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PART 3: INFLUENCE
CFC had a hundred people after the first year, and then Chinese people started coming, and then the first white guy, and then all these other people. I hear stories about people from Chicagoland coming down: high school kids from several Chinese Chinese churches, and Indian American kids. You have a thriving Indian American ministry. To me, this is astounding because most think of CFC as a Korean ministry. Do you think of it in that way?
No, not at all. I am Korean, and there’s Koreanness that’s Biblical (in CFC). But no, no, I don’t think of it as a Korean church. There are many leaders who are not Korean in this church. I would like to think of it as pan-Asian / multiethnic, like in between all kinds of ethnic groups, just trying to be Biblical Christians. But yeah, all those people come [because] I think people taste Christ, and Christ tastes good. God is good. People gather, if they benefit from it. So hopefully spiritually, they benefit from it, having the Bread of Life, living water refresh and replenish their souls.
You always have to see where the world is flowing, what God is doing in the world. Right now, it’s a global world. And the mission field is changing, because the mission field is coming over here. A lot of Christians are going to other parts of the world because of globalization and jobs. A lot of [the] unbelieving world is coming to us. Especially now, not only immigrants but students are flooding to major universities. University of Illinois is number one among state universities in terms of international students. So, we see that flow, and we have to reach out to all kinds of international students. As you know, we have all kinds of outreach ministries to Indians, Muslims, Turks, Saudis and different kinds of people. Just because we can befriend them, teach English. Taiwanese group, Japanese group, Korean speaking group: all kinds of groups that can reach out to International students. It’s an opportunity that we see, so we have to do it. And we can do that because we have older guys who are coming back and can train younger people. And together, they can do all kinds of outreaches. 30% of our census is non-Christians, which is incredible. We’re just doing what we see and what we can.
You have a significant Adult and Family ministry. Can you speak a bit more about adults returning to CFC?
The reason why the older people come [back] is because we teach those three callings in Ephesians: about God calling to family, local church and jobs. Usually those three things are what they use to determine where they live. Usually what Americans do is, you know, American culture: they choose the job first, and then choose a church and then raise a family there.
Deduced from Ephesians, we started to challenge people: “Why do you always choose job first? If you can have choices for having a job in different cities, maybe choose a church first.” Church should be that important, and is that important. A church where you can devote yourself, where you believe in the vision, where you can do life and then maybe try to get a job and raise a family. If you can think of CFC as not just a college church or a campus church, but as a place where you can devote yourself and devote some part of your family to really raising disciples of young people in the church, think about living here.
It’s been 20 some years, and I think some guys are coming back because they do life in different places for 10 or 15 years, and they go, “What is life about?” Well, life is not about having more money or successful life, but life is about maximally living for God’s Kingdom. Some guys get jobs here. A lot of teachers, doctors, and health professional guys get a legitimate job and do life here together. And those are basically the guys who run the church, right? Because they spend time disciplining, and they give financially, they devote their time: that is how our church is running. It’s becoming not just a campus community and church, but one that reaches out to the community. And [we’re] still doing our main thing, which is to raise kingdom workers and send them off. We’re going to raise workers so they can enable their churches in various cities. They’re going to contribute and be helpful members in their community and local churches.
Anything that’s successful, any ministry or any person in leadership is always getting critiqued. Can you share with us a bit how you respond to your critics?
I don’t know. What are some of the things that you hear? From the last 25 years, I’ve heard all kinds of things. I don’t have time to [address everything]. What are some of the things you hear?
I hear that CFC dominates Chicagoland Korean English ministries in terms of style, and sometimes there’s not room for other styles. Sometimes, it feels too performance oriented. Sometimes, it’s too Korean. Sometimes, it’s not Korean enough. Sometimes I hear its too rigid: people come out all the same.
I would say, all those things are legitimate. Definitely some people are like that, but if you say everybody is like that, that’s not legitimate. Sociologically, any strong influencing group would have its own disciples. Every culture has a different way of praying, every culture has a different way of being. Every family has a culture. That’s why two people get married and have a hard time, because there are ways that they are used to.
Now, if you don’t have a strong culture, you’re not going to have that. Then you are not really influencing either. Any individual or family or organization any church that is strongly influencing others will have those kinds of criticisms understandably.
Lot of things are legitimate, because some (of our) guys might not know the heart of what we’re teaching, but still learn the form of it. Then, yeah, they are being rigid. “This is what I’m used to, and this is the right thing to do.” Now, there are right things to do from Scripture but there are some things we do as a preference. They are not actually wrong. However, if you say, “You don’t do it like this. This is wrong.” Now, that’s being rigid. Now, I’m almost sure some (of our) guys are like that in the church, outside of [CFC]. So (those criticisms) are legitimate. It’s because they haven’t learn the essence of what we’re teaching from the Scripture, and how to adjust to different forms. Now, if you emphasize the form, rather than the core essence, then it becomes a problem. Guys who really learn the essence adjust to different cultures and groups.
I think another part is that some of them are probably not compromising Biblically. If they are being called rigid because they’re not compromising Biblically, I think that’s legitimate, but legitimate good in that way.
