Café churches rising in South Korea to counter institutionalized megachurches

Café churches are rising in popularity in South Korea to counter highly institutionalized megachurches that are stained by corruption scandals and to satisfy Christians' cravings for both a close-knit religious circle and for coffee.

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Yoido Full Gospel Church. 13 May 2015.

Jesus Coffee, a church in central Seoul, is one of the tens of thousands of café churches across South Korea that is trying to pull believers away from institutionalized megachurches. The trend has risen in recent years after megachurches such as the Yoido Full Gospel Church have been implicated in embezzling and bribery cases, The Atlantic Daily explains.

Jung-Jun Kim, who serves as a senior pastor at an evangelical church in Seoul, said the general population in South Korea no longer trusts Christians because of the scandals that have stained the image of churches. He said the country now has a crisis in evangelism as more and more people leave established churches and move to smaller ones, WXVU reports.

"Or, they just leave the church altogether," Pastor Kim shared. "Because they say, 'I can be a Christian without belonging to an institutionalized church.'"

Pastor Kim also talked about the rise of café churches in the country. He said these churches are led by a new breed of Christian leaders who want to try different ways to reach out to disillusioned believers. These places serve both as a coffee shop and as a place of worship.

"Churches and cafés have the hardest time surviving in Korea," said minister and barista Ahn Min-ho. "Combining the two is mutually beneficial."

Customers who enter Jesus Coffee can browse through available Christian literature while sipping their affordable cappuccino. The establishment also has a Prayer Room situated behind its espresso machine.

Ahn said Jesus Coffee is open for believers like him who have felt that Christianity in the country has become "too institutionalized." Reports indicate that believers in their 20s and 30s are increasingly detaching themselves from their churches over the differences in political views with the older Christians and disillusionment with such religious institutions.