Evangelism in Korea

Christ’s evangelical calling has been kindling an undying passion in the heart of every Christian generation. The disciples obeyed Christ’s command through the coming and presence of the Holy Spirit. They saw the people’s spiritual need and preached that they would receive forgiveness and salvation only through the grace of Jesus Christ. Their witness was not only in word, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit (1 Thessalonians 1:5). The work of the Holy Spirit is the most important part of evangelism.

Evangelism in Korea has been an in-depth process of learning this fact. Thirty years ago, when I was growing up in Korea, churches had a passion for evangelism. Many churches preached the gospel to people without hesitation. Students in colleges gave out gospel tracts to people in the streets and parks telling them about Jesus Christ. Back then, people were curious about what the church had to say to them and took interest in what the Christian young people were talking about. Passers-by did not refuse their message nor insult them. College students formed mission groups and went out to rural areas and islands, evangelizing during their vacation time. I also visited rural areas with no churches and went door to door sharing the gospel of Christ.

During those times, we received positive reaction from the children and young people, and we were able to find many who confessed their faith in Christ and promised to attend church. After the trip, we continued to send them letters about the gospel. Korea’s attitude towards the gospel, however, has changed dramatically. The positive attitude toward evangelism has rapidly become cold. This is because churches in Korea have become rapidly secularized. For instance, the Pentecostal church in Seoul prides itself as being the biggest church in the world and is famous for its charismatic tongue-speaking and spreading the prosperity gospel all throughout Korea. Not only that, the church leaders and their children’s unethical lifestyle and corruption started to make headlines as a big social issue. People began to see the churches in a different perspective.

The church became known for its greed of money and power, and people started to see the church as a symbol of corruption. This became a serious obstacle to evangelism. To make matters worse, news that much corruption in Korea was related to Christians planted social opposition against Christianity in Korea.

At first, we tried very hard to spread the gospel to those around. Our church members went around the shops and buildings near our church handing out gospel tracts and trying to make conversation. It was then that I really felt that Korean society’s friendliness and expectation towards churches had changed. They were friendly towards me, but when I tried to talk to them about the gospel, they expressed firm refusal. Even before expressing refusal to Christ’s gospel, they were more focused on criticizing the corruptive acts of large church leaders. I once visited a husband of one of our church members and talked to him about the gospel; however, he spent the whole evening telling me about the corruption of the Pentecostal church pastor.

He did not want to know any more about the Lord. Now we seem to be at a dead end with evangelism in Korea. Society is openly negative towards the church and nobody reacts well to the gospel in the streets. This is mostly because individualism and selfishness are so widespread in our society; however, dislike and disgust for the church are strong factors. We are now unable to ring a doorbell to introduce the gospel or put tracts in front of their doorstep. What can we do in these situations?

Methods are limited to us, but we continue to try approaching people the best we can. The most important thing we can do is to share the gospel to people in our lives. Not necessarily to strangers, but to those in need of the gospel around us. We should try to approach and take care of their souls first. Our congregation is seeking to evangelize co-workers and neighbors through personal relationships.

The second thing we do is to hold regular Bible study meetings and invite people around us to come. We invite any who have an interest in faith and are searching for the true gospel. Many do not receive proper teaching, but through this meeting, we can provide the necessary food for their souls. One member of our church is using her lunchtime at work to do a Bible study. She is continually praying for the people she is reaching.

Also, we use our homepage and YouTube channel to introduce our work here in Korea. What we have learned from experience here is that there are those who feel skeptical about the secularization of modern churches. They are searching for biblical truth and a true church for their soul. A few of our church members came to us in this way.

Finally, we need to keep praying for souls. Unlike the days in the past, we do not have many opportunities to approach people with the gospel in this society. There is a way, however, and that is through prayer. Every week at our prayer meeting, we ask that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ (Colossians 4:3). Paul asked his congregation to pray for this as well.

When I read about the history of revival in Korea, I feel a great burden and a challenge. The revival in Korea 110 years ago started at a prayer meeting by the missionaries. They met each day at noon to pray for the reformation in Korean churches. In 1904, in Wonsan, Dr. Hardie first saw revival in Korean society. Then in 1907, the great Pyeongyang revival happened and the Holy Spirit was unleashed on the whole country. Our greatest weapon is the work of the Holy Spirit. Please pray that God may show us mercy, so that He will once again work in our country by His Holy Spirit.

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By Seongkyu Lee

Rev. Seongkyu Lee is minister of Gwangmyeong Faith Free Presbyterian Church, Seoul, South Korea.