AN INTERVIEW WITH PASTOR MIN (1998)
Who did you look up to growing up?
I’m not sure if I had a particular role model, but my school
teachers were important to me. I remember all of their names, what they
said, how they acted, and especially the things they had spoken to me.
Some of the pastors that I’ve had, like revival speakers, meant a lot
to me because I never had a personal discipler. I barely had youth
groups I attended, so what I observed from afar was important to me.
Some of the people I read from books. For some reason, I read
biographies when I was younger. Famous people, presidents, rulers, and
the different kinds of people that I read about in biographies were
important to me, but I never had a close personal discipler that I
looked up to.
Was there any particular biography that stood out more than the others?
I remember reading about Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Edison, Gandhi.
How did you become a Christian?
When I was in first grade, someone asked me to go to church. I
didn’t know what church was so I asked my mom, who was a believer in
her high school years but who married a non-Christian, my father, and
fell away. But she had a Christian background, so when I asked her if I
could go to church because my friend asked me, my mom said it would be
good for me to go to church. That’s when my brother, my mom, and I
started to go to different churches. I walked into the sanctuary of a
big Sunday school, maybe 300 people or so, singing, “Jesus Loves Me
This I Know” in Korea. When they were singing that, something hit me. I
never knew who Jesus was, but I felt that some kind of being was
present at that place. It left a memory in my heart. I think that’s
when I started to believe in the existence of God. From there on, I
always went to Sunday school, even on my own. I always went every
Sunday until I came to America when I was twelve years old. I remember
the youth group I went to; a Reverend Hong, who at the time was a
deacon, taught a small Bible study with less than ten people. He
challenged people whether they would accept Jesus as their Savior and
Lord. And that’s the day I raised my hand’ January 5, 1977, at about 3
in the afternoon. That’s when I raised my hand to trust in Christ. I
think I already believed. That’s when I had the assurance of salvation
because he explained it to me.
I didn’t really live a Christian life because nobody taught me the
Bible, the Scripture. Nobody taught me to live a Christian life until I
came to college. Between twelve and eighteen years of age, I had almost
zero spiritual feeding. There was a time when I was in New York,
between ninth and tenth grade, when I received tremendous blessings
because that’s when Korean adults had revival meetings all over the
place all the time. I went to those revival meetings, where I was
tremendously challenged and blessed. But I really didn’t have any
consistent discipleship or teachings of the Scripture. I don’t think I
ever heard an expository sermon until I went to seminary. Up until that
time, nobody had really taught me to make Scripture a part of life.
When did you have your first crush?
I think I was maybe five or six (laughs), just a neighborhood girl in Korea. She had a runny nose. That’s all I really remember.
What is your biggest regret during your college years?
I think I could have studied more. Nobody taught me that as a
student, studying was my obligation. I thought it was something that I
needed to sacrifice because I was a Christian and I had to do ministry.
I realized all those things were a part of ministry. The knowledge I
would have gained through my studies would help me even now. But I did
not study more and develop the study habits or character that I needed
in seminary and in ministry.
Another regret is just not reading the Bible more. I did a lot of
ministry, studied to teach, but not enough reading and meditating on my
own, which would have tremendously helped me. I think college days are
the days when we can really make time for ourselves. It just gets
busier. I wish I just read the Bible more, maybe a hundred times more,
which would help me have a better grasp at what I’m teaching.
How did people see you in high school?
I was in a dilemma because I was in the high academic classes, so in
some sense I was a geek. But I was also a soccer player so some people
saw me as a jock. I also couldn’t speak English that well (laughs).
There was nobody really to give me information. I had a lot of American
friends, but when I spoke too much they would laugh, so I kind of
became an introvert. So I was in school, studying, playing soccer but
not speaking too much. So I wasn’t really myself. In the yearbook, I
was nominated as being the “spaciest.” I kind of acted like that to be
funny, because that was the stereotype of Asians at that time.
So how did you see yourself at this time?
I think I always wanted to be approved by people. I wanted to be
popular. I wanted to be known, to be affirmed, and to be acknowledged.
But I didn’t really receive much of that because I didn’t really even
know who I was. So I always felt dissatisfied. I always did my best to
be liked and respected by people, but I wasn’t attaining that so I was
always dissatisfied, it seems.
