As I reflect about our Korean Advance, I am impressed by the impact Christian Missionary leaders had on Korea. Starting in the late 1800s, missionaries came primarily from the USA and England. They opened hospitals, schools and churches. They translated the Bible into the Korean alphabet which at the time was only used by the emperor. This act enabled the common person access to the Korean written word. Today, Korea is one of the most advanced Asian societies boasting the largest churches in the world and the second largest missionary sending country in the world just behind the USA.
It was refreshing to see the respect the Koreans have towards the missionary movement whereas in the US; missionaries are often looked upon with distain as opportunist. I was moved when we visited Yanghwajin Foreign Missionary Cemetery and how the early missionaries are honored because of their sacrifice.
Dr. Choi talked about how the growth of the church paralleled the growth of society. He even used the example of how Korea, like Israel went through the stages of slavery, the desert, Canaan and into the kingdom. Korea is a different society because of Christ, Missionaries shared the gospel to a spiritually hungry country.
What would the early Missionaries think if they were transported into Korea today? I think they would be amazed at the size of a million member Dr. Cho Pentecostal church. Or attend a 5am prayer service at the largest Presbyterian church in the world to pray with Rev. Kang at Myungsun Presbyterian Church with 132,000 members. They would be pleased that the Koreans were sending out 23,000 missionaries into other countries.
What kind of leadership did the early missionaries have that could have produced this result? Are they any different than the missionaries who went to other countries that did not produce this phenomenal growth? Robert Greenleaf in his classic book Servant Leadership observes that a byproduct of servant leadership is the growth of the people they lead. Leadership has a DNA and the process of discipleship and evangelism has created a similar church growth experience in the USA. Apparently, western culture and competition are part of that DNA.
When we attended the prayer service at the Myungsun Presbyterian Church, I expected to be on my knees for an hour. I was surprised and disappointed to experience a very familiar USA church service format that was topped off with the pastor telling us that they could have purchased the Crystal Cathedral in California that was recently purchased by the Catholics. It reminded by of a Dr. Robert Schuler service in California.
The lesson I learned from this wonderful Korean Advance is that the good and the not so good DNA is passed on through leaders from one generation to another. How can we, as leaders, do our best to pass on the good DNA and not the bad?