My Journey In Seeking Jesus’ Way
by Paul K. Kim, Lead Pastor
My journey of seeking Jesus’ way started with a life-altering decision that I made a few years ago. I resigned from a large church at which I had served on the pastoral staff for 12 years. At first, it was an unthinkable decision because I have four sons—the oldest one being only 7 years old at that time. And my wife and I didn’t have any savings. Nonetheless, God gave me the courage I could not have mustered myself—I felt compelled to take a free fall, following the leading of the Spirit.
Behind this decision, there were two questions that brought me sleepless nights. The first question came a few years ago from my brother who is also a pastor. One day I was sharing with him how it had been exciting to see such rapid growth. He said to me, “Paul, I’m so proud of you. You guys must be doing something right!” He then asked me this question:
1) “Are they all becoming like Christ or are they becoming like you? You always seem busy and driven.”
Ouch. Because of this question, I started waking up in the middle of night, which led me to the second question I asked myself during those sleepless nights:
2) “Do I like who I am becoming?”
I knew that the answer was clearly NO.
After I resigned, I took a six-month sabbatical to wait on God to discern God’s guidance for my next step. In hindsight, that was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. At the end of the sabbatical, I literally experienced a paradigm shift. My paradigm shift has a lot to do with waking up to the stark difference between the way of the American culture and the way of Jesus. Eugene Peterson’s writings were immensely helpful for me. According to Peterson, we American churches may be relatively good at Jesus’ truth—believing the right things—but, we take Jesus’ truth and do it in the American pragmatic way, expecting Jesus’ life. But Peterson is so right when he wrote: “Only when we do the Jesus truth in the Jesus way do we get the Jesus life.” I now am completely convinced of that. I realized that culture had a very illusive effect on me, like the “frog-in-the-kettle” slowly being heated up. By culture, I mean not just the mainstream secular culture but also the church culture.
As a result of my paradigm shift, I’m now doing a church plant seeking and choosing Jesus’ way intentionally. I feel like I’m relearning ministry all over again. It’s been new to me because it’s not about choosing a new ministry model or new strategy or new innovation or new trend. It’s about choosing and seeking Jesus’ way in all things. Let me share about the three areas in which I had experienced the impact of this paradigm shift to Jesus’ way:
1. Spirituality: a shift from self-improvement to self-denial. I think that this is at the heart of our culture’s influence on spirituality—even on Christian spirituality. The pragmatic culture’s spirituality is about improving yourself—so, you become a better husband/wife, a better parent, a better Christian, a better pastor by taking practical steps and having a right attitude and right strategy. But I realized how harmful this way could be. Self-denial is difficult and unpopular (even confusing) to our generation of which even the church-culture promotes self-improvement. BUT, we’ve seen over and over that real transformation and breakthroughs at our church-plant individually and corporately only came when we chose to die to self. We are barely beginning to learn this paradoxical truth of dying to self in order to really live—to live the qualitatively different life that Jesus promised (Matt 11:28-30)!
2. Church: a shift from building an enterprise programmatically to building a transforming community organically. One reason for my confusion was the lack of discernment on the word, “way/means.” On one hand, WAY means: “style,” “form,” and “trend” which must be constantly changed. But on the other hand, WAY also means: “values,” “principles,” and “philosophy” which must NOT be changed. So, what happened, at least in my case, was that I ended up “throwing the baby out with the bathwater.” In the name of contextualization, in reality, syncretism often happened. It’s no wonder many of our churches are consumer-oriented rather than gospel-oriented. With relevance, too often we gave up on our “saltiness.” So I am now mindful about building an organic spiritual community rather than building programs in order to meet spiritual consumers’ needs. Doing church organically involves embracing a completely different pace and expectation of ministry. I need to remind myself that we are planting seeds, watering, waiting for the Spirit’s work, and joining in God’s work. The truth is that I am impatient, so I’ve been learning this lesson the hard way. Moreover, with cultivating up-close relationships comes messiness and hard work of learning to love one another. I’m learning to be vigilant about spiritual battles that the messiness brings (James 5:7; 1 Pet 3:8).
