God Speaks Through the Thai Church

Post a Comment » Written on February 20th, 2017     
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This article was written by Pastor Bum Yong Kim following his return to the U.S. in January, 2017.  He accompanied Professor Paul de Neui on a two-week intercultural learning experience that took them to South Korea and Thailand, which was sponosored by North Park Theological Seminary and the Center for World Christian Studies.

Thailand Map

Our church has been looking for an overseas ministry connected to the Covenant Church, to establish a partnership where we can focus our national giving, as well as to send some short-term missionaries. Because our church is mostly Asian-American, we were praying for a ministry in Asia, so I was excited to sign up for the trip to Thailand with Dr. Paul De Neui this winter. I ended up being the only student to sign up for the class, so I considered postponing going, since some of the fun of global projects is getting to know other participants. But I felt God’s call to move forward and I am very glad I did.

Our church is currently going through a re-visioning process, as we just completed our seventh year as a plant. Thailand ended up speaking directly into this process in almost every way! The model of the Thailand Covenant Church (TCC) became immediately applicable for our church back home. Here are just some key changes we are making:

  • Bi-vocational Staff Teams: I have always envisioned hiring more staff for our church but due to finances, assumed we could only afford one full-time pastor. But in Thailand, most of the pastors are bi-vocational and work in teams. This challenged my assumptions and I am currently interviewing for a “tent-making” job so we can hire two more bi-vocational staff. We can do this without increasing our budget!
  • Radical Contextualization: After five hundred years of missionary work, Thailand’s Christian population is only one percent in a majority Buddhist nation. A major failure of the missionary movement has been the removal of Thai converts from their community and culture into a “western” religion. The Covenant is asking intriguing questions about keeping converts within their culturally Buddhist traditions and communities while being followers of Christ. This has helped our church re-work our evangelism strategy so that we are keeping non-Christians within their primary communities and cultures while we present the gospel. Only active seekers are invited to church functions.
  • Women Leaders: There are key female leaders within the TCC who have been doing ministry for twenty to forty years. I witnessed missionary from another denomination trying to create structure for the Thai church only to tell the women that they should not be preaching! This made our church in the States even that much more committed to female leadership, and we evaluated how we might do an even better job. One of the staff we are hoping to hire is a strong female leader!

These are just a few of the insights we received that is already guiding our church. Many times, God can speak more clearly when we see his work in an entirely different context as it disrupts our own assumptions and biases. I am so grateful to God and to all of God’s servants who donated to the Global Studies Fund that made this trip possible for me. We are praying that we will be able to send our first mission team to Thailand next winter!

Bum Yong Kim
Pastor, Outpour Evangelical Covenant Church, St. Louis, MO

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