Season 3 | EPISODE 1

From the Pews to the Nations: A Gospel-Centered Church Planting Vision

57:40 · February 13, 2024

In this episode, Jim chats with Dr. Robert Kim about the ins and outs of church planting in today’s world. An experienced pastor and professor, Dr. Kim sheds light on the challenges and exciting opportunities in this field. They also discuss the concerning trend of dechurching and the urgency of living out our gospel identity as we reach the nations. Whether you’re a pastor or someone in the pew, this conversation will inspire you to stay connected to Jesus and actively contribute to advancing the Kingdom. Don’t miss this chance to be encouraged and equipped for the journey ahead!

In this episode, Jim chats with Dr. Robert Kim about the ins and outs of church planting in today’s world. An experienced pastor and professor, Dr. Kim sheds light on the challenges and exciting opportunities in this field. They also discuss the concerning trend of dechurching and the urgency of living out our gospel identity as we reach the nations. Whether you’re a pastor or someone in the pew, this conversation will inspire you to stay connected to Jesus and actively contribute to advancing the Kingdom. Don’t miss this chance to be encouraged and equipped for the journey ahead!

In this episode, they discuss...

  • A new take on “Networking” from a mission-oriented lens (10:16)
  • The vital difference between “stated” theology and “functional” theology (18:36)
  • What is the current state of church planting in the US? (38:01)
  • What can heal the gap between churches planted and churches closed? (40:07)
  • How to encourage a burned-out church planter (45:28)
  • What is the top qualification for a church planter? (50:32)

Thank you for listening! If you found this conversation encouraging or helpful, please share this episode with your friends and loved ones. Or please leave us a review—it really helps!

Referenced in the episode...

Bible passages: Matthew 16:18John 4, John 15, 1 Corinthians 15:10


Our guest for this episode was Dr. Robert Kim, a Serge board member and Associate Professor of Applied Theology and Church Planting at Covenant Theological Seminary. This episode was hosted by Jim Lovelady. Production by Anna Madsen, Aaron Gray, and Sunny Chi. Music by Tommy Leahy

𝑮𝒓𝒂𝒄𝒆 𝒂𝒕 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝑭𝒓𝒂𝒚 𝑷𝒐𝒅𝒄𝒂𝒔𝒕 is produced by SERGE, an international missions agency that sends and cares for missionaries and develops gospel-centered programs and resources for ongoing spiritual renewal. Learn more and get involved at serge.org.

Connect with us!

Get in touch:
Questions or comments? Feel free to reach out to Serge’s Renewal Team anytime at podcast@serge.org



Welcome to the Grace at the Fray—a podcast that explores the many dimensions of God’s grace that we find at the frayed edges of life. Come explore how God’s grace works to renew your life and send you on mission in His Kingdom.


0:00:23.5 Jim Lovelady: Hello beloved, welcome to Grace at the Fray. You know that famous passage in Matthew 16:18 where Jesus says about the church that the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. From this verse, I used to have this image in my head of how the devil is after the church, but no matter how bad it gets, the devil isn’t going to win. Now, there is truth to the fact that the devil is not going to win, but it’s just not the correct image that you need to have when you read this verse. Actually, you need to flip it. Hell isn’t going after the church. In this verse, the church is knocking down the gates of hell, and the gates of hell cannot prevail. This is Jesus’s victorious statement about the calling and destiny of His church. And there is great hope for the church even today, regardless of how discouraged you might be about the state of the church today. And frankly, there’s a lot to be discouraged about. Did you know that church planting is at an all-time low right now? More churches are closing than new ones are opening, and the focus on church planting in international missions agencies is dwindling also. Meanwhile, there are billions of people with no real awareness of the Christian faith and message. The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.

Church planting is central to the work of Serge. And what better person to talk about the work of church planting than my friend, Dr. Robert Kim. I know him from his church planting days here in the Philadelphia area, but nowadays he’s the Associate Professor of Applied Theology and Church Planting at Covenant Seminary and the Philip and Rebecca Douglas Chair of Church Planting and Christian Formation. He’s also a member of the board of directors here at Serge. And when he was in town for the Serge board meetings, I got a chance to sit down with him and talk about one of the fundamental reasons Serge exists, international church planting.

We talked about his work at Covenant Seminary and Serge’s partnership in taking his students through the sonship curriculum, something that I have the honor of being directly involved in. And we talked about his hopes and dreams for church planting, both locally and at the global stage. So you might not see it or feel it, but after this conversation, man, I hope you will have a greater imagination for the victorious destiny of the church, that the gates of hell will not prevail.

0:03:02.5 Jim Lovelady: So you’re a diet Coke guy.

0:03:03.7 Dr. Robert Kim: I am a diet Coke guy. 

0:03:05.0 Jim Lovelady: Really? 

0:03:05.4 Dr. Robert Kim: Yeah.

0:03:06.5 Jim Lovelady: Why?

0:03:06.7 Dr. Robert Kim: Yeah. I just don’t want to waste my calories on a beverage. That’s why I do it.

0:03:14.6 Jim Lovelady: Well, I don’t know anybody who’s a diet Coke snob, but I know lots of people who find their righteousness in being coffee snobs.

0:03:26.8 Dr. Robert Kim: Yeah. Exactly.

0:03:29.3 Jim Lovelady: I’m in that camp.

0:03:30.7 Dr. Robert Kim: We’re Grace at the Fray. I give a lot of grace to your beverage choice.

0:03:33.9 Jim Lovelady: That’s right. I’m drinking green tea. So that makes me whatever.

0:03:38.6 Dr. Robert Kim: Far more righteous.

0:03:41.8 Jim Lovelady: Well, hey man, welcome. It’s really good to see you. I haven’t seen you a few years. And we’ve been talking about doing this for a while. So yeah, it worked out. Here you are.

0:03:51.9 Dr. Robert Kim: Thanks for having me, Jim. It’s been great. Yeah. We’ve known each other for so many years, especially from a time here and then going forward.

0:04:00.0 Jim Lovelady: Yeah. Over a decade.

0:04:00.0 Dr. Robert Kim: Yeah. And it’s crazy that our paths come back here of all places.

0:04:02.9 Jim Lovelady: I know, right? Yeah. Anyway, well, so what have you been up to? Who are you? What have you been up to?

0:04:08.0 Dr. Robert Kim: Yeah. My name is Robert Kim. I am now a professor over at Covenant Theological Seminary. The name Phillip and Rebecca Douglas is familiar to many. And so I took over his position as the Phil and Rebecca Douglas Chair of Church Planting and Applied Theology. And so that’s been four years. And I basically try to inspire the next generation of church planters, not just in America, but really in essence around the world. So I would say the Lord’s been doing some really cool things where I get students. In fact, I’m literally coming up from Florida this morning from a field trip that we did down there. And I have students coming from China, from India, from there’s one in the Middle East. Can’t say what country. And then different places around the world that are wanting to say, hey, I want to learn church planting and I want to learn at Covenant Theological Seminary. And so the Lord’s been gracious and good to seeing the kind of that vision, kind of two parts of my heart, which is church planting. But then originally it was all about missions. And so I love that that’s in my life right now as well.

0:05:05.6 Jim Lovelady: So what was the field trip like?

0:05:07.6 Dr. Robert Kim: So the field trip was I took a group of students where we go down and we get to participate in a network and they get to basically show off their network. And so this was the Florida Church Planting Network in cooperation with City to City, Mission to North America, Spanish River, Parakaleo was represented.

 0:05:26.4 Jim Lovelady: Oh, awesome.

