Identifying with Christ

First World problems, dealt in a First World way – via a WP blog. I hope this doesn’t turn out to be just another tirade, but a thoughtful reflection while letting go of another vexing thought.

It seems I have a unique skill of finding myself as an outsider. As of 2019, I live in a State where Asians make up only 1.7% of the total population. My family were at a nearly all-white, conservative church for nearly 6 years, and my wife did not have anyone who really wanted to get to know her. Looking back, it was probably a simple problem of her name. For an average American it’s something hard to remember and pronounce. It’s something akin to “Eu-eong.” Frankly, I think church members were afraid of mispronouncing her name or asking her name N-th time again, so, the best thing they decided to do was simply not approach her. Of course, there was one brave, blonde lady in the congregation, who approached my wife without fear and dared to ask her to pronounce her name many times over. She quickly became my wife’s friend, but sadly, she had to leave to another state only after about a year of knowing my wife due to some family issues. In this area, I sometimes find people who’ve never talked or worked with an Asian person before. At the workplace, a new IT director, I helped to hire because he was native to this area – I thought it’d be better for the company – came onboard offending not just every non-white person, but everyone in the development team by announcing, “I’m going to build an American software,” as if somehow the existing systems were all built by non-Americans. The subtle games he’s been playing from the beginning has been enough to cause me a serious ulcer, but decided to let go it for my own mental health sake. Mind you, he’s probably the best director we’ve ever had, and I force myself to think best of intentions for him, but what an insular, (bleep) of a town.

Once, when I was in Chicacgo, it was at a church where key decision-makers were all related somehow as relatives in a large family. Of course, they didn’t make it apparent and having practically a no ear for gossips and rumors and working only with the youth members of the church, I had no idea for many years of serving there. It was a medium-sized church of about 100 or so members. The senior pastor was a proud graduate of Calvin Theological Seminary, and simply forced me to teach Westminster Confession of Faith after about a year of serving. It was good that he provided the curriculi, albeit many decades old. When you’re a youth pastor, you have very little choice but to follow the senior pastor who is supposed to set direction of the educational ministry at the church in spite of the fact that youth members started to resist and yawn. Yes, there’s a possibility that the growth to that point wasn’t really a growth that the senior pastor wanted to see, since more kids were coming to church compared to adults, and it had more to do with my own preaching and the dedicated worship team I discipled every Saturday. Then, the senior pastor started showing sharp attitude with me, although he’s usually a nice person, especially during staff meetings. It started to be more salient when I tried to have an open dialogue with the pastor about a troublesome teacher (who happened to be a son of an older church member), and then about how I dealt with a sexually promiscuous youth leader. I removed her from leadership without stating a concrete reason, and the pastor, who was annoyed with a constant pestering of a church lay leader who also happened to be the grandmother of the girl I had removed from the leadership, simply decided to accuse me of inexplicably ruining her life. If she had shown even just a little bit of remorse, or repentance, I don’t think I would’ve been so cut and dry about my decision, but she was adamant about her inappropriate behavior. What was apparent was the typical Korean grandparents’ response of “protecting my precious granddaughter,” not from sexually promiscuous culture, but from an aggressive youth pastor who is out to ruin her life by exposing her sin. I didn’t. My conscience couldn’t allow my own youth ministry leader to continue in sin while pretending herself that everything was okay. I told her not to come to Saturday leadership meetings anymore and that she was off of the praise team temporarily. I gave her time to reflect and repent of her sinful behavior. However, it was her who simply stopped coming to church and put herself in a teary mode for many days as if her life was about to end. I guess I overestimated a teenager’s maturity in this regard. In midst of this turmoil of human drama, the senior pastor had the guts to, in a calculated manner, state a proposal to financial help an young adult member of the church who was about to enter a seminary. He, of course, had to throw a statement about how it’d be easier to help this new guy if he was a youth pastor, but since I was already one, the church would have to find an alternative way. This was in a context of my own life, which also was on a struggle with financial hardship, trying to finish seminary, working full-time, three children, and a youth ministry on top of all that. The church merely provided a very tiny stipend every month, which was all used up on the youth ministry with no reimbursements. At that point, I decided to leave the church as he wished. Soon after, it was obvious from the Facebook posting of youth members, the younger guy took over the youth ministry. That younger guy was a son of the founding Elder of that church.

