Olympics and Orthodoxy: What it’s Like to Do Ministry in South Korea

Children’s choir leads worship at Mokpo Soonsung Church of God.

By Carl Stagner

Since the Winter Olympics began on February 9, South Korea has found itself at the center of global attention. While there is indeed much news streaming out of PyeongChang, perhaps the real story is how God is at work among the Church of God congregations spread across the country. A closer look at the Church of God in South Korea reveals the problem of religious pluralism outside the church and the need for sound theology and doctrine within. Perhaps it has been these and other challenges that have brought our South Korean pastors and congregations closer together, reinforcing the truth that they are not alone.

Rev. Moon

“We thank God for giving our country the chance to host the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang,” Rev. Gwibyeong Moon explains. Moon serves as the senior pastor of Mokpo Soonsung Church and the chairman of the Korean Church of God. He continues, “We are very pleased and are praying that the Olympics go well, safely, and peacefully.”

Mokpo is about a five-and-a-half-hour drive south of the Olympic hub. The Church of God national office is in Seoul, about an hour-and-a-half to the west. Two Church of God congregations, however, are blessed to be located in close proximity to all the Olympic activity, and continue to shine the light of Christ to all, as multitudes of international guests have descended upon the area. Also in the news, though primarily for another reason, North Korea does not make their list of major concerns. They’re focused on reconciliation.

“Our prayer is for reconciliation between South Korea and North Korea,” Moon explains. “We’re praying for the settlement of peace on the Korean Peninsula through the Olympics.” Moon looks to the Church of God beyond Korea and offers the following request as they model what unity looks like: “Please pray for the Korean Church of God to prepare and practice the unification of Korea.”

Mokpo Soonsung Church

Praise God, persecution is not on that list of challenges, either. Like much of the Western church, sound theology and a biblical response to social issues are at the top of the list, as is pluralism. Moon explains that much confusion exists over the truth that Jesus Christ is the only Savior and Lord. He also specifically cites the handling of the issue of same-sex marriage as one example of ongoing spiritual battles presently faced by the Korean Church of God. Moon explains that the trouble is exacerbated by the lack of discipleship carried out by seasoned teachers of theology. As a result, the church is not as effective as it wants to be in passing the torch of truth to the next generation. More young leaders are needed. Spiritual growth and revival is needed. Still, Moon is encouraged, as he explains that “all the churches in Korea are praying in union” for such a mighty move of God to be realized.

In the midst of these challenges, Moon has observed that God is already on the move in mighty ways among the South Korean congregations. “When I started as chairman of the Korean Church of God, I tried to bring the pastors together three times a year,” he explains. “The first time, it was held in our church. As the church members were actively sponsoring this event, the church paid all the expenses for it. It was so touching and beneficial. There is solidarity among the pastors in the Korean Church of God, as the larger churches volunteered to hold this event in order to serve the pastors.” Last year, these events saw attendance at capacity, with as many as fifty pastors in attendance and, when including families present, well over a hundred people. “Most importantly,” Moon reflects, “through the event the pastors of the Korean Church of God were able to communicate and be harmonious.”

Korean Church of God pastors gathered at Mokpo Soonsung Church.

Thank you for your prayers for the Church of God in Korea and the Asia-Pacific region.

Learn more about Global Strategy at www.chogglobal.org.

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