Winning A Country For Christ
Overview: Chapter 3, Winning a Country For Christ, allows insights into the growth of Christianity in Korea today while posing the question, why did Dr. Cho's Church grow so much larger?
Largest Presbyterian Church in the World
In 1945, twenty-seven Christian refugees from North Korea started Young Nak Presbyterian Church in Seoul. Prior to the Communist control of North Korea, Christianity was stronger in the North than in the South. By the late 50's Young Nak had already gained a reputation for being the largest Church in Korea and the largest Presbyterian Church in the world. Dr. Cho tells how, in the early 60's when Young Nak had six thousand members, he secretly measured their building and counted their pews because his ambition was to have a bigger Church.
The senior Pastor of Young Nak, Pastor Oh, gave me over an hour from his busy schedule for this interview. He began Pastoring of Young Nak nine years ago with 35,000 members and today (1987) they have grown to over 60,000 members. Currently, they are experiencing slower growth of approximately two hundred new members a month, half of which are new converts to Christianity. As we discussed why it grew so large, he referred to the founder, Dr. Han, as being a man of prayer. Today, Young Nak Presbyterian Church has daily early morning prayer meetings as well as Friday night, all night prayer meetings, just like most Christian Churches in Korea.
Pastor Oh related that Dr. Han taught a fundamentalist approach to the Bible. They both believe the Bible is the inspired word of God. Pastor Oh stressed that another reason their church grew so large was the emphasis on people leading a good, clean, sinless life. He stressed their worship to God and their educational emphasis, which includes seminaries and colleges. Also, they are encouraging social welfare and are involved in helping widows and orphans.
Another factor in their growth that is present in almost all Christian Churches in Korea is the cell group. Young Nak has over 1,400 cell groups, which usually meet on Fridays. They are sustained by an organizational structure that divides the Church into seventeen pastoral areas, each with its own Pastor. Their lay leadership includes over 4,500 deacons and deaconesses.
Young Nak has not only grown to be the largest of their denomination but also they have established many new Churches over the years. Over 200 of these Churches have become self supporting and some of the daughter Churches have founded other Churches, giving Young Nak church the right to claim being a mother Church and a grandmother Church. Also, they are sending missionaries to other countries. Regarding Dr. Cho's success, Pastor Oh stated that he is a great man and that they emphasize healings and miracles more than the Presbyterians.
Largest Methodist Church in the World
Although the first Methodist missionary arrived on the same boat as the first Presbyterian missionary, the Presbyterian emphasis on evangelism was more conducive to growth than the Methodist emphasis on building schools. The largest Methodist Church in the world is the Kwang Lim Methodist Church in Seoul. Their Pastor is a very gentle man named Dr. Sundo Kim, who speaks better English than most Koreans. Dr. Kim's Church is growing at a rate of four thousand new members a year in 1987 of which 80% are new converts. Regarding why they grew so large, Dr. Kim's first reason was that they are in constant prayer. He referred to their early morning prayer meetings that start at 5am, their all night prayer meetings on Friday nights and their 24 hour a day "linking" prayers. He cited their strong emphasis on the bible and studying the Bible. Currently, they are involved in the Trinity Bible Study Course with two thousand every Tuesday morning and six hundred in the evening participating in the study course.
Dr. Kim spoke about their cell groups as being so important that "without there is no large Church". The Methodists are proud that they introduced the cell group concept to Korea when their missionaries arrived around the turn of the century. Currently, Kwang Lim has 1,220 cell groups meeting weekly. Also, they are proud of their lay leadership, having over 2,000 lay leaders presently involved in every aspect of the Church.
When asked what he can share with the rest of the world to help the body of Christ grow, Dr. Kim began discussing how and why his people lead a "completely dedicated life". this includes everything from attending all of the Church services to tithing. He quoted John Wesley as saying, "If you say 'I'm converted' and if you don't tithe then you are not converted." Christianity in Korea is a life-style commitment not a casual association. Dr. Kim declared that the Pastor should be the number one example for everything including time and money.