3. Ministry/Leadership: a shift from “making things happen” to “relying on the leading of the Spirit.” The joy of seeking Jesus’ way in ministry for me is that I don’t have to be driven any longer. It comes from living out this truth: I can resign from making things happen—because real transformation is the work of the Spirit; in that, my role is to be guided by the Spirit. My role of a pastor is no longer like a producer whose work renders an overnight result but more like a farmer who works hard with the land but utterly depends on the work of the Creator who gives the growth and fruits of his work. Thus, I remind myself over and over about the lure of quick fixes and pseudo transformation. This posture of Spirit-dependence keeps me humble yet confident. In leading this spiritual community, my short-comings and limitations were glaringly apparent—at times, I felt the blows of the Enemy to give in to self-doubt and fear. On the other hand, it was so easy to give in to pride and self-sufficiency, at times. What I’ve been learning (slowly) is that I need to live out a Spirit-dependent life by practicing humble confidence. To lose one or the other would mean that I need to get back to Spirit-dependence again (1 Cor 2:3-5).
To say the least, seeking and choosing Jesus’ way has not been easy nor efficient; rather, it’s been very difficult and strenuous. It really feels like swimming against the current. But I could honestly say that I wouldn’t choose anything else. When I think about real transformations in our community, every hardship is worth it. I think of Jamie—a young mom who once felt so overwhelmed by her first baby. When she took the challenge of taking responsibility of her own spiritual vitality in this season of life, we saw her real transformation right in front of our eyes. Jamie started with taking 5 min with God during the baby’s nap time; the 5 min became 15 min to 30 min as a regular rhythm. Her husband was the first one to notice her changes inside out and her joy was increasingly more evident to us whenever we get together. I also think about Sung and Caroline—a young couple who used to have serious marital conflicts. When they were faced with their brokenness, they began to learn what it means to die to self rather than trying to fix each other. It’s such a joy to see their radical transformation in their personal lives as well as in their marriage.
1 Corinthians 1:18 says, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” This verse became so true to me and our community—we have been experiencing the power of God. Our decision was to seek and choose Jesus’ way as our ways—and that has made all the difference!
November 14, 2009
by Jenny Kim
My name is Jenny. I’ve been at CrossWay for 3.5 years. Actually, Hakjoon, who is here today, was my Sunday school teacher back in Chicago, and he recommended CrossWay to us. I am so thankful for you, Hak, and your continual investment in my spiritual development.
2012 was a year of stretching and struggle like I have never experienced in my life. My eldest brother and I were estranged for a majority of the year. We’ve had a complicated dynamic our whole lives going from codependent to strained to a non-relationship to frustration, anger and disappointment. Despite my best efforts to suppress all my hurt, the pain was overwhelming me. I was chatting with Pastor Paul one day and he asked me, “Have you forgiven your brother?” and I swiftly answered, “Oh no, he hasn’t asked me for forgiveness.” It took me a minute, but I felt like a total fool.
Which leads me to CrossWay’s first core value of Scripture guidance. Through a step-by-step process, God was revealing Himself to me through His Word.
The first step was a Scripture passage from the book of Acts, about Paul and Barnabas not going ahead of the Holy Spirit. I felt the Spirit prompting me to rebuild my relationship with my brother, but instead of waiting on the Spirit, I let my pride and “do gooder” arrogance take control of me.
Then after what I felt like was disappointment in my brother, I ultimately had to admit to myself I was more hurt than disappointed. In the next step, the book of Hosea showed me that I was trying to cover up all the pain with distractions and substitutes. I felt vulnerable and unsure of myself. God is a jealous God. He loves me so much that even though I run from Him, He will come after me with ferocity. There has never been a time that I claimed scriptural promises for my life because I have never been close enough or confident enough in the Word, until now. Hosea 2:18-20 “and I will abolish the bow, the sword and the war from the land, and I will make you lie down in safety. And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know The Lord.”
