Korean mission delegation at ELF2024 seeks dialogue, collaboration between Korean missionaries and European churches

By Timothy Goropevsek |
Korean mission delegation at the European Leadership Forum 2024
Lindsay Brown (middle left) welcomed Dr. Dae heaung (Jonas) Kang from the Korean World Mission Association (middle right), Rev. Choong-hee Hahn from Onnuri Church (2nd from right), Rev. Sung Choon Lee who serves as missionary Pastor in Frankfurt, Germany (2nd from left), and other Korean leaders. | Timothy Goropevsek / Christian Daily International

A high-level delegation of Korean mission leaders spoke at the European Leadership Forum (ELF) 2024 in Wisla, Poland held from May 25-30, about their desire to see dialogue and collaboration between Korean missionaries and the local churches in Europe.

Leading a session titled How Can the European Church and the Korean Church Work Together?, three Korean leaders shared about principles and some initial recommendations “how the 2,000 Korean missionaries serving in Europe and the European Church could better cooperate for the renewal of the church and evangelization of Europe.”

The delegation included Dr. Dae heaung (Jonas) Kang, General Secretary of the Korea World Missions Association (KWMA) and Head Chair of the Asia Missions Association, Rev. Choong-hee Hahn, Executive Director of TIM (Tyrannus International Mission) and Associate Pastor in Onnuri Church in Korea, and Rev. Sung Choon Lee who has served as a missionary and pastor in Frankfurt, Germany for over 23 years. Lindsay Brown, who served with the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students (IFES) for many years and formerly led the Lausanne Movement as International Director, facilitated the session on behalf of the ELF.

Dr. Kang first introduced the work of KWMA, an association that brings together a wide range of more than one hundred mission organizations and agencies, conducts mission research and provides resources and training to Korean missionaries overseas. As the second-largest missionary sending force today after the United States, there are currently an estimated 22,000-35,000 missionaries sent out by Korean churches who are serving in every region of the world.

While the vast majority of Korean missionaries serve in Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America, there are approximately two thousand missionaries that have been dispatched to countries across Europe, a continent where Christianity has seen significant decline in numbers in recent decades.

Dr. Kang expressed the desire of KWMA to engage in dialogue with European church leaders to strengthen the collaboration between Korean missionaries and European denominations and churches, seeking to foster the integration of missionaries into existing local church contexts.

He recommended to explore several potential areas of collaboration, such as prayer initiatives, sharing of resources, serving diaspora communities and refugees, among several others. He gave examples from the United States and the United Kingdom where Korean missionaries would lead prayer initiatives together with native churches to rekindle the fire for the gospel.

He pointed to an article titled Reverse missionaries: how the migrant Church is shaping European Christianity by the Evangelical Alliance of the United Kingdom (EAUK) that reported about one such prayer initiative at that time.

“This Prayer Mission has created a very powerful prophetic picture of the global Church uniting with the British Church for the reviving of Christianity across these isles. This is not the end for what God wants to do, but the start as the legacy of the Korean visitors is being lived out in the 30 towns and regions they have visited,” the EAUK quoted Pastor Jonathan Oloyede, convenor of the UK National Day of Prayer, as saying.

Following Dr. Kang’s address, Rev. Hahn spoke about the gratitude of the Korean believers to the churches in the West for bringing the gospel to their nation many years ago. He shared that the Korean Church was built on the foundation of sacrifice of Western missionaries from the United States and European countries who came to Korea. They laid down their lives to share the good news of Jesus Christ with a nation far away from their homes. In the early 20th century, the country experienced unprecedented revival centered around Pyongyang, today’s capital of North Korea, which was then called the “Jerusalem of the East”.

Nowadays, the global Church landscape has changed significantly, however, with missions no longer led by the Western countries to the rest of the world. Instead, the Global South has increasingly started to dispatch missionaries, which led to a new era of polycentric mission with missions going from everywhere to everywhere. The large number of Korean missionaries today is an example of this shift that has taken place over the last century.

Regarding the relationship of Korean missionaries and European churches, Rev. Hahn echoed the recommendations by Dr. Kang and expressed that he hopes the upcoming Lausanne Movement's Global Gathering in Seoul, Korea in September would offer an opportunity for further dialogue. He also shared that Korean churches would welcome joint prayer for the reunification of Korea, as Christians continue to suffer under oppression in the North.

The third Korean speaker was Rev. Lee who talked about his personal experience in Europe, sharing his testimony of serving in Germany for more than two decades. He expressed the Korean missionaries’ deep desire to serve the country they are dispatched to.

While many first-generation missionaries struggle with language and cultural adaptation, he said he has great hope for the second generation that grows up in the local context and can serve as pastors who are fully fluent in the national language bringing strength to the local churches and communities.

Lindsay Brown concluded the session with prayer and expressed his sincere gratitude to the Korean delegation for coming all the way from Korea to begin these important conversations. As a next step, he emphasized the need to convene a group of key European leaders who could engage in strategic dialogue with the Korean leaders.

A potential outcome of these follow up discussions could be a joint statement that outlines principles of collaboration between Korean missionaries and European churches, which could then serve as the basis for practical recommendations.