“British Church and Korean Church” – Pastor Young Joo Lee

A few weeks ago, I met a second-generation Korean pastor who ministers in a British church. After initially working in the finance industry, he decided to study theology later in life. He is currently serving in a relatively large British church with more than 200 congregants, primarily of British origin. He mentioned that, occasionally, he is invited to deliver sermons for secondary students at Korean churches, and he feels a special bond with the second-generation Korean youths, so he gladly accepts such invitations.

Recently, he met some of these youths and shared that he resonated deeply with them, uniting with them in fervent prayer. He stated that even though he’s currently ministering in a British church, he contemplates serving diaspora communities, especially focusing on second-generation church-goers, not limited to just Koreans.

Being curious about his unique position, I asked him about the differences and challenges he observes between British churches and Korean churches. He expressed that while second-generation Koreans are native English speakers, they might find Korean-speaking churches challenging. This language barrier sometimes leads them to attend English-speaking British churches, but there’s a clear limit to the satisfaction they derive from it. Some of his friends, who attended British churches frequented by Koreans, initially appreciated the liberal atmosphere and the academic approach to biblical discussions. However, after roughly three years, they felt a void in their spiritual experience and are currently re-evaluating their church situation.

Upon probing what exactly they felt was missing, it turned out to be the Korean sense of jeong [정] (often described as deep affection or a unique bond). Because these second-generation Koreans were born and raised in the UK, they are naturally accustomed to British culture. Simultaneously, they have been exposed to the Korean sense of warmth and social bonds, especially through interactions with their families and the Korean community. To many British people, this cultural trait might seem overly intrusive, but if maintained at a moderate level, it could become universally appealing. This sentiment was echoed by the pastor’s British wife, who, after experiencing the Korean warmth, grew increasingly fond of it.

For instance, when Koreans gather, there’s a deep sense of camaraderie. The pastor’s wife, having experienced this, now highly appreciates it. When inviting someone to their home, a British host might simply offer biscuits for a casual chat. In contrast, a Korean might feel it’s disrespectful not to serve a proper dish, such as tteokbokki, showing a distinct level of hospitality. The pastor recalled that when he invited congregation members to his home and treated them in a Korean manner, his wife initially couldn’t comprehend the need for such elaborate hosting. However, not only foreign visitors but also British congregants ended up thoroughly enjoying it. The allure of Korean warmth is undeniable. Many Brits, unaccustomed to such levels of hospitality, might initially find it excessive, but once they experience this cultural warmth, they seem irresistibly drawn to it.

Looking at the diverse mission targets in London, such as Africans, Asians, and Eastern Europeans, it appears that the Korean sense of warmth and bond has a stronger pull than British culture. This realization led me to believe that if our church evolves into a multicultural entity, it could differentiate itself from traditional British churches and possibly possess a broader appeal. Given the global fascination with Korean culture, spearheaded by phenomena like K-pop, it’s compelling to think that God might be positioning the Korean community for an instrumental role in global missions. I earnestly pray that Korean churches worldwide, scattered among various nations, will be divinely utilized for global missions until the end, preparing for the Lord’s return.