Archives For David Choi

Summit gathers 1,000 church leaders for learning, encouragement, and reminder of shared mission

MLS main session

Springfield | Ministry in the Midwest has ups and downs, successes and struggles. The work of advancing the gospel in a diverse, large region requires creativity, perseverance, and a willingness to sacrifice personal preference.

With their common calling in mind, more than 1,000 leaders from 13 Midwest states gathered in Springfield Jan. 23-25 at the Midwest Leadership Summit, a meeting organized every three years by Southern Baptist state conventions in the region.

“We share the same love for our communities and vision to see people come to Christ,” said Tim Burgess, a pastor in Mt. Vernon, Mo., “and getting together is a great reminder that we are not working at this alone.”

The large-group sessions and more than 90 breakouts tackled specific ministries—college campuses, church planting, missions, women, youth, and Disaster Relief, to name a few. Underlying each session was the need to advance the gospel in a culture that’s moving farther away from biblical truth. In our culture of change, one thing has stayed the same, said Detroit’s Darryl Gaddy.

“You look around and notice that nothing stays the same,” said the urban church planting specialist in his keynote address to open the Summit. “Nothing is as it was ten, five, or even two years ago.

“But actually there is one thing that does stay the same. Sin. Oh, the consistency of brokenness. It never takes a vacation. But friends, we are the church. And we, like Peter who raised the lame man up in the name of Jesus Christ, are called to speak into the brokenness.”

Gaddy urged Midwest leaders to be “agents of change” in their communities, which will require obedience when it’s not convenient, becoming less so others can become more, and giving up their rights to someone else—Jesus.

“We have received information for our heads, inspiration for our hearts, and implementation for our hands,” Gaddy said. “Let’s not leave here the same way we came.”

God at work
Like the Midwest itself, leaders in Springfield for the Summit represented a wide variety of contexts, including places where new churches are making inroads into previously unreached communities. North American Mission Board President Kevin Ezell facilitated a discussion with four planters who took to the main stage to talk about strategy, cooperation, and the power of prayer.

“There is a quote that I always go to when I think about our church,” said David Choi, pastor of Church of the Beloved in Chicago. “When men work, they work. But when men pray, God works. The great church planter is the Lord. Recruit prayer warriors to lift up your ministry because that’s truly the secret sauce.”

In a few years, Choi’s church has grown from one—himself—to encompass hundreds meeting for worship every weekend. He credited God for the growth, and the prayers of people who live far from his city but have made it a point to lift up Church of the Beloved.

Ezell also introduced Paul Sabino, pastor of Candeo Church on the campus of the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls. Sabino is part of The Salt Network, a family of next-generation churches working together to plant churches in major university cities.

“We are seeing the power of God on us and it’s like holding a Dixie cup; it’s overflowing and we can’t contain it,” Sabino said. “Jesus said he would make us fishers of men. The fish are on college campuses and they are hungry. They are crying out for the living God to impact their lives.”

The focus on church planting was encouraging for Christine Watkins, who came to the Summit as a member of Jachin Baptist Church, a 10-month-old church plant in Flint, Mich. Her husband, Derrick, is pastor of the church named for a word found in 1 Kings 7:21. Jachin means “the Lord will establish,” Watkins said.

“I think attending this summit and hearing all the great knowledge and stories of how God has blessed young church plants is part of how God is opening doors and giving direction in how he is going to establish our church.”

‘Pray bigger prayers’
Jeff Iorg, President of Gateway Seminary in Ontario, Ca., understands what it means to advance the gospel in difficult environments.

“Much of what you are experiencing now in the Midwest we experienced 30 years ago in California,” he said during the Summit’s final session. “It seems like an impossible task with formidable obstacles…Yet, I’m here to tell you the gospel is advancing on the West Coast, and healthy churches are growing with denominational influence and cooperation.”

Iorg said the reason for the gospel’s advancement, especially in a hostile cultural environment, can be found in John 14.

“Jesus said in verse 12, ‘I assure you: The one who believes in me will also do the works that I do. And he will do even greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.’

