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PART 2: COVENANT FELLOWSHIP CHURCH (CFC)
When people think of when they think of CFC, one of the things they think of is its organized structure, its programs, its discipline. Where did all that come from?
I think it’s because everything is founded from the Scripture, from the Bible. Ever since we started, we do things from the Bible, whether it is clear principle from the Scripture or wisdom deduced out of the principles of the Scripture. We try to do things with reasoning, so when people ask we can have good reasons. We try to incorporate what we learn from American Christianity and the strength of American Christianity, as well as the strengths form Korean Christianity. People have a lot of questions, because it’s not one mono-cultural Christianity. So we have to think about good reasons from the Scripture.
Then what we do is we try to incorporate people. We have such a strong discipleship culture: we correct people as well as encourage people so they can grow, learn, constantly learning from mistakes. We have officers meetings—small groups do this too—before we do this [event, activity], we plan. And then we execute, and after we execute, we always evaluate. Constantly so that if something is outdated after a few years, we will know so we can change before it’s too late. And if we need to do new things because culture is changing, people are changing, even though Gospel isn’t, we need to adapt to the culture and incorporate new things that are needed most [while] we maintain the essence of the Gospel and Scripture. So we constantly evaluate, so we can can make corrections and plan out better. Always in everything. And we do that on a leadership level, evaluation sheets, as well as whole church level: members write out evaluations for small group, services, Sundays, everything. We read those things and we make adjustments. We constantly evaluate. They write things about me too. All the pastors, as well as me, as Lead Pastor, as preacher. As long as you have thick skin, you can take it. People criticize all kinds of things as well, even though there are lots of encouragements as well. But we need to listen to all kinds of critics to improve. If you want to feel good, you’re not going to improve, individually and corporately.
How did some of your foundational values develop? Where are they from?
I think, obviously, everything is from the Bible. I think a lot of my values came from what I learned from Korean Christianity: cross, sacrifice, repentance and prayer; and American Christianity: integrity, Word of God, character, theological foundations. The strength of both cultures became a really strong Biblical foundation for any Christian.
Being 1.5—they call me 1.5—because I’m neither Korean nor American, but Korean American. Deficiency in being shallow in both cultures but versatility of having both cultures, culturally as well as spiritual culture. We learn from both. I think all those things, helped me to see wider perspective of what the Scripture says, and found the essence through studying of Scripture and my own personal spiritual life. It’s all in the Bible but sometimes we can be biased to look at certain things because that’s what we’re used to, but being exposed to Korean Christianity growing up and seminary, as well as the internet, was tremendously helpful in helping me see American Christianity. Being able to listen to other preachers, and being able to read old Christians of different cultures, [it’s all been] so helpful in forming my conviction about those core values.
Above all, what would you like your members to get out of CFC?
I want them to have relationship with God, the Word of God in prayer; those are our convictions. And being able to constantly repent and know their motives, and know their heart. And to go out and be faithful in their callings of job, family and local church. These things we get out of Ephesians. And just be faithful in what they do, as they are helpful to local churches and raise their families, being faithful to the Word of God and expanding God’s Kingdom together, in their community and connecting to the world, so they can maximally live out Christ in their lives, like they only live once.
The above average Christian life you talk about?
Yes, just being able to maximally live for God’s Kingdom.
Can you speak a little about CFC’s missions emphasis? Where does that come from?
[In the 1980s and 1990s,] there was a wonderful emphasis on overseas missions—even though it was from the old paradigm, not as up-to-date as now—but 20 some years ago when I was in seminary, there was a Perspectives course that was taught, which was wonderful. There was great emphasis on missions during the Urbana Conference. So, many wonderful churches, gave large portions of their budget to missions, so I thought that was important.
When I read the Scripture—we use the term “glocal” now, right?—God is global and local, being faithful to the community that you’re in and yet being involved and aware of what is going on in the world, because it’s [all] really for the Kingdom of God. The biggest thing is just reading the Scripture and preaching the Bible. If you preach it the way you’re suppose to, it’s all related. It’s not just mission for the sake of mission, but mission is part of what God is doing. My heart loving God, my heart loving neighbor. People who are not really evangelistic are not really becoming missions-minded either. It’s all related. If you are missions-minded, then you’re evangelistic. If you’re evangelistic, you not only care about souls here, but souls in different parts of the world. I think just naturally studying, preaching teaching the Scripture, you cannot help but be involved in missions.
Where did the conviction to give 50% of CFC’s money to missions come from?
25 years ago, some of the churches [I knew of had that goal, though] very few were able to do that. Since we were starting and we had no idea what we’re doing, but we said, “Let’s try to do that because we don’t have a building, we don’t have that much money, so let’s try to do that.” And we were about to relatively keep it until now. I regretted it many times in between (laughs), “Why did we do that?” But we were able to do it because pastors we said, we’re going to live with minimum. I’m almost like a missionary raising money. I’m not really fundraising, but almost like people have been constantly giving funds. I didn’t receive a full salary from the church until now, 25 years later. I think that was the main reason, why we were able to do it.
