First Time In South Korea – Photo Blog – Global English Ministries

Before I moved to Korea, I didn’t know exactly where and how I would be serving here. During my interview, I got asked a range of questions, and a good number of them were about leading music. I even was asked if I would feel comfortable leading music for 1,000 people! Well, I have had a chance now to lead the worship music a couple of times now: one time, it was for Global Family Worship in the Korean congregation, where there were 800-1,000 people! But I want to describe what my English congregation looks like.

I serve the Global English Ministries [GEM] congregation, which falls under the Global Department of the Korean congregation, Global Mission Church. It is a congregation of approximately 400 English-speaking people, who may be native Korean (often “2nd generation”), ‘ex-pats’ from Australia, Canada, etc. and some ministers and missionaries, as well as the youth group. It is largely made up of people around my age, but there are healthy children’s and youth ministries as well. There are two services each Sunday, 10am and 2pm, and a youth service at 12pm. We have some Bible studies and discipleship meetings and various other ministries, such as visiting the orphanage or building relationships with North Korean refugees.

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Pastoral Ministry

pN

Children’s sermon, article in church magazine,
and sermon for Mongolian congregation

In my church office, pastors get called by their nickname: for instance, Pastor Josh becomes P.J. Mine is “p.N.” One of the main tasks of being a pastor here means preaching sermons. Besides sermons for the English congregation, I have had the opportunity to preach for the children’s ministry, youth ministry, and Mongolian ministry. I’ve also had the chance to share part of my testimony by writing an article for the church magazine. I am also currently leading my second Bible study and I’ve done 3 Friday night worship/prayer times so far.

Youth Worship

For the past couple of months, I have had the opportunity to lead worship on Sundays for the youth group in my English congregation (how’s that for qualifiers?). It has been a joyous and daunting opportunity. The youth worship team is very competent and hard-working and the music on Sundays sounds great. It is such a rewarding experience to worship God and then have God use your worship to facilitate more worship for fellow believers.

Thankfully, I do not have to lead every Sunday, because the youth pastor Joshua Suh – while doing the preaching and leading for the youth group – also leads worship on certain occasions as well. In fact, before I came along, he had been doing all the worship leading and preaching himself! Three weeks ago (I think) I got to lead half of the worship times at the annual youth retreat [more on that later]. I am thankful and so glad to be doing this and investing this particular talent.

leading

Leading is hard work

Even this, though, the Lord has used to sanctify and temper my mettle. Pastor Josh gets to pick the songs, since he knows the youth group and the songs they know. This means that sometimes the learning curve for me is steep. Learning a new praise song is not hard: learning it well enough to lead confidently and in time with the rest of a band is hard. It is a great situation because like just about everything in Korea, everyone knows that I am leading not out of sheer personal merit but because of my position. So I have humble myself to receive grace, to work hard to learn and lead, and to be transparent. Thankfully, again, the Lord has blessed and most Sundays the worship time is beautiful. I have really become more in touch with expressing my feelings towards God and being together with others: I am far more willing to sing out and tear up in the midst of praise.

But some days, things fall apart. Our first worship time for the youth retreat was one of those times. We were introducing a couple of new songs to the youth group, and there were 2 or 3 songs that were entirely new to me. Well, we got on stage and limped through the first one but in the second song, the wheels came off. The keyboard wasn’t giving us a pulse to keep time, the lead guitar forgot his intro riff, and I didn’t put my capo on my guitar [we had decided to change the key at practice a few days ago but that change was not made on the chord charts] so I was in the wrong key! Eventually I stopped playing and let the bass give me the right key to sing. The song was the new “The Way” from Tim Hughes and co. and so if you listen to the song, you’ll know the melody line is not your usual, paced praise tune and the chorus kicks up notably. So, just imagine tires screeching in a parking garage and you’ll have a pretty good idea of what it sounded like. After that set, I was the most ashamed I’d ever been in my life – my first distinct failure since being in South Korea. The guest speaker got up to speak and I just prayed and processed and persuaded myself not to walk out of the worship hall and to the nearest bus stop for the airport. It was that bad. When the guest speaker ended, it was decided that we wouldn’t do the ending song we had planned, ostensibly because of time constraints. I felt very responsible for letting the youth team down, the youth group and all the adults there down, including the other pastors.