The first sign of a scripture-guided life is Christ-centeredness. Although I have already struggled to make this true for me, I know that my life is no longer about me and my agenda, but rather obedience and faithfulness to Christ and His plan for me.
God provided an opportunity to see my brother this past fall. Through God’s outpouring of grace for me, I was drawn to repentance and forgiveness of my brother. God’s Word is so good to me.
January 27, 2013
by Takashi & Janet Koga
My name is Takashi and this is my wife Janet. We have been at CrossWay exactly one year this week.
For me, “Spirit-dependence” was the very opposite of how I lived my life, even as a Christian. About 7 years ago I made a rash career decision without waiting on God’s direction, and because of this, we accumulated an enormous amount of debt. It was a source of much stress, marital tension, and triggered my depression, yet I still kept on depending on myself to fix and redeem this mistake I had made.
After we came to CrossWay, I started going to our Saturday morning prayer meetings. Now, I am not one to go to early morning ANYTHING let alone prayer, but each time I went, God would meet me and I would feel much more centered, hopeful, and free. Soon, I couldn’t afford NOT to go regularly. As I prayed regularly for “financial breakthrough”, God did answer it, but it came in a form that is far greater than financial debt elimination. In the very process of going to God in prayer, we learned to depend not on ourselves, but on Him as our provider and counselor. We now have a deeper sense of security and freedom from financial stress and even other worries. Today, the numbers haven’t changed much yet, but God has given me the desire to want nothing more than to live according to His Spirit.
My story is similar in that I am a pretty self-reliant person and private in many ways.
Shortly before coming to CrossWay, I developed clinical anxiety issues that came & went in small episodes but soon after we arrived here, I was paralyzed by the worst & longest anxiety period I had ever experienced. This basically forced me to open my hands, open up to community and rely on prayer. It was one of the hardest few months I have ever gone through but I am so grateful for it because looking back, I realize it was God calling me closer to Him. Through this experience, God exposed the issues of my self-reliant heart that was keeping me from a full, rich, deep relationship with Him. I learned that it wasn’t my anxiety, my surroundings, my friends or my life stage that was keeping me from depending on God, it was my self standing in the way. Through prayers of this community and my own, I was not only healed of my anxiety but of my own self-reliant heart.
January 27, 2013
by David D. Lee
My name is David. I have been at CrossWay for about 3 years. My wife Cindy and I have two girls, Madilyn and Allison ages 9 and 6. We will be celebrating our 16 year anniversary this coming May, but we almost did not make it.
Over the past few years, Cindy and I drifted apart so much because of my neglect, series of events took place to a destroy our family. Day after Christmas of 2011, everything blew up. I don’t remember much from the first three months of last year, it just seems very foggy to me, best words to describe that time were stunned and hopelessness. It was probably the most difficult months of my life.
After spending about 9 months in counseling and prayers of CrossWay community, Cindy and I have committed to “rebirth” our marriage. We cannot rebuild or fix it because, now, it is going to be a completely different marriage. Even as we were in counseling, we talked about divorce and separation, and at times it seemed like the only option left for us.
I am thankful that we did not give up. I am thankful that we did not divorce and avoided other extreme outcomes. I truly believe that this level of healing, forgiveness and reconciliation can only be completed in us because we have been transformed (and continue to be transformed) by the love of Christ and what he has demonstrated on the cross.
Cindy and I are reconnecting with each other. It will always be work in progress… But there is nothing that we will hide from each other. I feel that we can say anything without being judged. There is nothing that will be shameful between us. I think this is what God intended when He created marriage.
Cindy is a precious daughter of God, just as I am precious in His eyes, and He has brought us together for the most important relationship and journey we can ever have on this earth!
