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Christian Life In The Revived Korean Church

George Heber Jones



The following instructive extract comes from the final 17 pages of Jone's book on the revival and its effect upon the church in Korea, and provides compelling information on why the work in Korea advanced so rapidly in the early 1900s, and continues, in that formerly heathen nation.—Dan


Christian Life

Native Workers Of Three Classes

Evangelistic ideals have dominated the entire history of missionary effort in Korea. In the early period of the work the foreign missionary himself was the chief and only agent.

As converts gathered about him, they became imbued with the spirit of evangelism, carrying the message of salvation far and wide. These native workers consisted of three classes. (1) First there were the paid helpers of the mission, who labored under the direction of the missionary, deriving their support from funds furnished by the Churches in America. (2) Later on, when the Bible societies began their work in Korea, Bible colporteurs and Bible women were employed and became as great a force for evangelization as the native helpers employed by the missions. (3) From the earliest days the ideal of self- propagation was held by the native Church, and volunteer workers sprang up everywhere. A man in some village, for example, became a follower of Christ. He instructed his neighbors in the fundamentals of Christian belief. A group of converts then gathered about him, who in their turn carried the  message to neighboring villages and towns, and thus, in ever increasing circles, Christian influence was extended.

Volunteer Workers

Out of this group work, with the increasing growth of a sense of obligation to lead others to faith in Jesus Christ, has been developed a great army of volunteer workers, so that the paid helpers of missions and the employees of the Bible societies to-day represent a very small fraction in the force of workers laboring for the conversion of Korea.

It may be said that the detail work of propagating the Christian faith is almost altogether in the hands of the native Christians, working under the leadership of missionaries and native pastors. For the purpose of training these workers, Bible schools and institutes, presided over by missionaries and native pastors, and assisted by mission helpers and students from the theological schools, are held in various parts of Korea. They are attended by the various office bearers in the Christian Church and Sunday schools and volunteer workers from Christian groups. It is estimated that during 1909 over 50,000 Korean Christians, or about one in every five of the entire membership of the Christian Church, took the courses of study in these institutes. This is one of the most practical lay movements for evangelism to be found anywhere in the Christian world.

Features Of The Korean Church

Christian life in the Korean Church is marked by vital and spiritual characteristics shared in common by all the churches in the land. In their unity is found a combination of strength which promises the speedy evangelization of the Korean people. Evangelism there bears the undoubted marks of the direct guidance and control of the Holy Spirit. Among the many aspects of the work in Korea, there stands out most prominently this welding of the native Church into one great brotherhood, united by a common purpose, animated by a common spirit, and directing its energies toward the common goal of the speedy evangelization of the entire people.

Unity And Cooperation

(1) In the very front rank of the forces dominating the Christian life of the Church in Korea stand the unity and cooperation which prevail among Christ’s forces in that land. 

Seven missions, representing seven communions, are at work in thorough understanding with each other and maintaining among themselves organizations like the Presbytery of Korea, which embraces the four Presbyterian communions, and the Evangelical Council of missionaries in Korea, including the missionaries of six out of the seven communions, with the seventh communion itself in sympathy with the aim and objects of the united body. No more remarkable sight has been witnessed in the Christian world than that of a rearrangement of boundaries between the Presbyterians and Methodists, by which scores of congregations and thousands of converts were transferred from one to the other communion, the whole movement being achieved, not only without loss of prestige, but with an actual gain of emphasis upon the Korean Church’s heart union and oneness of purpose. Korea is now plotted out in great parishes worked by the different communions with every possible economy of force, contributing to the largest efficiency. There is such a harmony of method and policy that all the communions appear to be working on converging lines toward the founding of one great Christian Church in Korea.