I could say more, but in that moment, I felt and experienced being completely melted down as all my impurities of pride, selfishness, etc. rose to the surface of my conscious. I had to forgive myself and feel exposed, vulnerable. Everyone now knew I was completely mortal and fallible as a worship leader. But, I am pretty sure that led us to more accurate intimacy for the duration of the retreat and so that picture you see up there of me confidently leading is only after the Lord has His way with me in front of everyone. It is experiences like these that I could never have sought or contrived myself but which the Lord has brought me to in order to make me more and more capably His servant.

Sermon manuscript: Mark 1:29-31 – Peter’s Mother-in-law

I recently preached a sermon for a Mongolian service – it had to be translated from my English into Mongolian. The interpreter was a lady from the Mongolian congregation. Thus, the sermon is short and sweet. It is a sermon that I actually preached before at Northwest – then, it had to be translated into Burmese for the congregation I served there for a while.

MARK 1:29 – 31 [ESV]

“1:29 Now as soon as they left the synagogue, they entered Simon and Andrew’s house, with James and John. 1:30 Simon’s mother-in-law was lying down, sick with a fever, so they spoke to Jesus at once about her. 1:31 He came and raised her up by gently taking her hand. Then the fever left her and she began to serve them.”

In the beginning of His ministry, Jesus asked some men to follow Him. Jesus asked these fishermen to be His disciples. These disciples are famous because they followed Jesus. Peter, James and John were the disciples who were closest to Jesus. In the Gospels, Peter, James and John are mentioned many times. In fact, Jesus gives Peter that name, “Peter,” meaning rock.  In this story from the gospel of Mark, Peter is called by his older name, Simon. Peter says many things to Jesus; Peter is the one who made 3 denials of Jesus, and in the gospel of John,  Jesus talked to Peter after the resurrection. Jesus chose Peter, James and John so that they could spread the gospel, even after Jesus ascended back to Heaven.

But in this story, the main character is a woman who does not say anything. The story does not record any words from her. She is the mother of Peter’s wife. In fact, at first, she is lying down when Jesus and the disciples enter the house. She is sick with a fever. The disciples are the ones who have to speak to Jesus about her. Jesus comes to her, and raises her up, gently taking her hand. Because of Jesus, she is healed and no longer lying ill. Her response is important. She does not say anything. She responds by beginning to serve Jesus and the disciples.

I think this short, small Bible story is an important and powerful teaching. In this small story, we see God’s plan for us. This woman, who is not even named or quoted, sets a simple, powerful example for all believers. Jesus comes to us, and we are lying down, we are sick with sin. We cannot even ask Jesus for help. Because of God’s will, Jesus comes to us and gently raises us up to health and life. But, do we get up and serve Jesus and His disciples? Do you follow this woman’s good example?

Do we take action, because of what God has done to bring us back to life? Jesus said the greatest commandment is Love the Lord your God, with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength, and the second is like it, love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus commands us to love God with everything, with our actions, our good deeds, and not just our words. Jesus commands us to love God because God has given us life, God has given us health, God has given us strength to serve Him! Jesus commands us to love our neighbor as ourself because that is the healthy thing to do. In one action, this woman fulfilled the two greatest commandments. When she served Jesus and His disciples, she perfectly fulfilled God’s plan and purpose for her.

How can believers preach the good news with our words, and then not serve each other with our actions? How can we talk to people about the gospel, but not take care of each other with the love that Jesus has given us? How do we expect people to listen to us speak about the love of God when we do not follow Jesus’  example? We do not even follow this faithful woman’s example: getting up and serving one another. How can we expect people to respond to God’s invitation, God’s salvation, when we do not even show our thankfulness by loving our neighbors as ourselves?

So we have this small story in the gospel of Mark to set the example for us. When Jesus gives us His grace that heals us, we should serve Him and His disciples. If you want to be a follower of Jesus, it won’t be with fancy words or memorable performances, but with active service. It should be simple for us to serve one another. God has brought us all together with His powerful plan. We are together because of Jesus. He has brought us together and made it simple for us to obey His commandment by serving one another! Let us fulfill the command of God, let us follow God’s plan and purpose for us: let us serve one another.

