The Seoul Review

It’s been a busy couple of weeks.  Yesterday, I returned from an experience in Seoul Korea.  It was great to be there, along with the other Beeson Pastors as well as the Beeson International Leaders.  Below are some of the reflections.

The DMZ – Being at the line between North and South Korea is unbelievable.  Just days before our trip began, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was in Asia and mentioned North Korea.  Just the mention of the Communist country heightened security.  Thankfully, we were able to get to the DMZ with the help of Bishop Sundo Kim and a military official who is a part of the Kwanglim congregation.  At one point, we were actually standing in North Korea.  The pain of the separation was felt often.  Nearly everywhere we went, people prayed for unification, and I will join them.

The DMZ

Kwanglim Methodist Church – The people of Kwanglim were our hosts for the week, and they were wonderful. The largest Methodist Church in the world is a highly structured ministry.  Their worship style is very traditional.  On the day we were there, a full orchestra led singing, including a beautiful violin solo.

One of Many Group Photos at Kwanglim with Pastor Chungsuk Kim

One of Many Group Photos at Kwanglim with Pastor Chungsuk Kim

Yoido Full Gospel Church – The Yoido Church is an incredible experience.  There were thousands of young people worshiping in full charismatic expression.  The Yoido Church is the largest church in the world.

Ecstatic worship at Yoido

Ecstatic worship at Yoido

Korean Hospitality – Of course, we didn’t get a fair representation of the population.  We were escorted within church circles and ate food that appeared to be modified for western tastes.  With that said, in our experience, the people were incredibly gracious and hospitable.  We received gifts (four mugs!) and food at just about every stop.

Robbie Phillips & I visited the home of church members with a pastor.  Notice the gift and the food.

Robbie Phillips & I visited the home of church members with a pastor. Notice the gift and the food.

Korean Culture – The culture of Korea has been heavily influenced by the west.  Western suits with ties are the business dress code.  McDonalds, Starbucks, Papa Johns, KFC, and Baskin Robbins are everywhere in Seoul.  In many ways, the overall culture feels like what America may have felt 50 years ago.  There is great deference to elders, paying high honor to those in certain positions.

Will Korean children ever refuse to wear robes?

Will Korean children ever refuse to wear robes?

Church Practices – The church in Korea is doing extremely well.  It really is incredible.  My hope is that the church will continue to be creative and forward thinking.  My guess is that much of the Korean culture will change in the next 20 years.  How the church responds to that change will be incredibly important.

Bishop Sundo Kim speaks at a church that was built only three years ago.  Notice the very traditional architecture and appointments.

Bishop Sundo Kim speaks at a church that was built only three years ago. Notice the very traditional architecture and appointments.

Prayer – Apparently, fervent prayer is a universal practice among Christians in Korea.  Hours of daily personal prayer, extensive small group prayer, and powerful and emotive public prayer seem to mark spiritual lives.  Perhaps, it will be through prayer that the church is moved to find new ways to reach and transform lives as the surrounding culture shifts.

We were honored that Bishop Sundo Kim opened his prayer room to us.

We were honored that Bishop Sundo Kim opened his prayer room to us.

If you are interested in pics, click the flickr stream on the left.

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