“‘And he will do even greater works than these’—that is quite a sober declaration of Scripture,” Iorg said. “Do you believe the word of God? Do you believe Jesus meant what he said?”

Iorg encouraged leaders to pray and ask God for what is worthy to be asked for in Jesus’ name and to surrender control to the Holy Spirit.

“Confess your powerlessness and ask the Holy Spirit for the filling, guiding, and directing,” he said. “So often, we start to rely on our own strategic plans. That’s not going to work. We must depend on the filling of the Holy Spirit to get the mission done.”

The last step to advancing the gospel in this cultural environment is to teach people to read, understand, and obey the Bible. Iorg said the only time he has seen people transformed is when they engage God’s Word.

“No games, no gimmicks,” Iorg said. “Pray bigger prayers in the name of Jesus. Work in the Holy Spirit’s power and trust him to do supernatural things in you. And find a way to teach people to internalize the Word of God. That’s it. Now let’s go home and do it.”

Kayla Rinker is a freelance writer living in Missouri.

David Choi

David Cho

Chicago pastor and church planter David Choi opened the 2017 SBC Pastors Conference with a challenge to his colleagues: don’t rely on yourself or our own accomplishments, rely on Christ. His sermon from Philippians 1:1-11 on Sunday night was the first of 12 from pastors of regular-size churches. The annual pastors’ meeting ahead of the Southern Baptist Convention was focused on average churches, and as promised by Iowa pastor and blogger Dave Miller when he was elected president of the Pastors Conference last year, the 2017 version features few big names.“No smoke. No show. No mood setting. Only a man and his Bible,” tweeted Mike Wilbanks of Mississippi.

Yet, Miller was pleased with the attendance, “blown away” as he tweeted from the platform with a photo of the audience. Miller opened the conference with thanks to all who made the event possible, without naming names for the sake of time. Some of the funds that would usually have gone to fund the event were used to provide “scholarships” for pastors who would not otherwise have been able to attend—62 of the them at $1,000 each.

Unassuming in manner and dress (black-and-white checked shirt and jeans), Choi shared some of the story of planting Church of the Beloved on Chicago’s near west side. The conversion of one man in particular, a Buddhist anesthesiologist whose Christian wife had turned away from the church held the audience’s attention. That man was convinced of the truth of the gospel at the church’s first service. Within 24 hours of receiving Christ as savior he was telling other Buddhists that he had found what they were looking for, pure joy.

The man became a leader in the church, and two years later in a church plant on the West Coast. Choi described a reunion meeting as involving hugging, weeping, and “holy snot.” “You find that you have a love for them that is supernatural,” Choi said, relating his experience to Paul’s love for the Philippian people.

Choi encouraged pastors in their own spiritual walk. “You don’t want to be defined by your performance; that well leads to destruction,” the 39-year-old pastor said, sharing his one-time reliance on personal achievement. Neither does failure. “Pastor, your past does not define you. Christ’s past defines us…. It has nothing to do with you, everything to do with Christ, rest in your gospel identity.”

— Eric Reed in Phoenix

Billed as the small church pastor’s conference, the annual meeting-before-the-meeting starts Sunday evening with Chicago church planter David Choi, pastor of Church of the Beloved in the city’s University District. He will be followed on Monday by Uptown Baptist Church Pastor Michael Allen.

Iowa pastor and blogger Dave Miller ran for president of the SBC Pastors Conference on an “average-church” platform. He promised to bring speakers from regular-size churches, instead of the usual slate of megachurch pastors and parachurch preachers. He also planned to focus on a single book of the Bible, with the preachers taking successive passages, rather than letting speakers take their best shot at a theme.

The book is Philippians.

Choi will start with chapter 1, the first eleven verses. Allen will preach Philippians 3:17-21 on Monday evening. They are among 12 preachers from regular-size churches.

Filling the bill may have been a challenge. Often megachurch pastors who serve as president of the conference have their churches to fill that role, and their megachurch colleagues help fund it. New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary came alongside Miller to plan and execute the event.

With NOBTS’ assistance, four pastors of larger churches were invited to bring “testimonies”: Johnny Hunt, J.D. Greear, Fred Luter, and Steve Gaines, current SBC President. Music is by Keith and Kristyn Getty, famed composers of “In Christ Alone.”