[Note: this passage is also by no means insignificant to the entire argument of Mark. I’ll quote Dr. Kuruvilla at length:

“In all these accounts of Jesus’ increasing popularity, only this woman, Simon’s mother-in-law, is said to minister to (“serve,” 1:31) Jesus–an act of self-giving. Indeed, her story . . . is bounded on either side . . . by statements attesting to Jesus’ incredible popularity. Nobody in that idolizing crowd is mentioned as giving to Jesus, not even the disciples. Everyone is out to get, except for this anonymous woman. Amidst all who are seeking only to get from Jesus, here is one who was willing to give, because she herself had been given [sic]. It is no doubt significant that there are only two instances of [diakoneoo] (“serve”) with humans as subjects in Mark’s Gospel (1:31 and 15:41), and both times the subjects are women. A subtle jab! The narrator is pointing an appreciative finger at the example of this mother-in-law, a woman who does the male disciples one better! She is already doing what Jesus himself will later model for his disciples. The same verb [diakoneoo] is found in the statement on the ESSENCE of Jesus’ mission [emphasis added]: the Son of man did not come to be served, but to serve (10:45). The narrator is implying that this woman is a true disciple, serving after the fashion of her Lord. Simon’s mother-in-law is thus a foil to both crowds and disciples, indeed, to all who might follow Jesus for the wrong reasons.” (Mark, pp. 38-39)

Update – 7/22/2015

Here’s a rundown of some things I have been doing lately:

– recently started giving English tutoring to a young boy from the Chinese congregation; he is very smart and knows the English alphabet and a lot of English words but his mom wants to help him speak English and so I have been focusing on English syntax – how to make your own sentences! This is actually a great ministry opportunity as well. They are a homeschool family, so on top of the fact that many families raising young children are a little isolated from regular society, I get to build relationships with these people I might not otherwise even see through tutoring. Plus, I now get to fulfill the stereotype of a young American in Korea: I do “teach English.”

– recently started leading the youth worship for the Sunday services. This is an exciting opportunity to do regular worship leading. This past Sunday was a little difficult: I learned on Wednesday that 3 of the 5 songs we were singing on Sunday were entirely new to me! And I would be out of the country Thursday and Friday, doing my visa run to Japan! This role will be very challenging but rewarding as well.

– last Thursday I went on my second visa run to Fukuoka, Japan. This is Hakata Station:

It was rainy the whole day, which meant that the summer weather didn't get a chance to assert its heat.
It was rainy the whole day, which meant that the summer weather didn’t get a chance to assert its heat.

It was nice and relaxing – I got coffee on Friday and the barista gave me a tip on a good ramen restaurant that required adventuring two more subway stations away for lunch! Then, my flight got delayed out of Japan and so I had the adventure of landing in Incheon, Korea at midnight and paying a lot of money for the taxi-driver to take me home because the airport buses stop running at 10:45pm!

– I am also finishing up on August 1 the Bible study that I got to do for the past couple of months. We studied 2 Timothy and though 50% of the people who started the Bible study didn’t complete it, I think its been good to get some of my theology out there and discover more about the gospel. It has been good to dialogue and verbally process through 2 Timothy – I have formulated and re-formulated some things that I never would have just by myself.

– This Sunday I will be giving my third sermon so far. I will be preaching on Genesis 17-18:15, where the Lord confirms the Abrahamic covenant with circumcision and then ch. 18, the Lord shows up! I hope that I can prepare a sermon true to God’s word. This Sunday Paul and our senior pastor are gone on trips, so I will be preaching 3 services, including the youth. I am praying that I can carry the right tone for the different audiences.

I am so thankful for all these different experiences! Thanks for your love and attention!

Fear of God

I am processing a situation which concerns fellow believers I met in Dallas at DTS. I think I am grieving the loss of relationship and ministry but, I think more deeply than that, I am being mortified by the effects of harbored sin. The Lord has just about rooted out all my lesser fears but one I still selfishly struggle to let go of is the fear of being disqualified from the ministry of the gospel.

I know the cure for that is placing ALL my fear in Him – but that requires a lot of faith and abdicating my right to have my own little places and times where I am master. But those times and places end up being so empty anyways. When I place all my fear in Him, I am satisfied by His provision which occurs exactly because He is present, and He is Boss. The sin I leave room for becomes the little reservations and appointments I make for “me” time without accountability. They not only lead to disaster, they are the travesty of my daily walk. How can I proclaim His sufficiency when I keep supplementing my life with my own medicines? I believe God can use anyone, but the minister who does not live what he preaches cuts himself off from the blessing of God’s presence that he hopes to confer on his audience.

Those of us who weep now, who grieve the loss now, who go into mourning at this time, can hope for a future perfection, a future joy. May I never stop repenting as the Lord shines His Light on my entire life and living!