By Joseph Yoon, Church Planter and Founding Pastor of The Abundant Life Korean Church, Severna Park, Md.
“And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” (Matt. 16:18)
Planting and growing the church is the will of God. In His timing, He builds His church at the place of His choosing. And through the church, He spreads His will, allowing people to participate in the ministry of spreading the Gospel.
Looking back at my life, I experienced salvation in 1984 and was ordained as a pastor in 1994 in response to God’s calling me into the ministry. Since then, I have started five congregations in Maryland over the past 16 years. Whenever I start a congregation at a different place, the Lord always provided clear direction for the ministry and has always prepared people and resources in advance.
My experiences so far in church planting, listed below, have taught me that starting and growing churches are absolutely of God’s initiative. In fact, I have found that we ourselves are sometimes standing in the way, hindering the growth of the church.
1. I was ordained at Kettering Church (Pastor David Keyser) in Upper Marlboro, Md. I ministered there from 1994-1996. We baptized 37 people and ordained two pastors who are now church planters themselves.
2. I relocated to Severna Park Church (Pastor Charles Baylott) and ministered from 1997-1999. There I baptized 18 people, supported the sending of two missionaries overseas, one to Thailand and the other to China, and ordained a pastor who later planted a church.
3. Next, I went to Greenbelt Church (Pastor Mark Johnson) and from 2000-2004 I baptized 29 people and ordained two pastors.
4. After that, I joined Damascus Church (Pastor Dwuane Cantrell) merging separate multicultural congregations at one church. I ministered there from 2005-2007, baptizing six and ordaining one pastor.
5. In the last two years, I have relocated back to Severna Park Church (Pastor David Brown) to start a new Korean congregation. So far, we have baptized 12, installed three deacons, and ordained one pastor, who is preparing for church planting. I have also helped to set up a scholarship fund for seminary students.
The multicultural church is needed. Based on my experience of joining and ministering to multicultural congregations, this kind of ministry should be the primary church model in response to the multicultural composition of today’s society. Mutual understanding and respect for Eastern and Western cultures, combining the strengths of different cultural groups are indispensable in a practicing ministry both currently and for building a better ministry in the future. Without mutual understanding of each other and developing the relational skills in communication between two different groups, this would be difficult.
Tapping into the state convention system is important, as I did when I started my fifth congregation in 2008 in the Severna Park area. I visited the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware and the Arundel Association and then met with the core leaders of the new church, The Abundant Life Korean Church. I helped our church leaders to understand how to partner with the convention and the association in the best way.
These visits greatly impacted us and helped us to realize what our convention is all about. This improved our self-esteem. As a result, a greater sense of trust in me gave way to greater cooperation within us in the ministry.
Our church applied the principle of “Breaking the Barrier of 35-50” (an e-quip.net training module) for church growth, and from the experience, we learned the importance of 1) outlining a clear vision; 2) training lay leaders; 3) establishing a concrete strategy for evangelism; 4) assimilating visitors, and so on. As a result, we were successful in breaking the 50 barrier and were able to increase our numbers to 76 as of March 7, 2010. Now we are ready to tackle the size barrier of 100-125. Robert Kim has been instrumental in helping us to realize this crucial achievement.
Full participation through the Cooperative Program has been one of my utmost concerns in advancing “Kingdom Building” for the long run. Throughout my journey as a church planter, I experienced the benefit of the Cooperative Program in the process of church planting.
Without the help of five Southern Baptist churches who shared their facilities, it would have been very difficult. When we started our current church, I invited David Lee twice to our church and we heard him speak about the urgency and importance of participation through the Cooperative Program.
As a result, from the very first week we have been willing participants in Cooperative Program giving.
Joseph Yoon is the church planter and founding pastor of The Abundant Life Korean Church, Severna Park, Md. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (410) 852-9191.