While we were in Korea, we reported on our experiences with The Holy Flames Methodist Church (a congregation of around 2,000 people) and Kwanglim Methodist Church (which, we’re told is the largest Methodist Church in the world with a congregation of at least 70,000 people, although we’ve seen higher numbers online, too).
Since then, we’ve wanted to come back and offer a little more reflection. It was a jam-packed day, so it was impossible to summarize in one post.
Our host/driver from Holy Flames picked us up at the SWS guest where we were staying at 7:30 am and brought us to the church where we attended multiple worship gatherings, including a couple prayer sessions that preceded various services/events.
After the young single adults service in the early afternoon, we were dropped off at Kwanglim around 3:30 pm for a tour of the facilities. They were wrapping up their day of worship gatherings as we arrived. Our guides at Kwanglim took us to dinner then returned us to the guest house around 7:30 pm, completing a full 12-hour day.
A few things especially stood out to us …
We were treated like dignitaries. We were introduced and asked to stand at every worship gathering. In a couple settings, we were asked to greet the people with the help of an interpreter (children’s worship and young single adults).
While at Holy Flames, we were provided a guide/interpreter to lead us from room to room for the various events. Our first guide had just returned from the US earlier that morning so he was very tired, but still very helpful. A second guide relieved the tired one and joined us for lunch and the young single adults gathering (she was a young single adult, herself). At Kwanglim, we had two guides, one of whom served as an interpreter. They also took us to dinner before returning us to our room.
Our contact person is Korea was Rev. Jun, the senior pastor of Holy Flames. One of the pastors on his staff, Jung-Sun, served as our guide and host for the weekend. On Saturday, he and his family took us to Insa-dong, a major shopping district, and to tour a palace. On Tuesday, he and his wife took us to see North Korea (from a lookout in South Korea). We concluded our time with them at a small group meeting on Tuesday evening (during our first few hours with the baby). We very much enjoyed our time with Jung-Sun, his wife, and their two children!
Accommodating Senior Pastors
We have a high regard for both senior pastors we met in Korea, Yong Jai Jun (Holy Flames) and Chung Suk Kim (Kwanglim). They were both very welcoming and hospitable. They went out of their way to make our visits meaningful. Chung Suk, who literally met with us after a long day of worship gatherings, met with us on the spur of the moment. Even after we returned home, he emailed us to see how we were doing, attached a couple photos taken of us with him, and expressed a desire to meet with us again sometime in the future. Both top notch people, in our book.
Finally, on a lighter note, the practice of removing shoes, while not specific to the churches we attended, is a common practice in Korea, particularly when entering homes and some places of business. We noticed that when worship participants at Holy Flames walked onto the platform, they removed their shoes and put on a pair of slippers (see photo). People did not remove their shoes when entering the main worship sanctuary, but they did for the smaller prayer gatherings we attended. We also removed shoes in all of the homes we visited. BTW, if I go back to Korea, I’m taking slip-ons! 🙂
Holy Flames and Kwanglim are churches that are making a difference in a culture where following Christ is not necessarily easy. Click here to read about the history of Christianity in South Korea, which is still relatively young. Amazingly, though, South Korea (officially know as the Republic of Korea) is the second largest missionary-sending nation in the world.
As Joleen noted earlier, Jung-Sun attributed the growth of the Korean Church to prayer and small groups. We got to see both of those vital activities in practice. It was very inspiring!
Of course, the Korean Church is certainly not without its challenges. Some challenges we were made aware of include busyness (most of us in the States understand that one). A second one was more surprising to us. Korea’s fairly recent promotion of education has led to parents minimizing high school seniors’ church involvement, in lieu of preparing for college (in Korea, the senior year is the critical time for college prep).
We are grateful for the opportunity to have experienced a little bit of the Korean Church’s world while we were there. Please join us in praying for them, that God will use them in their work in Korea and around the world!