0:05:26.9 Dr. Robert Kim: And the Polk City Network as well. But long story short, they just get to saturate and be incubating in that for the weekend and just kind of learn on the field what God is doing down there and just be able to say from the Florida standpoint to say, hey, come on down here. There’s a great harvest here. You can be one of the workers that work in this harvest. And then vice versa for us, it’s just an opportunity for us to have them realize that there’s a great place to send their students. And so we see this as a great reciprocal relationship of just some really cool things that God is doing. This one was kind of fun, too, because we also had other campuses join us. And so I’m a let’s play in the sandbox nicely type of guy.

0:06:05.0 Jim Lovelady: Oh, yeah. Amen.

0:06:05.9 Dr. Robert Kim: Yeah. So RTS Charlotte and some students from RTS Orlando also joined us. And so I’ve been trying to widen that net of just kind of saying this is not a Covenant thing. This is a kingdom thing. And so let’s get excited about what God’s doing for the kingdom.

0:06:20.1 Jim Lovelady: That’s great. How long have you been at Covenant?

0:06:23.0 Dr. Robert Kim: Four years.

0:06:23.7 Jim Lovelady: Yeah. Well…

0:06:25.9 Dr. Robert Kim: Two of that was pandemic.

0:06:26.7 Jim Lovelady: Right.

0:06:27.2 Dr. Robert Kim: Yeah.

0:06:27.5 Jim Lovelady: So I was going to say, it feels like you moved away a long time ago. That’s because two years of a pandemic is whatever.

0:06:36.4 Dr. Robert Kim: Everyone lost track of time. Yeah.

0:06:38.4 Jim Lovelady: Right. So talk to me about, talk to me, Okay, so you’ve been in the church planting world for a long time. You’re a church planter yourself.

0:06:45.9 Dr. Robert Kim: Yep.

0:06:46.5 Jim Lovelady: And so talk to me about, like a brief history of that experience and how it seems to have widened from church to region to now you’re helping out worldwide like what you just said. You’re helping out worldwide. So walk me through that.

0:07:07.9 Dr. Robert Kim: I’ll try.

0:07:10.4 Jim Lovelady: And I said briefly.

0:07:12.5 Dr. Robert Kim: That’s a big question but well, I should have also probably said in the introduction I also sit on Serge’s board and so I’m a fan of what God is doing here at Serge as well And so that’s been one of the things that again scratches another itch for me. So I’ll tell a brief part of my stories. I came to Christ my junior of high school by my senior of high school. I thought I was actually originally called to be a global missionary. And so that passion has always been there. And so it was really one of those things where I’ll say, “Here am I, send me,” and I was just like, “Lord, wherever you desire to send me, I’ll go.” And so I was praying about nations, all kinds of nations whether it be Japan, Russia, Ukraine, etcetera. And things like that. But then the Lord at one point said, hey, there’s a great mission field right here in the US. Why don’t you go plant churches? And so I’m fast-forwarding a lot but then…

 0:07:53.5 Jim Lovelady: Having a heart for the nations doesn’t necessarily mean going anywhere per se.

0:07:57.7 Dr. Robert Kim: Yeah. Yeah, and I wanna give kudos by all means. The Lord calls so many people to places are hard and I’m so thankful that the Lord does it. At the same time, just realizing you have the God of Heaven and earth is working wherever we see. And we get to participate in what he’s doing. And so I saw just a great opportunity. This is where we met here in Philadelphia. So I planted the church about 17 years ago at this point here in Philadelphia. But just even that was just such an experience to be able to say plant the church, see it grow in its multicultural expression to embrace the nations and so even there I got to see kind of what God was doing to say, we don’t need to see the gospel for our own but for everyone and to see how that would be done. And then we multiplied and then eventually I got this position of Covenant Seminary. And then as the track has grown, this is one thing where I’ll be honest, the administration coming and sometimes asked me, Robert, your program is growing and it’s also growing in diversity. So they’re like, how’s that happening? ‘Cause some of our other programs aren’t doing that.

0:08:56.9 Jim Lovelady: Oh, nice.

0:08:57.6 Dr. Robert Kim: And part of that I will wanna say is just I do think it’s just an answer to prayer. Like I’ve been praying that the Lord would raise up a lot of workers. And just really, again, for the nations. And so it just gives my heart great joy when I think about a prayer that I might have said like, “Lord if you’re gonna raise up workers or the harvest, the harvest is everywhere including the nations, and I do want to see every tribe, nation and tongue reached with the gospel of Jesus Christ.” And so I think he’s faithful to hear our prayers. And so like some of these people that are coming like again, you can’t describe their stories. Where they’re like, “I was in the Middle East and I realized one day I just, I wanted to go plant churches. And so someone told me I should go apply to this school.”

0:09:33.1 Jim Lovelady: So now they’re at Covenant.

0:09:33.8 Dr. Robert Kim: They’re at Covenant. I have one guy who is planting a church in Edinburgh, Scotland right now. It’s just absolutely amazing to think that we’re helping this one student in his journey of being equipped to be able to go plant the church in that particular area and again, that’s kind of that post-Christian coming back bringing the gospel, etcetera and things like that. And we’ll segue eventually into this but our students, a couple from India that I do think can actually plant probably about a hundred churches in this lifetime. But they’re also going through the sonship here and all that to say is it’s just amazing to see kind of their vision in their heart that’s just grown and in ways that they wouldn’t have expected if they didn’t come and get exposed not only to what we’re doing, but then get even the sonship material as well. So it’s been really cool.

0:10:16.1 Jim Lovelady: You always have. Ever since I’ve known you have been such an amazing networker and the way that you can put things together with like that person in that opportunity with this person in this need and then we just get to sit back and watch the magic happen. Yeah, it is amazing. How do things like church plants in India, church plants in Scotland, how does it work in terms of what you’re doing at Covenant Seminary? How can you do that where it is so diverse?

0:10:46.7 Dr. Robert Kim: Yeah, I don’t know. Let me speak to just the network piece first. I just had my conference this morning at 4:30 when I woke up. One of my students asked me more or less the same question, say so Robert, how do you network so well. And I said, “I actually don’t like that comment.” And here’s why.

0:11:02.5 Jim Lovelady: You’re like, I need to speak to this.

0:11:03.6 Dr. Robert Kim: No, no, no. Yeah it is. But it’s, I get the definition of I don’t think networking is good but the way to be able to say is that be faithful on mission and the Lord brings good people along who are also on mission that you are able to connect with. And I think that’s really been the story of my life and it’s just been yielding really in essence to be able to say, Lord, if I follow you then no matter where I am. And that’s, again, it’s my first mission trip and just being able to say the people that I met were extraordinary and some of the things that they affirmed in my life even when I was 17 years old, it was because again, I was just faithful on mission. And these are people who just did that and then they get all these different partners and seeing Kind of how that’s come together.

0:11:42.7 Dr. Robert Kim: It’s not because I try, it’s just because it’s like you follow Jesus and you’re following Jesus. And many it’s, I mean our relationship, Jim, I think it’s the same, right? We bet because we’re both on mission, right? No, right, it’s like we both hold and say, hey, we can connect on this and it’s not… And that’s where I think even as We think about maybe the divisiveness in our country, how important it is for us to recapture that. If we’re trying to center around something else besides that, it’s really hard to do because there’s not a common denominator says that we can have unity in. But we can have unity in mission and we ought to have unity in mission ’cause that’s exactly what the Lord calls us to.

0:12:18.9 Jim Lovelady: Yeah. And you’re just paying attention to wherever the Lord might be working.

