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Implications of Old Korean Preaching for Homiletics

    In his homiletic lecture for “Preaching in Today’s World” Ian Pitt-Watson offers a unique insight that respecting particularity is a clue for getting close to life of the audience, for making biblical message universally relevant to the needs of the audience. As a preacher he often heard the questions from the individuals of his congregation, “Pastor, did you prepare that sermon particularly for me?” His answer for that question was both “Yes” and “No.” “No” in the sense his sermon he did not bear in mind a particular individual when preparing a sermon. Yet, in the sense he started from the particularity of his own situation. And the gospel message particularly relevant to the preacher in his own predicament was universally relevant to the needs of his audience (1995:720ab).

    And what Dr. Pitt-Watson professes as a homiletician Rev. Paul Young-Ki Cho does as a full-time preacher. The spiritual dynamic that grew his church to be the largest church was his sermon. And the spiritual dynamic of his preaching was the relevance of his preaching to the life problem of his audience. During the two decades of 1960’s and 1970’s the world saw that Korean Christianity grew from young churches to the largest churches in the world. And it was during these decades that when Koreans heard Rev. Paul Young-Ki Cho, they found that the biblical message was relevant to his or her life situation. Thirsty Christians thronged to his church to hear the life-giving message. And what made him such a great preacher was that he started from the particularity of his predicament and his sufferings. It was him who was in need of healing, and his sermon prepared from this particularity was universally relevant to larger congregation.

    This observation may give a quick overview of Korean church history. Now Korean churches are known for high demand for the doctor of ministry degree. Yet, a paradoxical reality is undeniable. The revival movement became an old story along with the introduction of master of divinity program, and the increased numbers of the doctor of ministry degree has been followed by the increased nominality. Of course, one might argue that Korean Christianity is now growing in materiality and quality. Yet, this answer cannot be fully satisfactory for our missiological inquiry. Within Korean Christianity, theologians have never been getting along with revival preachers. In earlier days, especially during 1950’s to 1970’s most Koreans had became Christians touched by the preaching of revival preachers. Revival meeting motivated quite a number of Korean men and women to be seminary student. But in seminary they were educated to despise revival preachers.

    Yet, the way the revival preachers had been God’s instrument needs our attention for both homiletic and missiological inquiry. For revival preaching was evangelical address which the audience took relevant to their particular life situation. It was an indigenous movement and there was no homiletical theory for revival preaching in those days when Korean Christian workers were less educated. Yet, what Barth speaks of evangelical address was in their preaching: “The message is given to the audience in a particular historical, social, and cultural situation so “that they [the audience] come to see its crucial application to them, that so far as any human word can do so it pricks their hearts” (Ac. 2:37). The homiletic of Rev. Paul Young-Ki Cho and other Korean revival preachers in those days might be a simple one. Yet, it is noted that they alike respected the particularity of the audience’ life situation and it is important that their preaching pricked the hearts of the audience (no matter what the other group of Korean theologians have duly criticize them from different angle).



  © 2006.  This manuscript was a part of Dae Ryeong Kim's scratch of ideas.