By Mickey Noah
ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)—Twenty-three of the top Korean Southern Baptist leaders in the United States and Canada met at the North American Mission Board (NAMB) in Alpharetta, Ga., to explore ways of reaching some 1.5 million Koreans across the continent with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Steve Lee, national missionary for Asian people groups in NAMB’s church planting division, noted, “This conference, the first of its kind in several years, was historic because of the number of Korean Baptist pastors who attended as well as the number of second-generation Korean pastors who were there.”
In welcoming the Korean pastors, NAMB’s interim president, Richard Harris, thanked the group “for all you do in America to fulfill the Great Commission.” According to NAMB’s Center for Missional Research, there are 838 Korean Southern Baptist churches in America with more than 79,000 members.
The states of California and New York lead the U.S. in Korean population, with 471,180 and 138,835 Koreans, respectively. The other “top 10” states in Korean population are New Jersey, 89,791; Texas, 73,749; Washington, 72,494; Virginia, 68,033; Illinois, 67,631; Georgia, 53,424; Hawaii, 51,357; and Maryland, 50,231.
The number of Korean SBC congregations (churches and missions) has risen 33 percent since 2000, a net gain of 206 toward the 838 counted by the NAMB Center for Missional Research.
The top 10 states with the most SBC Korean congregations are California, 222; Texas, 124; Virginia, 50; Georgia, 43; Maryland, 42; Illinois, 36; Florida, 35; Washington, 28; New York, 25; and North Carolina, 20.
The “dean” of the Korean Baptist pastors in the United States is Chang Sun Moon, 68, of Tacoma First Church in Tacoma, Wash., which has an average weekly attendance of 1,400.
In Washington State and the Northwest alone, Moon estimates there are from 70,000-100,000 Koreans whose hearts are more open to the Gospel than other Asian groups.
David Gill and his wife started Concord Korean Church in Martinez, Calif., near San Francisco 30 years ago. The church now has 1,000 members and has planted Korean churches in Nevada, New York and many Korean churches in China.
But not all Koreans or the SBC’s Korean Baptist churches are on the West Coast.
Manpoong (Dennis) Kim has served as senior pastor of Global Mission Church in Silver Spring, Md., for 18 years.
The church, now 36 years old, has 3,000 members and conducts five Korean-language services on Sundays and three English-speaking services. It’s one of 42 Korean-American churches in Maryland, serving 4,000 Korean Baptists in the state.
Kim said the region encompassing Washington, D.C., Richmond, Va., and Baltimore is a mission field of 150,000-230,000 Koreans.
“We want to fulfill the Great Commission by building solid, sound and healthy churches,” said Kim, who first came to the U.S. in 1982. “We can be assured of the fact that this is what God wants us to do — plant churches. It’s our mission and our duty.”
Kim and Global Mission Church practice what they preach — planting new churches in Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina and Korea. Kim said the church plant in Korea alone numbers some 35,000 members.
“This summit at NAMB was helpful in many ways,” Kim said. “Even after 40 years — 18 at Global Mission Church — I picked up some new ideas and was glad to share my experience.”
Mickey Noah is a writer for the North American Mission Board.