0:12:21.5 Dr. Robert Kim: Yeah, and I think yeah. And then actually it’s your question connecting the dots. I do love Chris Wright’s version of mission of seeing what God is doing and re-establishing and replacing everything so the redemption of all things, he would say. And so wherever He’s doing that, let’s just join Him. And I think that’s, if anything, I can see the Lord’s giving me eyes to be able to do is to be able to see that in different places. And so like when a brother says, “Hey, I see a great opportunity to go plant churches in Scotland,” I’m like, “Hey, praise the Lord. You’re exactly right.” There’s a country that you may think has historically been rooted in the gospel but has lost it. You’re like, “Yeah, they need fresh expressions of churches that proclaim the gospel right now.” And so it’s really great to see what he’s doing.

0:13:04.6 Jim Lovelady: Yeah, I’m really fascinated by the way to minister to a post-christian culture like that, and also to minister to a pre-Christian culture. Both have their own antagonism toward Jesus. And so it’s fascinating for me to think about how that’s happening. So yeah. How are you helping students think about that in terms of like, do you speak differently to the guy who’s planting in a post-Christian culture than to a guy that’s speaking to a pre-Christian culture and like, what is the nature of that?

0:13:44.5 Dr. Robert Kim: Yeah, 100%. Yeah, and that’s what gets hard even when you’re thinking about just planting domestically. It’s what some, I forget the name of the book, but someone’s argued that the United States is made up of seven different nations. And so kind of the northeast, southeast, all of that stuff. And that there’s really, in essence, different cultures like nations almost presented in those we can capture in that way. But yeah, I think to a post-Christian culture, one has to go in almost with the mindset of like, so I’m gonna use the whole Matthew 9, the harvest is plentiful, the laborers are a few. If you know that their terrain is extremely different, then you gotta come in sometimes with different tools and a different approach to be able to how you go about it.

0:14:22.1 Dr. Robert Kim: And I do think it may seem good or bad to say this, I don’t know. But I do think post-Christian cultures are much harder because I think the exterior is much harder ’cause it’s been tilled and now it’s kind of just crusted up, if you want to use that analogy. Whereas pre-Christian cultures or whether gospel had never really has been proclaimed where it’s like that first generation, it’s just everything’s so it’s just never been exposed. And so you’re really trusting the Lord in the planting of the seeds and just allowing that to grow accordingly. And I think there’s definitely ways to be able to train our students differently based upon the context of which they’re going into. So actually just really quick on the field trip that we went to, that’s what’s fun is because they were able to approach it from seeing that same thing. So some of the talks were on big picture, why church planting, but then also like small rural town church planting. So a brother presented on Mulberry, Florida, which has like 4,000 people in it and [laughter] you’re the planter that knows everyone in town versus being in a town, let’s say like Miami where you’re gonna have, you know, millions of people and all the…

0:15:23.6 Jim Lovelady: Right. That’s one neighborhood.

0:15:24.6 Dr. Robert Kim: Exactly. Yeah. And the nations are coming to you because it’s such a diverse place, etcetera and things like that. And so they got to see kind of the breadth and scope of different kind of contexts in which people are planting churches, even down there in Florida.

0:15:36.6 Jim Lovelady: So this is all part of the church planting track at Covenant. I’m really curious because when I was at seminary, I did like a general track. You know, like pastor, just generic. [laughter] So what are some of the things that make the church planting track unique?

0:15:53.8 Dr. Robert Kim: Oh, that’s a big question. [laughter]

0:15:56.6 Jim Lovelady: I only ask big questions.

0:15:57.8 Dr. Robert Kim: I know. No, no. I’ll say this though. I think right now it’s actually sad to say that, I’m going to use the word reform, but even in terms of other seminaries, but there’s only two reform seminaries right now in America that actually have a church planting emphasis.

0:16:08.3 Jim Lovelady: Oh, interesting.

0:16:08.7 Dr. Robert Kim: That’s RTS Charlotte and it’s us. Which I actually lament that because I do think that the vision moving forward, especially as we, if you want to hear numbers, they’re really alarming in terms of the need of church planting going forward. And so many seminaries I don’t think are preparing their students for what is to come, the lived reality of what we’re gonna have here. And so there’s that. And then there’s probably only about a 10 to maybe a dozen seminaries that have some other aspect of like, church planting programs that they offer students.

0:16:35.7 Dr. Robert Kim: And that’s another sad reality as well. Which is also one of the reasons why I think a lot of seminaries are actually in dire issues right now. A lot of them are about to close. Or some of them already have closed right now. And so that’s unfortunate. So our track consists, there’s a huge, I have a huge presentation. I’m gonna make this very condensed version. But we come alongside students, they have a curriculum piece, they have a cohort piece in which we gather the students regularly throughout the semester. So like, if you think about your classmates when you were at seminary, you may not have realized what their passions were. We gather these people in these cohorts where they’re able to say, your passion is church planting. Your passion is church planting. And one of the ways you can easily discern to call a church planting is just start talking to other church planters and encourage one another along in that journey.

0:17:14.4 Dr. Robert Kim: And so that’s been just really fun to see where students were being able to say to one another, it’s like, “Hey, wouldn’t it be great if we planted a church together?” So they might have had a vision of like going somewhere else, but they’re like, but we’re becoming friends and I want us to maybe plant a church together. So there’s some of that dynamic that’s going on. We do these field trips as part of the curriculum which is great. And then in addition to that we just really try to get them assessed. And so we do all kinds of assessment throughout that just really help them along the journey to be able to say like, “Hey, what does it look like to be this during your call?” I’m gonna segue into the question that the sonship thing that’s kind of come up, if you don’t mind.

0:17:48.2 Jim Lovelady: Oh, yeah, yeah.

0:17:48.7 Dr. Robert Kim: Pre-empt a little bit. So I’m one of those guys that I think before my students and I get to play with electives, which are fun too. So electives are when I think about the MDiv curriculum or like the MA BTS curriculum and say, “Okay, here’s how we’re training our students to do ministry,” but there’s always gonna be gaps. And in those gaps, the question for me is always how do we fill in some of those gaps? And so I’ll use my electives that I’ve done recently, and so the one year we did an evangelism elective, ’cause I said, “We kind of have a small course on evangelism, but nothing that really focuses on learning how to share the gospel with non-Christians and to really do that effectively.” Last year we did an urban church planting elective ’cause I said, “It’s really hard for me to try to teach urban church planning ’cause I’m not an urban church planner.” So I brought in Doug Logan to go teach that elective in those three.

0:18:35.9 Jim Lovelady: Oh, nice.

0:18:36.9 Dr. Robert Kim: So yeah, we brought in some Philly connections there. And then this coming summer it’ll be on prayer. And so John Smith’s gonna come in and kind of do an elective on this just to kind of teach on prayer. But in addition to that, I also think about seminary education can be very cerebral. And I’ll probably define in the version of let’s say stated theology and functional theology, and I’m gonna use it now around the language of sonship. So I think a lot of our students will get a form of like a doctrine of salvation that they can say, “I can state that my faith in Jesus leads me to understand that I am a son or daughter.”

0:19:14.5 Jim Lovelady: Right. Yeah, yeah.

0:19:15.6 Dr. Robert Kim: So theologically they can state that.

0:19:17.3 Jim Lovelady: I know that honey is sweet.

0:19:19.5 Dr. Robert Kim: Exactly. But yeah, the taste of it, the function of that can be a disconnect. And so for me it’s like, I’ll use Jack Miller, I’ll honor Jack Miller’s language of like sons versus orphans, is to be able to say that we can oftentimes have a lot of students who, again, understand the doctrine of sonship, but they functioned really as orphans. And I think that’s one thing that I definitely wanted to make sure that I took out and said, “I don’t want our students see that ’cause I want them to be rooted in the gospel.” And so I thought of this idea where I said, “Wouldn’t it be great if some of our students could go through sonship and just get so grounded and saturated into the gospel so that as they go off and plant churches, that just gets implanted in them. And then really in essence for future generations, they’re gonna be able to tell others how sonship was just so impactful in their life.” Because it wasn’t in the classroom, but it was in walking through learning how to apply the gospel to their heart and to their lives regularly, that they were able say, “That actually transformed my life.” Probably more sometimes than even the classroom. Right?

