To be honest, I never planned on planting a church. I was working for a mega church and during prayer I was convicted to start preaching. I thought this was crazy, since I was a new minister at this large church and I couldn’t just go up to the senior pastor and tell him and other tenured pastors to move aside because God told me to preach. However, what God said was done. By this time, I had written two books – which is another God story – and I was asked by many churches to come and preach. I even did some church consulting work from my second book, Hiring An English Ministry Pastor & Beyond In An Asian American Church Context, in one of the largest Korean-American churches in San Francisco City and was asked to preach at their church.
A first generation Korean pastor approached me and asked if I wanted to plant a next generation church. I flat out told him “No.” I told him that if God gave him the vision then it was for him and not me to plant a church. However, I did recommend that we get together and pray. So, every Saturday morning for four to five months, I would drive for an hour and meet with him and a few other first generation Koreans and start praying. This group of Koreans didn’t speak English well, so I wondered how God would move and plant a next generation church, which is multiracial and multicultural in nature. It would have to be a work of God to plant a church with these people.
During this time, God clearly showed me a vision of a church. I shared with them this vision and everyone supported it. I had no idea how this was going to work. I had only read books from my seminary on church planting, but no real experience of any like this before. I wanted to make sure that this was going to be God’s church and not mine.
No one in our small group played musical instruments, so a praise team was out of the picture. The start up team had some youth group aged kids, so we needed a youth director. I had children, so we needed a children’s director.
These were the consistent thoughts that kept coming to mind. I wanted confirmation on this church plant, so my wife and I went to a prayer meeting. There, I had a direct prayer to God and asked specifically for his anointing if He truly wanted me to plant a church. No one knew about this prayer but God. I couldn’t believe what I had heard. After the prayer, the woman leading the prayer looked straight at me and said, “Pastor, God has anointed you.” I had never experienced this before. How can God answer what I just prayed for? Can this be for real? I didn’t move on planting a church, even after this experience. I decided to wait and continue to pray.
A few other big, supernatural confirmations came my way, but I still didn’t move to plant this church until the funeral. Part of my job at the mega church was to run funerals. Everyone had left the building, except for one of the family members. He stopped me, looked me straight in the eye and said, “I don’t know why I need to say this to you and I don’t know you well, but God has anointed you. Now go do it.” I froze. I couldn’t move my body. No one knew what I was praying for. I said, “Excuse me?” He repeated it again, “God has anointed you, now go do it.” Then he just walked away. All I could do was to just stare at him and be amazed at what just took place. Of all places, God clearly spoke to me at a funeral.
I called the small team and told them what happened. “Alright team, I guess God wants us to start this church! So, we need to start praying and ask God to send us a praise team, youth director, and a children’s director.” I thought why not just ask for all the people we need. If this truly was going to be God’s church and not ours, why would He not support His own church? So, our small team started to pray.
Two days later, a sought-after young spiritual leader called me out of the blue. He was convicted to come join our church and become a youth director. How could he have known this? I only spoke to him briefly at a time when it was a big “if” as to whether I was to plant a church or not. I asked whether he would you consider helping me.
Two days after his confirmation, I received a phone call from a pastor friend who was running evangelism explosion. He asked if I would be interested in a children’s director and that I would not need to pay her, because the ministry was given the money to pay for a children’s director to go to either a small church or church plant. Wow! God provided a youth director and a children’s director before the start of our church. What was more amazing is that on the first day of our service, 6 people showed up to be our first praise team. Thus began God’s church, with no effort of mine, but truly in the plan of God for His kingdom purpose. We had gathered, prayed, and became equipped for over a year and began the official church launch of New Beginning Community Church on July 8, 2012, in Silver Spring, Maryland.
How did you come up with the name "New Beginning Community Church"?
During prayer, God was convicting me to name our church New Beginning. I thought this was strange, since I’ve never heard of a church being called New Beginning. God was reminding me that everyone who walks into the church doors will have a “new beginning” with Jesus Christ. Everyone was to have a new start in life and re-connect with Him who is the source of all hope and victory.
