In the winter of 1994, I met a brother from Korea who was visiting Canada. In our joyful reunion after 19 years, he opened up his burden regarding the sad condition of the assemblies in Korea. In the summer of that same year, the Lord allowed me to begin visiting these assemblies. There I witnessed the diverse practices common in Christendom that had crept into the assemblies. Assembly testimony had been tarnished and they were in danger of losing their identity. The brethren were alarmed by the initiative for the “newly established training institute.” This confused them and divided the assemblies. However, there were brethren found who deplored the current spiritual conditions of the assemblies and groaned for recovery. Much despair and frustration about the prevailing unscriptural ways marked the saints.
In this sweeping air of disappointment, with contrite hearts, we prostrated ourselves before the Lord to seek His mercy and presence. The brethren rejoiced with one accord when we opened His Word to clearly see our Lord and His beauty. We explored the sufficiency of the Lord for His assembly, for all desperate needs. His sufficiency demands from each member the responsibility of steadily learning from His Word, and to rightly divide the Word of truth.
Bible readings were unknown to Korean assemblies from the very beginning. Now, however, it is encouraging to see that brethren realize the benefits of having regular assembly Bible readings. After years of effort, an increasing number of assemblies have embraced the value of the Bible reading. In this early phase, assemblies naturally face challenges of how to prudently manage the meeting for the benefit of the saints. We pray continually that the dear saints will be inspired and fascinated by the Word and have confidence in the Lord Who enriches our lives through His Word. If the saints in the assemblies are not in the joy and power of the Word and neglect to prove His sufficiency, diverse forms of unhealthy substitutions will inevitably infiltrate and undermine the functioning of the assembly and rob us of our wealth in Christ and our privilege of being led by the Holy Spirit. Brethren should understand that when leadership fails in its responsibilities, it opens up opportunities for training institutes to try to supply workers for the assemblies. In this sad condition, many assemblies in Korea give up their God-given assembly responsibilities and benefits.
Brethren must understand that the value of our training in the assembly is unique, immeasurable, and incomparable! For years, pioneering workers have faithfully ministered to the saints; however, the brethren, sadly, often became passive. Ironically, the workers themselves became hindrances to assembly growth by producing passive believers. This “functional one man ministry” has not been able to produce workers for the next generation. Instead, it has unconsciously welcomed institutions. Now, elders with this burden, stimulate the brethren to participate in the gospel, ministry, and Bible reading, to find gifts among the brethren, and to let them have training in assembly fellowship. In this climate, I pray that commended workers will appear in due time and surely care for the saints in the many assemblies. Thank God, there is now a growing zeal in this direction among brethren in a number of assemblies.
Assemblies in Korea truly need more qualified gospel preachers and teachers who will be raised in deep appreciation of the value of submission to the local oversight and have eyes to see the assembly as the Lord sees it.
Repairing the broken wall of assembly testimony in Korea continues to be a serious concern. Korean assemblies have been faithful in discerning genuine candidates for baptism. Yet, there has been some weakness from the beginning in the matter of assembly reception. For years, it has been the tradition that baptized believers were automatically received into the privilege of the Lord’s Supper. Therefore, the newly baptized have wrongly thought that baptism is just a prerequisite for breaking bread. This tradition so often misled believers as to the true meaning of assembly fellowship. This practice not only has weakened assemblies but lowered the quality of assembly fellowship. Oversights have been encouraged to teach assembly truth to new believers between the time of baptism and reception, for the mutual benefit of the whole assembly. This additional effort can make new believers properly understand the privileges and responsibilities they can expect in assembly fellowship and allow them to enjoy their future fellowship for a healthy assembly testimony.
Although there are other areas of concern, I have only mentioned a couple of the most important issues. Some things hinder our efforts, such as the spirit of tradition, of settling for convenience, and of exclusive attitudes, but we trust in the Lord Who gazes upon us and helps us. “O, Lord, revive Thy work in the midst of the years.” Your prayers for the current efforts for revival of assembly work in Korea are invaluable.