The Quiet 15 Percent

Bill SimBill Sim, senior pastor of the bilingual New Church of Atlanta and clerk of the Korean Southeastern Presbytery, is  passionate about the PCA. Since joining the denomination 10 years ago, Sim has been an outspoken leader among the Korean language presbyteries (KLPs). Although this group often falls under the radar, Sim is excited to see increasing connections between the Korean language churches and their English-speaking counterparts.

Sim will be the keynote speaker at the second night of General Assembly 2014.

You originally planted your church in Atlanta as an independent Korean-speaking congregation. Why did you join the PCA 10 years ago?

After graduating from Covenant Seminary in 1992, my understanding of church gradually started becoming Reformed. It took a while, but I ultimately realized that an independent church isn’t a very healthy model. There was no accountability, no fellowship. I realized that we needed to be a part of the larger body of Christ.

The first KLP was started in 1982 as a temporary measure until the PCA’s constitutional materials could be translated into Korean. This didn’t happen. Instead, the number of Korean language churches has grown to 10-15 percent of the PCA, including eight presbyteries and more than 250 churches. Why do the Korean churches want to be a part of the PCA instead of forming their own denomination?

Personally, I don’t want to be a part of a Korean-only denomination. We’re not living in Korea. We want to be the PCA church in America, not a PCA church in Korea. And looking toward the future, a Korean denomination won’t meet the needs of the next generation, who are largely English speaking.

Ultimately, we want to be a part of a larger denomination. We need that cooperation and fellowship. In my opinion, the PCA is a very healthy denomination. A lot of us are delighted to be a part of it. Because of our special needs (language and cultural barriers), we want to find better and more ways to engage with other presbyteries and churches. There’s no sense across the Korean presbyteries of wanting to create our own denomination. Period.

You mention that we all need to be more creative about engaging with each other across these language and cultural barriers. What are some ways that we can do that?

One way to start is by asking questions. When people don’t communicate, there is a lot of misunderstanding. We all need to come up with ways to be heard and to ask questions.

On a practical level, we can work at removing the language hurdle. Historically, everything Korean pastors received from the administrative committee was in English. There was a disconnect there. I believe there needs to be an effort to communicate in Korean through written materials.

At the same time, the KLPs need to rise up and make an effort to engage by going to General Assembly, for example. The problem is that it’s hard to understand since nothing is in Korean. We’re actually working toward providing translation at future Assemblies.

The Administrative Committee is really working hard to bridge this gap. In fact, Korean Southern Presbytery has been asked to co-host GA this year along with Houston Metro Presbytery. Little by little progress is being made. I’m very optimistic, really.

Most of our readers probably know little about their brothers and sisters in the Korean language churches. What are some things you can tell us about your church and others in your presbytery?

We’re very intergenerational. Our main service is in Korean, but the children’s service is in English. We have a second service in English, for the younger generation, those in college, etc.

Fellowship is very important to us. Every Sunday after service, we eat together. We have about 500 people, and we all eat together. Most Korean churches do this. Our presbytery is very close too. When we meet, we get together for three days. It’s so much more than a business meeting, but a time when pastors and their families come together for prayer, fellowship, even a chance to play sports together.

Most of our churches are very disconnected from the rest of the denomination. For instance, Korean churches are very engaged in campus ministry, but I don’t see them working together with RUF. They’re also very foreign missions minded, but very few work with MTW. It’s not that they’re purposely avoiding these groups; they just don’t know much about them.

As we work to come together, however, I think the rest of the denomination will see that the Korean language churches and their culture bring a lot to the PCA. Everyone that I’ve spoken with says, “This is our denomination and we’re not going anywhere. They want to make it better and more godly. We want to be a part of it.”


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