March 31, 2006


Missions Incredible: South Korea sends more missionaries than any country but the U.S. And it won't be long before it's number one (Rob Moll, 02/24/2006, Christianity Today)

Samuel Kang was God's improbable choice to be a leader in the world's fastest-growing missionary movement. Kang was born in Japan when the Japanese empire was forcing alien Shinto beliefs down Korean throats.

At the end of World War II, the Kang family returned to Korea and grew deeply fervent in their Christian faith. The Kangs dedicated Samuel to God, and they told him, "You will become a pastor."

Kang rebelled. "I did not want to accept my parents' dedication of me to God without my consent," he says. For years, he resisted God's call. But by the time he was 20, Samuel's heart softened, and he felt compelled to give himself to God. "No one can escape from his sovereign call," Kang says.

It took another 20 years of discipling and discernment before Kang set foot on a mission field. At age 39, Kang and his wife, Sarah (who had discovered her own call to missions work), left South Korea for Nigeria. When they departed in 1980, there were only 93 Korean missionaries worldwide.

During the next 11 years, Samuel and Sarah Kang raised a family, planted Nigerian churches, and started a Bible college for Nigerian pastors. Kang's eyes sparkle as he recalls his days in Africa. "The Lord gave me this wonderful opportunity to serve him," he says. "If God gives me another life, may I give it to him as a missionary."

Kang doesn't look backward very often. Now 64 years old, with silvery hair and a gentle smile, he is leading an ambitious 25-year plan to help South Korea send out more missionaries than any other country.

Kang is chief executive director of the Korean World Mission Association and dean of the Graduate School of World Mission at Seoul's influential Chongshin University. He has helped move South Korean missions into a place never before imagined: South Korea today sends out more missionaries than any other country except the United States. In terms of missionaries per congregation, Korea sends one missionary for every 4.2 congregations, which places it 11th in the world. (The U.S. does not rank in the top 10.)

But more than that, mission scholars agree that Koreans are a potent vanguard for an emerging missionary movement that is about to eclipse centuries of Western-dominated Protestant missions. They call it the "majority-world" mission movement. They say this new term—"majority world"—is necessary to replace the aging terms "third world" and "developing world." The radical change in Protestant missions is forcing scholars and missionaries to create new ways of talking about the global scene.

The global majority (5.2 billion people) live in less developed nations. Of the world's 6.4 billion people, less than 18 percent live in developed nations. Scholars say the church's future in large measure rests in the hands of the global majority.

"The day of Western missionary dominance is over, not because Western missionaries have died off," says Scott Moreau, chair of intercultural studies at Wheaton College (Illinois), "but because the rest of the world has caught the vision and is engaged and energized."

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 31, 2006 11:36 PM

The evangelical movement is also strong in Africa. It wouldn't surprise me to see a net outflux of missionaries from that region in the next 20 odd years. That is, more missionaries coming out of Africa than going into it.

Posted by: Gideon at April 1, 2006 6:35 AM