The 2008 Year Reflection

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Values

As I take some time to reflect on this past year, my heart is filled with praise for God’s faithfulness and favor. I had an opportunity to look over all my blog post for the 2008 year and I realized that God has been good.

So often when we don’t write things down, we forget about all the ways in which God worked in our lives. A lot has happened within the past 365 days of the year. For this, I am truly thankful.

Here are some key highlights for 2008:

• Following through on my commitment to run 2-miles a day

• Our first-ever Global ACCESS retreat (our international ministry)

• The Miracle Sunday Offering that went beyond our expectations

• Purchasing our first permanent property for the church

• Reconnecting with alumni in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Indonesia

• Hung out with close friends discussing the topic of God’s Kingdom

• Planting HMCC of Austin

• Planting HMCC of Chicago at the UIC site

• Going to a Cubs game in Atlanta with the family (thanks Pastor Matt and JCA)

• Finishing off the renovation and having our first Sunday Celebration in our new building

• Burying the prayers cards in the grounds of our property

• Resurrection of my Twitter account

• Announcing to the church that our family will be leaving for Indonesia for one year

• Our undergraduate retreat

• Missions Week with Pastor Paul Liu

• Our first African-American president

• Prequel of the T.V. show “24”

• Visiting former members in Lewisburg for Thanksgiving

• Finalizing the Jakarta team and having our first meeting

• Witnessing transformed lives at our baptism ceremony

This New Year will be filled with greater things.

Weddings and Spiritual Orphans

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Viewpoint

It doesn’t seem too long ago that I was courting Christina and getting married to the woman of my dreams. Now, most of my friends (if not all) are married and have children. It seems as if I have come full circle now that some of the members in our church are getting engaged and planning on getting married (I still remember them as a freshmen).

In the last 2 months we have had some of our top leaders get engaged and now they are planning on getting married in 2009. Just recently we met up with Pastor Jimmy and Grace who are now engaged (congratulations guys… Christina and I are so happy for the both of you).

So this got me thinking. [Warning: This post will probably be misunderstood, taken in the wrong way, offend some people and cause some people to get bitter. But I felt it was important enough to share.]

There are some people who look at a wedding ceremony just as a ceremony (a formality that they have to go through since it is the right thing to do). The mindset is: “Just as long as a pastor (with a reverend title) officiates the ceremony, then the ceremony is complete.”

But over the years, I have noticed the difference between a wedding that goes through the formalities of a ceremony and a wedding that create a worship experience for the couple.

But once again, it is not just having all the right forms or elements in the wedding – more people are now including worship songs sets in the ceremony.

The difference I have noticed is the relationship that the officiating pastor has with the couple.

It just seems more intimate and personal when the pastor knows the couple. The wedding ceremony is brought to another level, if the pastor has become their spiritual father.

Maybe to bring this more to an understandable level, we can look at the relationship between the parents and the child who is getting married.

I have done a lot of weddings and the ones that stick out in my mind are the ones where the couple has a good relationship with their parents. Especially, when the couple ends up giving the roses and the hugs towards the end of the ceremony… it always moves me. In a weird way, I can sense the years of love, care and sacrifice that went into their relationship (between the parents and child). This makes it all the more special and creates a powerful experience for those who are witnessing the wedding.

This is the same sense I get when I am doing a wedding for a couple that I have developed a relationship with over the years. All the hours of discipling, rebuking, comforting, exhorting, encouraging, etc. create an experience throughout the ceremony that will be remembered. During the message, I am able to share stories about them and even joke around with them because of the closeness of the relationship.

Since, the couple has become my spiritual children, it brings a greater joy to my heart to see them make their covenant to marriage in front of me (I am wondering if this is what parents feel when they have to give their son or daughter in marriage).

But as I write this, I realized that there are many spiritual orphans who do not have a pastor that has become their spiritual father or a pastor that they are close enough to make the wedding ceremony beyond the formalities.

As I am preparing to do the weddings in 2009, I am looking forward to standing with the couples and expressing my gratitude to God for providing these kinds of relationships. They are truly partners in the Gospel, but more than that they are my spiritual children whom I love and want to bless.

Post-Christmas Gathering

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Visits

Yesterday, the family and I headed out to the west suburbs to hang out with some other pastors and their families. It is a special thing when you have friendships that have been built for over 25 years. Not only are we friends but partners in the ministry.

