The world is the common denominator that links all the ministries of Semihan Church, site of this summer’s annual meeting of the Southern Baptist fellowship group known informally as the “Korean Council.”
Even the church’s name reflects this linkage: “Se” is part of a Korean word for world. “Mi,” part of a word for the United States. And “Han” is part of a word for Korea.
Semihan’s ministries include special needs, refugee, American Indian, Bangladeshi, and Korean people groups. New this fall: outreach to English-speaking Americans, the friends, neighbors, and coworkers of the 1,600 post-high-school age Koreans who worship each week at Semihan.
Children, not counted in attendance figures, are considered a part of the church’s missions outreach, even as youngsters as young as Kindergarten are taught to start ministering in age-appropriate ways.
“We would like to grow our kids to be global leaders, 100 percent world-aware, American and Korean,” Executive Pastor Jun S. Choi told SBC LIFE. “When they have lessons about missions when they are young, more than likely they will continue doing that as they grow up.”
The executive pastor is not related to Senior Pastor Byeong Rack “Lloyd” Choi, who was on a mission trip when SBC LIFE contacted the church after learning it was to be the host church for the annual meeting of the Council of Korean Southern Baptist Churches in America.
Informally known as the “Korean Council,” the Southern Baptist fellowship group of about 850 Korean-language churches meets each June in conjunction with the SBC annual meeting.
Semihan has five ministry pillars, Choi explained, that together are represented by the acronym WORLD: to be a Worshipping church, Oikos small-groups church, Reaching-out church, Life-giving church, and Discipling church. Each year, the church rotates through one of the pillars.
“This year is ‘life-giving,’ so this year we focus on missions and evangelism,” Choi said. One example of how this is done: Over the course of nine weeks this fall, church members will invite people they know to a variety of Semihan-sponsored sport and fun activities, such as golf, bowling, soccer, ping pong, and jokgu (a Korean foot game) tournaments; a fall festival; and the like.
“We share the Gospel every time,” Choi said. “We are trying to expose them to the Gospel as much as we can. . . . That’s our mission, our purpose.”
Worship services at Semihan are in Korean, with smartphone app audio translation to English.
Semihan Church started in 2000. Lloyd Choi became pastor in 2002, though he had been a member of the church when it started, as a student at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. This is his first pastorate.
The church has grown to include five children’s departments, which start with expectant parents, and nine branches of seventy-one community groups for adults, plus a half-dozen senior groups and singles and college groups.
Having learned to share their faith through Sunday School, Team Kid, and age-appropriate missions projects, by the time Semihan youngsters are in the sixth grade, they’re allowed to participate in the church’s monthly ministry to the homeless in south Dallas, which involves providing a meal and worship service for about one hundred people.
Semihan Church also hosts a “Destination Korea” week-long camp each summer that introduces the Korean language and culture to the Korean-born children of adoptive American families.
Ministry to refugees is another major missions initiative, now in its third year at Semihan church, where members visit refugees, help them get settled in the United States, and share the Gospel with them.
“At the beginning we have individual contacts, fifty-six the first year,” Choi said. “If they need we help go to the market and other things, and our team regularly visit their houses. We start helping them out and can naturally share the Gospel with them. There’s no guards up.
“We realized there are small refugee churches and now we are backing up their churches,” Choi continued. “We are working closely with African, Myanmar, Iranian, and Pakistani churches.”
One of Semihan’s three current church plants is the Pakistani church.
Another major local initiative is Beanyard Coffee, a coffee shop open six days a week that is housed in a corner of the expansive church’s facilities. Special needs Koreans are the baristas. Semihan Church donates the space to the Texas Milal Mission, a Christian nonprofit, which runs Beanyard Coffee as a way of providing work for the graduates of its job-training programs.
“We are trying to balance all three fields of our goals,” Choi said, referring to local, national, and international missions. “We know the sharing of the Gospel is our purpose.”
Semihan’s Church Planting Institute started within the last year. Choi, working with the North American Mission Board, translated NAMB materials into Korean to better aid Korean seminary students become NAMB-endorsed church planters.
“We like to train and equip them for two years, and send them to a SEND City where NAMB is targeting,” Choi said. “What we are hoping for is we can pump out church planters on a regular basis. . . . Our senior pastor got the vision we can do this. I think we are the first Korean church trying to do this in a systematic way.”
Semihan Church can provide students with the experience needed—twice in each department over the two-year training period—to expand on their seminary training, including preaching in front of the senior pastor. “He will coach their sermons; he will talk about how to be a senior pastor,” Choi explained.
For missions outside the local area, Semihan Church has focused on American Indians in Arizona and New Mexico. Six trips to reservations are planned for this summer, in the continuation of a ten-year commitment to minister among people who “need to be healed in Christ,” Choi said. “We kind of share the same feelings of abandonment and the hurts and wounds of previous generations.”
In Bangladesh, Semihan’s main international thrust, the church for the last five years has operated a school considered to adhere to the highest standards of education in the South Asian nation.
“It’s for the kids,” Choi said. “We want them to be the next leaders in Bangladesh who love Jesus Christ. We send one of our missionaries there as the principal, and send books in English. This year we are sending a layman team to share the Gospel, help expand classrooms, and teach computer skills, Tae Kwon Do, and Korean culture.”
Prayer is an essential component to Semihan Church, Senior Pastor Choi said upon his return from an international vision tour.
“Prayer is embedded in our church’s DNA, and is a driving force of our church,” Senior Pastor Choi said. “Starting with Friday night prayer service, where the whole church prays together, it is also focused on our early morning prayer service, small group gatherings, and our meetings even for kids. So we know it is not us to make decisions and live our life, but we only do what God told us to do.”
Karen L. Willoughby is a national correspondent for SBC LIFE and Baptist Press and is a member of First Baptist Church in Pleasant Grove, Utah.