I’m planting a church

So this post is probably long overdue because I’ve been planning to do this since the end of December, but anyway, here it is… I will be planting a church.

Let me back things up a bit to explain. In 2005, when I was first entering into ministry, I began with the intention of becoming a missionary. This was sparked by a short-term mission trip in India. One day, I was looking out at the Indian landscape, and I thought of the billions of people who needed Christ there. Then, a verse came to my mind: “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few” (Matthew 9:37). In that moment, I received a conviction that was so clear, it was the closest thing to God verbally saying to me, “Sungwon, go to seminary and be trained.” And so began my ministry career with enrollment at Fuller Seminary to be trained as a missionary. Soon after, I was enlisted into pastoral ministry at Open Door Presbyterian Church where I worked my way through youth ministry, to college ministry, enrolling and graduating from The Master’s Seminary and then eventually becoming the pastor of the English Adult Ministry for ten years. In total, I spent 18 years with the Open Door family. People tell me this is a long time, but it felt like a breath. So many sweet memories.

Towards the end of my time at Open Door, I had a panic attack. Subjectively, this was due to accumulated stress. There is no single factor that explains it, rather it was multiple factors both internal and external. Objectively, this was the providence of God shaking me from where I was, and was planning to probably be for the rest of my life. So it was the Lord’s way of stopping me in my tracks so I could look up again at the plentiful harvest He had called me to in 2005. Yes, there was a push and a pull. But I can’t say that I was pushed out of Open Door. It was more like God slapped me in the face and said, “Sungwon, where are you supposed to be right now?” The day after emerging from the 12-hour hospital visit I was sober. I was listening. I took a hike up a mountain, and as I looked out at the cityscape of Los Angeles, the conviction came almost as clearly as when I was looking out at the Indian landscape, “Sungwon, it’s time to plant a church.”

Church planting feels like missions. Every single day, I am expectant. Like Abraham who was called to leave Ur, but not exactly clear where he would be going, just trusting the Lord would lead him (Genesis 12:1). It’s interesting, when I tell people I’m church planting, the first question, without fail, is “Where will the church be?” Right now, there seems to be a pull towards Gardena, but we’ll see. Again, I feel like Abraham. All I know is we’re supposed to do this thing. We’ll start by meeting at my house in the Glendale area, ‘soft launching’ on the first Lord’s Day of March.

And so begins this adventure where all I know is that we are called out. Called out to a city of millions and millions where more than half do not attend church. Called out to let them know there is One who is calling the weak and weary to find rest for their souls. Called to take up the cross where my sin was pierced through his hands and feet. Am I nervous? Yes, but that is exactly why I know this is good. Stepping out like this requires me to die to myself, trust the Lord will lead and build this thing. I don’t know how this will turn out. All I know is the One who called me is with me and He will lead me through shadows of death to green pastures, and graciously work in and through this new church somehow. Lord, have mercy and may you take all the glory for the sake of your name. Amen.

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