Christians all around the world create the body of the Church. Each has a different role and can build and challenge each other to further expand God’s kingdom. In a recent panel discussion hosted by Sojourners, speakers considered what American Christianity can learn from the global Church.
Panelists included Pastor Hana Kim, lead pastor of Myungsung Presbyterian Church in Seoul, South Korea, a megachurch with over 100,000 attendees, Jim Wallis, liberal activist and president of Sojourners, Wesley Granberg-Michaelson, author of Future Faith: Ten Challenges Reshaping Christianity in the 21st Century, Casely Essamuah, Secretary of the Global Christian Forum, and Adelle Banks, a national correspondent at Religion News Service.
Most interestingly, Kim shared that “we don’t really think that we can teach the western church about anything. If you can learn from us that would be great, but I’m not here to teach anything. We’re just doing our job.”
“Lots of times we do wrong,” Kim shared. “One of the things that we do well is to bring people to church.” Kim explained the success to this phenomena is that “for people at MyungSung, going to church is not just a Sunday thing. But it’s a daily life.”
Kim continued, “We have daily service that starts at five o’clock in the morning…It’s part of their life. The devotion is there and people value it very highly.” He suggested that American churches can learn from MyungSung Church by further incorporating the church into their daily lives. This is also true for the churches in Ghana, like Casely Essamuah mentioned. They have phone calls in the morning and at night to pray for local churches and the Christians.
After watching the Sojourners discussion, I reached out to my father, Pastor Sun Chung, who is a Korean-American Ph.D. scholar on church history and is a former U.S. Army chaplain. I wondered what my dad’s answers were to the question, “What can American Christianity learn from the Global Church?” Over Skype, Pastor Chung emphasized prayer is one area where American Christians can learn from example and improve. “My father has been doing ministry for 45 years, and he prays every single day at 5:00 am and at 9:00 pm,” my father shared. “My brother, also a pastor, prays every single day for 7 hours.”
“Until the early 90’s the [Korean] churches prayed all night every Friday from 9:00 pm to 5:00 am. This passion for prayer is dying down, and it’s becoming a concern. But the flame for prayer is still strong,” Chung noted.
My father also often visits West Africa, specifically French-speaking and predominantly Muslim countries, to teach new pastors. He shared, “There are pastors, and they know they’re going to be persecuted, but they still persevere and want to preach the Gospel.” He says that perseverance and not being afraid of persecution is another lesson that the American Christians can learn from the global Church.
Father added he is grateful to American Christians for effectively training the global Church. He stated:
There is a problem [among the new pastors] because Biblical theology is weak and local religion is sometimes mixed with Christianity. But thankfully, a Korean American pastor founded American Theological Institute. [Pastor Chung is also a professor at the institute.] It is pastor training college like institution. There are fifteen professors, all of them Ph.D. scholars who are from mainly America and some in Europe. Therefore, there are good influences from America.
My father went on to elaborate on lessons from persecuted Christians all around the world. He stressed they do not compromise their faith for physical and spiritual comfort. They hold fast to Jesus. Like my father has mentioned, there are pastors in West Africa who know that they will gain nothing by being pastors, but they hold fast to the Gospel and understand the importance of sharing the Gospel. American Christians can learn to hold fast to their faith without compromise when our surroundings make it hard to do so. (You can read more about the Persecuted Church all around the world here and here)
I pray that the global Church continues to teach one another how to serve Christ better and build His kingdom.