August 17, 2023

What’s Happening in the Korean Church?

Nathan W. Bingham & Joel Kim
What’s Happening in the Korean Church?

By God’s grace, the good news of Jesus Christ is going forth in Korea. Today, Joel Kim shares how the Lord is at work in the Korean church and notes several unique challenges that it currently faces.


NATHAN W. BINGHAM: Joining me in the studio today is Rev. Joel Kim, the president of Westminster Theological Seminary in California. Rev. Kim, could you give us an update on what’s happening in the church in Korea?

REV. JOEL KIM: Well, this is a subject near and dear to my heart. As an immigrant from Korea when I was younger and having seen my parents obviously be engaged in immigrant churches in the U.S., we often look back to the country of their birth and my birth to not only receive inspiration sometimes, learn from the mistakes that are being made, and also to recount the history that’s been taking place. We rejoice in what the Lord is doing in Korea. It’s been a little over a century—a century and a half is what we can say—in that short period of time, the gospel has spread widely. The Lord has grown the churches that are there and raised up many leaders throughout history from whom we learn and we grow and we are inspired by, and we give thanks for all those things.

But like the churches in the States, I think Korea is at a pivot point. I recognize that I’m an observer from the outside looking in as someone who lives in the States visiting Korea and seeing what’s going on. But Korea, as evangelized as it is—many people speak of 25 percent of the country being Christian at this point with large, large churches—we recognize that the church is aging, which means that in many of the churches, younger folks are absent. And so, that creates a vacuum, not only in terms of people filling the pews—the numbers aren’t the most important things—but in terms of church’s ongoing ministry, but also leadership. Many of the seminaries are unable to meet the number of students that they need to meet the needs of the churches and denominations. We recognize, like many churches in the States, there is a question as well as concern and prayers for the church’s future and its leadership.

But it’s not just about numbers in terms of people who are filling the pews and leadership, but also the quality of the church. Is the church maturing? Is the church growing spiritually? Is the church impacting? Those are questions that are very difficult. As many would point out, because of its engagement with politics, because of many of the influences that surround the church, and because of many of the oppositions that come with church, Korean churches—though in many ways sustained by the grace of God—struggle in some of those areas. And we are praying that Korea doesn’t go in the way of Europe in terms of a post-Christian nation in that direction.

One particular interesting thing about Korea right now is, as the second-largest sending church, they’re also receiving many nationalities into Korea. It’s become a hub of Asia—one of the cultural centers in Asia in particular. How they deal with the multiculturalism of the nation as it’s changing will be a major question mark for the Korean church and how it goes about serving not only its nation but throughout the countries, Asia in particular. And those are some question marks that are there, prayer requests that Korean churches have, and in fact, we are desiring to see the work of the Lord there to impact and strengthen the church.