The Presbyterians make prospective members wait through one year of instruction before they can be baptized and receive communion. some have suggested that one reason for Dr. Cho's fast growth is that he has no waiting period and opens communion to all believers. Dr., Kim said that new people have to wait for six months before they can be baptized in his Church. This man was so pleasant and kind that I felt comfortable in asking him how his training period is justified when in the second chapter of Acts we read that new converts were baptized and then were trained, which is also the sequence in the Great Commission. He smiled and shared about a Methodist Pastor in Houston who used to baptize people immediately after they accepted Christ on Sunday morning. Possibly this was Dr. Kim's way of indicating that he acknowledges the biblical pattern, even though their tradition is different.
Dr. Kim stated that he "openly accepts charismatic healing through prayer and sometimes anointing". He went on to mention twenty-seven spiritual gifts and that his wife speaks in tongues, but they do not encourage spiritual gifts in his Church. Dr. Kim says he has known Dr. Cho for thirty years, since his tent days. He believes Dr. Cho was elected by the Holy Spirit and that he has sensitivity, wisdom, creativity and gifts. One of the reasons for Dr. Cho's success is his emphasis on signs and wonders, which draws people from Churches that don't have much life. Dr. Kim also mentioned Young Nak Church as being the example for all churches in Seoul.
Largest Baptist Church in the World
The Baptist Church did not send missionaries until after the Korean War, but it has been making up for lost time. Sung Rak Baptist Church is the largest Baptist Church in the world. The senior Pastor, Dr. Kim Ki Dong, who started the Church in 1969, has authored over forty books and was kind enough to give me a copy of his most recent book, entitled Theories of Church Growth. Dr. Kim Ki Dong is very influential in his denomination, especially among the new ministers. He is the founder of Berea Academy, a two year training ministry with over three thousand Pastors enrolled. In May of 1987, he received an honorary doctorate degree at the Southern Baptist University in Bolivor, Missouri, where they have recently instituted the Dr. Ki Dong Kim Chair of Church Growth. He also has an earned Doctorate of Ministry.
Using an interpreter, Dr. Kim gave me over two hours from his busy schedule. One reason for his kindness was that prior to being a Pastor, he had been an evangelist and Oral Roberts had given his ministry some audiovisual equipment. Currently in 1987 I was a student in graduate school at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma. In regards to why or how their church grew so large, he said that over 80% of their new members are brought and converted by other members. Most studies of evangelism validate the part about being brought by other members, but the part about converting these new members demonstrates an empowered laity. As he responded to my questions about why they grew so large, he answered in outline form giving me points A through E. It was almost like receiving a lecture in Church Growth through an interpreter. Point A concerning their members bringing in new people, and the remaining points dealt with keeping the new people.
Point B was worship. "All of the new members are planted in the Church with worship. worship inspires the message of the service, evangelism and cooperation of Church members. The newcomers, of which 80% are new converts to Christianity, will not stay if not planted into a spiritual atmosphere. Although some will be planted in one year, most should be planted in two to five years." Dr. Kim also believes that the Church should resemble a New Testament Church and that members should respect their Church.
Education and specifically lay education was the subject of Point C. First, he said, "All church members should understand the intent of the entire Bible quickly." In connection with this, he referred to the Berean Movement. The importance of all Church members experiencing spiritual matters was stressed. "Divine healing can testify. the Church should know that God uses them. The cell group leaders must be trained for healing as well as to teach the bible confidently. Miracles should be in every Sunday service, as well as our daily lives."
Dr. Kim Ki Dong was especially concerned about the matter of the minister, which was his Point D. Regarding the minister's personality he said, "We should be servants and lead from behind the scene and not be too authoritative while leading. The Pastor's private life should not be separate from the ministry, but rather be an example for Church members. The faith of the Pastor is very important and miracles should follow. If a Pastor asks God then he should believe God for the answer. The Pastor is responsible for the faith of the members of the Church. The Pastor's prayers are very important for church growth. The Pastor leads with ideas. The ideas of the Pastor can overcome traditional obstacles, which can be obstacles to growth. The ideas of the Pastor can make the Church fresh and be used by God to do the work of God. The Pastor should prepare his sermon like it is his last sermon in this world. The Pastor should touch the members with Jesus so they will return and don't preach philosophy or social issues.