Then rushing to the present, I find myself at a Korean Methodist church. And long and behold, here comes a newcomer who also happens to be a graduate of the same Korean seminary that the pastor had attended. The support, of course, is channeled to her, with a more push for a change from the pastor that I’ve ever seen in last 3 years of being here. I really don’t have a problem with this oncoming pastor being supported by church. It’s good that we support someone more educated, and more dedicated, to be used for the body of Christ. However, the label “Baptist” started to precede the title of jundosa (a term for pastor trainee in Korean churches) for me as if I do not belong to this pastor’s Methodist church. He states it ever so more clearly and emphatically when people are around as if he’s stating something novel and interesting. Yes, I’ve gone to schools that more closely align themselves with Baptist theology, but I’ve never actually served at a Baptist church but for just first two year of being a jundosa 24 years ago. None of the schools, nor the churches I’ve attended since then ever claimed any direct Baptist affiliation whatsoever. Does a Baptist have a personal preference for liturgical worship? Does a Baptist pray in tongues, or sometimes pray with κομποσκοίνι? These are personal preferences, of course, but I guess it was because I had once told him that the schools I had attended had closer alignments to what Baptist teaches. As for the timing of him labeing me as such can only be idiotic unless he wants to make me feel more alienated than I already am. Regardless, it’s only natural thing for a person, especially for that of a Korean person, to show more favor to someone who is younger and originating from the same hometown or same school. I haven’t forgotten how, in spite of people today voicing opinions against oligarchy, they themselves tend towards one simply out of their own proclivities. After all, it’s a Methodist pastor helping another Methodist pastor — what could possibly be wrong with that? I know I’m just not Methodist enough, but why is this pastor trying to make me feel more alienated than I already am? I’m surrounded by first-generation Korean immigrants, with no like-minded peers. The little that we have in the same age-group are either preoccupied with accumulating wealth for a more comfortable life here, to prepare their old age, and there is very little else. The precious, little spare time they have is for themselves, not for any service for the greater purpose outside of their couches. I’m just doing my best to serve the body of Christ, and if that turns out to serve the denomination, fine, but my heart is for feeding the body of Christ, not some specific denomination. Are all Methodists this proud of being Methodists? Whatever happened to being a mere Christian? A mere Christ-follower? Why so proud of schools they’ve graduated? It may have made sense up until 1940s, but Harvard, Princeton, and other Ivy-League schools are no longer schools you go to learn the Bible properly, but in certain denominations pastors proudly carry those school logo as if it means something in the kingdom of God. They have indeed worked hard to gain worldly credence in a world of lost public confidence for church leaderships, however, one has to ask at what cost have these pastors done so? If it happens to have a worldly label, fine, that can be put aside as a none issue, but why are these leaders of church, while preaching love, love, love, ad infinitum, so unloving towards someone like me who has no honorary title, wealth, power, or influence? Maybe, they simply aren’t listening, or they’re just repeating the treatment they had received as ex-jundosas themselves — is “treat your jundosas like shit” one of the bullet points posted in a repository of best-practice manual for Korean pastors? Giving credit to where credit is due, the Methodist pastor is the least tyrannical of pastors I’ve served with. Irony of ironies, instead of churches, the collective body of Christ, reflecting the character of my Lord and my Savior, I find myself wishing to stay away this religiously proud corpus of so human of institution. In spite of such overpowering sentiment, I take heed of Nouwen’s advice to be listening to the church, thereby listening to the Lord of the church.

Jesus came to his own people as a Jew, and to many, a poor rabbi at that. Actually, he bore no worldly, honorary official title whatsoever. People simply called him by his first name as was the custom of the day: “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus of the Trash Dump, the commonly known slogan of Nazareth at the time. Yet, his own people went to the point of crucifying him on the cross, and here I am complaining about my first world problem of having my own boat shaken up a bit and hurt feelings. But I had to get that out of my chest, else, I’ll keep digging up more stories while connecting the dots and become embittered about all of these. My tooth is getting too long to keep pushing people away without long-term consequences. For these reasons and more, I find much solace in Jesus’ answer to Pilate: “My kingdom is not of this world.” (John 18:36). Truly, this world isn’t my home, but I’m just passing through. My reward isn’t some tiny stipend from church or a denomination of this world, or some honorary title, or anything material, but only my Lord Jesus Christ, my Jesus of Trash Dump. He will be my only prize, and my reward. As for the turmoils of this luxurious U.S. life, I really don’t think it’d be much different when I leave this country for a missiological life once kids are out of school, but preparation, and this journey never stops.

