How is this fun?

I have just returned from spending some hours with folks from my church; not the regular EM crowd with which I hang out, but with the chongyonbu… roughly translated as Korean young adult group. They range in age from around twenty to about thirty four. Since I was unable to participate in our EM ski retreat (why we organize a ski trip is beyond me) and because of an engagement at another church, I missed worship. I decided on a whim really to visit their Bible study. From the Bible study we went on to dinner at a Korean restaurant, and from thence to coffee and hanging out at one of their houses. The conversation was carried on mostly in Korean, which didn’t really bother me.

The truth is that I thoroughly enjoyed myself, despite the language barrier. We managed, somehow, to have conversation about things, about life, to laugh and to joke together. It was surprisingly refreshing, although I was admittedly lost a few times. The few words of Korean I know combined with being an astute observer of body language and gestures took me only so far. Nevertheless it was fun.

What I find more challenging and indeed disturbing is the extent to which such interaction and camaraderie is a rarity in the EM. In just a few hours of very limited conversation, I experienced hospitality on a level that it took months to achieve in the EM congregation. Indeed in one segment of the conversation, I and other member talked about the perception some of the chongyonbu have of the EM as being inhospitable and cliquish. And all this time I thought it was just my experience.

Yeah, I know it’s different and all that, but sometimes I just wish the EM folks would stop whining and grow up.

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Dilemma

I recently joined the staff of the Korean Presbyterian Church I’ve been attending for more than a year. It is a strange feeling being somehow “official” although I honestly know about as much about the inner workings of the church as I did when I first came there. Ironically, I’ve never actually joined the church, nor even am I an adherent to Calvinist theology or Presbyterianism. It is a mystery indeed.

Nevertheless, I am on staff with the responsibility of preaching occasionally and teaching Bible study for the soon-to-be-renamed English Ministry of the church which, mercifully, does not include the youth group. I am not quite sure what I’ve gotten myself into in accepting this assignment, but even more, I’m not sure that they know what they’ve gotten themselves into. Here’s what I mean.

Moksanim and I decided that we really needed to focus on the doctrine of church; ecclesiology. He wanted some guidance for the congregation in what it means to actually be the church and suggested Ephesians, but left it for me to decide. I decided upon Acts; the book that most fully describes the establishment and expansion of the early church. So far so good, right?

Right, until of course you consider the fact that the book of Acts is full of signs, wonders, miracles, prophecies, powerful prayers, and of course people being saved left and right along with a great deal of speaking in tongues and baptisms, none of which things give me the slightest hesitation, but quite honestly aren’t exactly standard fare in the Presbyterian church.

The challenge for me lies not in teaching around these nearly ubiquitous occurrences or somehow steering our discussion so that such issues are defused. It is rather that part of me would like nothing more than to see a great outpouring of the Spirit in a Pentecost kind of way, or at least a genuine hunger for God’s Spirit to be stoked in our EM. I am struck more and more by the seeming lack of any spiritual fervor in the congregation and more attention given to the technical proficiency and musical excellence of the praise team than whether or not people worship in Spirit and Truth.

I personally get excited when I worship, or rather when I consider and reflect on the Lord, worship springs up in me almost despite myself. I find it difficult to understand people who seem to have no such experience, appreciation or depth of feeling for God and who yet claim to be Christian. It is not that I believe that a Christian commitment or worship can be measured solely by a person’s outward or even inward emotional responses, but one would think that there would be something there.

There have been times after worship “concludes” (meaning we stop singing) and the guy comes up to take offering and give announcements. Sometimes I imagine what might happen if I just kept on worshipping; just stayed on stage with hands lifted and tears streaming (though I don’t typically cry in worship). Actually I know what would happen; everyone would continue to sit there looking bored out of their minds and then the announcement guy would come up as if we’d just finished taking an exam and he was assigned to read out the scores, but less enthusiastically.

Anyways, back to my point. What a neat corner I’ve managed to paint myself into by choosing to study and teach the book of Acts for I cannot with integrity avoid the issues or skirt them, especially when the church needs so much to be renewed, changed and transformed by the power of the Spirit. On the other hand, I would never want to through my teaching sow seeds of disharmony nor cause people to stumble.

But lest I complicate things too much, allow me to make it clear my chief concern is that many people in our congregation may not even be saved, nor really even know what it is to be saved. There may be little evidence of the Spirit’s work because the Spirit simply may not be present. That is the dirty open secret that no one will discuss. And because the ecclesiology of the church is so focused on the work of the Spirit through the word, it sometimes seems as if the expectation is that people can be preached or taught into the kingdom. All the while the Spirit of God is relegated to a subordinate role of somehow drawing the people that God has already decided will be saved, but we can’t know who those elect are, since it is a mystery hidden in God or whatever. In the meanwhile we expect people who may or may not be saved to somehow show forth the light of God to dying world and to be witnesses. Or something like that; I know I’ve got it all screwed up some kind of way.

Anyway, that’s the strangeness of it.

Miscellaneous thoughts about travel and assorted other things

I traveled today and yesterday and noticed people in the airport who seemed to be entirely extraneous. By this I mean that they were carrying no bags, and were walking with apparently no purpose whatsoever. In addition, they did not seem to be workers. They were just… randomly in the airport, seemingly purposelessly. I wonder why they were there.

Have you ever met someone with the gift of holding a conversation entirely by themselves, with or without your participation? I sat next to such a person on my flight to Florida. In addition, she had less than minty fresh breath, if you get my drift. I certainly got hers.

I’ve noticed that security people at airports are much more “vigilant” if the airport is really small. I think it makes them feel important and as if they are contributing mightily to our nation’s security. They serve an important function I’m sure, but it is rather interesting.

Even though I’m a “pastor” and work in full time Christian ministry, sometimes I don’t feel particularly spiritual. I hope that doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone.

I really like preaching. I got to preach yesterday night and it was great to share what I’d seen in scripture. I was a little surprised because people laughed and responded verbally. I wish I could preach more often so I could get better. Is that vanity?

You ever notice how the phrase “a bad neighborhood” is really just shorthand for any place with a lot of poor people or Black or both?

Ok… back to traveling. I’m a big boy Ms. Flight Attendant. I can drink a full can of juice.

I don’t care if it is in the airport; $2.75 is too much to pay for a 20oz. soda.

That is all for now

Cross Cultural Witness

I am just back from InterVarsity’s national staff conference, where I presented a seminar on cross cultural witness.

I’m still quite honored and humbled that they would ask me to present a seminar on this issue since there are many more eminently qualified people. The presentation is itself a reprise of one I did for the Asian American student conference this past fall, modified for staff interest.

In other news, I continue to grow in my own journey. Yesterday was my first official day as on “staff” at the Korean Presbyterian Church I’ve been attending for the past 18 months (has it been so long?). Stepping into the shoes of the theologically astute, well educated, published author and seminary professor who had been teaching our class is more than a little intimidating. I feel a great deal of internal performance pressure, because honestly I’m not too sure any of the other folks in the class fully appreciated the depth of Lim moksanim’s knowledge base.

Even more intimidating is the fact that we are studying ecclesiology, using the book of Acts. Scary, considering I’m a pentecostal at heart, teaching in a presbyterian context.