Here Pastor Foley outlines the "Ten Unique Korean Virtues" for us and gives a general overview and rationale for future articles…Good stuff here and more discussion to follow…
Today, many of the fastest-growing Korean EM’s are built on a “multicultural” model. So much do these EM’s reject what they see as the limitations of the Korean EM model that they often dislike even being identified as EM’s. Many of these “former” EM’s either already are or aspire to become independent congregations. Many of them see their purpose as drawing together people of all cultural backgrounds to worship God. They see being a second-generation Korean congregation as far too narrowly focused an identity, far too limiting a calling.
Consider, for example, the way one of the largest of these “former” EM’s describes itself:
“_____________ is a church designed to help you discover purpose, meaning, and joy in life. At __________ you can meet new people and get to know them in house churches, enjoy contemporary praise music, and hear positive, practical messages which encourage and challenge you each week.”
The description may seem radical for a “former” Korean EM, but it is identical to that of literally tens of thousands of American churches. The question is: Is this a good thing? Is this the kind of 2.0 “descendent” that first generation Korean churches should aspire to be birthing?
These “former” EM’s could argue that the answer is yes on the basis of their success. After all, these kind of multicultural EM’s are undeniably more popular than most of their traditional EM counterparts. Further, these churches could contend that they are more spiritually vibrant (or at least more lively) than many traditional EM’s. I, too, have seen more than a small number of spiritually dead EM’s. Shouldn’t we just be happy that our Korean kids are in church, even if that church has little obvious connection to a traditional Korean first generation congregation?
I would contend that the answer is, emphatically, adamantly, no. I would contend that exchanging the EM model for this increasingly popular “multicultural” model is equivalent to what Esau does in the Old Testament when he exchanges his birthright for a bowl of soup because he is hungry. There is no doubt that the EM model is broken and badly in need of transformation. Second generation Koreans are hungry. But feeding them warmed-over American church strategies only cheats Korean young people in the long run.
God has blessed Koreans with a unique spiritual heritage. That spiritual heritage is not to be found in Korean EM congregations seeing their Koreanness as a limitation and jettisoning it in favor of “emerging” American church models. That spiritual heritage is to be found in a deep spiritual examination and careful adaptation of traditional Korean Christianity into English and into a twenty-first century American context.
Consider this question: Let’s say you are a pastor and you are interested in making disciples and growing a vibrant church. Let’s say that there was one city where eleven of the twelve largest churches in the world were located. Then let’s say there was a different country where none of the one hundred forty largest churches were located. Which place would you visit in order to learn more?
Seoul is the place where eleven of the twelve largest churches in the world are located. The United States is the country that is home to none of the one hundred forty largest churches in the world. If this is true, then why are our second-generation Korean Christian leaders so certain that the path to spiritual growth for their generation leads out of their Korean Christian heritage rather than more fully, deeply into it?
Why shouldn’t second generation Korean American churches be more Korean rather than less?
As an American pastor, I am both shocked and deeply grieved to see how little appreciation so many second-generation Korean pastors have for their own spiritual and cultural heritage. They seem to see it as limiting and confining—something quaint for them to leave behind in order to embrace something more exciting and effective. I believe they are sadly mistaken. I believe they are too familiar with Korean Christianity to see how strikingly valuable, how unique, how powerful, how world-altering, how life-changing it really is. Every trip I take to Seoul I marvel at how much I can learn from Korean Christianity. Every book I read on Korean church history makes me realize how superficial much of Christianity is compared to the Korean branch.
This column is passionately devoted to the idea that traditional Korean Christianity is a treasure—one that second-generation Koreans and pastors should explore more and not less deeply. This column is devoted to the idea that the spiritual descendents of first generation Korean churches should not be multicultural churches but second generation Korean churches that enable Korean Americans and the wider American society to reach more fully and deeply in Korea’s rich and unique Korean history.
There are ten virtues that are especially prominent in Korean Christianity that are largely lacking in the American Christian model. In the months to come, we’ll explore these ten virtues one at a time in hopes that Korean churches and EM’s will intentionally develop ways to ensure that these traits are passed on to second generation Korean Christians.
The ten virtues are as follows:
Deep obligation to family, friends, the church, and Korean people
Commitment to being a diaspora people
Respect for elders
Passionate, whole-being prayer
Preparing and eating meals together
The ability to suffer well
Respect for the office of the pastor
Deep, holy reverence for God revealed in both worship and life
Sense of Korean history and connection to it; a conviction that Koreans are a people of destiny