This was my first visit to Korea. I had visited all around it—to Japan four times, to Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines—but never before to Korea.
Yet I felt as though I knew South Korea, because for many years I had taught many students from that country. Moreover, half a century ago, I had negotiated with a Presbyterian seminary in neighboring Manchuria to teach there. That discussion had been broken off because of the war, but it left me with a passion for that part of the world—the way a pastor’s first church forever holds an unforgettable place in his soul.
My special interest in Korea now was due to the unusual success of that country’s missionary movement—a success not matched anywhere, except perhaps in Africa south of the Sahara and in Central America.
In many ways, South Korea seemed like any other modern mission field. It wasn’t the success story of any particular denomination or faith tradition. Presbyterians, Pentecostals, Methodists, Baptists, Independents—all seemed to flourish.
No doubt factors in the early history of Korean missions have some significance for this extraordinary explosion of the church. Korea never had a national religion. All of its major pre-Christian religions were imports. Hence, Christianity was never perceived as a threat to patriotism. Moreover, the so-called Nevius method, with its stress on self-support, self-propagation, and self-government, developed first in the Korean Presbyterian Mission and quickly spread to all Protestant missions in Korea.
More important, however, is what Korean churches are doing today. They rigorously follow the principles of church growth. Every convert is immediately put to work at spiritual tasks, not just painting the basement. ...1
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