The new year truly marked a new beginning for Gospel First Korean Baptist Church, as they ushered in a new senior pastor who would lead both the Korean ministry (KM) and the English ministry (EM) of the church.
Rev. Won Lee, or ‘Pastor Won,’ as he’s affectionately called by the members of the EM at the church, took on the lead pastoral role on January 1. For a lead pastor position of a Korean immigrant church, Lee is an unconventional choice. While most senior pastors of Korean immigrant churches are first generation Korean pastors, Lee spent most of his formative years in the U.S. as he immigrated from Korea to the U.S. at the age of 11. He also spent many years in ministry in churches with mostly white congregations, such as his lead pastoral role at First Baptist Church of Long Beach.
But Lee is not without experience in the Korean immigrant community. He served for eight years at Junimseun Church as the EM pastor, and started the EM at Korean Hope Presbyterian Church. These experiences gave Lee a firsthand look at the challenges that the Korean immigrant church context presents, as well as the variety of ways that pastors could confront them. During his time at Junimseun Church, Lee was able to witness a significant growth in numbers in the EM, from the four members that he started out with, to 200 members by the time he left. He was also able to experience the different ways that the KM and EM could collaborate and form a relationship, such as having joint services multiple times each year.
Lee said one of the bigger challenges of taking on this position was that of preaching in both Korean and English, but added that he finds himself becoming more and more comfortable with preaching in Korean as the time goes on.
There are also aspects that Lee hopes to revitalize as the new senior pastor for both ministries. For instance, he hopes to see a growth in the prayer lives of his congregants, and has been encouraging the members to come to early dawn prayers. He also hopes to make the EM a multi-ethnic congregation that reflects the demographic of the Garden Grove community. The EM has been trying different methods of outreach to welcome members of the community to the church, such as having basketball outings and using evangelism tracts.
Lee currently preaches in Korean during the second service, and in English during the third service. Pastor Chun Lee, who is also the worship pastor of the church, preaches during the first service.