Our hometown is our mission field

ib2newseditor —  October 27, 2016

By John Yi

Editor’s note: This post is one in a series on cross-cultural ministry, taken from a round table discussion between four Illinois pastors and leaders. Click here to read more from their conversation, published in the September 29 issue of the Illinois Baptist newspaper. 

john-yiJohn Yi is IBSA’s second-generation church planting catalyst in Chicago, founder of a community ministry in Maywood, and a leader at Bethel SBC, a church plant in Mt. Prospect. Visit John at the virtual vision tour sponsored by the IBSA Church Planting Team during the IBSA Annual Meeting Nov. 2-3 at Broadview Missionary Baptist Church in Chicagoland.

On living where you serve
I think my wife and I always knew that once we got to the place where we would set down our roots ministry, we would have to live in the community where we were going to do our work.

We were not going to be commuting. That was something we had both experienced in our young adult years—traveling to go to church. In fact, until we lived in Maywood and started our ministry there, I don’t think I had ever lived and gone to church in the same town.

…the sacrifice might mean having to pull up your roots and go to a place that feels very uncomfortable and unnatural to you.

We lost some other comforts in the move too. A lot of our friends are away from us too.  We were distant from the people with whom we felt comfortable.

On becoming a community church
We still live in Maywood. And in the years since our move there, we’ve learned the sacrifices were worth it. I think in order to be cross-cultural, there has to be a weighing of what is not necessary for the sake of ministry. We have done that at our church, Bethel SBC, too. Part of us wanting to become a community church means we really have to become less Korean.

In Korean churches it is almost a universal practice to have a lunch fellowship after the worship service and it is almost always Korean food. When I first proposed not doing Korean food anymore, there was an uproar. I’m like, “Why can’t we just do sandwiches or order pizza once in a while, or do spaghetti and meatballs?”  That’s how it was at the beginning, but now I can’t even remember the last time we had a Korean meal at church.  Our members have really taken to this idea that we really have to make it more accessible. We want to get rid of all the barriers, and I think that is one of the sacrifices we have to sometimes make.

And sometimes, the sacrifice might mean having to pull up your roots and go to a place that feels very uncomfortable and unnatural to you.  We know missionaries do that all the time when they go to a foreign country, but when you weigh the value of the gospel and the Kingdom of God, I think sometimes those things that seemed so important to us start to lose their luster.