I Am Going: An Unexpected Mission

By: Ya Min Park

Ya Min Park is a recent SEBTS graduate who has earned both an M.Div, and a Th.M in Old Testament. He is planning to move to New York City soon to plant a church. Read below to learn how he is going to use his training from Southeastern while serving in NYC, as well as the story of how he came to study at SEBTS.

My church planting in NYC will start this year. I have three target groups: International Students, second Generation Asian Students, and Jewish Students in Columbia University and NYU. I know that third group is much different from the first two. (If you know about the first two groups, you would say that they are totally different too.) Anyways, the first two groups would make sense to you, if you knew that I’m an International Student from South Korea. However you might ask, “Why is my interest in reaching Jewish Students?”

Jewish Missions has been a keyword for my life from my freshman year of college. I was praying hard that God would give me a mission that I could live and die for. Jewish Missions was given to me as the answer to my prayer. My twenties was wholly focused on Jewish Missions. Since we don’t have a Jewish Community in Korea, I had to make several overseas trips to reach out to people from a Jewish descent. I have been to Israel two times, Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, and Russia.

After the last mission trip to Russia, I decided two important things. My first decision was to study Theology before jumping into the full time ministry, because I saw various complicated theological confusions. While I was joining the missions, I met many missionaries, ministers, and leaders of Messianic Jews. Each of them has their own idea and theology on who are Jews; what the Jewish Mission is; and what we need to do for Jewish people and God’s kingdom. Thus, depending on whom I work with, the ministry swings from one extreme to the other. It gave me doubts about ministry work that I have done and left me with questions about the God’s mission and ministry to people from a Jewish background.

The second decision I made was to come to the US to reach out to the Jewish people in the US. When I went on my last mission trip to Novosibirsk, Russia, I had just graduated from college. During the whole time I stayed in Russia, I was praying that God would show me the next step. By the End of the mission trip, I found that my heart was pretty much ready to do anything God would give me. When I got back to Korea, the one who picked me up at the airport suggested that I go to the US, since the largest Jewish population outside of Israel is in the US. And I accepted this advice with my heart full of God’s calling.

I applied to three seminaries in the US. I picked to come to the one that gave me an admission first which was SEBTS. From the beginning of my seminary life, my concern was to equip myself to share the gospel with the Jewish people. Thus, my main focus was on Old Testament Studies since I wanted to talk to Jewish people about the Messiah in the Hebrew Bible. Then I realized that is what the authors of the New Testament tried to do. Throughout the book of the New Testament, they wanted to prove that Jesus is the Messiah according to the Hebrew Bible. So my study is expanded to the whole Bible and Biblical Theology.

As I finished my M.Div., I was not sure that I had built my own theology for Jewish Mission. I learned various Theological understandings on the issues but it was still difficult for me to choose my theology. So I started working the Th.M. with a focus in the Old Testament. I wanted to make sure whether there are unfulfilled prophecies concerning Israel or all has been or will be fulfilled in the church. The question led me to write my Th.M. paper, “Examination and Evaluation of Progressive Dispensational Understanding of the Day of the LORD in Zechariah 12-14.” After all the years of study at Southeastern, I do not claim that I have a perfect answer for my questions, but I am pretty confident to say that now I know what I need to study and how I study it.

I love the “Go” campaign of SEBTS. And I believe that it is time for me to “Go”. I am going to reach out to three target student groups on campuses in Manhattan, NYC. I am so thankful for the season of study and the faithful teachers at Southeastern. Finally I am going forward boldly for the calling from my heavenly Father.


Why All Good Christians Should Celebrate Halloween

Editor’s Note: This post originally appeared in 2009. Since we are once again approaching Halloween, George Robinson’s (Hedrick Chair of World Missions and Professor of Missions and Evangelism) thoughts on Christian participation (or not) in the holiday remain pertinent and helpful. 

October 31st. For most Americans this date means one thing: **Halloween.** Costumes, candy and trick-or-treaters spending to the tune of $2.5 billion making this holiday second only to Christmas in marketing revenue. But good Christians don’t celebrate Halloween. Or do they? Some Protestants may prefer to call it Reformation Day, for after all, that is the date that Martin Luther nailed his Theses to the door at Castle Church in Wittenberg back in 1517. That does pre-date the first usage of the phrase “All Hallows Eve” (commonly known now as Halloween) which didn’t emerge until some 40 years later in 1556.[1]

Ironically, most good Christians that I know won’t be celebrating either Reformation Day or Halloween. Instead, they will be showing support for their local church by attending a “safe and sanitary” alternative called a Fall Festival. This alternative allows good Christians to invite their neighbors and friends to come to the church and get candy, play games and have some good, clean Christian fun. No pagan witches and goblins allowed. But they can dress up as David or Moses or some other biblical character. All the fun without the pagan revelry, right?

I would like to propose another alternative – that good Christians should indeed celebrate Halloween. I think that they should stay home from their church’s alternative Fall Festival and celebrate with their pagan neighbors. Most of them wouldn’t have come to your Fall Festival anyway. And those who did would’ve stopped by briefly on their way to “real” trick-or-treating. I’m sure that some of you reading this blog might be more than a little unhappy with my proposal at this point, but stick with me for a moment.: The reason I propose that good Christians celebrate Halloween and stay home from the “Christian alternatives” is that Halloween is the only night of the year in our culture where lost people actually go door-to-door to saved people’s homes . . . and you’re down at the church hanging out with all your other good Christian friends having clean fellowship with the non-pagans.

