A second installment of the reflections of our District Superintendent, Rev. Dr. Tom Salsgiver, on his pilgrimage to Korea with our Bishop and others:
As we met with the pastors of the churches, they kept talking about their growth and why they believed the churches are growing. The host pastor of the Bupyeong Church said numerous times, “we learned these things from you”. He went on to explain that the principles that the Methodist Church in Korea abide by are the principles that the missionaries from the US taught them over and over.
Pastor Hong, the senior pastor of Bupyeong Methodist Church articulated that they are growing because they take seriously what the missionaries from America taught them. He referred to the missionaries as teaching them about:
· A passion for Jesus Christ and the need to commit oneself to Jesus Christ
· A need for fervent prayer and an indwelling of the Holy Spirit
· A generous spirit of tithing and beyond
· A need to serve others.
When Korea was open to the missionaries, the missionaries weren’t allowed to start churches or to preach. So they started hospitals, schools, universities and other agencies to meet the needs of the Korean people. They did their evangelism in ways that were tied with getting to know the people and meeting their needs.
It was at this point that the Methodist movement began to really make a difference in the lives of the Korean people.
More than once Rev. Hong talked about the fact that Korea was introduced to Christianity because of the Methodists in the States who sent missionaries.
It was the missionaries who taught them by example to care for the poor, the least and the lost. It was the missionaries who by their example prayed without ceasing, instilling in the converts the need to pray long and hard.
The missionaries also taught the converts that it wasn’t enough to accept Jesus Christ, they had to serve others. It was the role of the Christian to serve and not be served.
The missionaries also taught the new Christians to be generous in giving—and that tithing was the minimum not the maximum. Rev. Hong reminded us that the reason the Korean Methodists give so much—even when they have so little is because Jesus Christ gave so much—he gave himself—and we can do no less. (Next week’s article will be about their generosity.)
Two of the most notable missionaries were Mary Scranton and Henry Appenzeller. Mary Scranton has ties to the Wyoming Seminary (a UM prep school) and Rev. Appenzeller was out of First Methodist Church, Lancaster. Mary Scranton started a women’s school which now is one of the most prestigious universities in Korea. Rev. Appenzeller was the first missionary to Korea and was a powerful force in bringing people to Christianity.
It was because of the generosity of the Methodist Church and the call of God on the lives of the missionaries that Korea was changed forever.
Listening to Rev. Hong and experiencing what we did with the Korean Methodist Church, I have to wonder if we have lost what we and our fore parents were taught.
Early Methodists—and EUB’s were clear about the generosity of tithing. They taught and lived serving others. They dedicated themselves to fervent prayer and to boldly claim the name of Jesus Christ.
Could it be that we need to get back to those teachings and those practices?