0:20:19.8 Jim Lovelady: Yeah.

0:20:19.9 Dr. Robert Kim: And just how amazing that is. And so only because we have that Indian couple that I mentioned, and that vision of a hundred churches, which again, that is what I see in them. Super sweet couple. He’s doing his MDiv, she’s doing the MEC. And again, their personalities just, I think bring out the aroma of Jesus in a very, just a real way. And so as they’re going through sonship, they’re like, I grew up in a legalistic, moralistic fashion and I’m being uprooted in all of this and our lives are changing, and this is where it’s fun. I just get to hear that and then I get to report it back to here, to the home office and say, “Guys, it’s doing some really cool things. I hope you understand that and I hope we can continue to get at this because it’s such a blessing to our students.” And so it’s been really cool to see.

0:21:03.7 Jim Lovelady: Yeah. So this program is that those folks who take that elective go through the sonship mentoring and when Laurel Kehl, who oversees the sonship mentoring program here at Serge, when she said, “Hey, Robert Kim and I have been talking about this thing where we’re gonna get Covenant students to go through sonship. Anybody wanna help out?” And I was like, “Me, me, me, I wanna help that.” I think the opportunity to be a part of, and this is like a small aspect of what you’re doing. People are coming through your program. And so the opportunity to participate in church after church after church that will be planted through these folks, but to instill this idea that our theology is, I say this to folks all the time. Our theology has to be real in every scenario of life. So tell me a scenario in life. I was frustrated with my kids or I was frustrated with my wife, or my boss did this or that and I was angry, or this hardship or this kind of suffering that I’m struggling with. All the stories, I want the most mundane story.

0:22:27.8 Dr. Robert Kim: Yeah.

0:22:28.7 Jim Lovelady: And they’ll tell it. But every one of these “mundane” stories, there’s a lot of emotion packed into it. Either the anguish of suffering or the frustration, anger, fear, all of these emotions. And I’m like, if the gospel’s not real for that…

0:22:44.3 Dr. Robert Kim: Yeah.

0:22:44.6 Jim Lovelady: ‘Cause you just told me a definition of the gospel that is satisfactory to anyone who would wanna ordain you. Your understanding of justification by faith.

0:22:52.5 Dr. Robert Kim: Yeah.

0:22:53.8 Jim Lovelady: And sanctification and union with Christ. Any kind of theological…

0:22:58.4 Dr. Robert Kim: All the good theological words.

0:23:00.4 Jim Lovelady: All the good theological words. But how does it have to do with you being frustrated with your boss? And it’s like, I don’t know. Okay. Let’s take sonship. And we’re gonna do it, we’re gonna go on a journey and figure out how you will meet Jesus. Every one of these moments is an invitation to meet with Jesus.

0:23:19.4 Dr. Robert Kim: Yeah.

0:23:19.9 Jim Lovelady: And every one of these moments is an opportunity to be transformed more and more into his likeness. Not theologically, but actually very practically. In a very real way, so I’m very happy that you thought of it.

0:23:37.6 Dr. Robert Kim: Well, the problem is I have a lot of ideas, but one thing that was really cool about this weekend is there’s a man that presented Timo Strawbridge, if you know that name. But long story short, he shared a story of his testimony. So this man, never graduated high school. So only has, I think only has a high school diploma, but has been the right hand man for a church planter who has led that movement down there in Lakeland, Florida training, named Tim Rice. And so long story short, his major transformation, this is where the intersect is, his major transformation was, he said one day he was coming rummaging through I think some of his parent’s stuff and he found Sonship tapes.

0:24:13.9 Jim Lovelady: Oh, really?

0:24:14.3 Dr. Robert Kim: And the sonship books, and just how much that revolution…

0:24:17.4 Jim Lovelady: Like buried treasure right there.

0:24:18.3 Dr. Robert Kim: Exactly. It just revolutionized his life. And so his whole thing is, I just take the simple truths that were part of that, and I’ve just lived out of that my entire life. And so it was just cool to hear another Jack Miller sonship Serge story and how that also intersects with church planting and what the Lord has blessed through that.

0:24:36.5 Jim Lovelady: That’s amazing.

0:24:37.2 Dr. Robert Kim: That’s pretty cool. Yeah.

0:24:37.5 Jim Lovelady: All those sonship tapes. It should be like, you go to a concert nowadays and the most hipster concerts, the band is selling their music on cassette again. And it’s vinyl. Vinyl will always be big, but cassette is making comeback. So you can buy a lot of bands or so I think we should do that. Maybe we should release the sonship stuff on tape again.

0:25:03.4 Dr. Robert Kim: That would be fun. Yeah. Yeah.

0:25:04.6 Jim Lovelady: Amazing.

0:25:05.8 Dr. Robert Kim: Or it’d be fun to go to all the garage sales and see if we can find a couple of sets.

0:25:09.7 Jim Lovelady: That’s right.

0:25:10.5 Dr. Robert Kim: And just see how much they’re actually worth in one sense.

0:25:12.6 Jim Lovelady: And do you guys have any Led Zeppelin albums and sonship tapes? What?

0:25:17.6 Dr. Robert Kim: Maybe Rose Marie has them.

0:25:19.2 Jim Lovelady: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. That’s awesome. So you’re also part of the board here at Serge. And when I first came on, a little over a year ago… Oh, that’s when I saw you last. You were just here.

0:25:33.6 Dr. Robert Kim: Yeah.

0:25:33.9 Jim Lovelady: I bumped into you. I was like, “What are you doing here?” “Oh, I’m on the board.”

0:25:36.8 Dr. Robert Kim: And I was like, “What are you doing here?”

0:25:39.3 Jim Lovelady: So how did you get on the board? What was that story? What’s the story? Because you’ve, clearly anybody who is on the board loves Serge and loves missions, loves the kingdom.

0:25:50.7 Dr. Robert Kim: Yep.

0:25:51.2 Jim Lovelady: So I wanna hear… You were leaving, you were gonna go catch a plane.

0:25:55.6 Dr. Robert Kim: Yeah. Yeah.

0:25:56.7 Jim Lovelady: Now I get to finally hear the story.

0:25:58.2 Dr. Robert Kim: Okay. Well, there’s probably not more. Well, the simple version of the story is Bob asked me. [laughter]

0:26:03.3 Jim Lovelady: Oh, okay.

0:26:03.8 Dr. Robert Kim: But all that to say is I think there are some things that probably precede, I think the matching and also one of the reasons why I said yes. And so I did have to ultimately say yes. But what that said is, I would say I had a massive gospel awakening in my life, roughly in 2003. And I’ll just say in the sense of what it means to really hold fast to the gospel. And so, even though I graduated from seminary, I was doing ministry and all that good stuff, we had lost a child. And all that to say it was in the grips of that suffering that I think I understood what the gospel really is.

0:26:33.5 Dr. Robert Kim: And it was going deeper with that. And then eventually, obviously Tim Keller kept expounding that and kept eating up everything else. And then eventually I took the call in 2006 to come here to Philadelphia. And I was like, wait, I’m in New Life territory. I’m in the backyard of Serge, World Harvest at the time and all that good stuff. And so I was always just around those waters. And the more I was around those waters, the more I kept drinking deeper and deeper of just kind of saying like, this is the gospel and this is what it means to have a gospel centered life, a gospel centered church. And so again, our church that we planted was Grace Point Church.

