This week is our annual meeting for the church, so I thought you guys might like to read my annual report to the church.
Tonight our focus is on telling stories, so I want to start by telling a story. This story begins a few years ago. During my first year here, we said goodbye to leader after leader, as people moved back to their home countries. After about a year, I began to realize that we need more stability, and I also began to realize that stability was only going to come by having more Korean leaders involved in our church.
I remember praying one day when I was walking home. I was thinking and praying about this problem of rotating leaders in our church. I thanked God for Dr. Cho. (Some of you might not remember Dr. Cho. He no longer attends here because he is preaching regularly in the Sunday evening service of another church.) I prayed, “God please give us 25 people like Dr. Cho. Give us 25 committed and passionate Korean leaders.” I figured that would be enough to give us a stable core group, year in and year out.
This year, we have seen this prayer begin to be answered. This year more than 60% of the Advisory Council was Korean. We celebrated this with great joy, and rightly so. It is right for an international church to have international leadership. Also, this was a great answer to our prayers and a great step of progress toward becoming a stable, enduring church.
Well, like they say, be careful what you pray for. Sometimes God answers our prayers in ways we don’t expect. And sometimes God’s answers bring their own challenges.
After we elected the 2006-2007 Advisory Council, I felt like we were “off to the races.” Our Vision Team had just finished establishing our mission and vision statements. Our people seemed to agree that this is what God was calling us to do and to be. I felt like everything was finally coming together.
Within the first few months of the 2006-2007 year, we decided to become an official Church of the Nazarene on the Korea National District. We also welcomed our first official church members, and we went on a Work and Witness Trip to Indonesia. And as a great surprise to me, the Korea National District worked out the details for me to be ordained here in Korea. We were also experiencing our highest attendance ever, with an all-time high of 139.
I was ready for our church to explode with growth and momentum. I was pumped and read to go. But I was probably a little too pumped.
Being on the Advisory Council with me was hard in the first half of this church year. Our meetings were too long. I tried to make us do too much too fast. It was far too much about me and not enough about the other people leading our church. People usually left the meetings exhausted and frustrated.
But I was pumped and ready to go, so I kept pushing on. One of the big issues for me for the past several years has been: When can we get a full-time pastor? Well, on our big momentum surge, I pushed hard on this full-time pastor issue. I felt like we really needed to have this “nailed down” when we took in new members to our church.
I pushed and prodded our Advisory Council to set a goal of having a fulltime pastor by the beginning of the 2008 church year. I knew there was some disagreement and discomfort, but I felt like we needed to push ahead and step out in faith. Several of our members felt differently, though. Even though they voted in favor of setting that goal, many of them questioned the wisdom of it later when they were quietly thinking of it in their homes.
Another issue was also developing. It was becoming harder for Mei-I to continue as our worship leader. It was just too much for her with school, too. She had been asking me to find someone else to lead worship. Well, English worship leaders are not so easy to find in Korea.
When Young-Min said he would be willing to serve our church as worship leader, I was excited and pumped and ready to go. In fact, I was too pumped and ready to go. Most of the people on the council didn’t know YoungMin well. And because Young-Min would be relying on income from our church to help support himself, we would have to pay him more than we had ever paid anyone else. And it was all very fast. Most of the council didn’t even know things weren’t going so well for Mei-I, and in one day I asked them to switch to YoungMin. I later learned that most Koreans don’t like to make decisions that fast.
Unfortunately, despite all of the discussion and complaints and requests for more time, I pushed on. I insisted that we needed to hire YoungMin right away, regardless of the reservations or questions. The council reluctantly agreed.
But that was when our Korean members decided that they couldn’t take it any more. They had had enough of my being “pumped up and ready to go” and my heavy-handed leadership style that went with that. They had a meeting and gathered their complaints. I met with each of member of the council one on one or in small groups. We devoted the April Advisory Council meeting to sorting out of problems and complaints.
We learned a lot in April and May. I learned a lot in April and May. We learned that I’m not very fun to work with when I’m “pumped up and ready to go.” We learned that being a multi-cultural leadership team is hard. We learned that we have to do things differently to involve people of different cultures. We learned how to write down more things, how to move more slowly with decisions, how to give more information to help us make better decisions, and how to involve more people in the leadership process. I learned that what our church needs most is not more of me, but more of you and more of our leaders.
