Friday, Sept. 23, 2016, was about seeing the growth of the Korean Methodist Church.
Grace Church is one of 22 new churches that have grown from the Bupyeong Methodist Church. When pilgrims from New England visited the church in 2014, it was surrounded by the rice paddies that cover much of the open land in Korea.
The open fields can still be seen, but across the street from the church are now tall apartment buildings. Rev. Song, lead pastor, hopes these will be a fertile mission field for the church which has grown to 100 members since its inception.
Rev. Song states his church's mission simply: "To save souls in this area."
He asked the New England pilgrims to pray for the church and its continued growth; the prayer was led by Conference Lay Leader Rene Wilbur.
The Kipun Church is another Bupyeong plant. The church was built, the senior pastor said, to be a place that is friendly to its guests and to the environment. The church’s thrift store is called the Green Store, a place where items are sold and reused rather than thrown away.
The largest church in the area, the sprawling, manicured grounds feature the church building as well as a second building housing a remarkable children’s library, a coffee shop and performance space where New England pilgrims were treated to a performance of traditional dance.
Kipun began with just one member who began evangelizing to families he knew. The church, which now has a membership of some 2,500, no longer evangelizes. The pastor told the New England pilgrims that God spoke to him, saying it was not this church’s role to evangelize.
“I was surprised to hear that,” he admitted.
Listen to him tell the story (Rev. Seok Hwan Hong, RISEM District Superintendent, translates).
Kipun’s story is remarkable. Despite a strong presence, growth of churches in Korea is not a given.
Rev. Eun-pa Hong, Bupyeong’s senior pastor, admitted that the pilgrims were being shown “the bright side” of church growth in Korea. While the 30 percent of churches that are in urban centers – like Bupyeong – are large and strong, many of the rural churches are struggling.