Good display in front of men

Seneca (Epistles 1-65): Why do I not rather seek some real good – one which I could feel, not one which I could display?

Because there is no recognition from men. They sometimes go as far as despising you for it, and no one likes the pain of living through such suffering. And you also don’t hear from the only Being cognizant of the good ’til the last day.

이것만은 신앙과 무관해하는 사람

Among fellow Christians, the most feared person ought to be a person who says, “I’ll follow the Word of God in all these matters except for this one thing,” because there is a greater prerogative than God Himself that he’s willing to apply. He’s a stumbling block to what God wills to do in the world if he hasn’t surrendered all areas of his life, including his will, to God.
기독교인들중 다 말씀대로 하겠지만 이것 하나만큼은 아니다 하는 사람이 제일 무서운 사람이다. 하나님보다 더 큰 특권의 영역을 적용하는 사람이기 때문이다. 자신의 의지와 함께 삶의 모든 영역에서 하나님께 항복되지 않은 사람은 하나님이 세상을 향해 하시고자 하는 뜻에 걸림돌이 되는 사람이다.

The Sad State of Korean American Churches

23년전 부터 한인교회 중고등부 전도사로 일하며 제일 기억나는 톱 7.

  • 목사A 가 주는 메시지: “자기 자식은 공부와 대학 입학을 위한 자원봉사등의 준비에 집중해야 하기 때문에 보통 있는 중고등부 행사에는 참여를 못한다.”  두 자녀 고등학교 9학년부터 시작해 4년동안 주일만 빼고 다른 모임에는 눈코도 안보였다. 무슨 공부를 훨씬 더 잘해서 이름 난 학교에 들어간것도 아니었다.
  • 목사B 가 주는 메시지: “교회를 오래 섬겼던 장로의 아들이 신학교를 다니고 있고 직접적으로 말은 못하겠지만 장로의 아들을 교회에서 더 적극 지원하겠으나 너 같이 더 도움이 필요한 전도사는 그냥 모른체 하고 이해해 주시기를 바람. 떠나주면 얼씨구나 더 좋지, 장로 아들이 중고등부를 섬기고 그 이유 삼아 돈을 그에게 줄 수 있으니까.” 떠나주니 곧 바로 장로가 원하던데로 근대한 식과 함께 장로의 아들이 전도사로 임명된다.
  • 학부모라는 사람들이 하는 말들: “왜 부모가 일에 시달려 힘들어하는 가정의 아이들을 픽업나가서 교회에 대리고 오느냐? 내가 직접 대리고 온 아이들에게 신경을 더 써달라. 이왕이면 부모가 교회에 대려오지 않으면 그냥 픽업을 나가지 말라. 부모가 대리고 오는 아이들에게만 신경을 써달라.”
  • 권사A 왈: 너가 무엇인데 감히 권사의 손녀딸이 성적으로 물란한 것에 회계하라고 중고등부 지도권에서 임시로 탈퇴를 시키냐?  손녀가 죄를 짓던 말던 너 같은 전도사 주재에 무슨 상관이냐?  그 아이의 죄를 공개하는 것아니냐?  미래 아이의 시집을 망칠 생각이냐? (아이의 죄를 공개한 적은 없음)
    • 권사에게 화풀이를 듣고 목사가 와서 하는 말: 일부러 공개할려는 것이 의도가 아니었느냐?  (헐…)
  • 나이드신 목사C 가 한 말: “요즈음 남자들은 다 포르노를 보면서 자란다. 그것이 이상한 것이 아니다. 자꾸 죄책감을 주고 잘못된 것이라고 가르치지 말라. 그런식으로 교육하는 것 아니다.” (헐~~)
  • 헌금을 재일 많이 내는 성도의 말이 조용한 절대권위를 누린다.  그 사람의 말이나 의견이라면 교회 지도층은 쩔쩔매고 끌려다닌다.
  • 몇명 안되는 미국 (보통 한인 남편들) 교인이 있으면 그들의 말은 보통 한인교인들의 의견보다 더 특별한 우대를 받는다.