Our candidates for our next Advisory Council will be glad to know that being on the council was a lot easier in the second half of the year than the first half. We learned that nothing good happens in a meeting after two hours. We are really starting to learn how to work together as an international church. We really feel like we have laid a foundation this year (by learning how to work together), a foundation that will help us accomplish a lot next year and in the years to come.
Speaking of the years to come, let me tell you about a few things that are coming soon.
In October, our Advisory Council approved a new form of membership. We will now have two membership options. You can be a full member of the Church of the Nazarene here, or you can be a “Community Member.” We recognize that people in our church come from many different backgrounds, and we are all at different places in our spiritual journey. But we invite you all to commit yourselves to engaging in that spiritual journey here in this place with these people. To become a Community Member, you only have to commit to The 10 Commitments:
To strengthen the community of our church, I will:
(1) Act in love toward others (especially those of other cultures).
(2) Faithfully participate in worship services.
(3) Try to participate regularly in a small group.
To join the ministry of our church, I will:
(4) Find a job in the church that fits me.
(5) Give faithfully.
(6) Invite and welcome new people.
To increase the passion of our church, I will:
(7) Develop my relationship with God.
(8) Pray for our church and our pastors.
(9) Deal with conflict biblically.
(10) Do my best to live like Jesus.
We hope that this change will help us to be more open to people of all backgrounds. We hope that this will help us more fully follow Jesus together.
Also, we are finally doing something we should have done at the beginning of last year. We are forming a Planning Team. Our Planning Team will include respected leaders in our church, a mixture of younger and older, Koreans and Westerners, clergy and laity. Here are the goals of the Planning Team:
1. Clarify our vision/mission (specifically to include evangelism)
2. Short (1~2yrs)/Mid(3~5yrs)/ Long(5~10yrs)-term plan
a. Clarify (meetings and contract) our relationship with KNU (and other
b. Make a plan for pastoral leadership
c. Make a budget (What do we need? What can we expect? How will
we get it?
d. Coordinate our ministry teams
e. Make a plan to increase lay involvement
Every goal must have an Action plan
I have high hopes for our Planning Team. Our mission as a church is to be an international Christian community through worship, discipleship and hospitality. Our Planning Team is going to dig into the heart of this mission and ask if we need to say this differently or better. Then they are going to flesh out what fulfilling our mission will look like for us, here in this place. Please support our Planning Team with your prayers and encouragement.
Another big thing coming for us is our Mission Trip to Tanzania. This is the single most expensive and most ambitious event our church has ever planned. We are going to one of the poorest countries on earth to help them build a building to train their leaders. Please support this trip with your prayers, your resources, and yourself. (I hope we’ll have so many people who want to go that we’ll have to convince the missionaries to enlarge the group!)
What do we need most from you this year?
1. The most important thing we need from you is your passionate prayer. What we need most of all is to draw close to God as individuals and as a church. This year I encourage you to seek the heart of God. Get serious about following Jesus. Really try to live like Jesus in your daily life, and pray passionately that God will help us to do this as a church. That is what our Planning Team is all about anyway, not crunching numbers, but passionately seeking how we can follow Jesus better together.
2. Get involved in relationships. Join a small group. Form a small group. If we are really going to be a community, we really need to spend time together. For our Koreans out there, we really need one of you to volunteer to be a small group leader. We really need a Korean-language small group. And if we are really going to be an international church, then we will have to have lots of international relationships. This year I challenge you to find at least one person who is from another culture and become that person’s friend. Really become friends.
3. We need your service. Join a ministry team. Today we’ll be electing Advisory Council members to serve as team leaders for different ministry teams. They need your help. Join one of these teams and help them do the work of our church.
What our church needs most is more of you, more of your prayers, more of your following Jesus, more of you building friendships with each other, and more of your time in service to others. If we get more of you in these ways, we will certainly get more of God. God is here. God is working among us. God is pouring out his Holy Spirit all around us. What we need most is more of us ready to be open to what God wants to do in us and through us. Then we will truly be a loving community that changes our world!