Dr. Kim's Point E referred to obstacles to growth. Specifically, he referred to newcomers who come and then go out the back door. To prevent this, he believes that spiritual counseling and pastoral visitation is important. He believes that the Pastor should save time to spend with the people. Also, he stressed that the Pastor should change programs dramatically and update every year. He deviated in his comments and stated, "The American Church needs a climax in their service. There should be a time of the moving of the Holy Spirit."
Regarding the question of why the Korean Church is growing so fast, Dr. Kim stated, "The Korean Church is always moving. They take action and want to grow and are competitive in the work of God." He referred to Young Nak, Yoido Full Gospel(Dr. Cho's Church), Kwang Lim and Sung Rak and said that they are the largest Churches in the world and are model super Churches. "Because of positive thinking for all Churches, we can be super Churches. Pastors in Korea are served by Church members very much. The attitude of the Korean Pastor is recognized in his Church. He has joy in his work and receives orders from God."
The next question as to what can be shared from your Church or the Korean Church with the rest of the world to help the body of Christ grow resulted in five very systematic responses from Dr. Kim. First, was the emphasis on Bible study particularly for the lay person. Second, is the lay ministry movement. Dr. Kim stated we must stop having a "spectator Church". Third, the Bible must be in everyone's hand and heart. Fourth, "your Church members should resemble the Bible. There should be divine healing, which is the answer of prayer and faith." The fifth and strongest point is that the Church should be "oriented to the Bible instead of theology and doctrine. Theology is an obstacle to the growing Church. The Church should be under God and not seminaries or denominations. Seminaries should train ministers but not interfere."
All of my interviews were concerned with learning about the growth of churches and at the conclusion I always inquired "why Dr. Cho's church grew so much bigger than the others". Dr. Kim stated, "Dr. Cho has the vision to grow, the hope to grow, and he wants to be led by the Holy Spirit. Dr. Cho's message is that people can receive blessings in this world. And, Dr. Cho emphasizes prayer and fasting and prayer mountain. Dr. Kim stated that regarding Korean-style prayer, "It is hard for foreigners to pray this way. Westerners pray outward where as Orientals pray inward. Orientals want to overcome hardships. Fasting is fascinating to Orientals."
Next, in our review of the Korean Church, I'm going to share from interviews with two Baptist missionaries from America who have both been in Korea for around thirty years and speak fluent Korean and their offices are located across the street from Dr. Cho's Church. Dr. Don Jones gathered the primary research data for the articles in the book The World's 20 Largest Churches concerning Dr. Cho's Church and Sung Rak Baptist Church as well as others. Dr. Jones pointed out that the Japanese Shinto is shamanistic, but that in Japan it is tied into emperor worship and patriotism. However, in Korea the educated people were ashamed of shamanism, which contributed to a religious vacuum. Dr. Jones understands and agrees with the association many make between Israel and Korea. "Korea is a small country but mightily blessed by God to spread Christianity to the rest of the Orient as well as the rest of the world."
Another Southern Baptist missionary, J.G.Goodwin, was actually the first personal interview which I conducted away from Dr. Cho's Church, and he was helpful in guiding me into the other interviews. Brother Goodwin, who has been in Korea 31 years, has known Dr. Cho for twelve years and spoke of him as a very charismatic personality, who is not pretentious. He said Dr. Cho is a "solid type person, a real person with integrity."
"One of the factors that has influenced the Korean Church is their history of war and oppression. However, the Church has continued to grow because of faith in an unfailing Christ."
Brother Goodwin also pointed out, "The Korean Church considers the Bible their book, not the book of some foreign religion. The Holy Spirit is their guide, and He gives leadership every day to the Korean Church. When crossing denominational lines, there is very little differences between the Churches. Their worship services are very similar whether they are Presbyterian, Methodist, Baptist or Assemblies of God. God is choosing to prepare a people." Korea is located between China, Russia and Japan. And Brother Goodwin believes that God is preparing Korea to spread the Gospel to all three nations.
This spreading has already begun. North Korea was where most of the Christians were located prior to the Korean War, during which millions fled into China for safety. In recent years, Brother Goodwin has traveled to China twice and both times encountered Koreans. On his last trip, he saw an older Korean woman and asked her in Korean (he is very fluent) if he could take her picture. She replied, "Yes, but please wait a minute." She removed something from her clothing - it was a Bible. Then she called to her son, daughter-in-law and daughter and insisted that they be photographed with her while she clutched her Bible in front. Brother Goodwin thanked them for the picture, gave her his card and left.. This occurred in the Northern part of China, just above the North Korean border. China has more religious freedom than North Korea.
