Question:

Hello. As a fellow believer of the true gospel, I thought I'd ask you for some personal advice. I apologize if this gets a little long. This is a problem I haven't been able to receive any real help with and had to battle by myself for years, and I'm still without a sense of resolution. I hope you can put in the time to give me your two cents as I have almost lost hope and am in despair.

The church I am attending is a South Korean Baptist congregation, one of the few left among the first seeds from the '60s. Though South Korea has a high number of Christians according to the polls, the reality is, as with anywhere, I believe, that the number of true Christians is far, far less. Because of this, I have a special place in my heart for my church, a sort of reverence and respect because they have fought very hard to keep their faith and preach the true gospel. Since I was young, I was involved with the branch churches located in the states and truly believed that our church was a model example of what all churches these days should be like. As I grew older, the passion to help our church's message of salvation reach the English-speaking population led me to study the Korean language in South Korea in order to try to translate their writings (Christian books, such as devotionals, etc.) and interpret sermons (I only spoke English growing up). After spending a few years studying the language, I started to listen to our sermons directly in Korean and became more involved in our church's fellowship.

After about two years of having direct fellowship with the Korean members and participating in everything as if I were a Korean brother, I realized that there was something different about our church from what I had learned in the Bible and had seen in other relatively-biblical churches. Though our church emphasizes preaching the Bible, they only preach it through a certain format. It is called the "Bible Seminar" here, and it basically consists of a series of lessons where people get to learn about the Bible through topics such as Creation, Noah's Ark, the history of Israel, and biblical prophecies. We try to provide newspaper articles and other bits of evidence to show that God is real and that the Bible is true. After we establish a common ground of belief, we go to explain the problem facing mankind, that we are sinners and are destined to hell. Then we introduce the gospel, and finally, if time permits, we wrap it up with how one should live a Christian life. All of this accomplished within one week. There's a lesson a week, and we have a preacher/pastor (the term 'evangelist' and 'pastor' is used almost interchangeable here) deliver the lessons with handy PowerPoint slides to accompany his messages (they contain the newspapers articles and documentary video clips, as well as any diagrams that may help people understand things better). It is a pretty efficient way of preaching, and although it might sound a bit mechanical, the pastors treat each effort as if it were their first time doing it. The Holy Spirit works, and people do get saved. The problem, though, is that it seems to work best for the Korean audience. We tried taking this over to other countries through the usage of translators and the reaction is mixed. There are people who get saved through this method, but others who need more. What I don't understand about our church, though, is that they don't do anything to provide for those who need more. The most they offer is counseling to supplement the Bible Seminar, and it basically goes over the same information, just in a more personalized manner. And people get to ask their questions, which generally do get addressed. But the Korean church has not yet invested the manpower and effort to satisfactorily address the rest of the audience who still want their questions answered.

Upon seeing this situation, I tried talking to some pastors in our church, both in the States and in Korea. I told them we needed to developed our foreign support in terms of biblical understanding so that we could preach the gospel without the use of the Bible Seminar and provide them the fellowship they would need after getting saved. But they discouraged this, saying it was too "risky." I was at a loss for words. Like I said earlier, I tried talking to multiple pastors both in the States and in Korea, and none of them have given me an encouraging answer. Then I asked a French-speaking African pastor in Martinique, whom I've known through the acquaintance of a Korean sister, and he didn't understand how the Korean pastors could say that. So I though about it some more and tried to understand our church. After a couple years of trying to figure them out, I've realized that our Church is primarily concerned with the actual duty of delivering Bible Seminars than preaching "raw" directly through the Holy Spirit. And our church believes that protecting this method of preaching is the duty they are assigned to do as Christians. So the only real preaching is done by the pastors who deliver Bible Seminar messages, and the rest of the congregation does what it can to "advertise" them to their co-workers or friends, to get them to come so they can get saved. And this is what I really don't get.

