Korean Baptist churches in the US

Discussion in '2000-02 Archive' started by bb_baptist, Oct 11, 2002.

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    ENTERPRISE, Ala. (ABP) -- Korean Baptist churches first cropped up in the United States in the 1950s so people new to the country could worship God in their own language, culture and customs. As those churches enter their second generation, the American-born children of their founders are confronted by similar needs.

    Korean churches are still strong, but they aren't as purely Korean as they once were, said David Park, pastor of First Korean Baptist Church in Enterprise, Ala.

    While virtually all Korean churches started in the U.S. up through the 1970s worshiped in the Korean language, that is no longer the case. "The second generation uses English -- English worship, English Bible study and English in the Southern Baptist Convention," Park said.

    Park, recently elected president of the 700-church Council of Korean Southern Baptist Churches in North America, said Korean-born pastors like himself will be the exception in 10 to 20 years.

    Korean churches have been using English for years to meet the needs of children and youth that either were born in the U.S. or immigrated as infants. Today, however, as those children are reaching their 40s, many are more comfortable using English across the board.

    Some have established English-speaking Asian churches, independent of the traditional first-generation Korean churches.

    "If the current trend does not change by a dynamic increase in immigration, there will soon be more Korean-American and American-Korean youth than adults," said Dan Moon, director of Korean ministry for the Southern Baptist North American Mission Board. "This younger generation does not have the rigid cultural ties to the old world that the older generation retains. Therefore, the new generation needs ministry on different sociological value levels."

    Jason Kim, multicultural evangelism associate with NAMB, said today's Korean church faces three real challenges: a growing demand for English, "enormous shortages" of English-speaking ministers and conflicts between first- and second-generation Koreans over worship. Like many in their generation in Anglo churches, the English-speaking Korean congregations tend to prefer a more contemporary worship style.

    "Across the nation in language missions we've been struggling with this for years," said Richard Alford, director of language ministries at the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions. "Most of our language congregations are built around the language of the culture. But, as they live here, the second and third generations become more assimilated and a different culture group emerges."

    They also are more diverse.

    "About 90 percent of our members are American families," said Michael Kim, pastor of Pensacola Korean Baptist Church in Pensacola, Fla. Many are a mix of Korean- and American-born. Some members are Anglos who have married Korean spouses.

    "As pastors, we discuss how we can put the two together at such a level -- that's our responsibility," Kim said. "We try to come up with some ideas and exchange them."

    Moon said for most Korean churches, the best solution is to hold separate services in Korean and English.

    "The Korean language church is intensely homogeneous and monolingual, and the language itself causes an unavoidable condition for their worship experience," Moon said. "The average Korean church needs to have separate services."

    Even after the language barrier disappears, Alford said, a need continues for Korean and other ethnic churches.

    "The absence of the need for a particular language does not mean the absence of the need for association by common culture," he said. "It's language culture. Language is part of, but not all of, your culture."

    NAMB's Asian Church Planting Unit estimates that by 2005 there will be 1,000 Korean Southern Baptist churches in the United States.

    Moon said a new Korean Southern Baptist church begins each month, and 75 percent of Koreans in North America have a church affiliation of some kind. Of the more than 3,000 Korean-speaking Protestant churches in America, 750 are Southern Baptist, making it the largest group.

    Anthony Wade
    Associated Baptist Press
     

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