South Korea

"Since the economic crisis, prayer mountains have never been busier."

In recent years, the economy of Asia has been a speeding train, moving full-steam ahead toward modernization. I travel across Asia three months out of the year, and everywhere I go one scene stands out: tall building cranes dotting the skyline. They have become the hallmark of a continent on the move. Everywhere, high-rise apartment buildings are going up next to thatched-roof huts. Businesses are spreading their wings to new and bigger facilities.

The church in Asia has been aboard this speeding train. Especially in countries like South Korea, known as "the Tiger" of Asia, economic prosperity has brought astonishing amounts of material wealth to the church. The faithful keep the coffers full. One very wealthy businessman in Seoul gives up to half of his wealth to the church. I know of an elder who, when his church was embarking on a building program, sold his house and gave the money to the building project.

And the church has something to show for it. At least, outwardly. Churches have not only put up large, impressive sanctuaries, they have purchased whole mountains on which to build discipleship training centers and facilities where people come, day and night, to pray. The South Korean churches, which number among the largest in the world, often build and run their own schools. Recently, churches have even begun to purchase land for cemeteries—something new for the Asian church.

But now Asia's speeding train has entered a dark tunnel, and many see no light at the end. Long to be remembered as the year of economic bailouts, 1998 finds the East deep in the throes of economic depression. Countries such as South Korea, Indonesia, Thailand, ...

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