0:27:05.2 Jim Lovelady: I love your church. I did a, I led worship for a retreat, like a church-wide retreat.

0:27:10.9 Dr. Robert Kim: Okay.

0:27:11.5 Jim Lovelady: And they were just the kindest, most wonderful people. And I feel like, my wife can attest to this. I left having served, but I felt like I had been served.

0:27:25.3 Dr. Robert Kim: Yeah.

0:27:26.4 Jim Lovelady: So the DNA, the gospel DNA of that church is just really wonderful.

0:27:32.8 Dr. Robert Kim: Yeah. Thank you. Well, I praise the Lord. And that’s, so the name was 1st Corinthians 15:10, the Apostle Paul saying, what else do we have to point to but the grace of God? By the grace of God, I am what I am. Right? And just be able to say for ourselves and all the church, let’s continue just to do that. But yeah. So, we planted that and then I kept coming over to Serge for different reasons. I had friends here, worked here from presbytery, et cetera, and things like that. Eventually my wife worked here.

0:27:57.6 Jim Lovelady: Yeah.

0:27:57.8 Dr. Robert Kim: So actually when I became the church planting coordinator, took over for Bruce Finn, I was like, honey, I think we need some more income, and so can you go get a part-time job? And so she actually became the executive assistant for Al when he was here, and things like that. And so that was a fun connection. And so I think all those different connections that were all along the way and my heart for missions, I think when Bob was looking for someone to come on the board, he was like, “Hey, what about Robert Kim? I think he might fit with the DNA of Serge.” And so that’s how it all started. When I prayed about it, this is the other part that I do wanna say, and we’re Covenant Theological Seminary. If you get a read, cheer up. You have the biography about Jack Miller.

0:28:34.0 Jim Lovelady: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah.

0:28:34.7 Dr. Robert Kim: They actually document pretty well the connection between Jack Miller, even at that time with Francis Schaeffer and Covenant Theological Seminary. And so it’s really cool to see that we’re actually continuing that now in a very kind of cool, providential way. So actually one of our mission statement, one of the leading points is to say, Covenant Seminary exists to walk by God’s grace. And whenever I see that, I think, oh, that just sounds eerily so close to Serge and Grace at the Fray, et cetera and things that, so you actually see that relationship with that grace centeredness between the two. And so yeah, it’s been a good match in my opinion, to see how the Lord has worked in that.

0:29:13.5 Jim Lovelady: Well, being on the board, there is a certain influence that you have.

0:29:17.4 Dr. Robert Kim: Yeah. Yeah.

0:29:18.8 Jim Lovelady: So, talk to me about some of, some of what your hopes and dreams for how you can influence the future of Serge from being on the board.

0:29:26.0 Dr. Robert Kim: Yeah. One of the reasons that, like more recently, before it was almost all pastors historically on the board and not very few, like “business people”. And then more recently it shifted where there was more business people and then fewer pastors, and then some of the pastors were coming off. And so I think Bob in particular saw a need that there was going to be pastors, theologically trained people to make sure that on the board there was some form of supervision. So it was, and then the other candid piece, if I’m honest with you, was the multicultural piece was to be able to say they needed to bring some diversity. And so if you find a minority that gets Serge, it’s important for Serge in that way. I think between Irwyn and I, those were very strategic.

0:30:07.8 Jim Lovelady: Yeah.

0:30:08.1 Dr. Robert Kim: Kind of income people to, or incoming people to help see that as a balance for the board as well.

0:30:15.5 Jim Lovelady: When you preached at Chelten a couple times, it was interesting because we were going through a series on diversity, and I just really appreciated your sermons. One of the remarks you made was, people just think I’m White.

0:30:35.4 Dr. Robert Kim: Yeah.

0:30:35.8 Jim Lovelady: And it’s like, I’m not White. [laughter]

0:30:41.8 Jim Lovelady: And I’m like, and like that you have, it’s wow.

0:30:45.9 Dr. Robert Kim: Yeah.

0:30:46.4 Jim Lovelady: Yeah, it was…

0:30:47.9 Dr. Robert Kim: Well, one that’s been more recent that someone has said to me, and I got irked by it and I had to ask myself, why was I frustrated with this? So he, they said to me, they’re like, Asian Americans, Korean Americans specifically, have had a unique privilege because they are White adjacent.

0:31:05.3 Jim Lovelady: Oh, yeah. I’ve heard. Yeah.

0:31:07.6 Dr. Robert Kim: And to me, I was like, when I heard it, I was like, “I don’t even know what you mean completely but that sits wrong with me from the very beginning.”

0:31:13.9 Jim Lovelady: Yeah. Yeah.

0:31:14.5 Dr. Robert Kim: There’s so many parts in it. I was just like, “Oh, I need to talk to this person.” [laughter] So actually I felt, I remember the one thing I said that was fun, and I just, it came up was, I’m sorry, turn to your neighbor and tell them that you’re a racist. [laughter]

0:31:27.8 Jim Lovelady: Yeah.

0:31:28.3 Dr. Robert Kim: And I was just like, “Now we can actually have an honest conversation.”

0:31:31.5 Jim Lovelady: Absolutely. Yeah.

0:31:31.9 Dr. Robert Kim: Yeah. And that goes back to the Psalm 139 that you referenced. I think if anyone is foolish, if they can actually say that they don’t have a form of pride, prejudice, et cetera and their hearts with respect to that.

0:31:43.1 Jim Lovelady: Yeah.

0:31:43.7 Dr. Robert Kim: They’re not being honest with themselves.

0:31:45.0 Jim Lovelady: It’s probably the, it’s the scariest in our culture. It’s the scariest, “sin” to confess, to say I’m a racist.

0:31:55.7 Dr. Robert Kim: Yeah.

0:31:57.6 Jim Lovelady: There’s just no room for someone to confess that sin in our culture. Our culture doesn’t know how to deal with that confession. The gospel knows how to deal with that.

0:32:05.9 Dr. Robert Kim: Yeah, yeah.

0:32:07.3 Jim Lovelady: A healthy, mature church knows how to deal with that. A healthy pastor knows how to hear that and receive that because he knows that he is a racist. We’re all racists. And if we start with that, if we start with that leveling of the playing field, that changes the conversation.

0:32:25.7 Dr. Robert Kim: Yep, yeah.

0:32:26.2 Jim Lovelady: But we just can’t.

0:32:28.1 Dr. Robert Kim: Yeah, which is why I made them do that. And that’s exactly right. In any given room, if you’re doing a sermon on that, or like a church, most people will say 50% of the people will say yes, and the other people will be like, there’s no way. I love Black people.

0:32:40.9 Jim Lovelady: Right. Right.

0:32:41.4 Dr. Robert Kim: There’s that statement. And I’m just like, that doesn’t mean you’re not a racist. Even if you’ve done a couple of efforts, and this is where I teach a class in cultural intelligence at Covenant. I was like, “I teach this class, and I still say I’m a racist, right? And I say it because I’ll find myself in a lot of different situations kind of saying, why am I feeling this in my heart just because I’m in a different context?” And I need to say, “Search me, oh God, and see if there’s any offensive way.”

0:33:05.6 Dr. Robert Kim: It’s offensive that I’m doing this just because of the color of someone’s skin, or because of the zip code I’m in, that I should feel a sense of fear. Now, don’t get me wrong. There’s common sense, but we’re talking about fear that’s actually based off a form of prejudice that’s actually living in me. And I need to be able to say, “Who am I? How dare me?” Right? And that’s the thing. It’s just be honest for yourself in that way. But it’s unfortunate that we’re not.

