Interview with John Kim
Written by: Joseph Koh (Photo Credits: John Kim)
Every time I’m on an overseas mission trip, I question the impact of my actions. Would this solitary trip over a few days — the camp we organise or the ministry we embark upon — make meaningful and long-lasting change within the local community? Is there a better way?
In an interview with John Kim, who sits on the Executive Leadership Team of the Antioch Center for Training and Sending (ACTS), I managed to find greater clarity on what global missions means for us (who are possibly middle-class and privileged) Singaporeans. He also shares how missions cannot be severed from worship and prayer.
Could you share with me your involvement with ACTS?
ACTS is a missions organisation that trains and sends young pioneers to make disciples among unreached peoples through worship, prayer, and tireless church planting. I serve on the Executive Leadership Team, helping to give oversight on our work in the field. I am currently in the process of moving overseas to pioneer a new work for ACTS, which involves planting a missions base and a church.
Missions forms a significant part of your ministry. Could you share with me your journey of developing such a deep conviction for missions?
The church I grew up in placed a high premium on global missions. For example, the banner draped at the entrance of our church had this declaration: “Missions is prayer, missions is warfare, and missions is martyrdom.” Influenced by my church’s commitment to the Great Commission, I grew up with the sense that missionaries were heroes, and I wanted to become one myself.
Often missions in Singapore can be seen perceived as participating in an ad-hoc, once-a-year mission trip that assuages our guilt or makes us feel good. How can missions truly be integrated in our lives?
We need a fresh understanding of the “global worth” of Jesus — He deserves the worship of every tribe, nation, and tongue. Without such an understanding, we can fall into the trap of thinking that we are doing God a service by doing a few good works overseas, instead of partnering with Him to see His Son receive the reward of His sufferings.
Practically speaking, through the advancement of technology, we have no excuse for not going. The Internet, airplanes, smartphones, and more make it easy for us to go. 100 years ago, missionaries went with their belongings packed in a coffin.
How did you get involved in the prayer movement?
I believe that I’ve been part of the prayer movement since I was saved at 13 years old. In the 1980s, South Korea experienced a revival, and “Korean style” prayer — loosely defined as a wailing or travailing form of prayer where Koreans cried out to God in desperation — started to spread to other parts of the world.
As this “Korean-style” prayer was a global phenomenon, I grew up in a church that prayed all the time. Our Friday night service was a prayer service that started at 10 pm and would only end on Saturday morning, when people had to leave to go to work. Due to continuous fervent prayers, my church was able to plant over 10,000 churches around the world.
When I first got saved (almost 25 years ago), I did not understand why Korean parents had cried out to God with such intensity and volume when praying. I now know that this kind of prayer was the catalyst for revival in an unlikely nation.
Often times, missions could be seen as a separate pillar from worship and prayer. What are your thoughts on this and how can all three “streams” come together as one?
John Piper famously said, “Missions exist because worship doesn’t.” The same Jesus that leads the missions movement leads the prayer movement. These vital expressions of our faith in Christ cannot and should not be separated because they are so intimately connected.
The worship of Jesus is the result of the revelation that He is worthy to be worshipped. We praise a thing based on its (or his) value. You cannot worship without a revelation of worth. That revelation of worth comes through the place of prayer by asking (Ephesians 1:17-19). The reason why we give ourselves to global missions is because we believe the cost matches the worth.
We train and send missionaries to the Middle East and nations throughout Asia because Jesus is not being worshipped in these places. As our missionaries worship the King of Kings in the nations, they also preach the gospel so that these people may know the worth of Jesus themselves and the result is incense [or prayer] arising.
These last remaining unreached people groups cannot be reached with mere human strategy. We need the power of God that comes only through prayer. The breakthrough these people groups need in order for them to hear a meaningful presentation of the gospel rests on the praying Church. The root issue of prayerlessness is mostly related to a lack of revelation. When the Church realises the worth of Jesus, we will see the fulfillment of Matthew 24:14 — that every people group will have the gospel and then Jesus will come.
What has God placed on your heart for Singapore?
Singapore is a nation borne out of a miracle, hence I believe that Singapore needs to testify of the miracle-working power of God throughout the world. The biggest hurdle that stands in Singapore’s way could be self-preservation, as it has experienced great prosperity in a short period of time.
The whole essence of self-preservation is thinking of yourself first, and then if there are any leftovers in your heart to make any sort of contribution, that’s when you give. This is not the kind of sacrifice the Lord desires nor deserves. He doesn’t need our charity, but He is looking for hearts wholly abandoned to Him. If the people of God continue to walk in self-preservation no amount of charity can make an impact that is pleasing to God.
A clear biblical example of a nation losing its sense of identity and destiny is the nation of Israel. When Israel was desperate for God, they experienced His miracles on a regular basis, but when the children of Israel started experiencing prosperity and power, they took their eyes off of the One True Living God and started looking at worthless things such as themselves or material possessions as their source of strength. Western Europe experienced this same reality. America experienced this and South Korea is experiencing this now.
The good news is that the Holy Spirit gave John the Beloved insight into the Church’s maturity in Revelation 19:7 when he saw that “the Bride has made herself ready.” The Father will not give His Son a bride that is not whole-hearted, walking in compromise. The Father is more committed to the Church’s maturity than we could ever be, and in the end we shall give Jesus the worship and adoration He rightly deserves.
When the Church of Singapore walks in the opposite spirit of self-preservation, then God will put His fire on the altar of sacrifice and the whole world will watch the Church in Singapore burning in holy passion for God. That fire will spread to the ends of the earth.
What do you hope to see take place in Singapore in the coming years?
My hope is that Singapore awakens to the sound of the heartbeat of the Bridegroom. When the church of Singapore stands confidently next to her Bridegroom, I believe that a move of God will break out across the earth. This is Singapore’s time!
John will be speaking at the Burning Hearts Conference this year, which takes place from 18-20 July 2019 at Kum Yan Methodist Church. More details can be found here.