the strengths of Korean First Baptist Church of Dallas.

Four to six times a year, church members at their own expense lead conferences across the nation. Often the conferences are on the subject of spiritual gifts.

“The laypeople have great potential God has provided them with,” said Daniel Park, the church’s pastor since 2001. “I strongly believe if pastors unleash this, pastors will have very strong laypeople and very respected deacons who follow biblical principles.”

About 1,500 people attend one of four worship services Sunday mornings at Korean First Baptist; three in Korean and the fourth in English. The staff includes 15 pastors, both paid and unpaid. The church’s ministries extend into 72 cell groups.

“Our church has two pillars — saving and serving — and five core values,” Park said. “Celebration, cell, children, community and church — building other churches.”

The pastor said he aims “to penetrate the community; it’s a hard task. We’re really a kind of established church — good program, good congregation. We can lure people from other congregations, but I don’t really believe that is Christ’s way. We have to pay the price to reach nonbelievers.”

That price is getting out of the comfort zone, the four walls of the church, Park said.

“The church is like a pond, and the community like an ocean,” the pastor said. “Inside the church you have limited ministries; outside, everybody can utilize their ministries. I believe this is the great challenge we face: We ought to get out and just share the Gospel.”

Park was born in Korea, where his father had owned a bus company. An accident in which 17 people died on one of the buses stirred the elder Park to turn to God. He later became a Presbyterian pastor and, in 1971, immigrated to the U.S. Three years later, his family joined him.

The elder Park wanted his son to be a pastor, but Daniel Park had no such intention. He married at 19, a pre-arranged marriage that from the start was troubled because his wife and mother did not get along.

“I went to early morning prayer at this crisis, and was touched by God,” Park said. “I had met a friend in college who went to the Baptist church, and I started going there. When I told my father, he told me, ‘Daniel, from now on you believe your God, not my God.’ He was a great man.”

After two years at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary in California, Park and his wife transferred to Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in North Carolina to gain some distance from his mother.

“Overall it was God’s providence,” Park said. “I went to a Korean church and the pastor there asked me to take his place within six months. I was there 14 years.”

By the time he’d been there 10 years, he began to envision an outreach beyond the relatively small number of Koreans in the area.

“I prayed God to move me to a place I can really evangelize,” Park said. “God let me wait four years.”

When he left First Korean Baptist Church of Raleigh, N.C., attendance was about 420; at First Korean Baptist Church of Dallas, it was about 800.

“We are building our church building; we have a morning prayer meeting,” Park said. “In order to be a prevailing church we need to honor God. We need to really study and reflect His Word.

“I want to be an honoring church, to keep and obey His words,” the pastor added. “I think that’s really key. Sometimes we compromise, using situational ethics, and God cannot bless us.”