Thursday, February 28, 2013

100 Things I Love About Korea: #100 - KNU International English Church

I saved the best for last.  The only problem is that it's impossible for me to list all the reasons I love KNU International English Church.
Of course, the people are awesome and loving.
The community is multicultural in almost every way possible.
God is doing good things among us and through us.  People are being transformed by God's grace.
We are reaching out to our local community and to the global community through Bangladesh.
We are creative, innovative, resilient, and faithful.
I could go on and on and on.  Instead, I'll just share the my historical reflection from Sunday.  (I love you guys.  Thank you for letting us be part of your church, your lives, and your hearts!)

Transition in Context

Today, I want to do a quick review of the history of our church.  I guess 90% of us here today have only known this church with me as the lead pastor, but our history extends far beyond me.  
Everyone, please stand up.  I want to thank you for being here today to worship and to celebrate God’s grace in the midst of this transition.  God needs all of you.  Whether you are a new attender or an old member, I hope you will engage what God is doing here with your whole heart.  Volunteer, serve, show hospitality to each other and to new people.  God is changing the world through this loving community here.  Many people through the years have said this is the best church they have ever experienced, and they are right.  You guys are awesome!  Give God your heart here, and you and our world will never be the same.
OK, now, if you have started attending our church within the past three years, please sit down.  For those of you standing, you have seen some amazing things happen in our church over the past few years.  
  • We’ve had baptisms of new and recommitting Christians once or twice a year.  In 2011 we had our first baptism service outside on the KNU campus, with 9 people from 4 different countries.
  • After a season of spiritual dryness, we started doing 24/7 Prayer in 2010, and God has used that to pump spiritual life into our church every semester.
  • In 2009, we established our partnership with the Village of Hope in Bangladesh, and since 2010, we’ve sent a total of six teams to care for our widows and orphans there.  Last year we began sponsoring the kids, and this has become an integral part of the life and mission of our church.  God is using our church here to draw KNU and other Korean churches into partnership with Bangladesh.
  • In the past few years, with the help of a great team of assistant pastors, we added youth ministry, young adult ministry, and doubled our children’s ministry.  All of this came together last year, and we increased our attendance to almost 130 every Sunday.
  • In 2010, we started sponsoring Cheonan Migrant Shelter.  After it closed down in 2012, we began a survey to see how we can best serve Cheonan’s multicultural community.  Our research team suggested focusing our ministry on international students, and about the same time, KNU doubled their international student population.  Look for good things to come with this.
  • Also, remember that we’ve seen miraculous conversions and at least two healings.
Alright, now, if you have started attending our church within the past six years (in 2007 or later), please sit down.  For those of you still standing, you have seen drastic changes in our church.   First of all, we changed the time and location of our worship service.  We moved from a small, cramped lecture hall in the ChungNamSoo Building to Patch Hall, and at the same time, we changed our worship service time to 10:30 a.m. instead of 9:00 a.m., which seemed like the crack of dawn to most of our hakwon teachers.  (And yes, our worship service still begins at 10:30, not 10:45 or 11:00!)  Both of these changes were hugely helpful for us.  They gave us a more hospitable atmosphere to welcome new people.  And new people have come and stayed.  I remember being really, really excited when we had over 60 people on our first Sunday in Patch Hall.  We usually have more than double that now.
During this time period, we were extremely active in global and local missions.  We gave financial support during crises around the world (including North Korea), and we sent mission teams to Indonesia and Tanzania.  Locally, we supported a single mother’s shelter, kimbap for homeless men, and an orphanage.
Also, in 2007, our church was officially organized as a Church of the Nazarene.  This was actually a huge step for our church.  Before this we were kind of in limbo-land.  We were a church without church status.  But it was a long process to accept our identity as a church with a mission to our surrounding community.  Many of our folks just wanted a comfy place to worship in English, but God was calling us beyond ourselves to participate in his mission of healing our world.  By God’s grace and a lot of hard work and discussion, together we accepted God’s call to become a church and to be a loving community that changes our world.
OK, now, if you started attending our church in 2004 or after, please sit down.  These people still standing have been with our church for a decade or more.  (Some people may have moved away and came back.)  You have seen the most changes of all.  Now that everyone has seen you, you can sit down, and I’ll finish up.
This group has been part of KNU International English Church before it even had this name.  Before 2004, we went by all kinds of names, English Congregation, English Church, KNU International Congregation, KNU English Worship Service.  One of my first tasks, when I came as pastor in 2004, was to help our church select a single name for our church, and we sure chose a long one.  Our leaders wanted to fit everything in: KNU International English Church.  (A few years ago, we tried to shorten the name, but we couldn’t agree on what to cut out, so we just left it long.)  
Before I came, Missionary Tim Mercer served as the interim pastor for about six months.  The previous pastor, John Bondy.  For almost three years he taught full-time, worked on his PhD, and pastored our church.  That heavy load finally wore him out, but he helped us take some major growth steps.  Under his leadership, we formed a church constitution and an Advisory Council (or church board).  For the first time, we also added quite a few people from outside the KNU community and many Koreans.
Before John and Linda Bondy came, our church was in the beginning phases - what you might call the incubation period.  Under the guidance of Dr. Patch (who is now serving as our interim pastor), Rev. John Bowen started our church in 1995 with about a dozen people from four different countries.  So from our very first year, we were a multicultural community.  Over the next five or six years, we had one pastor after another, as different people picked up the mantle of leadership in addition to their full-time teaching roles.  
But the church always carried on.  Through the years we have shown a grace-filled resilience, endurance, and flexibility.  We experience changes.  People come, and people go, but the church carries on.  We continue to worship and to be faithful to our mission.  We continue to love God, to love each other, and to love our world.  
I have been the longest serving pastor at our church.  Sarah and I have been here for a little more than half of the history of our church.  But I wasn’t the first pastor, and I won’t be the last pastor.  KNU International English Church is strong and stable.  You are blessed by God with an important place in KNU and in Cheonan, and in fact beyond Cheonan.  People regularly travel more than an hour from surrounding cities to worship with us.  

So, as we prepare to leave, I want to say two fundamental things.  
First. Carry on.  Continue the mission.  Be a loving community that changes our world.  Continue the vision.  Allow God to renew you with his love, and invite more and more people to experience God’s love here.  Be intentionally multicultural, and invest in our community life here.  And keep on causing global change through local action.  Keep going with Bangladesh and get involved more and more deeply there.  And serve international students here at KNU and around Cheonan.  You will find that going deep in God’s mission to serve others also brings you deeper into God’s Spirit personally and corporately.  
Second, God is faithful.  God has been faithful during our church’s transitions in the past, and God will be faithful in this transition now.  Our church changes - more than any other church I’ve ever known.  But God doesn’t change.  We can sing together with confident hope born from experience:

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God, my Father;
There is no shadow of turning with Thee.
Thou changest not; Thy compassions, they fail not.
As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.
Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning, new mercies I see.
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided.
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

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