What colleges did you apply to?
I think I had three choices. Knox College because I was thinking
pre-med, and they were offering a soccer scholarship. I didn’t apply
for it but their coach wanted to recruit me there. Another choice was
General Motors Institution, an engineering school. They also called me
because they needed more Asians.
The third was U of I. I think the biggest influencing factor that
made me come to U of I was my laziness; the application was the easiest
thing (laughs). So when I look back, I didn’t have many reasons to come
to U of I. It was my last choice. I didn’t even know anything about the
school. I just came. I see the sovereign hand of God leading me to be
here. If I didn’t come here, there would have been no “Alpha Omega”
band. I don’t know what I would have become or done in my life.
What did you major in?
Bio/pre-med. I really liked and enjoyed biology in high school. So I thought maybe I’d serve God through being a doctor.
Did you ever have any rebellious years?
I’m not sure if I was ever rebellious in terms of my Christian life,
but in my high school years when I was growing up, I wanted to go out
so much and my father told me that my curfew was at five. I guess I
kind of rebelled and came back later than I should have. There were a
lot of arguments, power struggles, during my junior year in high school.
In my Christian life, my freshman year in college I went to a lot of
parties and things like that. Nobody told me it was wrong. I guess I
never had any terrible times of rebellion except in those times.
What kind of friends did you have in high school?
All the guys in my calculus class. A bunch of guys on the math team.
They were my friends, as well as some of the guys on the sports teams.
I was close with them too. Then there were other guys— total geeks,
nerds, outcasts— I was close with them too. I went to Conant High
School in Hoffman Estates. The Cougars! Most of my friends were
Caucasians, believe it or not (laughs).
Lamentations 3:22-23. How his steadfast love, which is not the mushy
kind of feeling, but the power that comes from the Lord, is fresh and
new every morning. This is the principle that I go by, because apart
from Him I can do nothing. John 15 :5.
John 12:24. If the seed dies, which is the picture of Christ on the
cross, many people receive life. The principle that we should apply in
our lives is that we should sacrifice’ not to be the cause of the
fruit, but that we can be the means of illustrating what Christ has
already done on the cross, which is the true cause of the fruitfulness
in people’s lives. The reason we live in this world is to be the image
of God, to picture Him so that He can be honored and glorified through
us. So that He will preach the message through our lives as we
sacrifice ourselves. This is the closest and the best way to preach the
Gospel, beyond our lips, to those who are dying without Christ.
These things are related because apart from Him we can do nothing.
We need to receive the strength from the Lord in the morning so that
every day we can live the life of Christ.
Favorite Bible character?
Moses, because he was an incredible leader. God uses him to
accomplish great things and God prepares him for 40 years with the best
education of his time, a king’s education, yet he also endures 40 years
in the desert tending sheep as God breaks him and molds him. I just
like that progression. And then for 40 years, he leads 2 million
people. I am having problems just taking care of my three kids, while
Moses had to take care of 2 million rebellious children. It’s
incredible how he sacrifices himself and gives to his people. One time
he risks his life to save them. He fasts for forty days, incredible
determination. But nevertheless, he had flaws, he made mistakes, and he
couldn’t enter into the Promised Land. I like how, after so many
accomplishments, after he has seen so much of God and His miracles, he
talks to God as a man talks to his friend. As you look into Exodus,
Moses asks God to show him His glory, meaning he wanted to see the core
of God. He was still hungry for the Lord even after so many encounters
with Him. In the process of sanctification of being more like Christ,
he is someone way up there between God and me. I want to attain at
least that much hunger, godliness, and humility in my process of
becoming more like Christ.
I also have a lot of respect for Joshua who follows afterwards. I
think God gave me the middle name Joshua because my job is to conquer
not the land of Canaan but the hearts of people. My job is to break the
Jericho walls around the people’s hearts. God used me that way. In
college, the way I was most blessed was when my heart melted by the
message of the Gospel. I prayed, “God, whoever I preach to, whomever I
hold onto with my hands and pray with, through my prayers and what I
say, God, use me to melt the hearts of people.” I really remember
praying that specific prayer. That’s exactly what Joshua did: he
conquered for the glory of God. I think God conquers the hearts of
people even through unworthy people like me. I have a lot of respect
for Joshua because he had to follow right the after the greatest leader
of all time, and he fit right in. He didn’t want to be Moses— he was
Joshua with his own distinct identity. He took over the leadership and
leads them to the next phase of life. I pray we will be like Joshua’s
generation, conquering this world for the Gospel of Christ.
