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2008.03.07 (11:58:14)
Stephen Choonho Choi
The Chairman, Next Gen. Pastors Committee
Senior Pastor, Logos Evan. Church, Pasadena, CA

The Future of the Korean American Church

A  Korean-American Church is neither a Korean Church nor an American Church. It is founded on a mixture of heritage that stems from having both the Korean and American background. The first generation Korean Immigrants mostly live in the United States as if they are travelers on a foreign soil. Most of them have created a mini Korean Community that resembles the society that they were a part of, back in Korea. But the 2nd generations Korean Americans feel that they are as much a part of American Society as anyone living in the United States. They consider themselves as Americans with Korean background, and rightfully so.
In addition to cultural differences, the 1st generation Korean Immigrants and the 2nd generation Korean Americans are often times divided by a language barrier. The heartfelt language is the language that one uses to communicate emotions that dwell in ones heart, such as love, hurt feeling, or joy, etc. The core essence of our feelings can be only communicated with our heartfelt language, and its capability far exceeds the intellectual language that can only transfer knowledge and instructions.  And because most 1st generation Korean immigrants’ heartfelt language is Korean where as 2nd generation Korean Americans’ heartfelt language is English, there is an inherent communication barrier in addition to cultural gap that exists between the two.
I experience this barrier everyday in my own family, with my three children. Because I was a Missionary traveling with my family thorough out the world, my children never got to spend much of their life in Korea.  As a result, the fluency of their Korean varies from my eldest daughter to the youngest son. And even as my eldest daughter, Joy, speaks fluently in both Korean and English, when it comes to the things that matter most to her, she communicates in English (her heartfelt language). If I had to categorize my children, I would categorize Joy  as a 1.6 generation Korean American, with John, my second child, as a 1.8 generation Korean American, and my youngest, Jay, as a 1.9 generation Korean American.  The juxtaposition and the dilemma of being both a Korean and an American is the present reality that every Korean American faces, and it is imperative that we acknowledge the existence of the division that it has created within a Korean American Family because this same division has carried over to our present status of Korean American Churches in the United States.
When God lead me to Logos Church, an Evangelical Korean American Church, back in October 2001, I spent a long time reflecting on the past 20 years of my life as a Missionary with OM (Operation Mobilization) and asked myself:  Why would God allow me to spend all those years as a Missionary before leading me to become a Senior Pastor at a Korean American church? His answer gave me the conviction and the courage to change my path and take on a great new challenge. What God showed me was that as a Missionary, I had an opportunity to live and work with over 70 different countrymen with their distinctive culture, language, and identity. What I had learned through that experience was that we can overcome our differences if we share in a worthy cause to believe in – the spreading of the Gospel to the end of the world. And what God wanted was for me to use my experience as a Missionary to nourish a Korean American Church where both Korean Immigrants and 2nd generation Korean American believers can be united by His love.
Just last summer, Logos Church sent an intergenerational mission team to Mexico where families as well as teenagers and grownups worked together to do God’s work. Imagine a team of over 50 people that crossed over the age, language, cultural, and identity barrier in the name of Christ’s Love and who served the locals with sincere hearts. What this mission trip proved to us was that the tie that binds us (the Korean Immigrants and Korean Americans) at our church is the love of Christ that transcends the barriers that only seemed to have divided us. What was amazing for us to witness was that the barriers that only seemed to have existed vanished right before our eyes as we decided to cross over them. When we decided to work together, it was easy for us to see that everything was possible if we believe in the unifying power of God’s love. What we think as barriers are in reality tremendous advantages that help us to do more than what we can do neither as Korean Immigrants nor as Korean Americans. And the future success of Korean American Churches will depend on our ability to coexist under one roof, complementing each other as we carry out the greatest commandment that Jesus gave us.
2008.03.11 (19:39:36)
John Park
Wow! Finally, I see some postings. Rev. Choi, thank you so very much for sharing your thoughts and convictions about the future of English Ministry within the KECA denomination. I am currently serving First Korean Christian Church of San Jose as EM pastor.
As you pointed out, if we, 1st and 2nd generations, can learn to focus on what is essential to the Great Commission of God while respecting the differences, we can synergize and benefit each other. However, the current state is that we focus on not the commonality but the differences so much that we rarely come together in a spirit of unity and harmony. As someone from another denomination, I'd like to see KECA more open and transparent, daring and adventurous for the future of the denomination.


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