Heading to University of Saint Andrews

The good news is that I have been accepted at the Divinity Department at the University of Saint Andrews in Scotland. I’m looking forward to taking classes and hopefully mentorship with N. T. Wright who has been a favorite of mine for a very long time. Even before I started my seminary education at Fuller, I was a fan. Of course, there are other capable professors there, especially Scott Hafemann, whom I hear was recently removed from his post at Gordon Conwell for advocating the New Perspective on Paul (NPP). So he’s back at Saint Andrews, having taught there previously.

Meanwhile, this means that I have to leave my post as Pastor for LifeSpring in Garden Grove, which I do with a deep sense of sadness. There are people whom I cherish and will miss very much. Nevertheless, I plan to stay in touch with as many of them as possible, exchanging ideas and growing and nurturing each other in our Christian faith.

I do leave with a sense of accomplishment, even though the ministry was rather small. I still sense that there was tremendous spiritual growth and that many at LifeSpring did indeed come closer to God. The highlight for me was going through a series on the Sermon on the Mount, emphasizing its practicality for disciples.

My desire for ministry was to not cut corners with the truth of the gospel, even where we Reformed folk had managed to muck it up!

I still haven’t solved the problem of the so-called “Silent Exodus” among 2nd gen Koreans. I was aware of it having studied the phenomenon at Fuller, but found through active ministry in an immigrant church context that it was much more difficult to deal with than I had originally anticipated. At times, it felt like ministering with a revolving door! And I saw many people come and go because of life circumstances, job relocation, college, distance, education, priorities, etc… Nowadays, I don’t think it is a solvable problem. Perhaps the 2nd gen really is meant to take flight, so to speak, which means we should be encouraging them to leave? And that we create a pseudo-probelm by asking them to stay? Nor do I think it necessarily means the 2nd generation are “losing their religion,” to quote an REM song title. Perhaps it really is a pseudo-problem. After all, I found that many who went through the revolving door, still continue to attend church in their different localities or contexts. Further, church attendance in general has been declining for decades, so it cannot simply be an ‘ethnic’ Korean church issue.

If I had to do it over again, perhaps I would experiment with doing a 2nd gen church that is completely independent of the 1st generation, because I now believe the contexts are so different that it is impossible to do a cooperative church ministry within small to medium sized churches. Perhaps 2nd gen-ers need the freedom and independence to pursue their own contextual spirituality. But then again, I have no answers, except to experiment and keep trying…

Speaking of that, seeking a higher degree does not mean abandoning church ministry. On the contrary, I wish to continue ministering at a local church in whatever capacity I can even as I pursue other things. My long term desire is to be a Pastor/Teacher, one reason why I do so admire Tom Wright!

So, even as I leave LifeSpring with a sense of regret, I look forward to new ministry and teaching opportunities in the future. I don’t even know if I will make it to Scotland! I still have to work out visa and financial issues along the way. It is not cheap to be an international student in a place like Scotland. Moreover, I hear the cost of living in a place like that can be pretty high. But I do remember stepping out on faith many years ago to attend seminary at Fuller on a full time basis and how God met my every need. So, even this move is a step of faith for me.

Migration is a spiritual movement. I think of Abraham called to leave his people and his country. I think of the Exodus/Exile experiences of Israel. I think of the prophet Jonah called to a people “not his own.” And ultimately, I think of journey as a metaphor for the movement toward the Promised Land. For here, in this place, we have but temporary housing, and our citizenship is elsewhere.

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