지상성공주의, 물질주의, 내로남불, 죄는 죄라고 부르지 말기 운동, 모든 것을 다 긍정적으로만 말하고 죄는 눈감아주기 운동, 교회에서 성경을 가르치고 성경대로 살라고 가르치는 것이 아니라 그냥 어떤 부락 정신으로 단체유지하기와 우리가족이나 잘되자 하는 것이 주 목적인 교회가 판이하다.


Top 7 of what I remember as a youth pastor who had started 23 years ago in Korean American churches

  • A message coming across from Pastor A: “My children have to focus on their studies and getting prepared to go to college, so they won’t be participating in most of youth group events.” Two of his children never showed up for any other meeting during weekdays (Fridays, or Saturday special meetings) or special events, save Sunday service for all 4 years of high school.  Did they go to some Ivy League school and got excellent grades?  No.
  • A message coming across from Pastor B: “One of the sons of a long-time elder at the church is now attending a seminary, and even though I can’t say it to you explicitly, the church will be supporting him more willingly, so even though you have needs for more support of the church please zip your mouth and understand the situation.  It’d be of course much better if you left, since we can put him as youth pastor and have a better rationale to give money to him.”  After I leave, they throw a big party of ceremony of his appointment and then elder’s son is appointed the next youth pastor just as the elder had wished.
  • Parents saying this: “Why are you picking up kids from families that have hardships and bringing them to church?  Please focus more on our own children. If parents don’t bring them to church, don’t pick them up all together. Please focus on children whose parents come to the church only.”
  • Exhorter A says, “Who do you think you are to discipline my daughter who has been sexually promiscuous by having her taken out from the leadership of the youth group? What does it matter to you, a mere youth pastor, whether she commits a sin or not?  Aren’t you trying to publicize her sin?  Are you trying to ruin her future?”  (I’ve never publicly revealed her sin)
    • After hearing an angry rhetoric from Exhorter A, the pastor comes and says: “Weren’t you trying to reveal what she had done wrong?”  (WTH…)
  • an aged pastor C says: “Guys these days all watch porn as they grow. That isn’t something strange. Don’t try to make them feel guilty and don’t say it’s a wrong thing to do.  You don’t educate boys that way.”  (WTH…)
  • Whoever gives the most offering usually enjoys a quiet, but absolute authority in the church.  His or her words and opinions always have the ears of the leadership of the church.
  • If there are few white, American members of the church (who are often husbands of Korean women) their opinions are somehow treated with a special preference compared to regular Korean American members of the church.

The objective of worldly success, material success, hypocritical practices, or the movement of calling sin something else, or the movement of saying everything that feels good and positive and winking at sin have become commonplace. Churches that are about teaching the Bible and trying hard to live according to the Biblical worldview seem no longer in existence among Korean Americans.  So many Korean American churches operate around a tribal mindset to merely be sustainable, and just trying to gain multidimensional benefits for one’s own family, but very little else.


사람은 홀로 이 세상에 태어나

외로운 인생이란 전쟁터에서 싸우다

쓸쓸히 홀로 떠나게 된다.

가까이 하여 마음 깊이 대화를

나눌 수 있는 사람이란

이상의 공간에서 존재하는 법.

인생이란 외로움 그 자체.


A man is born into the world alone

Fights the battles of life alone

And leaves this world by himself.

A close person that you can talk

about the deepest matters of the heart

only exists in a plane of ideals.

Life is but a lonely comma.

銀産分離 (은산분리)

“문재인 대통령은 인터넷 은행 분야에서 대기업의 은행진출을 제한하는 이른바 은산분리 문제를 완화해야 한다고 말했습니다.”  – JTBC (circa 2018年 9月)

① 산업자본(기업)이 은행을 소유하지 못하다록 막아놓은 제도 산업자본은 4%까지만 은행지분 소유가능

쉬운 것이 과소 평가되서는 안됩니다

Easy is not to be underestimated. Easy taps the pool of talent and ideas out there that were turned off by hard.

쉬운 것이 과소 평가되서는 안됩니다. 쉬운 것이 어려운 것으로 인해 귀도 기울이지 않게 했던 재능들과 아이디어들을 실용할 수 있게 합니다.

– Chris Anderson (크리스 안더슨)