Living with missional intentionality means that you approach life as a missionary in your context. I lived with my family in South Asia and we had to be creative and intentional in engaging our Muslim neighbors. We now live in the USA and we still need to be creative and intentional. That’s why for the past 2 years we have chosen to stay at home and celebrate the fact that Halloween gives us a unique opportunity to engage our neighbors. In fact, last year we had over 300 children and 200 adults come to our doorstep on that one night. And we were ready for them!

We had a tent set up in the driveway and gave away free coffee and water to the adults who were walking with their children. Our small group members manned the tent and engaged them in conversation and gave each one of them a gospel booklet (“The Story” gospel booklets are available with a Halloween distribution rate here: http://story4.us/offer). The children ran up to our door while the parents were waiting and got their candy, along with gospel booklets (even if they were dressed as witches or goblins!). In all we gave away more than 500 pieces of literature that night, each with our name, e-mail address, and a website where they could get more info.

I sure wish more good Christians would celebrate Halloween this year by staying home and meeting their pagan neighbors – an option which I believe surely beats the “good Christian” alternative.


[1] John Simpson and Edmund Weiner, Oxford English Dictionary 2d. ed. (London: Oxford University Press, 1989).

Power Encounter—of the Wrong Kind

Power Encounter—of the Wrong Kind: A Preliminary Phenomenological Survey on Inappropriate Exercise of Power Experienced by Short-Term Missionaries

By: Dr. Ant Greenham

The phenomenon of Christians indulging in power plays (but refusing to admit it), seems widespread. I conducted a brief, preliminary, qualitative survey to test for its presence in late 2014. I approached fifty units appointed to overseas missionary assignments by a large North American organization and asked if they had experienced an inappropriate use of power or control on the part of a co-worker or supervisor. I also approached ten long-standing personal contacts, previously or presently involved in missions, with essentially the same questions, to gain an independent perspective.

I received twenty-nine replies from the fifty appointees, in addition to five responses from my personal contacts. Of the former, seven had experienced no abuse of power issues, eight had a “no” response but had observations on the topic, while fourteen had experienced an inappropriate use of power or control. A number of different issues were identified by these fourteen (and by three of my own contacts). They may be subdivided into three broad categories: abuse of authority, deficient mentoring, and refusal to consider alternatives. Each case involves a problem the respondent had with a superior, not with a co-worker.

The following leadership issues emerged under the first category: attempts to circumvent or manipulate the authority structure, refusal to consult before making assignments, opposition to transfer of personnel, refusal to specify an alleged problem, refusal to confront the person causing a problem, and making inadequate provision for existing workers. As an example, one respondent had the following to say:

Requests for godly counsel from stateside pastors and fellow laborers were not permitted, and refusal to comply with these inappropriate restrictions would be treated as “insubordination.” In addition to this, it was clearly stated that all mentoring relationships were subject to the approval of the supervisor. This was viewed as an attempt to silence us while we were on the field, and greatly hindered our ability to seek reconciliation and resolution. We viewed this as an attempt to protect our supervisors from honest criticism and scrutiny from higher field and stateside leadership. This treatment left us feeling alone, isolated from teammates and fellow laborers, and victimized with no potential recourse of action.

Unfortunately, this untenable situation played a key role in their not returning to the field.

In contrast to abuse of authority, other respondents reported its virtual absence, seen here as deficient mentoring. The following leadership issues emerged under this second category: abandoning respondent in a challenging or untenable situation, requiring a long-term decision at short notice, miscommunicating expectations but demanding compliance, creating false impressions through miscommunication, and giving no feedback. To quote one respondent, “My first month overseas I was left all alone in rural Africa and we had to figure everything out on our own.” Essentially, his desire was simply to be mentored, but it didn’t happen.

While inappropriate use of authority could take the forms of abuse or abandonment, supervisors’ resistance to other ways of doing things also featured. Leadership issues falling within this third category included a refusal to discuss operational structure, the implication that a different decision to their own was against God’s will, and a discouragement of open communication. One respondent lamented the sclerotic leadership she experienced as follows: “Three ladies in particular were wives of the team strategy leaders within their cities. They informed me that . . . I needed to submit to the way . . . [they] did things in country or find a new team. They were condescending in much of their communication with me and informed me that my ignorance was due to newness on the field.” However, when she and her husband returned to the field on a second assignment, they were treated with respect. Sadly, it would seem that the difference in attitude they experienced on their return was solely a product of their seniority, not because they had better ideas to offer than before.

Rather than end the research on a negative note, questions sent to the respondents included an opportunity for positive recommendations. Examples sent included cases of leaders who admit their shortcomings, seriously consider other ways of doing things, and act sacrificially. These are not radical leadership innovations; similar recommendations are noted in literature on member care and avoiding attrition in missions. Significantly, Jesus addresses such leadership deficiencies and provides a remedy (in Mark 10:35-45), modeled on himself, as well.

In sum, it seems that power plays are alive and well, despite the existence of sound organizational structures and policies. However, more research would help clarify the problem of power abuse in missions and elsewhere. It should also address a potential one-sidedness of my 2014 survey by including supervisors. Nevertheless, beginning a conversation on this subject aims to make the problem more visible, and may lead to concrete approaches to deal with it.

Dr. Ant Greenham is Associate Professor of Missions and Islamic Studies at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.