How did you end up in Silver Spring, MD?
I was in prayer and God was convicting my heart to start my official launch in Silver Spring. I started to look for cost of rent in Silver Spring, but stopped and realized that I was moving ahead of God. Because of my second book, Hiring An English Ministry Pastor & Beyond, I was asked to come and talk to a Korean Baptist Pastors gathering. One pastor kept asking me many questions and was determined to have me stop by his church and take a look at the facility. I kept wondering why he wanted me to come by and visit the church, so I set up an appointment to visit. The day before visiting this church, I received a phone call from California from a close friend of mine. He was watching the food network channel. He said this restaurant was on food network three times and that I should take a visit. He gave me the restaurant name and the location. It was in Silver Spring, Maryland. I couldn’t believe what I had just heard. The next day, I visited the church and it was located in Silver Spring. God had already prepared the place for NBCC. I knew for certain that this was not my church but God’s church and all I had to do was to trust in Him and be obedient to his calling.
How did you start seminary as a martial arts instructor?
I started martial arts training at the age of five. By the age of 16, I operated my own martial arts studio. I was doing sales, marketing, curriculum development, leadership training, and even writing up my own contracts. Years later, after college and working for a company, I opened another martial arts training center.
I had always believed in Jesus, so with the new center, I did a lot of evangelism and even offered Bible study on Saturday afternoons. There were times, when Christian parents were holding hands and praying for one another at the martial arts studio. Many times, it felt more like a church then a martial arts center.
During the growth period, I started a ministry called Church Builders International (CBI), building churches in developing countries. Through the ten percent of the business gross income given to CBI, over 25 churches were built. I had assumed that God was going to prosper my business, so that I can do His work through the business and CBI. I guess, God had another plan.
I strongly believe that if a man is called by God to do the Lord’s ministry, then God will also call the wife “into” the ministry as well. If only the man is called but not the wife, then most ministries will fail, because the support of the house is not present. Many years ago, during prayer, I was convicted to start attending seminary (this was when I was expanding my martial arts business). I told my wife, “I think God wants me to start seminary?” She responded, “God didn’t call me to be a pastor’s wife, you’re not going!”
“OK. Then can you pray and see what the Lord tells you and I will wait till God moves your heart.” I said. It was not that long, till God moved her heart and she allowed me to go to seminary. This was in the middle of expanding my business, so I wasn’t sure how God was going to take care of all of this, but I trusted God, and the Lord came through. I started out with Golden Gate Theological Seminary then transferred to Denver Seminary. During that time, I lost my business, but God allowed us to move to Maryland and there I finished my seminary degree from Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary. God is an amazing God, I had no money for seminary, but the Lord provided a way and I finished and received my Master of Divinity Degree.
How did you end up in Maryland?
I grew up in Colorado and yes it does snow a lot – I never made any igloo though. As you have read from the testimony, I lost my business, our house, and basically almost all that we owned. We had one week left to move out of the house, but no place to go. Either we were going to be homeless or God had to show up fast with a miracle. I am so glad that we have a God that not only loves us but truly and literally provides for His children. It always seems that our Lord shows up at the last minute, but He actually shows up on time. God has an amazing way of showing his miracles in His timing.
My wife received a phone call about three to four hours before leaving our precious large house that we lost. We literally had no place to go. This phone call was from my wife’s friend. She had heard about our situation and let us know that we could stay at their newly renovated empty home in Woodbine, Maryland. They were trying to sell this house, so they let us know that we could stay until the house was sold. As soon as we received the address, all the family members got into the van and left Colorado. We had no idea why we were going; all we knew was that we needed a place to stay, so our family went into a wild adventure not knowing where our destiny would be.