With an SBC Annual Meeting located as far west as Phoenix, attendance may not be as high as it is when the SBC meets in the Bible Belt. And there’s another big event in town Sunday night, the “Harvest” crusade featuring evangelist Greg Laurie. That preaching event is being simulcast to churches across the nation. This 2017 outing, which was a late addition to the schedule of convention-related events, will the replace “Crossover” evangelistic outreach next year, when the SBC meets in Houston.

Look for reports on Choi and Allen’s sermon later.

Watch it live at http://sbcpc.net/.

— Eric Reed in Phoenix

Michael Allen

In a complete revamp from any year in memory, the 2017 Southern Baptist Pastors’ Conference features pastors of average-sized SBC churches who will preach through one book of the Bible—Paul’s letter to the Philippians.

Michael Allen, pastor of Uptown Baptist Church in Chicago and a former president of IBSA’s Pastors’ Conference, is one of 12 pastors who will take the stage in Phoenix June 11-12. The group also includes David Choi, pastor of Chicago’s Church of the Beloved.

Allen spoke with the Illinois Baptist about his upcoming message and what pastors like him contribute to the SBC family:

Q: What passage will you preach in Phoenix?

A: I’ll be preaching Philippians 3:17-21. This passage gives us a reminder of our citizenship in heaven, and helps the church distinguish itself from the world in how we think, act, and live. And then it also reminds us that it is the resurrection power of Christ that changes us both inside and out.

Q: What do you think is unique about what smaller or average-sized churches (and their pastors) add to SBC life?

A: The conference choice of pastors who lead small and medium-sized churches helps the conference attendees better identify and relate to guys just like them. We know that most churches in America, regardless of denomination, are small (less than 100). It also highlights the fact that pastors of smaller churches can effectively handle the Word of God, even in big venues. The Scriptures remind us not to “despise small beginnings” (Zech. 4:10).

Q: The conference this year also is focused on diversity. In your opinion, what is the value of hearing from pastors of different ethnicities and backgrounds?

A: We all have a unique cultural background which colors how we see and experience life. Culture also is a lens through which we see and interpret God’s Word and God himself. So hearing from ethnically diverse preachers in our convention enriches us all, because God made us different and his intentions are that we learn from and complement each other.

Q: You represent both the Midwest and one of the country’s largest cities. What about your ministry experience in Chicago do you want the larger SBC family to hear and understand?

A: The SBC family needs to understand that the world continues to move into ever-growing metropolitan cities, making them more and more diverse—ethnically, socio-economically, religiously, and every other measurement of diversity. Therefore, we have a great opportunity to win the world to Christ without ever boarding a plane.

At the same time [increasing diversity] makes ministry more complex, and more resources are needed to do ministry here. Whatever strategy the International Mission Board is using to reach the world for Christ can and should be prayerfully considered to be employed in America’s rich and diverse urban centers. IMB and the North American Mission Board ought to continue to seek ways they can collaborate with each other for the glory of God in the salvation of souls.

The primary group of preachers at the Pastors’ Conference will be joined by four pastors who will give testimonies of how their lives and ministries have benefited from smaller membership churches:

  • SBC President Steve Gaines, pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church, Memphis
  • J.D. Greear, pastor of The Summit Church, Raleigh-Durham, N.C.
  • Johnny Hunt, pastor of First Baptist Church, Woodstock, Ga., and former SBC president
  • Fred Luter, pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church, New Orleans, and former SBC president

For more information on the Pastors’ Conference, including a full schedule, go to sbcannualmeeting.net.

HEARTLAND | David Choi’s made the decision to plant a church in Chicago after God asked him a simple question:

“Is my presence enough?”

As he struggled to discern where God was leading him, Choi also sensed God’s assurance. “I felt God tell me, ‘I’m going to lead you to a place to plant,’” he said. “You’re not going to be alone because I’m going to be with you. Is my presence enough?”

Now, Choi is planting a very multi-cultural church near the University of Illinois-Chicago. Click on the video below to find out more about Church of the Beloved, or read the full story here.