“God has called you to his kingdom work. May you be encouraged. Stay the course. Don’t give up. Be tenacious.”
Such were the words of encouragement given by Eugene Cho, lead pastor of Quest Church in Seattle, to a group of more than 50 Korean American pastors gathered at the National Korean American Pastors’ Conference (NKAPC), which took place from May 15 to 18 at New Life Fellowship in Bothell, WA.
Encouraging pastors to persevere and stay faithful in their respective ministries was one of the main aims for this year’s conference, according to David Larry Kim, the lead pastor of Harvest (the English ministry of Korean Presbyterian Church of Orlando) and one of the organizers of the annual conference.
This is the second year that the NKAPC has been organized primarily by second generation Korean American pastors, and last year’s conference had mostly focused on the topic of ministering in the Korean immigrant church context.
“For this year’s conference, we wanted to broaden the focus to pastoral ministry in general. We wanted to help pastors across the spectrum: for younger pastors to not only be equipped with sound theology and ministry skills—which seminaries emphasize—but to understand the heart of a pastor and the heart of ministry as well,” said Kim.
“We also want to help those who are already in ministry to be able to stay in the game for the long run by helping them to see potential pitfalls along the way and to foster relationships that would provide support and encouragement,” he added.
Speakers Benjamin Shin, the director of the Asian American Doctor of Ministry cohort at Biola University’s Talbot School of Theology; Min Chung, the lead pastor of Covenant Fellowship Church in Champaign-Urbana, IL; and Eugene Cho encouraged pastors in their respective sessions and reminded them to have the right motivations and perspectives on ministry.
Shin, who spoke during the first two sessions of the conference, encouraged pastors to remember the motivation for ministry – faithfulness – and the means for ministry – grace. Though pastors may be weary from the challenges and failures of ministry, Shin reminded them that real success in God’s perspective is not the same as that of the world’s.
“Real success, in God’s eyes, for ministry is based on faithfulness to his call and his ways,” Shin said, rather than “worldly success or ambition such as fame, fortune, numbers, or status.”
In fact, failure and hardships in life and in ministry are used by God to refine and strengthen those who are going through them, Shin said.
“If you are facing a hard time right now, the Lord is doing a work for you, to refine you, and to cause you to depend on only one person, and it’s not yourself. It’s God Almighty.”
Speakers also reminded the pastors of God’s grace, and that that alone qualifies them for and sustains them in ministry.
“God’s ability to use us is not contingent on our abilities or our degrees or our significance,” said Cho. “This is good news, especially in a culture today where even among church leaders, we struggle with our security, insecurity, definitions of success or significance. We have to understand and rest in this grace – that God can use anyone and everyone, regardless of the size of their churches, or their degrees, you fill in the blanks.”
Meanwhile, David Larry Kim said that he hopes this annual conference for Korean American pastors would continue to serve as a space of connection and learning.
“There are both unique and not-so-unique challenges that people serving in Korean-American churches face,” Kim said. “This conference serves to provide a space for learning, discussion, inspiration and envisioning to help those serving in such churches.”
Pastors who attended this year’s conference represented 47 churches in 16 states and Canada, mostly from the Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA).
The NKAPC is co-sponsored by the PCUSA’s Racial and Ethnic Ministries and the National Coalition of Korean Presbyterian Churches.