We did a post-Christmas gift exchange by playing our version of White Elephant. The kids played first as the parents watched and cheered them on. Then after opening all the presents, the parents played. I thing the parents were a bit more wilder than the kids :-)

But it was a joy seeing our kids playing together. There is always a special bond between PKs (pastor’s kids) and MKs (missionary’s kids)

Blessed Christmas 2008

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Viewpoint

Birth of Christ.jpg
Christian Wallpaper Photo
There are so many different pictures depicting the birth of Jesus on the web, but this one stuck out for me.

Maybe it was the stars. Or the simplicity of the background. But most of all, I think it was the radiance of God’s glory in the manger. This is something that can light up the sky.

This Christmas I am more amazed at the birth of the Humble King.

On this day, in the midst of all the food, family and friends, we must have faith to follow the Faithful One.

Christmas in Chicago 12.24.08

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Visits

It’s been a great 2.5 days in Chicago so far. We are staying at my parents’ place; and my parents are just ecstatic that they can see their grandchildren.

Whenever we come to Chicago, we fill our time by reconnecting with our families and friends, visiting special spots around Chicago that are fun, and eating at key restaurants and food joints that we do not have in Ann Arbor.

So far, it has been good hanging out with the family. Today, Christina and I spend some time alone for a chunk of the afternoon – oh, the blessings of having grandparents :-)

Tomorrow for Christmas we will stop by Christina’s younger brother’s place to have lunch with some of her family members. Then in the evening, we are going over to my cousin’s place to hang out with my side of the family for dinner. It is going to be busy!

Awakening: 21 Days of Fasting and Prayer

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Values

For several months, the pastoral staff and I have been talking about the need for more prayer in our lives, as well as in our churches. Sometimes we are so consumed with coming up with the next “best thing” or the next “great idea” that we forget some of the basics. I have realized that it is always easier to think about a “new” method of doing things or to figure out how to streamline something, than to fast and pray.

This is why when I received an invitation to participate in a fasting and prayer movement, I knew that this was something that God wanted our church to do.

Usually the fasting and prayer movement have been associated with the Korean church, especially in the Christian circles that I have been around. For the last 12 years, I have been trying to make the case that fasting and prayer is not a “Korean” thing. Not only is it arrogant to think that Koreans have an inside track on fasting and prayer, but it is quite offensive because there are many “non-Koreans” who are practicing the spiritual disciplines of fasting and prayer.

I like to look at it as a biblical thing. Therefore, if we are serious about being Christ-followers, then we should engage in the spiritual discipline of fasting and prayer (on a regular basis).

Stovall Weems, lead pastor of Celebration Church has been practicing the spiritual discipline of fasting and prayer for years. He has shared that every January their church goes into a time of fasting and prayer (like many others) for 21 days. Stovall has seen miracles, the supernatural, salvation and other incredible things happen throughout the year as they consecrate themselves for 21 days of the new year to fast and pray.

He, along with many other churches are participating in a movement called Awakening: 21 Days of Fasting and Prayer. We have decided to be part of this movement. You can check out some of the other participating churches here.

You know when you are part of a movement who no one in particular receives the credit or the glory – all the focus and attention is on God. There is also a spirit of unity that crosses denominational lines, as well as ethnic and cultural backgrounds.

I want to encourage all the HMCC churches to participate in the movement. We have set up a special sign up page on our website so that we can get the ball rolling. It is my hope and prayer that we will see many people in our churches participating in this movement.

I am hungering and thirsting for a breakthrough in 2009. There are so many things that God is placing on our mantle for us to accomplish, but without dependence on God through fasting and prayer, we will not be able to experience the blessings.

Start here to join the movement!

Covenant Christmas Party

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Various

The married couples of HMCC (Covenant group) had our annual Christmas party. I really enjoy these times. Since it is hard to see all the married couples in our church at the same time, these gatherings are all the more special. Whenever we have an opportunity to gather all together, it is always a treat for us.

We are thankful that our married couples’ ministry has grown over the years. We, not only have couples with children, but we also have some newlyweds. It is exciting to even see the diversity within the various LIFE groups – from different personality, backgrounds, and even a lot of mixed racial marriages.

I particularly enjoyed getting to know some of the international couples tonight. Most of the husbands are studying to get their PhD’s. It is always good to stay connected with people from different cultures. It is a fresh reminder that many of them will go back to their countries and make a difference in their particular field. It is my prayer that in the future some of these families will be part of a church planting team.

Oh, by the way, we got a nice utensil set from our Secret Santa.

HMCC Board Summit 12.20.08

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Various

Yesterday we finished our Board Summit. After everything was over, I was just thankful for the friendships and partnership we had with one another. I am blessed to have such high caliber people to work with and to build God’s Kingdom.