Numerical Growth

(2) The marvelous numerical growth of the Church in Korea is another feature marking the development of Christ’s forces in that land. Within the short space of twenty-five years, about 250,000 converts have been gathered from among the Koreans. There has been an average of more than one convert an hour for every hour of the day and night since the first missionaries set foot upon Korean soil. This force is led by 259 foreign missionaries, assisted by 1,927 Korean pastors and helpers. Church organizations have been founded at the rate of two a week, while during 1909 local churches were organized at the rate of one a day. There are now in all Korea 1,493 churches. These churches are made up of converts from raw heathenism, and this marvelous momentum with which the practical work of organization of Christ’s Kingdom in Korea is moving, bids fair to realize the prophecies made of the speedy evangelization of the nation. We may not ignore the part which human agencies have played in producing this remarkable growth, but after giving full credit to their contribution, we are compelled to confess that underlying it all, and overshadowing it all, have been the power and work of the Holy Spirit, moving on the hearts of a people who, until recently, were lost in the darkest heathenism, devoted to the grossest forms of idolatry, and helpless in the inertia and stagnation of three thousand years of religious twilight.

The Effects Of Revival

(3) The wonderful religious awakening which came to the Korean Church in 1907 was preeminently a manifestation of the work and power of the Holy Spirit. Like the day of Pentecost, which gave birth to the Church of Christ on earth, that day in January when upon the Christian the Churches of Pyongyang there descended the overwhelming power of God’s Holy Spirit was surely the natal day of God’s Church in Korea. That revival swept throughout the Christian Churches of the empire, until fully 50,000 of the converts had come under its regenerating influence. It gave them a knowledge of the exceeding sinfulness of sin and inspired them with a horror and a disgust of it which became to them new power in their battle against the evils of their own environment. It gave them a personal experience of the value of confession and repentance and faith in Jesus Christ as God’s ordained conditions upon which men may get rid of their sins. It showed them the irresistible and all-conquering power of Christ to deliver from the bondage of sin. It made him a fact and a reality to each one personally and to each church organized throughout the empire.

A Lasting Influence

At the present time the question is asked, “Does that power still manifest itself in Korea?’’ Reports on conditions in different parts of the country show that there is still the constant working of that same Power upon the hearts of  men to convince of sin, righteousness, and judgment Influence to come. The Korean Church, having once felt the marvelous power of God, will never be contented with anything less than his continual presence. The Korean revival is to the Christian Church in that country what the days of Luther are to Protestantism, the days of Knox to Presbyterianism, and the days of Wesley to Methodism. The Korean Church now possesses its own spiritual history, which is the all-convincing evidence to itself that it is as much begotten of God as the Churches in more favored lands with their great historic past.

Bible Study And Practice

(4) One of the most notable features of Christian life in the Korean Church is the place occupied by the Bible. The study and the practice of the Word of God plays a large part in all church plans and policies in Korea. It has the largest sale of all books in the country, and already forms a potent force in the reconstruction of the thought life of Korea. It is found in all Christian homes and is cherished as the foundation of the family altar. It is not only read by the individual convert, but it is studied and practiced by the great body of Christians.

A Korean came into the study of a missionary one day and said: “I have been memorizing some verses in the Bible, and thought I would come and recite them to you.” The missionary listened while this convert repeated in Korean, without a verbal error, the entire sermon on the mount. Feeling that some practical advice might be helpful, the missionary said, “You have a marvelous memory to be able to repeat this long passage without a mistake. However, if you simply memorize it, it will do you no good. You must practice it.” The Korean Christian smiled as he replied, “That’s the way I learned it.” Somewhat surprised, the missionary asked him what he meant, and he said, “I am only a stupid farmer, and when I tried to memorize it, the verses wouldn’t stick. So I hit on this plan. I memorized one verse and then went out and practiced that verse on my neighbors until I had it; then I took the next verse and repeated the process, and the experience has been such a blessed one that I am determined to learn the entire Gospel of Matthew that way.” And he did it.

