As North Carolina’s Asian American population grows, so does the need for church plants and sending churches – particularly to reach Koreans around the state. Myoung Cheon Ko, SendNC’s Korean church planting strategist, estimates about 5,000 to 6,000 Koreans in North Carolina’s Triangle have yet to be engaged with the gospel. This group is increasingly made up of second- and third-generation Korean Americans – born and raised in the United States.
This is a burden for Ko, who also serves as a pastor at Connect Church. He wants to see Korean churches reproduce to reach the growing population and next generation. With additional church planting training now accessible through the new SendNC initiative, Ko is hopeful that coaching opportunities, which he helps facilitate, will help make that vision a reality.
“Reproduction and multiplication are not only for believers, disciples or groups but also for churches,” Ko said.
Ralph Garay, SendNC’s international church planting strategist, sees more open doors for church planters to meet a need among younger Koreans in North Carolina.
Garay has observed an inclination for Korean immigrants to have close ties to their community.
“There’s a tendency … when there’s only a few of you from your country of origin, to be communal, to really support one another,” he said.
But for second- and third-generation Korean Americans, there’s a tendency to “begin to live their lives individually and independently from the community.”
The distance from a close-knit community can isolate this group and cause loneliness, he has found.
Garay sees this lack as an opportunity for churches to build authentic relationships with Koreans, who often have some level of familiarity with Christianity but might have cultural misconceptions about it. He also sees Ko’s training as one way to take hold of this opportunity.
“Through this training, Korean churches and partners begin to be more aware of the opportunities to engage lost Koreans – and not just their own people group, but their communities and neighbors,” said Garay.
“It helps them see a better way of reaching the lost rather than just having a building facility. … People are no longer attracted to a building or a worship service or a sign that says ‘church,’ but people are seeking authentic, genuine relationships.”
Ko began leading a Korean Send Network church planting training cohort through Send Network in 2019. He facilitates monthly peer-to-peer coaching and mentorship for church planters, sharing insight from his own past experiences as a planter. He encourages them to collaborate and find ways to support each other, consider revitalization work, focus on the people in their communities and look outward at other needs.
This kind of coaching was especially needed during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused some planters to become bivocational and find other work for financial support. Even these challenges have borne fruit, however. Ko shared about one pastor who started driving school buses and found hundreds of open doors to share the gospel with students.
Another church plant that lost its meeting space was forced to return to meeting in the pastor’s house, where they continue to gather today. With limited resources, the planter tried to support those who found themselves in greater need during the pandemic and minister to people with disabilities.
“I believe God saw his warm heart,” Ko said about the pastor.
The church plant continued to grow and have more college students join the gathering. They reported three baptisms last spring.
Ko said Korean church plants need “more endurance, more support … but they don’t give up.
“There were chances to close their doors, but since 2018, none of the churches closed,” he said, “which means that’s God’s work.”
Ko continues to guide church planters to focus on the lost around them. SendNC’s structure fosters pathways for existing churches to become sending churches – something Ko wants to see more of among ethnic church plants, especially Korean churches.
SendNC also encourages church members to consider joining a church plant team through leadership or support roles by leveraging their careers for gospel impact.
Training church planters and team members to consider bivocational planting can “help them find their place,” said Garay. “They don’t have to leave their jobs to be part of a church planting team.”
Ko also works with Sammy Joo, N.C. Baptist statewide Asian catalyst, to hold Breakthrough Strategy Trainings, which connects local churches to missionary work through evangelism, discipleship, church planting and leadership training.
This evangelism-focused training “helps Korean church planters focus on the Great Commission to reach the lost and reproduce disciple-makers to spread the gospel for all Koreans in the local area,” Joo said.
This “missionary mindset” is key to reaching the lost not only among Koreans in North Carolina, but all the nations represented in the state.
To learn more about becoming a sending church or part of a church planting team, visit SendNC.org.