The Power of the Gospel to Bring Us Together
The Power of the Gospel to Bring Us Together
There was some good news earlier this year, The Gospel Coalition named Julius Kim as their new president. I have long been a fan of TGC network and their resources, but their choice to intentionally diversify their leadership is significant to me on a personal level.
When I first told my parents that I felt called into full-time vocational ministry, I was as nervous as any Korean-American kid about to open his ACT scores in the mail. After much prayer and nervous pacing, I finally told my parents, “I have decided I want to be a pastor.” Much weeping and gnashing of teeth ensued, followed by, “Why can’t you be a doctor first? Then you can be a pastor.”
After I finally convinced them that nothing would stop me, my mother said one very poignant statement, “You better work on your Korean language skills.” That really hit me hard. Her implication was that I could only have a job in the ministry at a Korean church. She wasn’t being unkind. She was showing she had a firm grasp of the reality of the world we live in, and she gave voice to a fear I had deep in my heart. I tried to think of one Korean-American pastor that was not shepherding a Korean church. Could I even think of one minority pastor leading a non-minority church? I’m sure there were some, but I didn’t know any.
After my mom, in her wisdom, spoke my fear, I had a decision to make: did I really need to work on my Korean? That was a challenge for me. I spoke Korean on a five-year-old level. Even though my parents attended a Korean-American church, I never liked going. I didn’t understand the sermons and if I used a translator, I always laughed three minutes after everyone else. I stopped going to church as a kid and it wasn’t until a friend invited me to go to her all-white youth group that I heard and believed the gospel, and it began to transform my life. So, all of my growth and experiences in the church body were in English at an all-white church. So, for me, the idea of entering back into the Korean church seemed daunting and impossible. Then I began to get angry, wondering why it was necessary.
I grew up in Panama City, Florida, which I consider my hometown and I love it dearly, but like most places in the South, it was a very racially divided area. It was made very clear to me early on that I was always considered “other.” Most of the racism I felt everyday was subtle and non-threatening. I didn’t fully fit into Korean culture, but it was clear to me that I didn’t fit into the majority white culture either. I wondered if I should be embarrassed when people came to my house and had to take their shoes off at the door? Should I apologize for the smell of kimchi? I wondered if I should try to become more Korean, or more white, or try to find my identity in hip-hop culture. I think the cultural search I experienced is common among second and third generation Americans, and I think the church perpetuates this by having separate churches for each minority culture.
After I became a Christian, this frustration with the divided nature of the church is one of the early seeds that grew into Waypoint Church. I felt the gospel we showed in the South was only powerful enough to bring people together who were racially, culturally, and socio-economically similar. I wanted to show a church that illuminated the power of the gospel to bring all of these groups together as one body. We have certainly not arrived, but I am encouraged as we strive to live out this goal. I believe it is only the good news of Jesus Christ that allows us to live in an intentionally diverse way and my prayer is that living in this way will show the power of the gospel.
I’ll never forget when I was preaching about this topic one Sunday morning a couple of years ago. I shared the story about what my mom had said to me, and I had to stop mid-sentence because I was overcome with emotion. As I looked out at our congregation, with people from different nations, different races, and different socio-economic backgrounds, I was so filled with gratitude that you have allowed me to be your pastor, and that God would allow me this joy and privilege, that I could barely continue.
As we wait for the day when people from every tongue, tribe, and nation will bow before our King, let us press on in community together, giving the world a glimpse of the coming Kingdom of God.