When Jonathan Oh attended City to City’s 2009 International Intensive in NYC, he knew he wanted to bring this teaching — how the gospel changes hearts, communities and cities — to ministry leaders in Korea when he returned to plant a church. This conviction led to the eventual creation of City to City Korea, a network formed out of City to City Asia Pacific. CTC Korea’s primary focus is the capital, Seoul, which has a metropolitan population of over 25 million.
Seoul is a huge city that values and struggles with the things any major urban center does: materialism, success, performance, loneliness. It is also an international city; subway announcements are routinely given in Korean, Chinese, Japanese and English. Seoul is also known for its megachurches. A number of denominations have their largest church in Seoul, and the largest church in the world, Yoido Full Gospel Church, is located there. But these churches are struggling to reach young people and professionals who don’t see Christianity as credible or relevant to their lives.
So when CTC Korea held its first public conference last year, and the material was taken from Tim Keller’s Center Church, 600 pastors and leaders attended, many from these megachurches. Stephen Ro, CTC Korea Catalyst, explains, “Tim Keller is not just another western preacher to these pastors. They’ve seen how his church in Manhattan is reaching professionals, and they want to know more.”
After the conference, a number of pastors expressed a desire to join the network, CTC Korea. When told they would first need to go through CTC’s training, they humbly agreed. Ro, along with Stephen Um, both Korean pastors and CTC trainers who live in the U.S., travel to Seoul three times a year to facilitate the training and are now teaching their second cohort. Through the training, many pastors have been significantly impacted by the gospel, and their hearts have been awakened.
Next month, March 4 - 8, CTC Korea is hosting its second Center Church Conference with Tim Keller as the keynote speaker. It’s a conference for ministry leaders on gospel, city and movement, but the first evening is open to the public and will be on the topic of suffering. Tim’s book, Walking with God Through Pain and Suffering, was recently translated into Korean, and this subject is a core theme for Koreans.
Between Japanese occupation and a war that left this small country split into two parts, the people of Korea are well acquainted with suffering. To be Korean is to experience han, an unresolved anguish or pain. There are already more than 2,000 people registered for Sunday night’s session where suffering will be viewed through the lens of the gospel.
One significant element of this event is that it is Keller’s first trip to Korea. Ro says, “When it comes to gospel, city and movement, Tim has taught it and applied it. He’s still doing it, and gospel renewal is happening.” The final session of the pastors’ conference is on faith and work. Ro says, “In Korea, we’re making disciples in the church, but we’re not making disciples in life. When business people, pastors and lay people hear this, it’s going to help them connect the dots on how their faith and work fit together. There’s going to be a lot of aha moments to the tenth degree. It’s going to be huge.”
Through the conference, CTC Korea hopes more ministry leaders will catch the gospel vision and go deeper in training. Um sees this gospel message making a tremendous impact on Korea. He says, “As people experience the unadulterated gospel, that God loves them through Jesus Christ and grace changes everything, I sense a new revival coming — a gospel revival. The hope is to see a lot of new churches — a lot of gospel-shaped churches — planted in Korea, and it’s happening now, and it’s going to continue. This is a great thing.”
Next Step: Please pray for City to City in Korea.