0:33:29.4 Jim Lovelady: Yeah, there’s a boldness that’s required in a safety, in the gospel that’s required for that.

0:33:39.6 Dr. Robert Kim: Yeah.

0:33:39.8 Jim Lovelady: Because you just know that you’re going to, at the very least, you’re gonna get dirty looks. At the very least, there’s going to be a, oh, I didn’t realize. In Jim Gaffigan’s words, oh, I didn’t know I was better than you. You know?

0:33:56.6 Dr. Robert Kim: Yeah, no. I think in so many ways, the reality is, most organizations continue to repeat the same cycle, right? We want to be multi-ethnic, we’re not multicultural. And so much of it starts with the leadership. And so in so many ways, I would say I’m thankful for the fact that Serge asked Irwyn and I in particular, we were the same board class that came in. And I think it was intentional of us representing both major pieces of kind of the pastorate and also our ethnic kind of backgrounds, where we’re able to bring it to the table that representation matters on leadership.

0:34:29.5 Dr. Robert Kim: And that if, for example, your board doesn’t reflect the nations that we’re trying to reach, right? Well, how can we as a missions agency in particular, want to be able to do that? And so I think the fact that there is that representation, it does matter. And this goes back a little bit to Covenant’s track, about half my people in my track are people of color. And going back to why they asked me, I said, “It’s representation, they are safe with me.”

0:34:54.4 Jim Lovelady: Yeah.

0:34:54.6 Dr. Robert Kim: And literally I was, the couple I was with this morning, they were African American. They’re just like, “Dr. Kim, I love you because I feel so safe around you, because you get us, you get our context.” And again, it’s not because I know everything about their context. But because I understand their lived experience of being in the margins and everything else that’s there. And so it’s they get us, it’s advocating for us, and he’s trying to move us forward in the same way.

0:35:21.9 Dr. Robert Kim: That is my hope and prayer for Serge as well, is that as we think about whom we are not only a part of the home office, but again, the field itself can reflect the very diversity of every tribe, nation and tongue that’s found in Revelation 7:9, that we believe that’s part of the kingdom that we want to see come here on earth. I want to taste that piece of Heaven at Serge as it is in Heaven.

0:35:42.1 Jim Lovelady: Yeah. It makes so much sense. That’s probably the understatement of this entire episode. But for a missions agency that’s all about engaging in cross-cultural ministry, engaging with people that are different from us?

0:35:57.0 Dr. Robert Kim: Yeah.

0:35:58.4 Jim Lovelady: For us to take all that that means very seriously.

0:36:03.9 Dr. Robert Kim: Yeah. So, one of the things I’ve been telling church planners these days is that, when people are coming into your churches, the big question that they’re asking is not a question on denomination. Back in the day, they looked for a baptismal ’cause that’s their hardcore Baptist. But the questions they’re asking are actually around gender and race. Now for Serge as well, it’s easy for people to hear things like this and say, oh, they’ve caught on to an agenda. And I won’t use the word, but they caught on to this agenda. And what I often refer people back to is, yeah, if you’re being caught up in the cultural trends, that’s not helpful.

0:36:35.6 Jim Lovelady: Right.

0:36:35.7 Dr. Robert Kim: But if you do see it in a gospel-kingdom worldview, then actually, it does make sense. And often, I’ll take people to John 4. That’s that passage of Jesus and the Samaritan woman. It’s actually what’s, it’s always fascinating when I take students there. But John 4 or 5, the Samaritan, Jesus asked her for a drink. And what does she say? She says, “How can you, a Jew, ask for me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” And what’s front and center in that very relationship is what? It’s gender and race. And Jesus is saying, look, I know you wanna use those to divide us, but guess what? I’m gonna lean into that, and I’m gonna see you, I know you, and I love you. And that’s what’s absolutely amazing, that some 2,000 years later, it’s the same question that we could be asking.

0:37:17.2 Jim Lovelady: Yeah.

0:37:17.5 Dr. Robert Kim: And actually, the wonderful part about that I love, is that, so she goes back and she evangelizes them, right? Remember, she tells them.

0:37:23.4 Jim Lovelady: Yeah, yeah.

0:37:24.2 Dr. Robert Kim: And she, I tell my students on this on evangelism, hey, you don’t need a seminary degree to evangelize. But all that to say, it says in John all she did was, she’s like, I met a man who knew everything about me. It’s like, Jesus saw me. And I think as it relates to gender and race, that’s part of the problem. We just don’t see them.

0:37:45.5 Jim Lovelady: Yeah.

0:37:45.9 Dr. Robert Kim: We don’t get to know them, and we don’t get to be able to say, so I often will say, “In the gospel of Jesus Christ, we are fully known and fully loved.” And guess what? To each person who’s struggling with respect to gender and race, to be able to say, I want to fully know you, and I want you to know that you can be fully loved in Jesus as well.

0:38:01.9 Jim Lovelady: That’s so good. And so is your dream for Serge as a global organization to reflect that global diversity of every tongue and tribe and nation. So, you’re one of the ones that I think, I wonder what Robert thinks about some of the big picture things about what’s going on in the world of mission, what’s going on in the world of church planting. And you have to talk about how the board meetings are gonna be relating to that. I actually want to know more just personally what you’re seeing in terms of probably both of those things. Church planting, but also in this world, in a post-COVID world, in a post whatever world, where do you see the state of church planting and missions?

0:38:48.1 Dr. Robert Kim: Yeah. So there’s a lot that’s being written and talked about with regards to the church. And I would argue missions to a certain extent, and I want to use those terms very loosely, but I think they’re one and the same, church planting and missions. But with that said, I think in terms of church planting, the need is extremely dire, right? The churches that, historically speaking in roughly 2013, they used to say that we planted 4,000 churches and we closed 3,700, which was the net of 300. In 2019 before the COVID, the more recent kind of statistic has been is that we have started 3000 and we closed 4,500.

0:39:23.0 Jim Lovelady: Wow, we’re bleeding out.

0:39:23.8 Dr. Robert Kim: Yes. We are. We are. Yeah. Quickly. And that, and again, those are pre-pandemic numbers. And then I think if you couple that with the deconstruction, that’s kind of been more evidence in The Great Dechurching book. That just came out. I think you’re seeing just a mass exodus that that’s because that’s happening, our version of post-Christian, and that’s happening here in the United States since we mentioned Scotland. It’s really gonna be something front and center if there’s not something that’s really done, I think in terms of the work of church planting and church revitalization. But I’m gonna focus really on church planting. So I think whatever we had to say that we had a great need before, it’s just expanded even more. And so this is where I want to say, at least in my one little part of the world that I get to do, I want to cast vision for this and saying to my students, and this is a true statement, if you can graduate, the harvest is plentiful, the workers are few.

0:40:08.7 Dr. Robert Kim: Someone is looking for you to go plant a church. And I get calls, and this is one thing that’s always a little bit hard for in my role, is I get a call or an email from places all around the country. Most recently it was Cadillac, Michigan, it’s Chattanooga, Tennessee, of these people saying, “Look, we have these people who are meeting and they just want to have a planter come and help plant this church. We have money, we have people, Robert, send us a worker. Send us one of your graduates. We need them here. We desperately need them here.”

0:40:35.2 Jim Lovelady: Very literally, the harvest is plentiful. This is not hyperbole.

0:40:39.8 Dr. Robert Kim: Exactly.

0:40:40.4 Jim Lovelady: Literally.

0:40:40.9 Dr. Robert Kim: Yeah.

