The house church model that we practice as a church is not done by us alone. We are part of a larger network, a movement, of churches globally. In the U.S. there are about 100 churches that gather together twice a year to fellowship, be encouraged, share testimonies, and learn bible studies that we can teach to our people.
This year we met in Clarksville, TN, just up the road from Nashville. The attendance was a bit smaller this year with around 80 KSC (Korean-speaking congregations) and only 5 ESC (English-speaking congregations). A couple weeks before the conference I was asked to share my testimony to represent the ESC. I was honored to do so because I have attended the conference many years but this was the first time I have shared my testimony.
For my testimony, I shared about how we started in HC. How pastor Eric coached my week by week as I bothered him with phone calls, emails and video chats. Later I learned that Pastor Inki Kim in Orlando did the same thing to Pastor Chai when he first started! One of the most important lessons from those talks was that PE taught me the meaning of Pillar 2. As pastors, we MUST model anything we want our congregations to do. We cannot ask them to do anything unless we are willing to do it first. We must show them how to serve, sacrifice, and pray for VIPs.
I shared with them our story of how we started from one house church in 2015. Through the help of a former NLF shepherd (Gabriel Ra) we were able to multiply to 2 house churches within a year. NLF supported us even more by sending shepherds for several years to our retreats to be guest speakers. We also saw VIPs at least attending regularly. Some of the VIPs were even more faithful in attending than some of our members!
Perhaps the most impactful part of my testimony (based on feedback) was when I shared about my lows and challenges in 2019. I shared a quote I heard about pastoral ministry which said “being a pastor is like being dumped by your girlfriend over and over again.” I could tell that this room full of pastors and pastors wives knew exactly how I felt. That low season was a time of negativity, criticism, judgment, and overall disrespect from some people. It was the first time that I tried to make deeper friendship with someone at church and they flat out rejected me. I asked a person I was struggling with to go fishing, and the person said he only had time on Sunday morning. I questioned myself and my role in the ministry. I struggled with mental health and depression during that time. It was the first time I felt like I did not like myself.
I think that it’s good to be vulnerable, but if there is no solution, then it could leave people feeling more demoralized. Thankfully, God had pulled me through that valley and I shared the 3 things that helped me during those dark days. First was “my wife encouraging me.” She was like a lifeline to me during those times with continual support and positive encouragement. Sometimes it was hard to even believe what she was saying because she was so positive towards me. Based upon feedback from the conference this seemed to have resonated the most with people. Pastors were thankful that I had said this. Wives were surprised that this was my number 1 helpful thing and discussed in their small groups how they could encourage their husbands more. Second, was preaching the gospel to myself like in Psalm 42:5 (see blog post on overcoming depression). Third, was putting my attention to serving others instead of self-pity. Self-pity is a form of pride also because it is a hyper-fixation on one’s own needs instead of the need of others.
I then shared about how we have seen more fruit lately. We have seen hc’s multiplying (now at 6 adult house churches) and our Sunday attendance has grown to 80+ people. Another point that seemed to resonate with the pastors was when I shared about the “most important number.” I said that the higher sunday attendance was nice but the only number that truly mattered was how many vips we have brought to the Lord. I told them our scorecard is actually only 2 points (2 vips coming to Christ this year). Later I felt affirmed in this because Pastor Inki mentioned my “2 points” in his closing sermon also. In fact, after sharing my testimony, he gave me a hug and told me he wants me to come and share that exact same testimony to Harvest Church in Orlando. He feels they are big but they don’t quite get the spirit of the NT church which is reaching VIPs.
My testimony went even better than I could’ve expected. People told me they laughed and they cried and were inspired. Some even treated me like a mini-celebrity asking to take pictures and a standing ovation. It was nice, but I give all glory to God. I have received so much from HC ministry and the many churches involved. I owe it all to them, and there is still much more to go.
- We need to work hard to build out ESC structure — The KSC side is more advanced and developed in their structure. They have a membership process for their churches. Churches can become voting members by meeting certain standards. These churches preserve the core ideals of house church ministry and thus have the highest standards for membership. Other churches can become members if they’re doing the min. requirements of house church ministry. On the ESC side we have not developed this yet. I feel a burden for NLF and Seoul Baptist because they pour so much effort every year into the Pastors seminar and Lay leaders Seminar and seem to get very little return. I heard that only 1% of KSC pastors will continue with house church after the seminar. On the ESC side we have 100 members of the Pastors FB group but probably fewer than 20 are actually practicing house church still. And then even among the ones that are, not everyone is doing the core parts of hc like teaching Living Life Bible Study. At the conference, several of us ESC pastors along with PE had some good conversations about what those min. requirements should be for ESC churches. We are in the process of making our own membership application. In the past we have always talked about things but not followed through. Personally, God has been growing me to become more disciplined and follow through with the things I pledge to do. I’m looking forward to submitting the draft membership application this week.
- Pastors should be fairly paid— My second key takeaway will be on this topic next time.