Life and Seoul…
If there is one thing has impacted upon me since arriving in Korea it is work ethic of the people. From the moment we arrived at Incheon airport at 11.00 at night to the moment we were delivered to the very check in desk for our departure, the Koreans have been exceedingly gracious and helpful. They are a delightful people always ready and willing to help as we discovered when trying to navigate the Seoul metro system. All above ground signs are in Korean so making it tricky to ensure the correct train and direction of travel! Without exception at every point we stopped to check the map or even looked mildly confused, at least one person leapt to our assistance. Young and old like were more than willing to try their English on us! Small children unused, presumably, to seeing westerners with beards, stopped us in the street to take photos! Seoul is a safe city. We wandered (on the rare occasions we had spare time!) wherever we wished, day or night, without any fear.
The pace of the week has been exceptional. Long days and nights tell of a ‘driven’ people. One week’s holiday seems to be the norm for most Koreans and a total commitment to the ‘company’ is normal.
This was very evident at the seminar. Lectures of an hour and a half with just ten minutes break, 8.00am starts and 9.00pm endings to the western mind are counter productive. The brain can only assimilate a certain amount of information and in our view the lectures could have been condensed considerably without any detrimental effect on the content. Indeed shorter days might even have had a positive effect on delegates who might have been rather more responsive. Not that there was any opportunity to respond or react to lecture input. This was a totally prescriptive agenda. Indeed, not until the penultimate evening was there any opportunity to challenge or respond to the lecture subject matter.
So, ‘life and Seoul…’ it would appear, depending on your viewpoint, that life is very much compromised when so much is directed towards work. This work ethic has, of course, contributed to the economic miracle that has taken place in South Korea over the last decade. But the price has been paid in terms of family life. One young Sarang pastor confided that with two small children and a wife at home he was more often than not out working long hours and this was having a negative effect on his relationship and family life. There is little or no time for leisure activities, hobbies or other interests outside ‘work’.
The philosophy of Sarang emerged very clearly as a single minded determination to grow the Christian Church by means of Discipleship training. Sarang Church = Discipleship training and the procedures put in place to vet potential candidates for training try to ensure a similar total commitment to the programme. All who join the church know what will be required of them in terms of commitment, and still their numbers grow. 25 million US Dollars was pledged in just two weeks in response to a plea for funds to build a new building to accommodate some of the 70+ thousand members. Sarang even has its own TV network and broadcasts services to its various locations, as well as the Internet, so all can join in worship together! The 150 pastors deliver the Discipleship training with the help of other designated pastors most, although not all, ordained.
My interest in this incredible ‘mission’ minded organisation is the Discipleship training material which I saw in use in Singapore. I’m not sure how effective it would be used under the same regime in the western world where people are simply not prepared to commit to the same extend as our oriental brothers and sisters? However, adapted and moulded I am certain that we can learn much from this form of teaching for lay people. “Called to Awaken the Laity” is certainly a catch phrase we could adopt in the UK to generate a greater determination amongst the laity to play their full part in spreading the Good News especially against the backdrop of reducing clergy numbers! The key role of clergy may have to change to that of primarily teachers and equippers of the laity if the Church is to prosper and grow in the west.
During the seminar I was constantly calling to mind John 10:10 “Jesus said, I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” I am not sure that the Christians here have time for life in all its abundance?