I now realize that they've been using liberal interpretations of Scripture to get us to focus on the Bible Seminar so strongly, interpretations that clearly do not work if you use a language other than Korean. Even a newly born-again brother from the Netherlands could see that logic is sometimes missing from our church's teachings. And this has been eating me up. We don't learn enough from church to preach the gospel to others and so the pressure is placed entirely on those who want to do it, such as myself. The only thing is, I know that I'm not that reliable as a Christian just yet, that the learning process is going to take forever. I seriously do not understand why our church is not willing to help, and as a result I feel as though I have been rejected by them. Some of the other foreign brothers and sisters who have tried to cooperate with our church feel similarly, though it seems that I am the only one who has been able to see our church for what it is, instead of what we wish it was. I want things to work out with our church because the brothers and sisters are legitimate Christians and those who have taken the time to listen to my complaints actually agree with me that we need to let the foreigners do the preaching to other foreigners, but it seems like the pastoral authority in our Korean church is able to overcome everything, even prayer. There is definitely a cultural basis for their ability to get away with this, but for a church that is supposed to be doing the work of the Holy Spirit, isn't there a limit that God would place? Wouldn't God somehow show them that perhaps other methods of reaching out to people might be needed for other countries? Why do they seem so blind and resistant to things that are even supported in the Bible?

I hope you can help me get through this. As you may have sensed toward the end, there was a point in my life where I began to doubt God because I couldn't believe what I was hearing from the leaders of my "biblical" church, the church that I had fully trusted in the past. It just didn't make sense. Now, I see everything in our church from the viewpoint of this "Bible-Seminar agenda" and I can't get myself back to normal, whatever that is. Fellowship is basically broken and I'm just hanging on like a half-broken twig, about to fall off the tree. I had never imagined this could be possible for me, as I was always one of the "hopeful leaders" for our American churches and clung to Bible principals since I was young, but now that I'm faced with this situation, I have no idea what I can and should do to pull through and restore my fellowship both with God and with the rest of the church.

I appreciate any help, thanks.


Answer:

What I notice through out your note is the strong loyalty to tradition. It is in the member's loyalty to one teaching method and I see it in you too as you talked about the denomination you belong to. Tradition can be good when the traditions being followed are those of God. "Now I praise you, brethren, that you remember me in all things and keep the traditions just as I delivered them to you" (II Corinthians 11:2). "Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle" (II Thessalonians 2:15). But it can be bad when the traditions are of human origin. "Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ" (Colossians 2:8).

You appear to be more loyal to your denomination than to God. I understand that you thought for a long time that they were both the same, but now you realize there are differences, but you are struggling to get back with the denomination instead of clinging to God.

You won't find the Bible Seminar in the Bible. I'm sure the Bible Seminar pulls many things from the Bible, but, as you read through the gospels and Acts, you will not find examples of people using the Bible Seminar method to convert people to Christ. The teaching methods of Christ and the apostles have been replaced with a man-made system. Because man has his fingers in this, I can be confident that it isn't totally accurate in regards to the Scriptures. I don't doubt the people's sincerity, but people have a long track record of messing things up when they try to "improve" on God's work.

I think what is most telling is when you suggested more Bible teaching and the response was that it was too risky. I believe I understand their nervousness. I suspect that they know down in the hidden parts of their heart that if they taught solely the Bible they could not convert people to the Southern Korean Baptist church.

The reality is that in your studies of the Bible you've seen glimpses of what true Christianity is like. The problem isn't where you think it is. God hasn't changed. You just grew up enough to see that what you assumed had to be right actually had flaws. You are trying to fix a group who don't think they are broken. So you are breaking off the Southern Korean Baptist church? Well, then get yourself grafted into Jesus (John 15:1-8). Notice that in this passage the branches from the vine are individuals, not denominations.

Would you take the time to read: "We Are Simply Christians Without Being Members of Any Denomination, You Can be Too!"? If joining fellow Christians who are only interested in doing what God wants appeals to you, let me know what city you are in and I'll see if I can find you a local preacher whom I trust will teach you from the Bible.