[Series III] Progress and Pitfalls: Globalization and the Korean Church

Progress and Pitfalls: Globalization and the Korean Church, Series III

Written By HONG, Young-Gi (Ph.D.)
The Senior Pastor of the Full Gospel Church of Honolulu, Hawaii, USA.


The Direction of the Korean Church Mission

  Globalization may make human life convenient, but at the same time, it may spoil humanity. Globalization will make the mission of the church efficient, but at the same time, it may weaken spirituality because of trust in human technology and connectedness. In order to avoid the above-mentioned pitfalls that globalization accompanies and to bear mature responsibility for Christian mission, what direction should be taken?

  First, there is a need for the development of partnership. Globalization has brought about new international reality. Globalization manifests not only worldwide competition but also many kinds of increasing cooperation. It occurs not only in the business sector but also and even more remarkably in the growing number of civil movements. Millions of people are working together in new ways for the protection of human rights and the environment. Our task in mission is to avoid a homogenous one-size fits all approach, which is one of the drives of globalization, and instead, both to embrace our connectedness and use our resources jointly in such a way as to enhance the significance of Christian public witness in each locality. The Korean churches need to have more constant and sincere dialogue with other churches globally. Perhaps this is one of the neglected areas for the Korean churches. Partnership in mission is a critical agenda item for the future of the Korean churches.

  Second, the role of faith community becomes more significant. In an age of pluralism and individuation, people are likely to drift away from faith community and seek privatized form of religiosity. Creation of faith community that incarnates the Christian gospel in the particular context and that exposes Christian bonding of love will be a critical task for the future church. People who feel spiritual void in this age will be attracted to spiritually authentic and authoritative leadership in the community of faith. Lamin Sanneh told me that the kingdom of God is the one that the faith of community should seek to embody. He takes the view that material globalization would ignore the national and cultural boundaries. He says as follows:

  The kingdom of God is rooted in particular context, human culture and language. The kingdom of God should be manifested in particular context and it should deliver a strong message against the kingdom of mammon that the negative aspects of globalization seek. Christian mission should caution against the dangers of uprootedness and dehumanization that arise from the economic activities in an age of the pressures of international globalization.

  What Sanneh means is that the community of faith should be distinguished from the community of the world, bearing the image of the Kingdom of God. Third, the Christian community in Korea must have worldwide and communal sense of responsibility. This responsibility is closely related to the sense of self-sufficiency and sharing. Goudzwaard stresses the goal of enough, of sufficiency as a step to take for an awakening of Christianity in an age of globalization. He takes the view that the self-manufactured goal of unlimited material expansion can gradually be replaced by the goal of enough, of sufficiency. Christian ethic that involves self-content and sharing must be proclaimed in the Korean church and in the world. The Korean church needs to contribute more to the evangelization of Asia with their resources, brotherly love, and spiritual commitment. Korean churches should share much more of their resources with the churches in the developing countries. Church growth in Korea should not be limited to Korean society but should have a positive impact on the churches in Asia as well as in other parts of the world.

  Fourth, the Korean church must develop Christian civil society movements. The impact of global information technology depends on the political decisions of the government. As politics have a big influence on the lives of the people and their quality of life, Christian mission should never overlook its responsibility for the public. The church should watch whether governments act to structure the global network of information and technology to serve the public good. Korean churches must regard attentively the effect of modernity and globalization which introduces a cleavage between the private and public sector of life. Yamane proposed the neo-secularization theory that religion in modern society is privatized and the social significance of religion declines. The growth of the Korean churches, if in the form of iron cage, may bring about ecclesiastical narcissism, colossalism, or triumphalism. If the members of Korean churches do not bring about transformative impact on the local community or society in which they live, their religious message will not be relevant to society and they will be eventually marginalized and secularized as the prey of modernity. The church must play a role of peacemaker. The church should take interest in the public justice and ecosystem of the country.

Toward the Globalization of the Christian Gospel

  The tremendous forces of globalization will continue to challenge the Korean church in the future. This requires the epistemological and ontological transformation in doing mission. Globalization does not mean global uniformity. In the church context, it means that the local church can participate in the formation of world Christianity. Lamin Sanneh, a professor of Yale University, in his inaugural speech at the International Conference on “Evangelicals and Democracy in the Third-World” held in Washington D.C. from 28 to 30 June, emphasized that we need to distinguish World Christianity from Global Christianity. Global Christianity is based on the globalization partially prompted by economic factors, such as the expansion of transnational corporations, international finance. The globalization process is controlled and processed by political and economic institutions. However, certain forces or institutions do not process World Christianity. World Christianity is the impact of the gospel on the local people and their responses to the gospel through their thoughts and language. The development of world Christianity should be based on the synthesis of local Christianity with global forces with sincerity. The tension between the global and the local is not merely an academic exercise but is a struggle over identity. World Christianity will develop through collaboration among the churches in the world. Shenk argues that a dynamic theology of mission develops where there is vigorous engagement of culture by the gospel and we must look to the evolving Christian movement in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. World Christianity will contribute to the globalization of the Christian gospel.

  Some final remarks need to be made about the implications of World Christianity for East Asian Christianity. As globalization develops, the dialogue of the churches between East Asian countries is expected to develop. The style of Korean Christianity will impact the churches in Japan and China and vice versa. The Japanese churches will be influenced by the passionate spirituality of the Korean church, such as in the prayer and evangelism movement. The mega-church model of the Korean church may influence the Chinese churches, as China become more democratized in the future. The Christian thinking and the commitment of discipleship of the Japanese church will affect the Korean church. The Korean church will be challenged by the persecuted spirituality of the Chinese church. The communication and dialogue of the East Asian churches will make Asian churches more dynamic, and increase their influence on the world churches.

  Globalization can be sought along political, commercial, and technological lines today. However, the world Christian movement is committed to another option: the kingdom of God. Globalization in this world is ambivalent for the church. Globalization represents both the greatest human advances in human history and the greatest assaults on humanness in history. However, we have a Christian global vision: one Kingdom of God that brings all nations, races, and people under Jesus Christ. We have to march out with a vision of the globalization of the Christian gospel. It is my prayer that your Kingdom come, your will be done on East Asian countries as well as on Korea, as it is in heaven.

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