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May 1, 2012

Thursday is for Thinkers: Jimmy Roh (Special Tuesday Edition)

I met Jimmy Roh in a class I recently taught at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. When I heard about what he was doing in his ministry, I wanted you to hear more-- particularly as I hold up women and non-Anglo leaders here through the Thursday is for Thinkers series. So today, we're running a special Tuesday edition of Thursday is for Thinkers. You may also want to check out recent columns from Jen Hatmaker, Juan Sanchez, Jenni Catron, Eugene Cho, Kelly Minter, Halim Suh, and Sally Lloyd Jones.

Read here as Jimmy describes their ministry and then feel free to interact with Jimmy in the comments.

I'm currently part of a family of churches under the name Harvest Mission Community Church (HMCC). HMCC was originally planted by Seth Kim in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on the campus of the University of Michigan in 1996. I was a freshman at the time and was drawn to the church's vision to reach the lost on our campus. I noticed that most churches were disengaged with the campus community, and it was difficult to connect with a local church as a student. It was HMCC's vision to not only preach the Gospel to a new generation of college students, but to disciple them and help them discover the importance of the local church.

As students graduated, they continued to be a part of our church as they found jobs and started families and began to reach out to the community. So the church maintained a strong presence on campus, but grew as people matured through different stages of life.

Through our church, I was discipled and caught a vision for God's heart for the nations. I sensed the call to pastoral ministry a few years after college and joined our church's pastoral staff. Ten years into our ministry, we caught a vision to plant churches on other campuses in cities around the world. I was part of our first church planting effort in Chicago, where I still pastor. We launched our site 5 years ago and have planted two more sites reaching the communities at Northwestern University and the University of Illinois-Chicago (UIC).

Over the past few years, HMCC has planted several other churches in the U.S. (Austin, TX) and internationally (Jakarta, Indonesia and Singapore). We caught a vision for church multiplication. Over the next several years, we've committed to planting 10 more churches.

Reaching out to university communities allows us to share Christ with people from all over the world. This is what originally fueled our vision to plant churches internationally. The church I pastor in Chicago (HMCC of Chicago) is a multicultural community. I, myself, am a second generation Korean-American and our church is majority Asian-American. Being a church-planter in the U.S., I've seen the incredible rise of interest in church-planting over the past few years. I completed my theological studies at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School a few years ago, and, even then, there weren't that many resources for church planters.

Today, I'm overwhelmed by the number of resources out there. But, I also sense there needs to be more attention given to those planting multicultural churches. Like myself, many second generation immigrants are coming out of their immigrant churches to plant multicultural churches. Many of them do not share in the rich denominational heritage and history of others. But I believe this is an emerging and growing segment within American Evangelicalism.

Through the rise of church-planting, we are intersecting with other segments of the American Church in a fresh way. We're asking similar questions on issues of the Gospel, ecclesiology, and the mission of the church. This is not a new development, but it's a rapidly growing trend as more people, like myself, are planting churches. As I attend church-planting conferences, I resonate with much of what's being shared in regards to evangelizing our communities by planting churches. However, I'm often one of the few second generation immigrants in the room.

In the years to come, I hope to engage with others more and share what God has been doing in our young movement. I'm also eager to learn from those who are wiser and have served the Church faithfully for many years. I believe there's great potential for partnerships to form and healthy learning to take place as we preach the gospel in the various contexts of our communities.

Here are a few observations & lessons we've learned along the way:

University communities across the world are important places to plant churches.
College is obviously a time of great change and openness to new ideas. Students have deep spiritual questions, and college is often a place for seeking answers to those questions. Campus ministry has been a strong emphasis in the U.S. and abroad for several decades, however this next generation needs to discover not only the gospel, but the Church as the Body of Christ. Undoubtedly, they need to hear a clear and explicit explanation of the gospel. But they also need to see the church living out the gospel in their own communities. They need to see the Church not just as a place to go, but a community of God's people sent on mission. Most of our evangelism at HMCC has taken place through our life groups, which meet throughout the week. As unbelievers witness Christian community firsthand, the gospel is made visible. They have a place where they can work through their questions and get a glimpse of how Christians live their lives. Our campuses are vital places where this kind of Christian community can flourish.

More and more international students are finding their way to our campuses.
This is true not only in the U.S., but on campuses all over the world. As we plant churches in university communities, we can disciple "the nations" at our doorstep. This is but one way local churches can have a truly global vision. I've had the privilege of sharing the gospel with several international students who have never heard the good news of Christ before and never had the opportunity to visit a church.

Planting churches has expanded our vision to make and multiply disciples and challenged our core commitments.
The vision to plant churches has allowed us to reflect more deeply on our convictions about the gospel, the Church, and God's mission. It's also challenged us to translate our beliefs into tangible commitments. Where is God calling us to go? Who will we send? How will we support this church? It's in asking these questions that we've been able to interact with others from different circles of the evangelical world. As we've embraced the call to plant churches, I find myself interacting with and learning from a wide array of groups and people. I believe the church-planting conversation will continue to broaden as more churches catch this vision.

In conclusion, I was recently part of Ed Stetzer's class on church multiplication at Trinity. I was excited to think through God's mission and church-planting more seriously. It was also exciting to see who was also part of the class. We had pastors from many parts of the world, representing different denominations and backgrounds. As I've been engaged in church-planting over the past several years, it's been a tremendous benefit for me to interact with and learn from others who are wrestling with similar issues and questions. It's my hope that even as we seek to define the gospel more explicitly that the conversation on church-planting will continue to broaden. I believe this will continue to sharpen us and help us to see all the ways that the gospel is advancing today.

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Posted:May 1, 2012 at 12:00 am


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Thursday is for Thinkers: Jimmy Roh (Special Tuesday Edition)