Korean church takes world as parish mandate to heart

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Korean church takes world as parish mandate to heart

By J.A. Buchholz | Jan. 26, 2009 {0966}

NOTE: This is one in a series of articles about churches that have experienced growth in professions of faith and average worship attendance, measures of two of the five practices of The Methodist Way. See related story, “Analysis shows conference churches making strides,” at: http://www.flumc2.org/FCNN/articles/000053/005343.htm

Change wasn’t just a buzzword during the election season for Korean United Methodist Church of South Florida. It has been a pivotal factor in the church’s growth, along with the belief that the church has an obligation to reach beyond its walls and to more than just the Korean community.

Members gather for Sunday morning worship at Korean United Methodist Church of South Florida. Photo courtesy of Korean United Methodist Church of South Florida. Photo #09-1090. For longer description see photo gallery.

During the past few years, the Rev. Chan Young Jang and the church’s leaders have implemented a number of new ministries, leading to both increases in worship attendance and professions of faith.

Average weekly worship attendance skyrocketed from 230 people in 2006 to 330 in 2007, ranking the church seventh among Florida Conference churches in terms of greatest increase in average worship attendance.

The demographics of the church have also changed. The predominately older adult congregation now includes a variety of ages.

The Rev. Deborah McLeod, superintendent of the South East District of the conference, says the church had less than 80 people in worship four years ago when Jang was appointed to the church. McLeod credits Young’s “strong, but gentle, leadership” as a key factor in the church reporting 56 professions of faith in 2007.

“The Korean United Methodist Church of South Florida is growing rapidly and now has four worship services, one of these in English,” she said. “They have decided that when John Wesley said ‘the world is my parish’ he meant us to reach out beyond our ethnic group, so they believe they are not just called to reach Korean people.”

Chris Baik leads the English-language service at Korean United Methodist Church of South Florida. Believing as John Wesley did that “the world is my parish,” leaders and members of the church began the service because they felt called to reach out beyond their ethnic group. Photo courtesy of Korean United Methodist Church of South Florida. Photo #09-1091. Web photo only.

When the church’s new education building is open, McLeod said, leaders will begin an after-school tutoring ministry for children in the neighborhood, reaching out to a nearby school. Another new component of the church’s ministry is that each of the church’s more than 40 small groups now supports an international mission with prayers and financial contributions and by physically visiting the ministries through mission trips.

An active prayer ministry undergirds the congregation’s efforts. Ministry leaders now meet at the church at 6 a.m. Tuesday through Saturday for an hour of prayer.

McLeod said everything the church is undertaking, from small groups supporting missions to the early morning prayer services, is inspiring. She said she is happy to see that many of the church’s visitors are from outside the immediate Fort Lauderdale community in which the church is located, making it more a regional congregation for central Broward County. People are drawn to the church, she said, because Young’s beliefs and style are appealing.

“I’m so happy to see growth here,” she said. “They are expanding and growing because the church is really seeking God’s will first. I’m just really inspired by Rev. Young’s ministry and leadership. There is a depth of spiritual maturity where laity know their relationship with Christ.”

David Ye agrees and said people are attending the church because of its dynamic worship style.

Ye, a lay member to the Florida Annual Conference, said he visited the church because he had heard such good things about it and wanted to witness it for himself.

“Right away I knew that the service was more alive and magnified,” he said. “It’s not a traditional Korean service where it is more quiet. We exult God. We have the joy of worshiping. It really makes a difference.”

Ye, who came from a Baptist background, said he is also impressed by how the church is reaching out to its non-Korean neighbors by starting an English language worship service.

“The church is open-minded,” Ye said. “We want to reach out to the world through missions and also to the people around the church.”

Seun Un Shim does not live near the church, but said the one-hour drive from his home is well worth the trip. Shim has been a member of the church for three and a half years. He also serves as chairman of the church’s staff parish relations committee.

Leaders of Korean United Methodist Church of South Florida meet for an early morning prayer service. Photo courtesy of Korean United Methodist Church of South Florida. Photo #09-1092. For longer description see photo gallery. Web photo only.

Shim said he was not satisfied with other churches in his area, and like Ye, he had heard good things about the Korean church and decided to visit.

“The worship is very energetic, and the messages are always something you can focus on and apply to your life,” said Shim, who grew up as a Presbyterian. “We are especially welcoming to newcomers and have the ability to see that everybody has a talent to serve God.”

Dr. Chang Lim Kim, the church’s lay leader, said church members have begun to understand that everyone can serve God in his or her own way.

A member of the church since 1980, Kim said the church had been struggling to reach its full potential in ministry, but since Jang’s arrival it has been changing and growing, with the Holy Spirit leading all aspects of ministry. Kim says every Sunday is like a revival.

While his profession as a medical doctor prevents him from attending every early morning prayer service, Kim said he gladly attends when his schedule permits.

“This is my choice,” he said. “It is not a sacrifice; it is the best thing for the Holy Spirit.”

Ye agrees the practice is not a hardship. “It is for your spiritual benefit,” he said.

News media contact: Tita Parham, 800-282-8011, tparham@flumc.org, Orlando

*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Buchholz is a freelance writer based in Seffner, Fla.

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