Dominating Korean (Christian) culture in the Chicago area? It’s inevitable because so many of our guys are going to and becoming core church members in probably every major Korean and Chinese church. They are there serving, and I’m so happy. So, we are going to be influential, because 70% of our guys go to Chicago area. Lot of pastors, lot of youth pastors, lot of elders, and core church members. So inevitable. So I hope that they edifying where they are at, and not being rigid and critical. I know some of the guys are. But hopefully, we’re helping more than hurting churches in Chicago. It’s just sheer number of people going to Chicago area, I think that is part of it. Pros and cons. But at least pastors that I talk to are thankful that we produce people. Most of our guys are most helpful people in their churches. So I’m thankful for that.
Yes, there’s Koreanness in our church, because as I said before, we learn positive things from Korean church. We try to drop the negative things—there are a lot of negative things from the Korean churches. We try to drop that. We try to be as versatile as possible without being spineless. Every church and every culture needs to have a stance, beliefs. We try to incorporate lot of positives from American culture and Korean culture.
Now, if Korean church people come to (CFC), they will tell you it is too American. That is what they will say. Now, if American church people come, they will say it is too Asian or Korean.
As you know, Chinese church and Korean church is different because of the original missionaries that came. Chinese is like, Baptist oriented, [more] independent churches. I like. [There are a] lot of positive things about Chinese churches. And that’s very different from Korean churches where they are prayer-based, more charismatic, but not too much charismatic, but at least the gift of tongues and those kind of things. And that’s very different from Chinese church, as you know. A lot of those things: we need to deal with all that.
Some people will say we’re too Korean, some people will say we’re too charismatic. Some people will say, we’re too American, because we’re multiethnic! The DNA of our church is the people that we have, and we have many different kinds of people. But we strongly have Korean Christianity because of my influence. I’m thankful for Korean Christianity and lot of American Christianity too. Because of my learning, we can have positive things from both cultures.
Where do you think CFC is at now? When we talked a while ago, you shared that God was shifting your focus to equipping other pastors. You felt very comfortable with your associate pastors, that you could leave things to them.
I’m 50 years old now. What you said is right on, so, I’m allocating my time to three things. First is to my family, second is to my church, third is to raise up next generation of leaders. Not in this priority. So I do travel a little more than before because associate pastors are more than adequate, some of them have been with me for ten, twenty years or so. We think alike and they do a great job. Each individual can plant churches, can be lead pastor of a lot of churches, but they stay here. They do some kind of outside activities too, like JGen, which is a youth movement and conference. [Pastor Min was one of the pastors who helped start OIL and JGen.] So that’s where we’re at now.
As a church, we try to do the same. But the community is growing. Some guys are coming back, wonderful guys are coming back. So we do life together, and we continuously raise college students. Those are the three things I’m called to and trying to be faithful.
How do you see CFC fitting into the church at large?
If you think of the whole church at large as a literal body of Christ, we’re maybe a back. Because we’re in the middle of [a person’s lifespan], college and young adults, that age group. It has to be strong in order for the body to move. We get all these young people, and we train and make them strong so they can play that part in different local churches as leaders, pastors and missionaries. We just produce people. Every body part is important, but that’s our part that we have to do. We just get people and send them out so they can be leaders in local churches and different parts of the world. That’s still our part, and as long as I’m pastor of this church, we’ll probably continuously do that.
You still are in contact with so many of your alumni. If you could take a broad view of the ministry, what are you seeing God doing at large?
Well, I’m seeing our vision carried out. Matthew 9:37-38: Harvest is plentiful but the workers are few, the laborers are few. We’re producing laborers for the Body of Christ. They are scattered into different parts of the world. Everywhere I go, I meet alumni serving, still faithfully serving what they can. I see the fruit of it. We just have to continuously do that. In terms of direction, I’m very happy with where we’re going in terms of quality and fruit and execution. Of course “We’re always sad and unhappy; we gotta do a better job:” we gotta think like that. But we’re doing our best, and we’re definitely part of what God is doing, and in the big picture of what God is doing, we’re doing our part.
How do you see Asian Americans fitting into this?
By 2040 or so, whites will not be majority people anymore. Everybody knows that now. That means Black, Hispanic will probably be most, and a distant third will be Asian. Meaning, there will be so many Asians that need to be reached. And if we establish good Asian American churches, at least in major cities, if not campus, I think [Asian American Christians are] bound to grow astronomically the next 10, 20 years.
It’s just the beginning stage of pan-Asian American ministries. But a lot of the Asian American churches are just happy where they are. They’re happy they’re on their own now. Survival mode.
But a lot of [Asian Americans are now wondering], “Okay, now what?” If you’re Asian American adult, you have 2 kids at home. And you’re going to church you’re working and you’re raising your children. “Now what? How can I live for Christ? Is this what it means to maximally live for God’s kingdom?” Nothing wrong with [how they are living], but they may question, “Is this what I’m suppose to be doing at this stage of my life?”
I think churches have to give dreams, visions, and clarity to what it means to maximally live for God. In North America, we have incredible opportunities: education. Asian Americans [are] highly intelligent, highly educated [with] incredible potential. And their children will possibly be even more influential in America. So what are we suppose to be doing? I think churches that can provide those kinds of answers and feed them spiritually and help them to impact the US and well as world, are bound to grow in the future. Leaders have to be ready.
Bright future ahead. It’s just we haven’t even seen anything yet!
Pastor Min Chung’s words have been condensed, edited and subtitled with permission.
Last revised: February 16, 2016
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