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Discipleship Training for Korean Churches

October 25, 2023
Several Korean CRC pastors attended a seminar in Banff, Alta. on how to do discipleship training in small, immigrant churches.
Several Korean CRC pastors attended a seminar in Banff, Alta. on how to do discipleship training in small, immigrant churches.

Rev. Teukkoon Jung, a pastor from San Diego Woori Community Church, holds a seminar every year to serve Korean immigrant church pastors. The topics are diverse, including theology, ministry, worldview, and social outlook. This year his discipleship training seminar focused on small and medium-sized churches and convened in Banff, Alta., Oct. 2-5.

The training was jointly sponsored by The Church of Joy Christian Reformed Church (Los Angeles, Calif.) and the Global Disciple Center of Daegwang Church in Pyeongtaek, Korea.

“I hope that this discipleship training is not merely a means for church growth, but that through proper discipleship pastors, their spouses, and laypeople can form a horizontal partnership to build a church together and become an immigrant church where we live together as disciples,” said Rev. Teukkoon Jung.

Rev. Moon Bae Kim (Grand Rapids Korean Grace CRC), who  has attended various types of discipleship-training seminars, said he did not have high expectations of this seminar because the lessons were usually not applicable to small, immigrant churches. However, he said, instructor Rev. Chang-don Bae changed his thinking.

Rev. Chang-don Bae and his wife, Myeong-seon Kim, serve Daegwang Church in Pyeongtaek, Korea, and are well known for their lay-centered discipleship training. During the seminar, they shared stories from their experience in working with laypeople, emphasizing the importance of discipleship training and the ministry of the pastor’s wife. They also provided valuable insight into the challenges that immigrant churches can face.

“Instructor Rev. Bae’s discipleship training appears to have borne fruit, thanks to his gentle nature, 40 years of persistent patience, strong mind, and determined spiritual power to follow a consistent path,” said Moon Bae Kim. “It seems to be a beautiful church that targets the common people of Pyeongtaek, not Gangnam of Seoul, and makes disciples of members of all ages through evangelism and discipleship training.”

Ren. Jung Min Kim (Red Deer Korean CRC), who attended from Red Deer, Alta., said that his church includes people who are members in name but might not be passionate disciples of Christ. He felt challenged to come up with ways to combat this trend, and he said that Rev. Chang-don Bae’s discipleship program could be useful.

“The program greatly reduces the pressure that usually comes with the word ‘training,’” said Rev. Jung Min Kim. “Instead, it offers a unique approach that anyone can easily access, apply, and share. By listening to Rev. Bae’s stories, I was able to see how precious the laity are as valuable workers and true disciples in God’s work and preparation.”

During the four-day, three-night seminar, participants had time to relax, enjoy nature, and take a step back from their church roles while surrounded by the beautiful scenery of Banff National Park, located in the Canadian Rockies. They also attended workshops on topics such as discipleship training, working with laypeople, ecclesiology, newcomers classes, and discipleship during good times.

“I know all too well how to fail in discipleship training,” said Rev. Moon Bae Kim in a panel discussion with Rev. Chang-don Bae.

In the early days of his ministry, Moon Bae Kim said, he led eight discipleship classes per week, and the number of church members tripled, but he also experienced the pain of his church being divided after that.

“I have seen churches split or suffer great harm when they fail to properly ‘awaken the laity’ in discipleship training,” he said.

This conversation continued with both leaders asking and answering questions on topics such as these:

  • What is the best model of discipleship training?
  • How many disciples did Jesus train?
  • Is discipleship required of church officials?
  • What’s the best way to organize discipleship-training class members?
  • Should I continue to play a leadership role after lay leaders have been trained?

Rev. Moon Bae Kim said that one of the most impressive parts for him included learning about Rev. Chang-don Bae’s patience in discipleship and ministry:

“Despite being a part of the General Assembly of Presbyterian Churches in Korea and having raised thousands of disciples, Rev. Chang-don Bae did not elect or appoint ordained deacons or elders. Even when there was pressure from surrounding churches to ordain leaders, they focused only on discipleship training. It demonstrated that discipleship was not just for local church officials but for everyone. It was completely free of hierarchy and pride. This helped maintain the authenticity of the discipleship training.”

Rev. Moon Bae Kim, who has been the pastor at Korean Grace CRC since 1998, has also not appointed elders or ordained deacons. Instead, in this congregation, he said, everyone is a deacon.

On the way home after the seminar, Rev. Moon Bae Kim left a text message to Rev. Chang-don Bae. “My skepticism about discipleship training has been greatly reduced. Thank you,” he wrote.

Rev. Heui Moon Lee of The Church of Joy said, “It was great to see the pastors’ passion for a healthy church. I was happy to be able to help build a healthy immigrant church.”

The small and medium-sized church discipleship training seminar will be held again next year in the fall in Vancouver, B.C.