When Korean immigrants arrive in Los Angeles, they know that opportunities are close at hand. The key to realizing these opportunities will be hard work. And often, this approach yields positive results such as employment, education, and home ownership.
Yet, how is it possible for a people who swim in a performance-driven, immigrant culture to receive the love of Christ, which is offered freely, without condition? How can they pass their faith to their children, even as they raise them to succeed in this new world?
This is the context in which Tae Kim, pastor of All Nations Community Church, is zealous to not only explain but also apply the gospel in his own life and in the lives of those he leads. He loves seeing people discover that their faith indeed is about good news.
“Many Korean immigrants are religious; many have a lot of passion to follow Christ,” Tae explains. “And the thought is, if you are a Christian, you have God on your side. Work hard, and God will reward you. Cover up your failures and don’t talk about them.”
Yet, over time, this way of living as Christians can be draining and ultimately deadly.
“I think many in my church are just tired, following God,” Tae says.
Over the past two and a half years, Tae has led more than 15 small groups at his church, as well as his family, through Serge’s The Gospel-Centered Life series. This past spring, he took the whole church through a nine-lesson sermon series based on The Gospel-Centered Life.
It has been a journey with some growing pains and pushback, but one that has helped Tae and many in his congregation tap into deep heart issues and grapple with the truths of grace and the realities of their own blind spots and sins.
Even as Tae has led and continues to lead his congregation into gospel-centeredness, he has the wisdom to know he is on his own journey of gospel application in his own life.
So, he recently spent 12 months going through Mentored Sonship with Serge Mentor Bill Hawk. “It has to start with me,” Tae says. “I felt like Mentored Sonship was the next step for me to grow, and I really wanted that experience of being mentored through gospel themes. The materials are very familiar, but having somebody there who is able to ask more probing questions helped me. It’s been wonderful.”
To help his congregation appreciate the reality of gospel riches, Tae has taken up a practice of recording personal stories and sharing them from the pulpit and in one-on-one mentoring. “I have become a very open book to the people in the church,” Tae says. “I have to be able to explain to others how the gospel is operating in my heart.” On the other side of that coin, Tae has not been shy in digging deep into cultural sins at work in his church.
“I have been addressing people’s motives,” Tae says. “There’s so much shamanistic thinking in the Asian culture—doing things to please God and be accepted through behaviors. People are beginning to really look into their hearts. They see their jealousy, their idols … I see this creating change in people’s lives.”
Tae and the church elders are already looking into the best ways to expand and make The Gospel-Centered Life available to more people next year through small groups and individual discipleship.
“It’s been a huge paradigm shift,” Tae says. “As I keep returning to this gospel theme, hopefully God will give us much grace to understand on a deeper level.”