We had all the global pastors come and join us and it was encouraging to hear some of the things that God was doing in their specific locations.

We spent some time talking about the importance of communicating our vision and mission on a napkin. If we cannot draw up and explain the vision on a napkin then we are making things way too complicated. Simplicity is always the key.

Then, we watched some videos and read some articles on the topics of global cities, global brands, and creative innovations. The smaller group discussions really helped spark some deeper level conversations.

For some reason, this summit compared to all the other summits, left me feeling more excited about the future of HMCC. The best is yet to come!

Leaders Make Tough Choices

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Values

Obama and Warren.jpg
AP Photo
I enjoy seeing leadership principles being lived out a daily basis. I am constantly seeing how various situations and even news-worthy events show leadership principles in action. This is why I decide to write on the recent news about President-elect Obama choosing Pastor Rick Warren to give the invocation at the inaugural.

At first glance, there seems to be nothing wrong with this selection because after all, Warren was selected as one of the top 25 Most Influential Evangelical in America by Time Magazine. But context changes everything.

With the recent passing of California’s Proposition 8, the selection of Warren has the gay community up in arms. To select a pastor, who has the largest church “in California” where the Proposition 8 was passed was a clear signal to the gay community as a betrayal.

But this is where principle and politics collide. It has been clear that Obama shares the faith of Warren albeit, there are some issues where they do not completely agree on. But over the months, they have developed a good friendship.

Therefore the challenge for Obama is whether he will put politics over friendship. Some would argue that his pick of Warren was a shrewd political move. But however you want to dissect it, one thing is clear – this is not a popular decision.

It is not just with the gay community, but I am a bit shocked at the responses from the “right-wing” community. They are furious that Warren would even accept the invitation from a person who believes in abortions and other moral issues that do not align with the conservative right-wing worldview.

Can we please everyone?

Are we supposed to please everyone?

However you interpret Obama’s move of having Warren give the invocation, all I can say is that Obama is displaying a good trait of a good leader, which is making tough decision that is not always popular. History tells us that good leaders have always made decisions that do not please everyone. This is one of the reasons why leaders sometimes feel all alone, but it comes with the ballgame.

I have been trying to teach my kids that good leadership takes courage – and courage is “not the absence of fear, but in spite of the fear we learn to obey.”

You can read the story here.

Father Jonathan Morris, a Fox News Religion Contributor gives a good perspective on this issue. Read it here.

Apple and Leadership

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Values, Viewpoint

Steve Jobs.jpg
Getty Photo
To set the record straight – “I am NOT an Apple hater!” In fact, I used an Apple (Macintosh) when I was in college (I had a Macintosh SE) and in seminary I used a Powerbook 520. I just prefer a PC now.

I give all these disclaimers because there are some Apple enthusiasts who might take this blog post in the wrong way. I just want to make sure that people know that I am not writing this to take a jab on Apple, but rather trying to teach a leadership principle.

Recently, in an online Time Magazine article, it talked about the reasons why Steve Jobs might be skipping out of the annual MacWorld Conference & Expo and Phil Schiller, their top marketing guy is going instead.

Josh Quittner, in the article said, “The announcement itself was about as shocking as hearing that Barack Obama would be skipping the Inauguration and sending Joe Biden in his stead.”

There are rumors that Steve Jobs is too ill to attend the conference (he has been battling pancreatic cancer).

There was a statement made in the article that caught my attention (the reason why I am writing this article). Quittner said, “It’s difficult to find a company of Apple’s caliber whose fortunes are so closely tied to the health of its CEO. Apple is Jobs and Jobs is Apple.

Is it healthy for a company to be so dependent on one person? What happens when that person passes away?

This got me thinking about church and leadership.

Are there churches that are operating the same way as Apple?

I am a strong believer that God chooses a person to lead various things (i.e. Moses, David, Paul, etc.); therefore it is not necessarily the issue of having just one leader lead an organization. But the bigger issue is about teamwork, training and transition (3 T’s).

A good leader knows that things are bigger than their little world; hence they work together in a team to accomplish more. Even though the leader knows that they are leading the team, s/he helps people to be interdependent rather than dependent.

A good leader also knows that training is a vital part of the success of an organization. When there is only one person who knows how to do something, then that organization is in trouble. Either the organization will just keep that person on board because s/he has become “indispensable” or if that person leaves (or dies) then the organization will be in chaos. Great organizations are always trying to raise up and train people from within the organization. In this way, no one person can disrupt the flow.

