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PART 1: BEGINNINGS
Can you share with us your background?
The first time, I went to church was in Korea. When I was eight years old, my friend asked me to go to church. So I asked my mother, “Is it okay to go to church?” I didn’t know what it was. But she said it was okay. Until high school, she used to be a Christian, but she married a non-Christian (obviously my father) and she fell away. She didn’t go to church for a long time, but she was all for me going to church. So I went to church for the first time when I was eight years old. First time I went to church, there were probably 300 children in that church. It was a pretty big size Sunday school in Korea. And first time I walked into church, I felt some higher being present. When they were singing, “Jesus loves me this I know” I just felt, “Wow.” I don’t think I became a Christian at that time, but I started believing in God at that time. From that day on, I just went to church on my own as a first grader until I was in sixth grade when I moved to the States, and then I (still) went to church on my own for maybe six years.
I came to the States when I was 12 years old, sixth grade to Chicago suburbs. My parents lived there a few years, and New York City a couple years too. I became a Christian while doing a Bible study when I was around 12 years old. A youth pastor challenged me to receive Christ as Savior, so I did that, though I did not know how to live a Christian life with Christ as Lord.
I continued going to church throughout high school until I came to University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana. There, there was a [Korean American] gospel band called Alpha Omega Band. When I joined it sophomore year in college, that band traveled throughout the States ministering to second-generation Korean American Christians. There was no ministry to the second-generation at that time. English speaking ministries to Korean American Christians was almost non-existent. We’re talking about late ‘70s, early ‘80s. When I joined it, I became more committed, and I decided to give my life to full time ministry when I was a sophomore in college.
I really didn’t know how to live a committed Christian life until college.
Who mentored you?
The older brothers in the Band. Almost all of them are now in ministry, in different places in the States. They are mostly ministering to first generation Korean Americans now. Just being with the older brothers and seeing their faith, they mentored me during my college years.
How did CFC come about?
So when I gave my life to full-time ministry sophomore year, I traveled around the States as a gospel band member, and I was a leader in the college group in a Korean church here [in Champaign-Urbana, IL]. And then I went to seminary, from 1987-1990, Biblical Theological Seminary in Hatfield, Pennsylvania.
About one year before I graduated from seminary, I was invited to come to one of the Korean churches [in Champaign-Urbana, IL], but I had theological differences so the Lord convicted me to plant a church here. I really didn’t want to do that, because at the time I was 25 years old. I was thinking, “I’m too young,” I just wanted to work under an old pastor and learn ministry. But the Lord really convicted me to plant a church. I fought for one year, “No.” I didn’t want to do that, but when you fight God and pray, you lose. So, He changed my heart to do that.
So when I was 26 years old, I came back here and CFC started with nobody. This was 1990. I was 26 years old. We were pregnant with our first child. No core team. Broke all the church planting principles that I teach now, but old school. Just came here and started a church.
So there were no ministries around. How then did you start?
It was really interesting. Lord convicted me stay five years in college, even though I could have graduated in four. College is suppose to be four years, and I went five years. Seminary at that time was suppose to be four years, but the Lord convicted me to do it in three years. I was dying in seminary. It was so hard, and there were a lot more requirements in seminaries at that time: two languages, Greek and Hebrew, and I had a difficult time. And my English wasn’t perfect either, so I had to take Greek and Hebrew and Remedial English. All three languages at the same time! And also, Lord convicted me, “Don’t say no to speaking engagements.” And since there were no English speaking speakers for Korean American ministries at that time, I had to go to a lot of places. A lot of retreats and the Lord used it. Looking back, there was an incredible revival God was doing among second-generation Koreans.
The last year of college, I got to know these freshmen. And since I graduated seminary in three years, when I came back they were seniors. When we planted a church, some of them wanted to come, and they brought people. So that became a good foundation for the ministry. And now, I can look back and see why God wanted me to go 5 years here and three years in seminary. When I came back it was perfect timing for some of those guys to set a foundation for the starting of CFC.
After the first year, we had something like 100 people. Which was very good during that time. Now, 100 people is not that many, but during that time, it was a lot. Mostly Koreans.
Pastor Min Chung’s words have been condensed, edited and subtitled with permission.
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