0:40:41.5 Jim Lovelady: I never use that word. But literally the harvest is plentiful, the workers are few.

0:40:44.7 Dr. Robert Kim: And it’s everywhere. And that’s the thing is if I could probably close my eyes and put a picture of the United States map up and just put my finger down, I would guarantee you probably there’s a place there saying like, hey, we’ve been praying right now that the Lord would send us a worker to be able to plant this church, work in this harvest, gather the… The fields are as wide as a harvest. Let’s reap it in. It’s there. It’s ready. Let’s just go at it.

0:41:07.5 Jim Lovelady: So if the fields are ripe for harvest, why is there such a hemorrhaging, not to mix metaphors, but what do you think is happening?

0:41:16.8 Dr. Robert Kim: Well, there’s a, I’m sure you know a lot firsthand. [laughter]

0:41:19.4 Jim Lovelady: I want to hear what you think.

0:41:20.2 Dr. Robert Kim: I don’t know any question. Even as we think about the gospel, right? What is the gospel? I think for a lot of churches, just even to define that would be hard. And to be able to say to what they stand. And even going back to identity. So actually, and I’m gonna say this as one who represents a denomination/denominational seminary. One of the things I said literally yesterday was we were closing our time is this, I said to everyone, I said, “Hey, make sure we understand that our identity is always kingdom over tribe.” And I think we sometimes just lose that. It’s a gospel of the kingdom, it’s not a gospel of our tribe.

0:41:52.3 Jim Lovelady: That’s right.

0:41:52.6 Dr. Robert Kim: And if it’s a gospel of the kingdom, let’s live out of that and make sure that we understand what it’s like to do that. And I think that’s really been missing. And so anytime we have made it, let’s say a gospel of the tribe, I don’t think that’s gonna really help our gospel witness. ‘Cause it’s not the witness we’re supposed to have. Or let’s say for example, it’s a gospel of our country. Right? I could keep going with a version of the sea of nationalism.

0:42:11.4 Jim Lovelady: All the different kinds of gospels that…

0:42:13.6 Dr. Robert Kim: Exactly. Yeah. And I think that’s where we need to get at is to say, what does it mean for us to be gospel proclaiming churches? So that in essence, it’s the, what I want people to stumble over. Right now, I think what most people are leaving and the dechurching et cetera, they’re not stumbling over the gospel.

0:42:30.4 Jim Lovelady: That’s right. That’s right.

0:42:31.6 Dr. Robert Kim: They’re stumbling over expressions of it or experiences of it that oftentimes are not the gospel. And I think that’s, there’s more to it, but that at least that’s where I’m beginning to at least land and saying like, I think those are some of the major issues going on right now.

0:42:45.8 Jim Lovelady: Yeah. I absolutely agree. It reminds me of the woman who bled for 12 years in the Bible. And she went to doctors and the doctors even made it worse. She did everything she could and it only seemed to get worse. This hemorrhaging that when we try to do it ourselves, when we… And it’s in desperation. It’s not like, when Jesus came around, she ran to Jesus. And the energy that she had, it was like her last bit of energy was to just, if I could just touch Him, he can make me well. And so it’s that same thing just kind of at a church-wide level. If we can just touch… If we could just touch Jesus, get back to that. If I could just… So there’s a certain kind of desperation there that we have to have. If we have a posture of like the tribalism that you were talking about. If we have the posture of a tribe, the tribalism we’re, we don’t need Jesus. We’ve got our systematic theologies, we’ve got our whatever. But there’s a desperation that… I feel it, I feel this, and especially when you lay out some statistics that are shocking. Just church after church is closing, no matter how much we are able to plant more churches, there’s, there are churches after churches closing.

0:44:24.8 Dr. Robert Kim: Yeah. Yeah. And it’s also, I think equally as hard as churches are closing and then the workers that are out in the field right now, they’re just tired. The pandemic, the division, all those things have really kind of done them in. And so the number of people that are leaving a couple of months ago, or a couple weeks ago and that there’s an article of, Why I Left The Ministry and it went viral. And I was thinking, one, that’s a horrible article ’cause there wasn’t much Jesus in it. That’s my quick critique of it, is that there wasn’t much Jesus in it. But two is that, as we hear those stories, I think it puts another like blemish.

0:45:00.3 Dr. Robert Kim: Not only is it the church, but even the workers who have experienced it, they’re the ones that are also leaving. Which is one thing I will say that I do appreciate about Serge from the board level is that, Serge has done such a good job in terms of making sure member care is given to everyone that’s on the field and saying it’s not about performance, it’s about us really caring about you and your walk with Jesus and how you’re putting the gospel into your life and how you’re living out of that. So there are some core values here that I think are really wonderful that are in place and we’re implementing out there on the field.

0:45:28.8 Jim Lovelady: Yeah. It has been fun to get a closer look at the way that that’s going down here at Serge where there is this desire, hey, connecting with people. Hey, are you desperately clinging to Jesus? What is that looking like for you? How can we help you with that? And because it is, it’s hard. It’s just hard. So how would you… If you suddenly got transported from being on the board to being in missionary care, to some burned out pastor, church planting pastor who he parachuted in somewhere, they’re in the trenches, they’re in a hard place and this person is in a hard place. What do you… How do you speak to them? What would you say to them?

0:46:30.1 Dr. Robert Kim: My mind and my heart immediately went to John 15 for some reason. I think Jesus and the vine and the branches just to abide in Him, that if we’re looking for things to grow, our importance is not that it’s a connection to us. It’s a connection to Christ and understanding Him as divine, that he does cause all things to grow. I think Paul reiterates that right in1st Corinthians where he’s like, I planted and pours water, but God causes all things to grow. And so again, it would probably just encourage that planter and saying just stay connected to Jesus. And how are you doing that in your life regularly?

0:47:01.2 Dr. Robert Kim: So that whether it be aspects of desperation or just the faith and trust abiding in the Lord of just, Lord, you’re going to do this. You’re good to me. And I know that because of Christ. You do look through the cross. The conversation I had this morning, again, with my student on the way to the airport was more or less one and the same. It’s just encouraging him. I said, look, he’s 20, in his 20s, just married a couple of years, doesn’t know what’s going to happen. He just started seminary. And I just wanted to encourage him and say, “Hey, this is one thing I know for certain.

0:47:31.0 Dr. Robert Kim: When I was in your shoes 20 something years ago, I had those same doubts, but I’ve never been able to not say that I can look upon the Lord and see His goodness and grace that He’s provided all along the way. And not because of me, but because to say be faithful to Jesus, surrender to Him in that particular way.” And so that was a great conversation for him and his loving wife to just kind of go their way and say like, “That was great. I need to be reminded of that.” And so just to stay close to Jesus in that way.

0:47:56.1 Jim Lovelady: Yeah. I’m sure I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.

0:48:00.8 Dr. Robert Kim: Yeah. On that aspect of goodness, they’re so easy for us to just forget that in our life. And that was kind of, I think the gospel moment for me when I was kind of wrestling through suffering was to just kind of ask part of that question like Lord, how can you be good if this suffering is happening to me? And then actually it was Romans 8:32 that really spoke to the notion of God’s goodness in the sending of his son. And to be able to say He understands and He actually is really good still.

0:48:27.5 Jim Lovelady: Yeah. Whatever the dark night of the soul, I’ve been through my own and it was… It’s the kind of thing that you don’t… I don’t wish on anybody, but I’m very thankful that the Lord took me through that and how the things that… The gifts that He gave me in the midst of that, moving through that brought me to the other side where, like we were talking about earlier, when you first came into my office, the art on my wall where it’s like I can’t argue with something I find beautiful. And coming out of the dark night of my soul, what brought me out of that was there was a faint beauty in the distance and everything else was dark. So you might as well go that way.