A good leader understands the importance of transitions. No one can do what they do forever. There will come a time, whether due to old age or a different calling, when a leader will have to move on from their post. Therefore, good leaders expect and plan ahead for these transitions.

I am just curious to see how Apple will do in the future. Steve Jobs cannot run Apple forever. Hopefully, they are currently in the process of building up the team, giving some good training for the next CEO-to-be, and getting ready for the transition.

Churches and leaders have a lot to learn from this situation.

You can read the Time article here.

Thoughts on “Planting Churches in Muslim Cities”

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Visuals

Planting Churches in Muslim Cities.jpg
Greg Livingstone in his book, “Planting Churches in Muslim Cities” gives some great insights into the whole Islamic landscape and the importance of church planting. Livingstone’s experience with ministry in the Middle East, not only gives credibility to what he is writing about, but he gives very practical advice and solutions to see a more fruitful ministry to the Muslims.

It has always been believed that if a missionary decides to do ministry with the Muslims then they might see their first convert after ten years of labor. This has given a dismal picture of what God can do. Sometimes it is more of an issue with the missionary than God

Livingstone said, “Missionaries do not normally minister with bad motives, but sometimes make bad decisions with good motives. Often the problem is an inability to truly understand the church planting process – not unlike helping a butterfly out of a cocoon and unknowingly consigning it to death.”

But God is doing something.

Livingstone notes that God is raising up a new paradigm to reach Muslims. Rather than having a very individualistic mindset of reaching out to people, Livingstone is proposing that ministry be done in teams. He feels like this is more of a biblical model as we look into the Book of Acts.

It is exciting to read about the importance of the apostolic ministry when it comes to reaching Muslims and even regions influenced by Islam. We have to go beyond the recent avenues of teaching English and even come up with new pathways to build relationships, as well as to bless the city or village.

One big shocker (or shall I say a wake-up call) for me as I was reading this book is how “Asian” the Islamic culture is when it comes to various social customs and mores. I kept on saying to myself, “That is so Korean!”

Then it got me thinking about several things:

1) I am more Western than I would like to confess. Even though at times I pride myself in being bi-cultural, I realized that I might be more Western in my thinking compared to the culture and customs of the Middle East or in Indonesia.

2) We really need more transcultural people to be part of future international church plants in Muslim dominated countries. I think this is where being bi-cultural is very helpful.

3) The Jakarta team will need to train aggressively on learning how to adapt to various cultures. There are a lot of non-Western things that we have to adapt to as well as adopt in order for us to be more effective in sharing the Gospel.

This is a good book to get a person’s mind thinking about doing missions through church planting, especially in areas where it is not easy to stand out as a local church. But God is moving through people who have a Muslim background but converted to the Gospel message. These are the people that are reaching out to their follow Muslim family and friends. There are some powerful testimonies.

These are some of the things that we want to experience as we head out to Indonesia.

Ministry According to Will Smith

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Values, Viewpoint

Will Smith.jpg
USA Today Photo
I enjoy watching movies, especially with Christina. Some of my favorite actors are in the likings of De Niro and Pacino. But more recently, I have been slowly enjoying Will Smith (I still can’t believe he was The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air).

For the promotion of his new movie, Seven Pounds, Smith did an interview with Donna Freydkin for USA TODAY. You can read the article here.

As I was reading the transcript of the interview, I couldn’t help but to notice that some of the factors that are attributing to his success are really biblical principles for ministry. Here is a summary of the factors:

1) Think globally. Smith says, “[Any film] has to be extraordinary, it has to be entertainment, it has to be art [and be] delivered to all people of the world.”

2) Talent at the top. Smith chooses to work with the best. In this case, he chose to work with Gabriele Muccino who directed him to an Oscar nomination in 2006. He said, “[Gabriele Muccino] takes me to places that I’d never choose myself.”

3) Mix it up, to a point. Smith says, “I have to challenge myself and push myself. My only job is to make sure I don’t leave anything on the table, that I maximize what a young dude from Philly can do in the world of cinema. There’s no telling what I can create at this point.”

4) Preserve the Smith brand. Smith makes sure that he remains consistent with the image he portrays. He says, “By being famous, you’re afforded rights that other people who aren’t famous aren’t afforded. If I’m going to walk to the front of the line (at the restaurant) because I’m Will Smith, then I have to sign all the autographs. If I don’t want to sign any autographs, I don’t walk to the front of the line. It’s that simple. Stand in the line with everybody else.”