I also have great respect for Daniel, who was a highly esteemed
person of God from a young age, with such determination and conviction.
He gives me hope for the youth of America, and without any compromise,
he lives for the Lord. He was alone with only a few friends, no
hundreds of people to sing praises with, but he still keeps his
conviction in just being faithful in his daily life. He lived like a
kingdom citizen because his heart was in the kingdom even though he was
living in the worldly kingdom.
When you look into political society, it seems as though the world
is ruled by the political rulers, but when you look at the book of
Daniel, God rules this world through the people of God, even though
there were Nebuchadnezzar, Cyrus, Belshazzar. These kings were not
ruling the world; God was ruling the world through Daniel at the time.
Daniel is the one who interprets and gives instructions as to what to
do and how to do it, just like Joseph did for the pharaoh when he
interprets the dream and saves Egypt from the seven years of drought.
Daniel was faithful to God; he obeyed the Word of the Lord for 80-some
years (Daniel 6). I have tremendous respect for him. That’s why he was
able to see all those visions and able to pray for us now as he is
looking toward the incredible times ahead. He prays and prepares for
I also have tremendous respect for Paul. (I have a lot of favorites
in the Scriptures.) Just as one of the books said about him, he was an
apostle with his heart set free. He was always in prison but always
ministering. Faithful to all the little things he can do, like writing
letters. Chained to the guards, he does the greatest thing that a man
can do to transform this world: writing half the New Testament. At the
time, he probably didn’t know what he was doing, but when he was
faithful just wanting to spread the Gospel any chance he got, God used
him to change this world. I just see the remarkable freedom that he had
in his heart because he was in the Lord. In Acts 6, when he’s in prison
with Silas, singing praises and worship, God uses him to reach people
in prison. Even though he was captured, he was always free. He was
captured by the people, but his heart was captured by the Lord. That’s
why he constantly says that he’s a prisoner of the Lord. The love of
the Lord compelled him to reach out to the world, and he would put his
life on the line for the people. In Romans 9, a man of perseverance,
persecution, sickness— he prayed three times for the thorn in his flesh
to be removed. In spite of all the beatings and persecutions as written
in 1 Corinthians 11, he continues on. He reminds me of a runningback in
a football game whose goal is to continue to go forth toward the goal,
but he is always resisted by 300 pounders, left and right. It’s a
picture of a spiritual battle where half the people on the field wants
you to move, helping you, while the other half on the field wants to
What’s the hardest thing about being a pastor?
I think it’s just thinking about the Judgment Day: that I’m
responsible for what I’m doing, that I’m responsible for people’s
lives, that my advice can alter people’s lives, and I’m going to be
judged for that. I guess I receive enough affirmation from people, but
being approved by God’ to be told, You are my good and faithful
servant. Just thinking about that fact brings a shiver down my spine
and really makes me look at everything.
Another thing that is difficult about full time ministry is just the
nature of the service. Pride can always creep in; it happens slowly but
surely. I always have to examine myself. I have no doubt that God can
change this world, but I always have to fight with myself even getting
up in the morning to pray. That’s a fight with myself: do I want to
sleep or do I want to pray and keep going? Every moment, every day,
it’s a fight with the flesh. It’s tough. The goal of ministry is to
create Jesus. If we have 500-600 people, the goal is to create 500-600
Jesus’s. When I look in the mirror, I don’t even see one. There’s the
difficulty of ministry. I have to fight against this flesh that is
lusting after this world, lusting after the comfort of my own. That’s
John 12:24— do I want to remain a seed that remains as one seed, or do
I want to die to produce much seeds?
There’s also the discouragement of the lack of visible fruit. When I
look from the eyes of the Scripture, I just don’t see much fruit with
my eyes as in Christ-likeness in the change in people. I would consider
that as having the right standard of the Scripture, but in one sense it
is the lust of the eye. As in 1 John, I want to see what I want to see
so that I can be satisfied, rather than trusting in the Lord who is
doing the ministry so that He can be glorified and honored. That’s
again my pride where I have to fight against myself.