You didn’t get a full salary for 25 years?
No, but all the missionaries do that. InterVarsity staff do that, campus staff. But Lord provided more than enough. We don’t own anything, we have nothing to show for it. We live in small apartment with 5 kids, but we were able to do it because of God’s provision. Whether it comes from the church or some other place.
But we do teach that you’re suppose to provide for your pastor. I’m not normal, I’m abnormal. So if you’re a lay person, don’t demand your pastor to do that. But, since our commitment was to do 50% mission, we were able to do it.
When we hire pastors, we think of it as training them, so we can raise another church planter or missionary. So we’re able to hire one or two more people because of that. As you know, there are many pastors and missionaries in the world who are trained, and more more equipped because of that. God provided everything. I had no hardship. I never had to fast unintentionally. I fast intentionally, but never unintentionally.
When did the non-Koreans start coming?
Yeah, maybe after first semester or first year. Obviously, you know what happens with Asian Americans or Korean Americans start something during those years. Every ethnic culture came. Probably after first semester a lot of Chinese Americans started to come, and then I remember one time, maybe after a semester a tall, one tall Caucasian guy came.
You have to understand from my perspective: I received so much racism and prejudice growing up. In the 70s, it was like that, but not as much now. Racism was “in;” not popular now, but it was pretty popular at that time. There was so much racism. When I saw a Caucasian, I didn’t have fear, but I was thinking, “Can I minister to this guy, if this guy is part of our church?” All of us were thinking, “When will he leave?” Everyone was thinking this at that time, but he came [and stayed]. I had a meal with him, and we had a great time. As he became my friend, after that I started to think, “Hey, I think I can be this guy’s pastor.”
It wasn’t racism or hatred or anything like that, but just thinking about the possibility of having other races in the church, and [wondering if ] I can minister to them was gone. Their souls were in need of Christ. Outside things are a little different, but inside, we just need to pastor them. When I started to have conferences and saw other races come, I was like, “Hey, you know, they are souls in need of Christ, and we just need to give them Christ.” Just cook it a little differently, like Asian flavor Christ, and American flavor Christ. It’s a little big different, like sauce is different, but potato, meat is all same. Christ, we just have to give them Christ, with different flavor here and there, a different aspect of Christ. He is the Bread of Life and Living Water, and people need Christ! That, we can do, from the Bible.
How did you cook it differently?
Depends on who’s there. You make a buffet, so everyone has something to have. It’s just mainly Christ, but sometimes illustration from this culture, illustration from that culture, sometimes illustration from my life, sometimes illustration from great Christians of history. Just knowing the people, and gearing the word of God to them is great. So we always need to exegete the Bible, exegete the culture, exegete the people of the culture, and just relate in the essence of God’s word and the people. John Stott calls it “between two worlds:” the way of the Bible and the way of the people. Whoever they are, you just gear it towards them, and knowing them. If you counsel them, meet them, you know who’s there. It’s a lot harder now because we have over a thousand but at that time, it was a hundred people. It was a lot easier. You know everybody. You know what they are going through. So gearing message towards what they were going through was not hard.
Why do you think God blessed CFC?
One of the main things: everybody prays. We really try to emphasize prayer. There’s so much sacrifice, fasting and prayer in this church. Everybody knows the spiritual mother in our church. She prays, and the Spirit comes down on everything in the church. Before we do anything, we pray and we fast. I think maybe that’s more emphasized in our church. Even if you preach a great sermon, no prayer, no power. The Word of God is a sword, but power through prayer helps wield the sword. So much fasting and prayer is needed. Before CFC started, [there were] many, many days of long term fasting and praying and sacrifice. This is a strength we learned from Korean Christianity: prayer, sacrifice.
[There are] four liquids of ministry, you know. You got to have blood, sacrifice; tears of love; I call it “mucous” of prayer; and sweat or work. You need all these things to do ministry. Not because we do things through these things, but doing these things pictures what Christ has done. And power comes from Christ. Us being like that shows Jesus. So when people see Jesus, there is change and ministry. Those the kind of things that we learn from Korean Christianity. And I’m so thankful for that. I think prayer is one of the main reasons why God just blesses the church.
Is it common in Korean churches to have a full-time intercessor?
(laughs) Now Korean Christianity is under decline in just about every aspect, but when there was a great revival [over the] last hundred years, it was really [because of the] praying ladies in the church. Some ladies would spend all night, like Anna in Luke, you know? 84 years of fasting and praying and living in the temple. There were a lot of older ladies just living in the temple, in church. All night prayer meetings leading to morning prayer. I think [of the] sacrifice of those ladies, as well as [of the] many martyrs of Korean Christianity, especially in the beginning part of Korean Christianity during the Japanese ruling period. Many, many sprinkled blood on the soils of Korea. All those things [have been] part of Korean Christianity for the last hundred years.
Pastor Min Chung’s words have been condensed, edited and subtitled with permission.
Last revised: February 16, 2016
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