By Nathaniel Choung
Our Sunday consisted of attending service at Bupyong Methodist Church. We received a tour of the educational building and saw the youth and children’s services. The church also put on a mini concert for us that consisted of a variety of music groups and soloists from the church. After, the church had a special evening service that featured one of the church chiors. To be honest, this day made me rethink and regret not doing more with music and pursuing it professionally, but that will be a thought for another day.
Throughout this trip, we have encountered many people that have such a high level of respect for the senior pastor. So much so that it seems that they would even die for him. Whatever the senior pastor says, the congregation follows. The church members won’t do anything outside of the senior pastor’s orders. This distrubed me. On one hand, the senior pastor has brought much hope to the community and has changed many lives with his preaching and leadership. There is no doubt that God is and will continue to be at work here in this church and community. On the other hand, history has shown that any human with this much power will do anything to keep that power for him or herself. I understand the possibility that many Koreans do not see much issue with this and have placed their full trust in someone that they believe is sent by God; however, growing up as an American, I don’t believe that one man should have that kind of power over people without strong accountability.
The imagery of pastors being a shepherd and the congregation being the sheep reveals a new perspective. As Christians, we need strong leaders who act not out of their own selfishness, but with inspiration from God. However, this shepherd and sheep imagery reveals a truth that doesn’t seem to be acknowledged very often: sheep are stupid. They need constant guidance so that they don’t kill themselves. If we are to call sheep stupid, then we must call people stupid as well. I don’t believe that we should rid ourselves of any kind of leadership, but I do believe that people have the potential to anaylze the truth for themselves. As pastors and ministers, I believe that we shouldn’t blind those that listen to us and only give them simple understanding.
That being said, it is the simple Gospel that has transformed communities and has changed hearts and lives. It was the simple Gospel that brought revival to many countries, including Korea in the early 20th century. My life has taught me that life is not so easy and simple, but I have been constantly told to pray and to have faith. It is this clash between simplicity and complexity that I must wrestle with. This trip is teaching me to embrace the simplicity and that the cold truth and the ruthless calculus of the world will not give a complete picture of the God that I believe in. God is calling us to preach a simple message to a world that is anything but simple, and I have to search for that balance in myself as I become a witness for God.
Simplicity does not equate to ignorance, nor does complexity necessarily equate to arrogance. I think God knows the complex nature of this world, yet He still demands a simple Gospel be preached, and how that makes sense in God’s mind is anyone’s guess. I know that I will continue to be in a lifelong wrestling match over this and it’s a match that I enter with joy and determination.