People criticize, especially some of our graduates who go out and
blame the church for the weakness in their spiritual lives. When I hear
things like this, from all different kinds of people criticizing our
ministry, it is really painful. We can always say to ourselves that
it’s a part of the spiritual battle, yes, but nevertheless as a human
being, it’s a matter of do I want to please God or myself. I know a
major part of our hearts wants to please God, but still there is the
desire to be approved by people, to be popular’ there is still that
high school kid in me.
When did you receive your calling?
Probably my freshman year in college. I went to this retreat on the
east coast and remember this Baptist preacher who came and spoke. The
Holy Spirit was really working in my heart— something was stirring in
me so much. My heart was doing an aerobic exercise just moving. I just
wanted to commit to something at that time. I think so many people
committed themselves to Christ and to full time ministry by visibly
walking up and raising hands. I raised my hand. I was just sitting down
with my eyes closed, thinking to myself should I go up. When I opened
my eyes, I couldn’t believe it. I was already walking up. I never
really had thought about it. I didn’t know what it really meant until a
couple years later when I came back to U of I, until I was traveling
all over the states with the Alpha Omega band and seeing the state of
the second generation. Youth group ministries in the mid-1980s were
primitive. Everybody was singing hymns in Korean, they couldn’t even
understand what they were singing, the speakers were speaking in
Korean, Korean jokes; God moved my heart that this was what I really
wanted to do.
I believe in objective and subjective calling. Objective calling is
when someone affirms you, like elders and pastors stating this is what
you should go into’ a visible fruit. But I also believe in subjective
confirmation, where internally you have a conviction, a desire, just
that sense of rightness and joy when you’re doing ministry. At that
time, I think I was confirmed subjectively. When I told everybody, no
one doubted, everyone said they knew that before me. Subjectively was
my strongest confirmation. I was so strong that if God was going to say
no, I was going to go into it anyway, it was almost my fleshly longing.
That was my second semester sophomore year. That’s also when I changed
from bio to psychology. Everybody who wanted to go into ministry was a
psych major’ it was the “in” thing to do. I think for those thinking
about seminary, history is an excellent major because you can have a
broad knowledge of everything. I probably would have majored in that if
I knew that then. I probably would have been bad at it because I am
pretty bad at details, but it would have been helpful for me.
Typical day in the life of Pastor Min.
There is no typical day; every day is different.
Morning prayer from 6:30-7:30
Come home and send the kids to school
Meet someone for breakfast @ 8:00 usually at International House of Pancakes (IHOP)
Come back to the office around 9:30 to study and prepare till quiet time at about 12 or 1:00
Meet someone for lunch
Meet another person in the afternoon, and if there is time I play basketball
Come home and put the kids to sleep
Dinner appointment, especially for those guys who are working or simply don’t have time to meet during the day
Marketplace Bible Study at night until about midnight
Very similar to Monday without Marketplace at night
Fasting day—mainly stay at home
Meet people for breakfast and lunch
Spend a lot of time at the office preparing for Friday night’s message
Servants’ meeting in the morning
Meet someone for lunch
Take the kids out to dinner
Put the kids to sleep
At the office from Saturday evening till Sunday
Spend the day at church
Basketball with the guys at IMPE
Officers’ meeting at night
Greatest dream or vision?
I want to see the Gospel reach the end of the world. I want everyone
to hear the Gospel so that they can respond to His internal calling. We
have a world to reach. I guess a sub-dream relating to that would be to
see the CFC guys go out and participate in the expansion of the kingdom
of God, to see the guys out there in action. When I see that, my blood
gets going. I feel like I see a visible fruit and a hope that what I am
doing now can help God’s kingdom to be built. That’s my vision. That’s
my dream. The same thing goes for my family and my kids to participate
in the expansion of the kingdom of God.
Craziest thing you ever did.
One time this guy asked me to baptize him in the middle of the
night. It was January and freezing cold at Lake Michigan. In the middle
of the freezing cold winter night, we went out and I baptized him in
Lake Michigan. Kind of reminded me of the Ethiopian eunuch. He was a
Korean guy. (laughs). I would never ever do that again. But that was
his way of dedicating himself to the Lord.
