SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA (ANS) -- The church began in 1982 with 13 members and, even by Korean standards, it has experienced amazing growth.
Manmin – it means “all people” – Central Church in Seoul, has grown to 100,000 members and has over 9,000 branch churches around the world, two television networks (which will soon merge) and a full-time professional orchestra.
This past weekend, members celebrated the 29th anniversary of the church.
The various anniversary celebrations began with an almost “all-night service” on Friday, October 7, 2011, which started at 11 p.m. and finished at 4 a.m. the next morning, with a short break part-way through.
It featured more than 400 singers, colorful dancers and musicians plus the Nissi Orchestra and a large church choir who, between them, produced a dazzling display of multimedia worship presentations whose productions standards where the highest I have ever seen in a church anywhere in the world.
The event was kicked off with a 3D presentation called “Castle of The Shepherd” before thousands seated outside the church who were given special glasses to view the spectacular and colorful movie. As the beautiful scenes unfolded before them, many cheered and clapped.
After the 3D movie, many moved into the main sanctuary, while others went to the additional sanctuaries, to view the service.
The Koreans are noted for their belief that prayer changes things (and people), and I have to confess that they are hard to keep up with in their zeal and discipline as they come together each weekend for these long gatherings which include a lot of fervent prayer.
All the anniversary weekend events were broadcast live around the world on television by the Global Christian Network (GCN) to 170 countries and also via the Internet to untold millions more.
Not without its critics, this church has still pressed on with a missionary fervor that reaches around the world, even to some of the most restricted country, including its reclusive neighbor, North Korea, a land that I once visited.
Dr. Jaerock Lee, the senior pastor of the church, told me during a meeting with some overseas visitors before the Friday night service, that the church now has some 700 North Korean members who have escaped to the south, and then he revealed a surprising fact:
“We have those at our church who are preparing to take the Gospel into North Korea which I believe will soon open up, but possibly just for a short time,” he said. “These people realize that the door may not be open for long and they are willing to lay down their lives – become martyrs -- for Jesus Christ.”
He also revealed that the church is now facing a problem that many around the world would love to have – it cannot accommodate all its members -- and so most of them have to watch the services by satellite TV in various other sanctuaries and halls around Seoul.
To cope with the overcrowding and lack of space, the church is planning to build The Canaan Sanctuary in Seoul, which will seat at estimated 70,000 people. But even that isn’t enough, and it is now drawing up plans to eventually construct The Grand Sanctuary which will hold 200,000 people and will have a TV monitor in every seat.
During Friday night I was interviewed several times during the evening for Korean TV about my response to all of the activities which I said that I was quite inspired by the faith and enthusiasm of these people.
I have to say that South Korean Christians are the most fervent evangelists and missionaries I have met in my many years in journalism and so, I guess, it is not surprising that they have been seeing such amazing growth.
Dan Wooding, 70, is an award winning British journalist now living in Southern California with his wife Norma, to whom he has been married for 48 years. They have two sons, Andrew and Peter, and six grandchildren who all live in the UK. He is the founder and international director of ASSIST (Aid to Special Saints in Strategic Times) and the ASSIST News Service (ANS) and was, for 10 years, a commentator on the UPI Radio Network in Washington, D.C.
Publication date: October 12, 2011