The Secret Of Success

The vision of this humble Korean Christian practicing in his everyday life in a heathen town the most matchless Christian utterance known among men gives a hint as to the wonderful success of Christianity in Korea. Arm a man with the Word of God, which is the sword of the Spirit, and turn him loose upon one of the great moral battlefields of the world, and he will surely win victory. The triumph of the Christian Church in Korea over the forces of native paganism may be traced to the fidelity to the teachings of the Bible and the practical use of the Word of God on the part of the native Christians.

Self-Sacrifice In Giving

(5) Another characteristic of Korean Christian life is found in the personal consecration of the native converts to the largest and most practical form of personal service. A Korean not only gives systematically and proportionately of his money to the service of God, but he also gives his time. The financial strength of the Korean Christians revealed in self-support seems remarkable even to the missionaries. They knew that the Christians were doing generously, but the sum total of the giving shown by the people is amazing. Consider that the unit of coinage in Korea is a coin one-twentieth of one American cent in value; that twenty cents a day in American money is the average wage of a working man; that work and money are much less common than is the case in America, and that out of conditions like these, Korean Christians rolled up an offering of $135,000 in American currency in 1909, and it will be seen that far from being either “rice” Christians or derelict in any particular in doing all they can to press the gospel message among their own people, they have done so amazingly well that they are worthy of the fullest measure of assistance which we can render them.

This splendid offering has been made by means of great personal sacrifice on the part of the Korean Christians. A missionary visited a church to hold Quarterly Conference. There was a mortgage of $100 on the church. He inquired as to the mortgage and was told that it was paid. Knowing how poor the people were, he asked them how they had been able to do it, and they said,

“Brother Kim, Brother Pak, and Brother Yi, our leading men, could not endure the thought that the house of God should be in debt to a heathen money-lender, so they put mortgages on their own homes and lifted the mortgage from the church.” A number of instances of this same thing occurred in other parts of Korea.

New Kinds of Giving

Pledging Days

The Korean not only gives of his money, but he gives of his time. They have a new kind of collection there known as the Nal-yen-ho, or “day collection.” That is, many of the Korean Christians make a promise of ten or fifteen days of service for the Lord to be paid a day at a time during the following six months. On this  day of service (and they never count Sunday as such a day) the individual Christian will visit his friends, neighbors, and even go to villages and towns at a distance, in order to hold religious conversation with men and urge them to accept Jesus Christ as their Saviour.

This consecration of personal service on the part of the lay membership in the Korean Church is registering itself in a great campaign to carry the gospel message to 1,000,000 adult Koreans during 1910. Instead of gathering large numbers of people in the churches and offering the gospel message to them en masse, the plan is to carry the message to a million people, one by one, sitting down with each person, talking the matter through and giving him a chance to decide for himself whether or not he will become a follower of Christ. Some of the returns in regard to this practical form of work are extremely interesting. The Christians attached to one mission station promised 10,000 days of service. One church made a subscription of 8,400 days of Service. At a Bible institute, 7,500 days of service were pledged. At three large station classes, it was reported that 36,696 days of service had been pledged for this great campaign in 1910. Early in the campaign the total number of days of service pledged by Korean Christians for personal work among their neighbors was equal to the continuous service of one man for three hundred years.

Sharing One Million Copies Of The Gospel Of Mark

In connection with this great campaign, 1,000,000 copies of the Gospel of Mark were ordered printed, to be sold at one sen—a half a cent—a copy. These volunteer Christian workers took supplies of this Gospel and wherever they found a man or woman who manifested a desire to know more about the Lord, they sold or gave him a copy of Mark. By the first week in June, the British and Foreign Bible Society reported that they had already sent out 700,000 copies of this Gospel.