Another thing I remember is from my high school days. My friend and
I, we just wanted to see God visibly, just as Moses asked God to show
him His glory. So what we did was receive permission from our parents,
and we went to church and prayed all night because we wanted to see God
physically. I remember singing hymns, praying together, rolling on the
floor, bumping into walls, wanting to see God. We fell asleep somewhere
in the middle. I don’t miss the stupidity, but I miss the purity, the
hunger, which I believe is not without fruit. Even at this moment, even
though I didn’t see Him physically, I believe I see God so clearly with
my heart though not with my eyes. I believe present vision is caused by
past hunger. Same thing as present hunger giving us future visions in
One thing you wished you could do better.
I wish I could rebound better. That’s one thing I just cannot do. I
envy the guys on the court who can rebound. I can do most other things
okay, but I just can’t seem to rebound. Years ago in my last interview,
I started rebounding and the left-handed lay-up. There has been
progression in my sanctification in my basketball career. This story is
not without a lesson, because I just constantly wanted to improve. Now
my left hand lay-up is better than my right hand lay-up. I think the
rebounding thing is a physical limitation, just like I cannot dunk.
Strengths and weaknesses.
Any kind of leading; that has been a gift God has given me. I always
influence, negatively or positively. Whatever I love, the people around
me come to do: drinking coffee, eating Chinese food, things like that.
Whenever I lead, people follow. I think God gives me visions and
ideas, and when I get excited, people around me get excited, and we go
My weaknesses are in matters concerning this: I have to be more
sensitive to people. Sometimes the goal gets too important for me to
think about the people. Sometimes I’m like a bowling ball: in order for
me to get a strike, ten pins have to go down. Sometimes those pins are
people. I want the Gospel to be spreading all over the world. I want
something to be done. These things are not without good motives, but I
just have to be more aware of people. Through the years, God has helped
me to drastically improve in this area, making sure I am going together
with people and all those things.
Along with my strengths, God gives me ideas to lead. God always
gives me good followers, people who are practical and put things down
on paper and execute the visions God has given me.
How do you see CFC changing?
Well, the obvious is the number. It’s like a balloon, just getting
bigger and bigger; it’s about to pop now. I’m thinking, Should we get a
bigger balloon or just stop blowing? I just don’t know. I don’t even
know half the people in the church anymore. When I see people on the
streets, I don’t know if I’ve seen them at a Chinese restaurant, at
IMPE, or at our church. There’s always a dilemma whether or not to say
hi to a female because I don’t know if they think I’m trying to pick
them up or if they know that I’m Pastor Min.
The people are changing. It’s been about eight years since CFC
started, and generations change. The goal and the message don’t change,
but the method of how we accomplish those changes does. Praise nights
are still focused on the Gospel, but now there is more dancing, more
upbeat stuff. The style of praise changes, my preaching style changes
because it has to fit with the people, but the message does not change.
It’s still encouraging, rebuking, correcting’ all those elements are
still in there, but the method alters.
How are you changing as Pastor Min?
Again, my left-handed lay-up is pretty good (laughs). The length of
the sermons is a couple minutes shorter. They used to be even longer. I
think because I’m growing in my knowledge of the Scripture, the content
of the messages have gotten better as I have gained more insights. I
guess my role as a pastor changed. When I became a pastor, I was an
older brother because most of our present pastors were congregation
members. Now I am more of a father figure, a spiritual father, as
stated in many of the small group evaluations. Once again, what I say
does not change— it’s still from the Scripture, it’s not watered down,
but how I say it may be a little different from an older brother to a
If you could describe yourself as a car, what would you be?
I think I would be a Volvo (laughs). I’m not flashy, but like a
Volvo, I’m made for accidents. I’m not really like those little
Japanese cars, where when you get into an accident, everything falls
apart. Even if I’m roughed up, I would still keep going. I guess that’s
what I want to be, faithful through the thick and thin.
“Pledge My Head to Heaven” by Keith Green.
Michael Jordan– MJ!
Playing soccer and watching basketball.
Saving Private Ryan
Korean kalbi and chi-gae and, of course, Chinese food.
If you weren’t called to ministry, what would you currently be?
A high school teacher coaching girls’ basketball. Girls’ basketball
because the degree of athleticism between men is more diverse than
between females. If you are good at coaching, you will have more chance
in winning. But according to Pastor Seung Han, I would be a Mafia