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  Dr. Joseph Chung - Column
 정희수 칼럼



The most important qualification of an elder is to lead the intellectual and the spiritual life of the congregation. On this point, there was usually a consensus. But, there was also consensus on the failure of elder of immigrant Korean churches of meeting these qualifications. The debate was often focused on why.

“I think that the problem is the selection process of the elder. As you all know, in some churches, there is a tendency of minimizing the importance of the basic qualifications of the possible elders and relying on such secular characteristic as money, family connection, school connection and aspects which have little to do with the authentic functions of the elder”, said a deacon with excited voice.

“I agree with the deacon’s observation. In fact, I know a case. Some years ago, there was the election of elders in a church.  There were five candidates. There was one who had the best qualifications. But he was known for being a man of integrity and courage; he did not hesitate to pint out the problems of church management. One day, at a general church meeting, he questioned about the raise of pastors allowances”, another deacon explained.

“You know what happened. The conservative members who were family members of the pastor and friends of the pastor’s family launched telephone smear campaign against the best candidate, who was, as expected, not elected”, continued the deacon.

Kim recalled that the church was finally broken up, but the pastor, his family and his friends remained.

Kim was wondering why such ugly thing happened. Kim was himself anointed deacon.

After his long association with church life, he had his own interpretation of the problems of Korean churches in Montreal. He volunteered, at the same district service meeting, to offer his perception of the church problem

“As far as I am concerned, the basic problem is this. First, many pastors regard church management as private business and evaluate church success in terms of the number of congregation members and the annual income. In other words, the priority is on the materialistic and monetary success; the depth and the quality of faith are ignored. Second, the success of pastors is also judged in terms of the number and the income. In Montreal, one hears often that the churches are dépanneur business”, began to talk Kim with serious face.

“Now the crux of the matter is that, in reality, the head of many Korean churches is not God but the pastor. It means that the pastor and the congregation do not feel God’s presence. So, the pastor-congregation relation becomes something like teacher-student relation. The teacher teaches the Bible; he does not preach the Bible. Teaching means transfer of knowledge of the Bible; preaching means sharing the words of God between the pastor and the congregation. In short, the problem is that the whole church ignores God; God is a bystander; God is not seen in the church”, commented Kim 

Kim continued:  “Under such circumstance, it is not possible to elect proper elders or deacons. The solution is this. Whatever the church does, it should not be for the pastor, elders, deacons or ordinary church members; it should be for God. We go to church not to hear the pastor; we go to church to hear God through the pastor. We go to church not to appreciate the professional quality of the church choir; we go to church to feel the tender love of God through the beautiful voice of the choir. The only boss of the church is God”, concluded Kim.

A lady in the room asked:  “Are we loving our neighbors?”, with challenging look.

“Yah, I like to know myself. After all, matured faith means loving our neighbors through God’s love. That is, Christian life means obeying the love Commandments. Do you agree?”.

Everybody in the room nodded.

An elder cut in:  “To answer the lady’s question, there are three sub-questions involves. Who are our neighbors? What are the preconditions for love of neighbors? How should one love neighbors?”.

<to be continued>