Instant In Prayer

(6) Another notable feature of Christian life in Korea is the wonderful prayer life of the native Church. Instead of the hastiness which marks so much of the prayer life of modern times, robbing it of its power and effectiveness, the Korean ideal of prayer is animated by real moral earnestness. Individuals will spend hours in prayer, and groups of men meet together and spend whole nights in prayer. Instead of the timidity which so often marks the prayer life of the modern Christian, there is real courage and valor. The Korean dares to seek great things of God. This courage and valor are shared alike by the American missionaries and their Korean brothers.

How do the Koreans find time for prayer? The answer is, they don’t find it, they take it, and they take it as deliberately as men take time to earn daily bread. Of this point the following story furnishes an interesting illustration:

The pastor of one of the churches in Korea felt that his church had been deflected a little from the pathway of power they had discovered in the days of the revival. So he took one of his leading laymen into his confidence, and they entered into a compact to go to the church secretly each morning at four o’clock and intercede with God for the church. They were successful in eluding observation for a few days, but soon some members of the church discovered what they were doing, and they too began to go to church at that early hour for prayer. As the number increased, the pastor decided to take his congregation into his confidence, so one Sunday morning he told them the facts and announced that any who felt moved by the Spirit of God to join them in that prayer service might do so. The first morning there were three hundred present. The three hundred increased to five hundred after a few days, and finally that daily prayer meeting at four o’clock in the morning numbered seven hundred. This went on for a while, and then the pastor announced that he thought they had prayed enough and had better get to work, so he took a collection, not of money, but of days of service, and that prayer meeting resolved itself into a committee to visit the membership of the church and the unconverted of its parish and present Christ to them.

A Personal Christ

(7) The personal revelation of Jesus Christ through the power and the work of the Holy Spirit is the sublimest fact in the life of the Christian Korean to-day. In the northern part of the empire lived a man who had two sons. One of these sons was good and the other was bad. The father determined to show his approval of the life of his good son by giving him the water mill he owned, which was the source of the income of the family. One morning he read in God’s Holy Word, “He that loveth father or mother, son or daughter more than Me, is not worthy of Me.” To this man the words were not simply the written record of a conversation held by a Christ now dead nearly 1,900 years, but they were the actual spoken words of the Lord that stood beside him in his house as he sat reading his Bible. And so this man, answering in his heart, said, “Do I love Christ? How much do I love him? Do I love him more than my good son? Do I love him enough to give him the water mill, instead of giving it to my son?” And then he looked into the face of the Christ that stood beside him that day and answered out of an honest heart, “Yes, Lord, I love thee enough to give thee the water mill, and I will do it.” So after prayer, he went to his pastor and told him the story and turned over the water mill to the church. The pastor called the church together and told them the incident, and they reasoned thus: “This water mill is not ours, it belongs to our Lord. What shall we do with it?” and that same Lord spoke to them, telling them he would do with it what he loved to do when he was here on earth; namely, to bring the knowledge of God and the Christ whom he had sent to those who knew him not. So those Christians used the income from this water mill that belonged to Christ to employ a Bible woman to visit in the homes of the people near and far and tell them of Jesus. This illustrates the power of the Christ, personally known and realized as a fact in the hearts of men.

An Enduring Work

(8) There is an element of permanence in the work done among the Koreans that illustrates the enduring quality of the forces with which we deal. The work not only abides in the individual heart, but passes out in ever widening circles through Korean society. The statement of Christ that “The seed are the children of the Kingdom,” finds wonderful illustration in the work in Korea. Many years ago, a missionary started a school in a large town. Among his first scholars was a lad nine years of age, who, early gave his heart to Christ. This lad grew up in the atmosphere of the Christian Church and to-day is a student in an American university, preparing himself to enter the Christian ministry in his own land. That in itself would be a most encouraging thing, but it is only the beginning of the story. This lad early led his mother to Christ and the mother and son together led the father to Christ. The father became a very earnest worker for the Lord and was instrumental in leading many hundreds of people to become Christians. Among the men to whom he carried the gospel message was a merchant who in his turn became a splendid laborer in Korea’s white harvest field. After many years of usefulness, he met financial reverses, and in 1909 sold out what was left of his business, and with the money thus secured moved south and purchased farm lands, taking up his residence in a heathen village. The first Sunday there he held service with his family, inviting his neighbors. One man came. The next Sunday there were two. The third Sunday there were three. The fourth Sunday there were six. Five months later, when a missionary visited that village for the first time, he found that out of thirty-five families residing there, all but two had become followers of Jesus Christ through the work of this one man, and they had a group of eighty-six believers. None of the boys or girls in the village could read or write, so the young son of the Christian opened a primary school for boys, which had an enrollment of twenty-six. The Christian’s daughter, fourteen years of age, opened a school for girls, and enrolled fourteen. The message was, being sounded forth throughout the entire county, and already there was a call for a Christian pastor to take up his residence there and follow up that work.