5) Cross color lines. Smith grew up in Philadelphia and “attended a mostly white Catholic elementary school and a mostly African-American high school… lived in an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood, attended a Baptist church and admired the Muslim girls who lived one street over.” Smith learned that laughter is a unifying thing that is universal.

6) Be master of your domain. Smith says, “I was reading Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, and he talks about the concept of 10,000 hours. That you don’t really settle into any level of mastery until 10,000 hours, and I feel like I’ve just completed my 10,000 hours of story structure and filmmaking.” Muccino, his director says, “He’s very firm with his own ideas and considerations about things. He doesn’t change his mind easily. If he says no, it’s no. If he says yes, it’s yes. He’s a man of his word. In Italy we call them men of honor.”

7) Leave nothing to chance. “Jada and I sat down and asked, ‘Where do we see ourselves?’ We went to 40 years from now. We see ourselves some place where there are seasons. That’s a big thing for Jada. We think there’s mountains. We think we live on a golf course. We don’t have more children – we have grandchildren. We are the greatest philanthropists that America has ever seen. We’re going to try and get up there with Bill and Melinda Gates. We talked through all the elements of where we want to be so we can start, in this moment, designing our life toward that.”

As I read these seven factors, I realized this is what separates a lot of people who are in the ministry. Here is my take on the seven factors mentioned above but in the context of ministry.

1) Think internationally. The people who have a heart for the nations are going to be spearheading a lot of things in the future.

2) Hang out with people who will challenge you.
Find some people who are doing what you envision yourself doing in the future and hang out with them and learn from them. Let them ask you questions. Let them challenge you. Let them impart things to you.

3) Don’t settle for mediocrity, strive for excellence.
Too often we rest on our laurels. It is the human tendency to look at all the things that we have accomplished, rather than looking ahead and finding ways to improve (even charting new territories). In ministry, if you snooze, you lose.

4) Integrity. Ministry always comes down to trust. If you lose it, then it is really hard to gain it back. What you represent and who you represent make all the difference. I have always said, “Character is the container to carry your convictions.”

5) Transculturalism.
The world is getting more multi-ethnic and multi-cultural. If we are not going beyond (trans-) our own comfortable cultural, then we are going to be consider irrelevant and left in the dust. We have to be willing to go through the discomforts and difficulties that come with trying to understand each other.

6) Be known for the one thing (it is usually tied in with your passion).
So often we want to do a lot of things well, but in reality we end up becoming a “jack of all trades” but not perfecting anything. Let’s play a word association game – Billy Graham (what do you think of), James Dobson (what do you think of), and the list goes on and on. Find the “one thing” that you are passionate about and do it well.

7) Always have a vision. It has been said, “If you aim at nothing, then you will hit it every time.” People in the ministry who are listening to God’s voice and discerning where God wants them to go are the ones that will do great things. Things do not happen by coincidence or chance. Often times it is planned, prepared, and prayed for so that God will ultimately receive all the glory.

The Twitter Sensation

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Values, Vogue

Twitter Logo.jpg
I am amazed at how quickly Twitter is taking over the communication world. For a lot of people, it is like a micro blog. The beauty of Twitter is that it only gives you 140 characters to type a message or an update. This disciplines you to share only what is important; and also it is convenient to update more regularly on the happenings of your life.

You can set it up so that the Tweets (the messages sent on Twitter) are directly sent to your phone as a text message. I am realizing that text messaging or SMS is here to stay. In fact, I am finding myself connecting with people more through text messages than through a phone call or even e-mails at various times. When you are not able to use your phone, it is just easier to read a text message. It saves time! Think about all the time it takes to check your voicemail and then call that person back.

With the useful technology of Twitter, we have decided to use Twitter to communicate to our church members. We have started up a HMCC account.

We will be sending various announcements and reminders through Twitter. Most importantly, if there are emergencies or information that you need to know right away, then you will be able to receive it in real time through Twitter. It will be definitely faster through a text message than finding the time to check e-mail.

Be one of the first ones to sign up.

A Woman’s Perspective

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Values

In the midst of making the announcement of going to Jakarta, Indonesia, people have been asking me, “How does Christina feel about all this?”

Instead of me trying to put words in her mouth, you can read it from her own perspective here.

I guess this is going to be a 2 part series that she wanted to do – first, in her perspective and then, from our children’s perspective.

Sometimes I wonder if she would have still married me if she knew all the things that she had to go through (and still, will go through) of being my wife. This is when I am amazed at her strength, sacrifice, surrender and steadfastness. She is definitely one of a kind… a beautiful treasure that I will never trade for the world. I am definitely the one that is more blessed.