About two weeks before this interview, Brother Goodwin received a phone call from a different older Korean woman who said that he didn't know her but that a friend had given her his card and that she is from China visiting relatives in Seoul. The friend was the woman whose picture he had taken. Brother Goodwin met her and her husband on several occasions and visited with them before they returned to China. Apparently, it is easy for them to visit South Korea, and it is also easy for them to visit North Korea, provided no one knows they have visited South Korea. God is already using Koreans to spread Christianity in China.
Interview with a Catholic Priest
The next interview was with a Catholic Priest named Fr. Lee Ki at the Myong-Dong Cathedral, which has 30,000 members. He said that they baptize approximately three hundred each month, of whom 40% are from other Christian churches, 20% from Buddhists and 40% are non-Christians. He discussed their Korean history, describing how a layman brought Christianity from China after contact with Catholic missionaries there. Fr Lee related that the Church has experienced steady growth in spite of persecutions and that they have both miracles and speaking in tongues in their Church as do most Christian churches in Korea. Fr. Lee stated that there are a million Catholics in Korea today, and their rate of growth is the fastest of any country in the world for Catholics. The fastest growing country distinction is also true for the Presbyterian, Methodist, Baptist and Assemblies of God denominations. Fr. Lee cited how well the Catholics work with other Christian Churches as reflected in 1977 when they all worked together on a new Korean translation of the Bible. They have cell groups that meet once a week as well as fifty Bible study groups.
An Anglican Interview
The last Church interview was conducted at St. Mary and St. Nicholas Anglican Cathedral where they have 2,500 members. Totally, there are 70,000 Anglicans in Korea and Rev. Smart, a missionary from England who has been in Korea for 31 years, was kind enough to give me an interview. Although the first missionaries came in 1890, they did not have their first convert for eight years because they were trying to become fluent in the language and the culture. Their first convert was a Japanese and they had no difficulty during the Japanese occupation since they had Japanese families attending their Church. The Korean Church did not receive independent status from the Church of England until 1964. The Sunday services are mixed in that two are in Korean and one is in English.Obviously, after the 2nd World War when the occupation from Japan ended, their church history with the Japanese did not endear them to the Koreans.
A Seminary Professor Interview
The last interview was with Dr. Marlin L. Nelson, a professor at ACTS Seminary and certainly the foremost missiologist in Korea. He covered many stages of history including mentioning that the Protestants were the first to use the Korean alphabet by translating the Bible. Also, "The Protestants were strong on promoting Western education. The Holy spirit became known as a person." Dr. Nelson talked about the main revival in Korea in 1907 and how both "the Presbyterian and the Methodist Churches became like Pentecostals from the beginning, regarding prayer." He describes prayer in Korea as "more violent, louder and more repetition." "He suggested that there is a danger of syncretism with shamanism in such areas as 'seed-faith giving' and said that this is why Koreans give more than most Christian groups. Dr. Nelson referred to cell groups as having their origins in 1894 when the first Methodist missionaries introduced the Wesley Class Meetings.
Dr. Nelson discussed the Nevius principles and how they contributed to the independence of the Korean Church. "In 1907, the Korean Presbyterian Church became an independent denomination whereas the Presbyterian Church in Thailand after over 100 years is still dependent. The Koreans have owned the Church, developed their own leadership and are psychologically independent." Dr. Nelson stated, "many Koreans believe they are the second Israel. Korean missionaries have a zeal to evangelize the world."
Some of the factors that Dr. Nelson believes contributed to Dr. Cho's success is that he had a personal healing that was so critical that "without it he would be dead." He believes Dr. Cho's Church puts a real emphasis on physical healings whereas the Methodists and Presbyterians do not. He also referred to Dr. Cho's emphasis on material prosperity. Dr. Nelson spoke of it as "the three meter faith: 1) healed, 2) saved, 3) rich." Dr. Nelson also referred to the fact that "many people like a revival type worship experience and many like a large Church." He commented that there are thousands of Korean Christians who do not endure the many months of training in the Presbyterian church enabling them to be baptized and receive communion but can attend Dr. Cho's Church and receive communion.