An Ever Widening Circle 

Now note the chain of events. A little mission school in 1892; a lad from the streets opening his heart to his Lord; a father and mother converted; another man converted through the father’s honest life of service; then seventeen years later, that same man with his heart thrilling with the same blessed vital power that had been in the hearts of the others, planting himself and his family in a heathen village, and winning almost its entire population to like precious faith with himself. Surely we deal with no temporary expedients nor with transient forces, but handle the permanent powers of the spirit world.

In the presence of such facts and forces, it is not an incredible thing that the evangelization of Korea lies well within the reach of the Christian Church, provided that help and support be given to the native church in the form of missionaries and an equipment for educational and institutional work which will enable the churches to hold the ground gained until they are sufficiently strong in numbers and wealth to carry it on themselves.

Reaching Koreans Abroad

No review of the work in Korea would be complete that ignored the interesting developments in connection with the efforts of the Korean Church to reach Koreans who have gone abroad. In this we have one of the most forceful illustrations of the reflex influence of foreign missions upon conditions in the home field, and the interaction of foreign and home missions. An immigration of Koreans began into the sugar plantations of Hawaii, and about 8,000 went to the Islands, finding employment there, while others passed on to the Pacific Coast. The first company of emigrants from Korea numbered ninety, among them being twenty-eight Christians from the region about Chemulpo. These organized a prayer-meeting in the steerage of their ship and carried on Christian work among their fellow emigrants, so that when they landed under the stars and stripes, they had a Korean Christian Church organized with fifty-eight members. Of the original ninety members of that first company of emigrants, eighty-six are now known to be members of Christian Churches. No group of Koreans that ever came to the United States built a heathen temple or perpetuated heathen rites within our borders, but Koreans may be found in attendance upon Christian Churches in every community in which they have settled. Thus the Korean emigrant, instead of constituting a great moral and civic problem, has brought into our land a practical illustration of the far-reaching character of foreign missionary work in other lands, and furnishes an inspiration both to larger faith and greater endeavor for the evangelization of non-Christian peoples.


Present Status (1910)

The goal toward which all lines of missionary activity converge is the creation of a self-reliant, self-supporting, self- governing, and self-propagating native Church, worthy the presence and reign of Jesus Christ. Marvelous rapidity has marked the progress of missionary of Korean effort in Korea towards this desirable goal. In the short space of a quarter of a century, the Methodist Episcopal Church has grown to a total enrollment of about 50,000 converts. It is well entrenched throughout the best sections of the country. It stands related in cordial and close bonds of fraternity with the other churches at work there and combines with them in identity and destiny to such an extent, that the Christian forces in Korea present to the heathen world the appearance of solidarity. By well considered and happily arranged agreements, reduplication of effort and sectarian rivalry are prevented, unnecessary expenditure of funds and strength obviated, and a concentration of effort made possible, resulting in the systematic and speedy evangelization of the people.


Taken from Korea Mission of the Methodist Episcopal Church by George Heber Jones, (New York: Board of Foreign Missions of the Methodist Episcopal Church, 1910), 43-60.