Couple of months ago, one moment that stands out in my mind is when I saw Maddi grin from ear to ear one morning. She saw that I hugged and kissed Cindy that morning for the first time in 11 months.
In a strange way I am glad that our marriage was turned upside down. Because now, we have a new marriage. A new beginning. The end of our marriage and journey on earth is when death will separate us, and I believe we might then find that one treasure from God was the journey itself.
January 27, 2013
by Sam & Patti Park
Patti: Hi. My name is Patti, and this is my husband, Sam. We have been at CrossWay for about 10 months now. We’re here because, like many of you, we were invited by a friend. And even though we didn’t know it at the time, God knew that what we truly needed was an authentic community, a place to call home.
Sam: Growing up, church was a place we went to put our Christianity on display. We dressed up, sang praise songs, said the right things, and served. Then after many years of serving and getting burnt out, we moved to a bigger church, hoping to find rest, but the actual result was that we regressed into becoming Sunday Christians. But thankfully, God had a different plan for us.
Patti: Then last March we were invited to CrossWay. We weren’t really looking for a new church, but that didn’t stop God. He let us know that something was missing. After our first visit, we knew what that was, a place to call home. I felt a deep sense of peace and belonging, which was confirmed when I discussed it with Sam and the kids because they felt the same way.
Sam: For me the biggest testimony to authentic community was my first men’s group. The intensity, openness and safety of the group helped me to finally put off my mask and start sorting through the real stuff in my life. And the best part is I didn’t have to do it alone. The proverb “iron sharpens iron and one man sharpens another” became truly tangible for me. It was this sharpening that had been missing from my life for a long time.
Patti: I’m also beginning to truly understand what authentic community is. It’s a place where I can be myself. Sometimes it’s uncomfortable and messy; sometimes it’s painful; sometimes I feel exposed; but it is always freeing. The bottom line is I no longer walk alone. I now have a community of sisters who hold me accountable.
In the 90’s TV show, Cheers, the opening song ended with the words: “You want to go where everybody knows your name.” We believe God brought us to CrossWay to show us that there is an authentic community that not only cares to know our names, but wants to share their lives as well. God has given us something different, something unique at CrossWay. He has given us a place to call home.
January 27, 2013
by Jenny Yun
Hi, my name is Jenny and my husband Ho and I have been members of CrossWay for five years. At CrossWay one of our sayings is “I am responsible for my own spiritual vitality no matter what season of life I am in.” This has challenged us in the season of establishing careers, raising children, buying a home — and it has pushed us to make some decisions that were really against our natural grain.
Our culture in Orange County prizes security, comfort, and independence, but as followers of Jesus we want to be on guard against this mindset and seek Jesus’ way. Sometimes that means choosing risk, humility, discomfort, and dependence. But then, of course, we also get joy.
We experienced this vividly this past summer when I went to China for two weeks on a short term missions trip. I am not the logical candidate for a trip halfway across the world. As a stay-at-home mom of (at the time) 16 month and 3 year old, and being a homebody on top of that, it is hard for me to get away for a few hours, let alone 2 weeks. It really seemed impossible but was done through humble dependence on my husband, family, and CrossWay community and most importantly, a 180 change in my mindset — realizing that this helicopter mom couldn’t let her kids be her highest priority.
To soothe my anxiety over leaving my kids, I obsessed over a color-coded Google calendar detailing every activity of the day. Finally I had to stop and let go of control of their care, which I had unknowingly held onto with an iron grip. Of course, they all did fine without me and it was not because of my calendar, which was thrown out the window anyway when my older son got a double ear infection. They were safely in the Lord’s hands. We felt an abiding joy and peace from being in God’s will.
The beauty of our good God is that when we go against our status quo and are counter-cultural for the sake of following Jesus, we are richly rewarded with more of Jesus Himself.
January 27, 2013