It is obvious that almost every point everyone made has validity to varying degrees. Any concern regarding "sheep stealing" cannot be too serious since the five largest denominations are all experiencing their greatest growth in the world in Korea. As you may have observed, some ideas were repeated as the interviewees have similar opinions. This chapter contains all of the elements explaining why the Korean Church is growing so fast and includes some of the factors explaining the growth of Dr. Cho's Church. Please remember that there are thousands of churches in Korea that have cell groups, experience healing miracles and have a strong prayer life, and yet are not large.
Friends, relatives and neighbors bring most people into the body of Christ. If we ask in a large church group or use a clip board and ask 30 Christians at random giving them every possible choice such as a TV preacher or a pastor's preaching or an evangelist, etc.. Repeatedly we will discover that the most effective evangelism tool is people bringing in their friends, family and neighbors. The most logical evangelistic tool is to encourage people to bring their friends, relatives and neighbors into the body of Christ. Possibly the simplest way to accomplish this is through home groups. Everyone is shy to varying degrees and being a new person in a church setting can be awkward but with a home group there can be comfort. A home group can provide instant friends and the opportunity to receive pastoral care. Pastoring and caring for people is part of our serving God.
One day in Korea, I ate lunch with some businessmen in the church and one was very sad because the day before he had experienced an 8 million dollar loss in a flood. Some of his friends were trying to comfort him. That afternoon Pastor Bin and I visited a family who had been evicted from their apartment and had been living on the street under a makeshift tent for several days with all their possessions. I observed Pastor Bin bringing them a large bag of rice from the church. Both situations require love and helping in different ways. Everyone can reach out to others and help in a pastoral role. I was there a few days earlier when some of the neighbors alerted Pastor Bin to the situation.
While I was in Korea, the political situation was volatile. One night we were to participate in an all night prayer meeting at Prayer Mountain. We were in some busses to give everyone a ride and only a few came because of the riots and tear gas. As I waited at the bus, I observed Pastor Bin going across the lines of riot troops three times with a handkerchief over his nose because of the tear gas, bringing people down the mountain from their homes. Pastors perform different roles. One Friday morning at the regular Pastor's chapel, Dr. Cho shared how people in the church had expressed concern that he was not openly supporting the opposition to the government. He went on to share how the day before he had met privately with the president-elect of the ruling party. During their meeting the future President decided to make some changes favoring democracy. Dr. Cho related how he works for the kingdom of God and could be more effective by not taking sides openly in political situations. Over the next few days, the President-elect announced the reforms Dr. Cho mentioned and the riots were over. A few days later, Pastor Bin and I visited with a man who had been a math teacher until the current President forced him to stop teaching. He had been painting hand held fans for seven years and was now hopeful that he would be allowed to teach again.
At the 1987 Church Growth International Conference, a man of God named Jim Williams from New Zealand said, "A leader is obedient. Be a Father pleaser; don't operate out of fear of man. Get your goals from God." Ultimately, we all need to be obedient to God.
Dr. Cho communicates two main teachings that his people know and refer to as the "Five Fold Message of the Gospel" and the "Three Fold Blessings of Salvation".
The Five Fold Message of the Gospel is:
2. Holy Spirit
3. Devine Healing
5. Second Coming of Jesus Christ
The Three Fold Blessings of Salvation
(3 John 2)
1. As thy soul prospereth
2. Thou mayest prosper
3. And be in health
In every service they sing the three parts of 3 John 2 form above and they always put as thy soul prospereth first which in line with the way Jesus teaches when He says in Matthew 6:33 (ICB), "The thing you should want most is God's kingdom and doing what God wants. Then all these other things you need will be given to you." The next 4 chapters explain how Dr. Cho's Church became so large. There are vital ingredients in every chapter that are often overlooked.
For the title page and contents, Chapter 1 Setting the Stage, Chapter 2 Only in Korea?,
Chapter 3 Winning a Country for Christ, Chapter 4 Prayer That Moves Mountains,
Chapter 5 The Weapon at Work, Chapter 6 How Cell Groups Work,
Chapter 7 100 Days in Inchon, Appendix: Written Interview Comments