As soon as we arrived, I received a phone call from one of the fastest growing Korean American churches in North Carolina. This large church needed help and somehow, the pastor got hold of my number and asked me to stop moving and move to North Carolina. When you do not have any money, no food in the refrigerator, and no health insurance of any type, do you see this as temptation or an opportunity from God? I asked the pastor to give us two weeks to pray about this offer. My wife and I prayed separately to make sure that we would both clearly hear from the Lord. I kept asking God that there must be a clear reason why He brought us to Maryland. To a mother of three children, it is natural for her to want to provide shelter, clothing, and an abundant supply of food and finances for three growing children. However, during the two weeks of prayer, God convicted both my wife and I to stay in Maryland. I called the pastor and let him know of our decision. I received two more offers from other churches to come and be part of their church staff, but each time, the conviction was for us to stay.
Patience with prayer was the biggest area of development during the desert period. I am the last person in the world to be told that a man should work to provide for his family. I grew up in a workaholic family. I operated my own martial arts studio at 16, paid my own way to college, paid and took care of all of my wedding expenses with no pressure on my wife to do anything, and made sure to financially support God’s kingdom work. Yet, God was training me to just wait in Him and focus on His Word and He will supply all our needs. We read it in the Bible but to truly live it is extremely difficult. Yet, this was what the Lord was teaching our family to fully rely on Him. Now, I know why God has brought our family to Maryland. It is because of you. If you are reading this, then the Lord desires to speak to you personally. God desires to give all of us a “New Beginning” and thus a church was born – to help you begin this journey. My family and I call Maryland our home and we fully understand why God has brought us here.
Tell us about your family?
I have an amazing wife and three wonderful children, Grace, Ashleigh, and Colin. I am truly blessed to have them and we went through difficult times of tribulation and trials together as a family. It was a very difficult time for all of us and I’m very thankful that our family persevered and learned how to trust God as a family. I love my wife and respect her spiritual maturity greatly. She has been and continues to be an amazing woman, who is perfect for the role in ministering with me at New Beginning Community Church.
I grew up as the youngest in a family of eight. At the top of the list is my oldest sister, Yu Me, followed by my oldest brother, Yong Woon, then second brother, Yong Duk, third brother Yong Sung, and my sister right above me, Susan (her American name). My oldest brother was the first Tae Kwon Do world cup light weight champion in 1975. My second brother was the Korean national light weight champion in 1968, and my third brother was U.S. national light weight champion in 1983. As you can imagine, it was very difficult growing up with my brothers. They loved watching Bruce Lee and kick-boxing. Guess, who they always picked on to try new martial arts techniques?
My mother came to the U.S. as a Buddhist but God desired to save our family for His kingdom purpose. My mother was a devout Buddhist and lived a life trying to satisfy a god that did not hear any of her cries. When we came to the states, she took part in a Korean community function. There she met a pastor, who just mentioned a simple comment, “I think there needs to be a Christian church in this town.” She didn’t know why she agreed, but she helped a Christian man plant a church as a Buddhist. During her Bible study, she accepted Christ and thus began her prayer life. My mother prays every morning for 3 to 4 hours. She has not missed the opportunity to pray, ever since she accepted Jesus. My mother would always tell me that she would pray an extra hour just for me. Now, I’m learning to pray for my children and their future.
How did you meet your wife?
When I came back from Korea, I didn’t bring home a Korean wife like my brothers. In the land of many beautiful women, I couldn’t find one person to marry. My family was concerned since I was the only one out of six who wasn’t married. My mother suggested that I should give God the opportunity to help me find a wife. “How was God going to help me find a wife?” I asked my mother in a pessimistic tone. She suggested that I pray and seek God’s will for my future marriage. My mother had suggested these things before, but I never took it seriously because it didn’t seem practical. With all my close friends married and my siblings all having children, I finally took my mother’s suggestion seriously and decided to pray and seek God’s will.
I took out a piece of paper and thought seriously about what I wanted in a woman. Would you believe that I actually wrote down 15 characteristics I wanted in a woman? With this list I started to pray almost every night about my future wife. When five months passed with no sign of an answer, I repented and apologized to God and shrunk the list to 10, thinking that I was asking too much. After seven months, I shrunk the list even further, to five. After ten months of prayer, I told God, “O.k. Lord! I understand. I still have too much, so may I just keep the first three and just stay focused on that?” Though I did pray only on the three, I eventually gave in and told God, “Not my will but your will be done.” I remembered what Jesus did in Matthew 26:42, which was to give His will to God, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.” I decided to follow what Jesus did.
