how the church grew in Korea

December 12, 2007

In January 2007, Christianity Today reprinted its classic article dated November 23, 1973, titled “What Makes the Korean Church Grow? The simple secrets of its remarkable expansion.” This excerpt shows the magnitude of the Christianity’s growth in South Korea:

… But Korea has one of the fastest-growing churches in the world. Though it is situated squarely between China and Japan and far more recently opened to the Gospel (Protestants are ninety years old, Catholics a century older), Koreans have turned to Christ in unprecedented numbers. It is true that in North Korea Communists have wiped out the organized church, but in South Korea where there is freedom of worship some 10 to 13 percent of the population is now Christian. This makes Christianity the strongest and probably the largest organized religion in the country, outdrawing in fact, if not in dubious religious statistics, both Confucianism with its dwindling social influence and Buddhism with its more religious appeal.

Why has the church grown so spectacularly in Korea? The Christian community there just about doubles every ten years. There are now some three million Korean Christians, and if marginal semi-Christian sects were included, the total would be four million. The growth rate is approximately 9 percent a year, which is four times the rate of population growth in South Korea as a whole.

To answer the “why” question, the article’s author, Samuel H. Moffett, concludes with:

I can only point again to the foundations: the good news according to the Scriptures, the power of the Spirit, the enthusiasm of the witness, faithfulness in adversity, rootage in the national soil, and the providence of God in history.

In a recent conversation with a Korean church leader, we agreed that at its peak, South Korea was an estimated 25% Christian. However, he said that Christianity in South Korea had plateaued and is beginning to decline. One of the reasons cited for this decline was the church’s inability to reach the next generation.

While I do not have quantitative statistics to show this trend, this anecdotal comment does raise a notable concern.

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