I am currently waiting for breakfast in an airport transit hotel in South Korea, a country that has been on a remarkable spiritual journey over the last 150 years.
it began when the first missionaries to this Buddhist country were Protestant Baptists rather than Catholic or traditional protestants. They identified with the poor rather than sweet talking the powerful and so the seeds of respect for this new religion grew on fertile ground. By 1900 1% of the country was identifying as Christian, and not just any type of Christian but active Protestant Baptist Christian. This might not seem much but was exactly the world average at the time.
After the influx of Americans during the Korean War things changed rapidly. Protestant denominations of all stripes grew rapidly as people found the truth in Christ rather than following the spiritually dead Buddhist ritualistic practices of their ancestors.
By the 1980 s the world began to hear about a new phenomenon; Asian mega-churches numbering in the tens and sometimes hundreds of thousands. The largest somehow managed to seat up to half a million people in multiple church services on any given Sunday. Billy Graham preached to three million people in one meeting. This growth was unprecedented. There were Christian newspapers and TV channels sprouting. Rich business owners were starting Christian schools. The culture was changing rapidly.
So too was politics and economics. The country peacefully transitioned from military dictatorship to democracy and from a backward rural economy to one of the mightiest industrial powerhouses on the planet. This was no accident, but a product of their spiritual and social journey.
By the early 21st Century the the country was approximately 30% Christian, most are active, not passive cultural traditionalists. The Korean disporia is over 60% Christian. Some 45% of South Koreans now classify themselves as non religious and some 22% Remain Buddhists. The country now sends out tens of thousands of Christian missionaries around the world, returning the favour it once received. On the way over on the plane my wife watched four pieces of media with Christian content. No Christian cultural cringe here.
The hardest place in the world to be a Christian is some 40km from where I am typing, in North Korea. For decades people in the south have been praying for their fellow countrymen in the north to be set free from Satan’s bondages. With the recent summit between the North Korean and American leaders, are we on the verge of seeing the breakthrough that will result in millions more Koreans coming into the glorious freedom that can only come thorugh relationship with our creator, Jesus Christ?
Pray with the Christians of Korea that this to come soon.