0:49:23.7 Jim Lovelady: And then suddenly that comes into focus and it’s just a beautiful savior with a beautiful, victorious song of love to sing. I was a recipient of that song and a participant in that song. And so deconstruction for me, isn’t about reconstructing, it’s about being re-enchanted and the word chant re-enchanted, chant a song. There’s a new song. And so it turns into this, sing to the Lord a new song.

0:49:56.6 Dr. Robert Kim: Yeah. Yeah. I think on the issue of suffering, I often say this in one of my other courses on leadership and I say that I don’t wish suffering on anyone. At the same time, I would probably rarely trust a leader who has not gone through suffering. And it’s because of the fact that it is, whether it be referencing the dark nights of the soul or just how suffering and the theology of suffering actually leads us to actually understand the gospel in that particular way. And so I think almost everyone needs to have a form of brokenness where they’ve been able to experience that to lead people who are also broken as well.

0:50:32.4 Jim Lovelady: Yeah. One of the questions I was gonna ask you, basically, you just kind of answered that. What are you looking for in a church planter? And that’s probably a big one, huh?

0:50:42.4 Dr. Robert Kim: It is. Yeah. So there’s a series of questions that I do in order for them to come into the track that we go through some of our gospel dynamics. Some of the times I ask very personal questions on just how they’re repenting. And I tell people that if I don’t actually hear genuine repentance, that’s actually the bigger alarm. So when someone says, like oftentimes one of the questions might be, when was the last time you repented where you needed to plead for the mercy of God in your life? And if they’re saying, yeah, last night I didn’t pray or I didn’t do my quiet time. And don’t get me wrong, I get it. Conscious of heart that might be literally the thing that you come up with versus the person that said, “What was that? Hey, it was just a really long day. I came home. I was really short with my wife and I realized I had this anger and I was like, how dare I treat my wife this way when she’s the one who I love and I need to lay my down and just plead.” I’d be like, “Yes.” [laughter]

0:51:37.2 Jim Lovelady: Right.

0:51:37.6 Dr. Robert Kim: You get the gospel. You understand what repentance is like and more than likely, that’s going to keep you from a form of, let’s say a moral failure than those who aren’t simply dealing and kind of being sensitive to sin in their life in that way. Sin and grace in their life in that way.

0:51:53.7 Jim Lovelady: Right. Yeah. Which again, going back to the sonship mentoring sonship program, it’s mentoring people into a life where repentance becomes a greater and greater reality at a moment by moment basis and because… But it’s always like, it’s not teaching people how to say sorry per se or only, it’s repentance that always leads to the joy of our salvation. Repentance always leads to joy. So anyway, well, man, I haven’t seen you in over a year and we have like an hour together.

0:52:35.9 Dr. Robert Kim: Yeah.

0:52:36.6 Jim Lovelady: And I feel like I’ve only scratched the surface.

0:52:38.0 Dr. Robert Kim: I know. We could talk for a lot more. We can do this again another time. [laughter]

0:52:41.3 Jim Lovelady: Yeah. I really appreciate hanging out with you. You are a wealth of knowledge and I’m kind of jealous of the folks who get to participate more closely with you, especially at Covenant. And then knowing some of the folks, because I’ve taken some of them through sonship, and it really has been such an honor and yeah, it’s like this privilege that it’s almost you’re handing me this person, and you go, “Hey, this person’s thinking about planting a church, and we’d like you to help.” And I’m like, “I get to help?” That’s humbling. It’s awesome. It’s so much fun in getting to encourage these folks who whenever anybody takes a little look at… Sonship is all about like, “Hey, let’s pause and take a look. Search me oh God, know my heart.” And I say that at the beginning and they’re like, “Okay, let’s do this.” And then we start to search our hearts and whoa, this is whoa. And that’s where, well, cheer up. You’re a lot worse than you think you are, but God’s grace is greater than you think it is.

0:53:51.3 Dr. Robert Kim: Yeah. That’s great. Thank you for doing that for my students, by the way.

0:53:55.8 Jim Lovelady: It’s my privilege. It’s my honor.

0:53:57.5 Dr. Robert Kim: The beauty of even the vision of that idea was kind of similar to the guy I mentioned down in Florida. I can guarantee he’s probably taken hundreds and hundreds of people through sonship, if he is that one recipient of it. And I do think in the same vein, what we’re doing for this next generation of planters, leaders, and however we invest in them, we’re able to say, “Hey, if you can capture this vision, start telling others, go tell others likewise?” And it’s not even so much the program. That’s not where we’re getting at. We’re just saying, “Hey, get at this in your heart. This is so important. It’s life transforming.” And one of the things that’s really beautiful about this story this past weekend was just that he’s just remained that humble, passionate guy who just loves Jesus and loves the church. And it’s just, oh so evident. And again, it didn’t require some… One of the things I mentioned to my students was, notice his love for Jesus, notice his understanding of the gospel and he doesn’t have a seminary degree. And I said, “I hope you realize [chuckle] the seminary degree is not what’s going to make you that, it’s really just, again, faithful abiding with Christ and seeing how that works out.”

0:55:00.0 Jim Lovelady: Amen. Amen. Well, thanks man.

0:55:02.7 Dr. Robert Kim: Yeah. Jim, it’s good to be with you.

0:55:11.3 Jim Lovelady: The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Jesus said it 2,000 years ago and it’s still true today. If being a part of a church planting team is intriguing to you, stay curious and follow the Holy Spirit. And if you’re looking for a book that will get you fired up about the church, go grab a copy of Jack Miller’s Outgrowing the Ingrown Church. But fair warning, this book is dangerous. Read it with a humble heart and you will get fired up for Christ’s church. I’ll have a link for that book in the show notes. So make sure to check out all the resources that I share in the show notes. And share this episode with a friend. Leave a rating, give that thumbs up on YouTube. It really does help get this show out to more folks. And when it comes to cross-cultural church planting, the needs of a particular church vary as much as the communities themselves.

We at Serge take one of three approaches to church planting and pastoral ministry. Serge missionary teams lead new church plants, walk alongside local leaders through facilitative church planting, and we help existing church communities find renewal. So for more information about that, go to serge.org. Hover over the missions tab and click types of work, and then explore church planting and pastoral ministry. And above all, pray for your church, participate in the life of your local congregation, and pray for your pastors, missionaries, and church planters. The death and resurrection of Jesus means he is victorious. So follow your victorious savior into repentance, through humility and into exaltation, whatever faithfulness may look like for you today. And know that you go with his blessing. So may the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord make his face to smile down on you. May the Lord be gracious to you and turn his bright eyes to you, and give you his peace. In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, one God, life everlasting. Amen.

Robert Kim

Robert Kim is a second-generation Korean-American who serves as the Associate Professor of Applied Theology and Church Planting and the Philip and Rebecca Douglass Chair of Church Planting and Christian Formation at Covenant Theological Seminary in Saint Louis, MO. In this role, he equips students with the gospel with an emphasis on raising up church planters. Prior to teaching at Covenant, Robert served for 13 years as a church planter, pastor, and church planting network director in Philadelphia. He serves on the board of directors for Serge and his wife Wonmin used to work in the home office. Robert loves the work of Serge and fittingly named his dog Mission Impawsible.


Jim Lovelady

Jim Lovelady is a Texas-born pastor, musician, and liturgist, doing ministry in Philadelphia with his wife, Lori, and 3 kids, Lucia, Ephram, and Talitha. He is passionate about the ministry of liberating religious people from the anxieties of religion and liberating secular people from the anxieties of secularism through the story of the gospel.

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