I have spent half of my life in Korea and the other half in the US. Korea is a tiny peninsula nation surrounded by world powers and has been invaded by other nations countless times. I grew up learning (being forced to think) that we should have Korean pride since Koreans are smarter than other ethnic groups. We have our own alphabet, we are doing well on IT, telecommunication and electronics, and we are even famous for Gangnam Style! Even after the notorious Korean war which destroyed our nation to ashes, we strong and smart Koreans rebuilt everything in a short time despite all the obstacles. Occasionally, I’ve heard some Korean pastors preach about how God especially loves Koreans because there are world-size mega churches in Korea and we rank no.2 in sending missionaries next to the U.S.
Yes, I grew up with ethnic pride and ethnocentrism. When Christian faith is mixed with ethnocentrism, it gives you a theological justification to think that one ethnic group is higher than others. And you believe that God wants a specific ethnic group to be the dominant group since His favor is on them. History shouts to us how that mentality created discrimination, racism and even genocide. At times, God chooses specific ethnic groups to serve His purpose by His sovereign grace, but that doesn’t justify any ethnic group thinking they are better than another.
I immigrated to US with my family when I was 16 and I became a Christ-follower. With some natural musical gifts and God-given passion to praise God, I started to lead worship at youth group at a Korean Church in Dallas. And while I was leading worship at my church on a regular basis, I started my own praise band for touring Korean churches in Dallas and other cities in the U.S. There are about 4,000 Korean churches in North America, so just ministering to Koreans in the U.S could keep me busy for quite a while!
But, the more I worshiped God in spirit and in truth, and the more I engaged in Christ-centered and biblically-saturated worship, I felt something was missing. I felt my worship was stagnant. It was not reflecting the cultural context and communities around me. It was not inviting or reaching out. Gradually, I came out of my bubble of ethnocentric Christianity and started my journey to culturally diverse worship. I must confess that not everything I find in this journey is easy or comfortable. In fact it’s quite challenging for someone like me who grew up with ethnic pride. Then why? Why bother? Why pursue multicultural worship when homogeneous worship and fellowship is comfortable and fine?
It’s because I have conviction. This conviction came to me through God’s word, the affirmation of the Holy Spirit, and many restless nights thinking hard about what it means to follow Christ here and now. So, I have these convictions now. Conviction that multicultural worship brings greater glory to God (Ps 67, 96)…conviction that it creates greater anticipation for worship in heaven (Rev. 5, 7)…and conviction that it becomes a powerful message to the divided world (John 13:34-35). Pursuing multicultural worship may be challenging here on earth but it will be the most natural thing for us in eternity.
Questions to ponder:
1) How do you see ethnocentrism in yourself? in your culture?
2) What convictions do you have about worship as you study scripture?
3) Will there be Kimchi in heaven? What do you think?
(This article was written by Jaewoo Kim for Proskuneo Ministries of which Josh Davis is the Founder and our vetted contributor to Worship Ministry Catalyst. Born in Korea and moved to Texas in the age of 16, Jaewoo now considers himself a Korean-Texan. Jaewoo and his wife Joy are worship-arts missionaries with the Artists in Christian Testimonies International (actinternational.org). Their passion is to integrate worship, arts and mission. Jaewoo travels extensively to lead and to teach missional and multicultural worship; and he is a part of the core team facilitating the multicultural worship leaders’ network in the US. He also leads the worship-arts group called the King’s Region in Dallas. Jaewoo, Joy, and their two children currently reside in Dallas TX).