One Korean American Woman’s Call to Pastoral Ministry—and What the Church Stands to Gain

The following is a reflection from Missio Alliance’s Church Together Summit last November 10, 2018.

My journey into the pastorate began about 12 years ago, beginning with a desire for theological education. It was a struggle convincing my parents—Korean immigrants who were also devoted Christians—to believe in my dream of a theological education. In the months to come, they bravely navigated untangling their own cultural expectations in order to trust God, believing with me that God had placed a dream within me to fulfill.

“But what will you do after you get your degree? What is it you want to do?”

At the time, I told them I didn’t know what I wanted—that all I knew was this was my next obedient step in my journey with God. 

Looking back, if I had had the imagination for it, if some kind of paradigm had given me permission for it, I would have said with honesty: “I want to be a pastor.”

But at the time, I didn’t have the framework to express that I wanted to be a pastor. Nor did they.

Growing up in a Korean, evangelical, reformed context, we were shaped within church leadership models where only men pastored and preached over adults. I had no problem with that at the time; it was what was taught and modeled around us. It was the only way I knew.

Awakened to a Passion for Pastoral Ministry…by John Piper?

During my seminary years, I dove deeply into learning more about my identity as a woman called to ministry. As I read stacks of theological books, sermons, articles, engaged word studies, and met with mentors and pastors about this very topic, I stumbled across a book that spoke deeply to me. It was called, Brothers, We are Not Professionals by John Piper.

I must have read this book 4 to 5 times, underlining and gathering all I could to fully grasp a vision for a minister’s calling. And although Piper was writing specifically for men who were called to the pastorate, I didn’t count myself out of the group he was speaking to because as I read his book, his words awakened me to a vision for my life, and a vocation I sensed God was inviting me into! I praised this book to everyone, saying, “Everything he is saying about the pastorate makes sense to me!” 

I later realized that I had a strong response to this book because for the first time, I was gaining access to language for the pastoral call God had placed on my life. Up to that point, I had read books specifically about roles for women in the church—but nothing had ever resonated as deeply for me as this!

The First Time I Heard a Woman Preach: An Undeniable Movement of the Spirit

A few years later as a young professional, I went to support my female mentor who was slated to be the first keynote preacher of her denomination’s national conference. I had heard women preach in mixed gender settings before, like seminary, missions trips, and churches, but I had listened to them only with a sense of guardedness, feeling conflicted as I wondered if it was “okay” for them to be teaching both women and men.

What happened as I listened to my mentor’s sermon goes down in my life as one of those frozen-in-time moments. My intention was merely to be there to support her as a mentee and friend, but to my shock, I experienced a sacred encounter with the Living God!

It had been my biblically-grounded conclusion and belief that God could not speak through a woman preaching in front of men and women. But my spirit responded to her words. Her exhortation, her conviction, her masterful communication of the Scriptures, and her call to the church toward prophetic witness. It was undeniable to every person sitting in the auditorium that God had spoken through her.

I sat in that space, tears streaming down my face, coming to terms with the reality that a fire burning within me had been unleashed. The fire of hearing the Scripture explained, exegeted, and exhorted by a woman! The fire of seeing for the first time something I didn’t know I could be. The fire and utter astonishment that God could and does speak through women!

This moment was a spark to light the fire in my own journey to finally take ahold of my vocational calling. The first time I heard a woman preach, the Spirit moved in an undeniable way and a fire was lit within me. God can and does speak through women! Click To Tweet

A Spark That Has Lit the Imaginations of Others

Three years later, I find myself pastoring at a multiethnic church among staff who believe in a vision of shared leadership of women and men. I am amazed at God for my journey, from pursuing a theological education to finding my calling to pastor. In these past two years of pastoral ministry, I have found myself soaring—when I didn’t even know I had wings!

Every time I’ve preached, Korean (and non-Korean) women have come up to tell me they have never seen a woman do what I’ve done! And in response, I point them to the Scriptures.

I say, “Oh! Mary Magdalene was the first to preach the resurrection! Did you know Jesus chose her to do it?” or “Actually, Mother Mary birthed a sermon through the life of Jesus! She carried the gospel—literally!” or “Did you know ‘Junio’ was actually an apostle named Junia?”

I tell them of the countless untold stories of women called to leadership, of the shared leadership of the early church, of Jesus’ elevation of women, and how he called forth dignity of all those marginalized.

These stories need to be shared, retold, and embedded into the hearts and minds of so many of us who have only been given one narrative of men having access to roles of leadership!

For more on this subject, check out: When She Preaches by Tara Beth Leach.


What the Church Needs is Women and Men Leading Together for the Sake of the World

Being at Missio Alliance’s She Leads: Church Together Summit last November exposed new areas within myself that still need to be healed and developed. It also reminded me of how much I already have healed and grown, and how far the Spirit has carried me.

So many stories of women in the Scriptures have been diminished, untold from the pulpit, or erased from our narratives. Has your story been diminished, untold, or erased? And if so, what if God is asking you today, just like the Lord asked Hagar many centuries ago: “Where have you come from, and where are you going?” What if God wants you to reflect on your story and offer it to the church for our collective imagination?

Women and men: we are disciples of Jesus. We are lovers of the Word of God. We are guardians, storytellers, and prophetic voices reminding the Church of who we are and who we are meant to become. Together, we can unveil what God has always envisioned for the Church: to be women and men flourishing together and leading together for the sake of the world. Women and men: we are disciples of Jesus. We are lovers of the Word of God. We are guardians, storytellers, and prophetic voices, all leading together for the sake of the world God loves. Click To Tweet

Does this story resound with you? Join us at our national gathering Awakenings: the Life of the Church for the Sake of the World, March 28-30 in Alexandra, VA for more. Awakenings is for people who long to see women and men leading together for the sake of the world. Register here, then spread the word about why you are a passionate part of the Missio Alliance tribe!

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