Some amazing things happened during that year. My married friends introduced to me some potential mates, but when things did not work out, I quickly moved on. This was unusual for me because my old self would not have given up. Instead, I learned to surrender to God and was at peace about not having my way. I would talk to God about these women, and His answers came in many different forms. For some, I didn’t receive peace in my heart and for others there were no clarity in being married to them. And even though things didn’t work out, I was convicted to keep trusting in Him.
Let me define peace, clarity, and conviction to make the points clear. Peace means there is nothing hindering or making me hesitate about the situation or decision. There is no uneasiness that I feel. For instance, if you decided to steal something, your conscience along with the Holy Spirit will stop you by telling you it’s wrong. And if a decision is a bad one, your conscience will have nothing to say, but the Spirit of God who knows everything will make you uncomfortable as though you were doing something wrong (Psalm 139).
Clarity is a picture that comes up when we have a green light from God. We can see how it will work out. Yes, sometimes God gives us a negative picture for potentially wrong decisions, but more often than not, He just won’t give us peace about the decision. When we can see things clearly, we will have peace. No picture came to mind when I thought about a life together with those women I was introduced to.
Conviction is any strong emotion that surfaces when thinking about a situation or decision. You may not know for sure why those emotions surface, but they will be strong. When they come up, they need to be addressed because the Lord may be speaking to you through them. This is the Lord’s way of telling us we need to investigate the matter.
Close to a year passed, and I was still focused on praying for a mate, with my short characteristics list in hand. Out of the blue, my old college friend called to ask if I would be interested in meeting a girl from his church. I said, “No,” for three reasons. First, this girl lived seven states away. Second, my friend himself didn’t have a girlfriend, so why would I trust his judgment? Third, when I asked how well he knew her, he told me that she was just an acquaintance. For two weeks straight, my friend persisted with his calls. I asked why he felt that we were right for each other. Even though his response wasn’t clear, I trusted God to show me if this was it. I took a small vacation and drove to his house because he was going out of his way to do something considerate. I don’t know many friends who would take time off from work and set up a four-day schedule to introduce me to a possible mate. The whole thing was very unusual.
When I first met my wife Jackie, I couldn’t take my eyes off of her. Her personality, character, beauty, and love for God just overwhelmed me. God truly answered my prayer, but it was actually Jackie’s prayer that God answered first. When Jackie prayed for a husband, God answered in minutes, but my prayer for a wife took close to a year. Her prayer was simple but direct. She asked God that her future husband would approach her and tell her his name was Joseph and that he was the youngest in his family. She further added for an assurance of the right man, that he has had experiences of his brothers beating him up.
My mom named me Joseph even though I objected. I didn’t want to be mistreated by my brothers like the Biblical Joseph and I was also the youngest in the family. Apparently the Lord was leading both women on my behalf. Did I also mention that my brothers were all martial art champions and they practiced their new skills on their youngest brother?
During the long distance relationship, both Jackie and I prayed continually for God’s will in our relationship. God gave us clarity and peace about where we were headed. Further evidence that we were right for one another also came from wise and mature Christians, who confirmed there was nothing stopping us from getting married. It turns out that the Lord provided me a woman who had the 15 characteristics I was originally looking for. Through this experience, I learned three basic principles of understanding God’s will through prayer:
Pray consistently to keep in touch with God. If you want God’s guidance and the comfort of knowing He is walking with you, stay in tune with Him through prayer.
Follow God’s direction, conviction, correction, and peace. Our ways are not always His ways, so following His ways is always best.
Trust God to do what’s best for you. Leave the results to Him knowing that He is sovereign. If you are anxious or worried about an outcome, you are not trusting in His sovereignty. If you have peace no matter what the outcome, you have left the results up to Him.
16819 New Hampshire Avenue, Silver Spring, MD 20905