Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Unparalleled Church Growth in Korea...

Loren Cunningham, the founder of Youth With a Mission (YWAM) is one of my favorite authors. I love reading Loren's books to our kids because they are filled with powerful stories of how God is moving around the world. Recently we read through "The Book That Transforms Nations: The Power of the Bible to Change any Country." Chapter 9 (An Overnight Success Story: South Korea) details the incredible church explosion that has taken place in Korea over the past forty years. It is an unbelievable account of how God is moving in Korea. Here are a few excerpts:

"When I visited South Korea for the first time in 1971, poverty and military rule still plagued the nation. I'll never forget that visit. In Seoul, I spoke at Dr. David Yonggi Cho's church. I stood before these Korean believers and said what God had impressed upon me: Korea was going to become a great nation, sending missionaries all over the world. Afterward, several believers came up to me, greeting me with "Kahm sah ham nee tah," which means "thank you." Then they politely disagreed with my prediction. They were too poor to go out as missionaries. Besides, their government made it impossible for them to get passports for international travel.

South Korea was indeed poor. Since the moment of my arrival I saw the grip of poverty on the people. As I traveled around Seoul, I noticed it was filled with poorly constructed apartment buildings and garbage-filled alleyways. Very few people could own an automobile. In fact, I didn't see one car parked outside Dr. Cho's church. Dr. Cho himself had prayed and trusted God for a bicycle so that he could get around to his parishioners more easily." (page 75)

Thirty years later I returned to speak at Pastor Cho's church. As we drove into Seoul that evening, I looked about me, amazed at the changes. Koreans had a new problem, with thousands and thousands of Hyundais, Daewoos and Kias jostling in bumper-to-bumper traffic. High-rise buildings- layers of offices and luxury apartments for the new affluent- speared the sky. I looked closer and saw something that warmed my heart - neon blue crosses on the tops of countless churches on both sides of the freeway glowed in the pale light.

When it was time for me to speak at Dr. Cho's church, again I could scarcely believe the difference. Yoido Full Gospel Church now had more than seven hundred thousand members, making it the largest church in the world. And what about that unbelievable prediction the Lord compelled me to make from Dr. Cho's pulpit in 1971 - that Korea would send out many missionaries? With a population of just forty-eight million, South Korea now sends the second greatest number of missionaries overseas, only behind the United States. (page 76)

What happened? How could one country's fortunes change in less than thirty years? South Korea's economic growth came hand in hand with a rapid growth of the church - one of the greatest in the history of the world. The soil for Korea's dramatic church growth was watered by the blood of martyrs, many thousands in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. A story I'll never forget told of soldiers herding Korean believers into a church. The soldiers barred the doors and set the building on fire. The believers sang as they died, their hymns rising above the sounds of crackling fire and collapsing beams.

Korean followers of Jesus who survived persecution seemed girded with steel. Rising from these roots, Koreans gave themselves to prayer and Bible study in any unusual way. If you visit South Korea today, you'll find hundreds of thousands filling churches every morning at 5:00 am to pray and read their Bibles for two hours before heading to work. I have visited the Osanri Prayer Mountain outside Seoul, where thousands of Koreans spend time every weekend on their knees with their open Bibles. As a result of all this fervor, believers and churches have multiplied, quickly changing the spiritual landscape.

Ten of the eleven largest megachurches in the world are in Seoul. According to a recent Seoul Times article, South Korea now has more than twelve thousand missionaries abroad. Korean missionaries work in many nations, with a significant number in Middle Eastern countries. The South Korean church is also reaching into China, and even into North Korea." (page 77)

Wow! Needless to say, we have a lot to learn from the Korean church! I can't wait to visit Dr. Cho's church and meet these heroes of the faith. While the immense pressure on unwed mothers has created an orphan crisis in Korea, there are reports that this is beginning to change. I believe that the church is influencing this horrible Confucian cultural devaluation and most foster moms in Korea are believers. We feel honored that God has called our family to adopt from Korea and are excited to share these heroic stories with our daughter about her birthplace one day.

Blog posted by Jenni Ramsey, Outreach Director for All Blessings

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