Reflections on Onnuri Community Church in Seoul


This is a picture of Seoul that I took from where I sat every morning while having breakfast. Right now I’m sitting in the Incheon International Airport waiting for my flight back to Chicago.  It has been a great trip. I hope I was a positive influence on the thousands of church leaders that gathered here from all over the world.  But I know that being at Onnuri Community Church has been a tremendously positive influence on me. Here are a couple things that I will take away from this trip about this amazing church:

  1. They work hard and they pray hard.  After my first trip I kind of dismissed the daily early prayer meetings as a reason for their huge impact.  Why?  Because they work so hard that I came away thinking that the real reason for their remarkable growth is that every staff person literally works over 12 hours a day and never takes a full-day off. And while the work ethic is remarkable (and unhealthy), this time I couldn’t help but take note that they started this year with 40 days of prayer.  And prayer is integral to everything they do.  And of course there are the daily early prayer meetings that thousands of people attend.  So, I’m taking back that we need to keep working hard (but still take time off!) and we need to start praying even harder.
  2. The vision is big and broad.  It is astounding the breadth of arenas this church is involved:  church planting, community betterment, publishing, broadcasting, crusades, artist development, outreach to influential leaders and personalities, ministry to all ages and multiple languages.  Just when you think you have a lot going on, you run into somebody who has ten times as much going on.  When Pastor Ha was asked about how does he lead and provide vision to so many different causes and organizations he said, “When I’m with the publishing group I turn off all the other switches and turn on only the publishing group switch…which ever ministry I working with, I think only about that one.”  Interesting.  I’m not sure how this will play out at CCC / NewThing, but it is inspiring.

60,000 people at 8 locations and 32 church plants!


Landed in Seoul a little before 6 am on Wednesday and Andy (right) who oversees the English and International Ministry of Onnuri Community Church was there to greet me.  After a quick breakfast I went to their all-staff meeting.  I found out that things have continued to grow since I was here last.  The church now has 8 locations in Korea and about 60,000 in attendance (if you are keeping score, that is like double Joel Osteen’s church!) and 32 church plants around the world.  Very cool.  I got to spend a little time with  Pastor Ha who founded the church.  We are scheduled to get together for a meeting in the next couple days.  I am already working on a list of questions.  Mark Choi (middle), a friend of mine from the last trip to Korea showed up early and then took Andy and I out to dinner tonight at a terrific Italian restaurant.  Two years ago Mark left Seoul to start the in2church in Manhattan, New York City.  The church is primarily targeting first and second generation Koreans and already has about 500 people that are a part of that church.

Tomorrow I will do a pre-conference workshop with church leaders and missionaries on the topic of The Big Idea.  Should be fun!  Then the Leadership Conference kicks off tomorrow night.  Stay tuned…

Off to Seoul, South Korea…

I’m sitting at the airport waiting on my 1:00 am (yes, as in the morning) flight to Seoul, South Korea. I’m going to be speaking at a Leadership Conference sponsored by Onnuri Church in Seoul. I was asked to speak for a conference at this church three years ago and it was an amazing experience at an amazing church!  Last I heard this church has over 40,000 people that attend at six locations with 36 worship services in 12 different languages.  They have asked me to speak on the Big Idea and Creating Missional Velocity so, I’m totally jazzed about this opportunity.  If you think about it, you can say a pray for me.

San Diego, NOC, book signing & getting work done on planes…

Noc_07Just landed in San Diego for the National Outreach Convention.  It is going to be pretty quick for me.  I have a dinner tonight, a workshop in the morning a couple connections I’m making in between and then I’m back on a plane headed to Chicago.

If you are here, come to my workshop on the BIG IDEA.  Or better yet – come to the book signing.  Seriously, they asked me to do a book signing which I have a hunch is really a cruel joke because nobody is going to show up.  Now  you might think this is me trying to be self-deprecating, but it’s not!  They had a book signing for us at the Catalyst Conference and Jon and I stood at a table and one guy showed up to have us sign his copy of The Big Idea.  And I think he really just came up to talk to us and we started signing the book before he knew what happened.  Meanwhile Leonard Sweet is right next to us and he has a line full of people waiting for him to sign his book. Funny.  Oh well.  Probably good for me.

Did I mention it is not sunny in San Diego?  Ugh.

And by the way – plane rides are great places to get work done.  I edited a powerpoint presentation, worked on my workshop talk and wrote two articles for different publications while flying from Chicago to San Diego.  That is awesome.

Philippines Trip: Jeff Pessina


After a quick stop in Japan and then Detroit we landed in Chicago yesterday – back from the Philippines. The first thing  I did was go out with the family to get something to eat.  It’s kind of becoming a family tradition that  after we have been apart (camp, CIY, mission trips, etc) that we go out to eat and get a chance to hear all the stories and catch-up.  So I told the Ferguson gang all about our quick trip to the Philippines.  One of the things I told my family about was this guy – Jeff Pessina.

Jeff is the Director (I just made that title up – it may or may not be his actual title – they aren’t really into titles – but he is the guy that everyone looks to for direction) of Frontline Ministries.  At the age of 20 he became a follower of Jesus and decided to follow where ever the Spirit of Jesus led him.  Within 6 weeks Jesus needed him in the Philippines, so he quit his job and sold everything he had to live with the poorest of the poor in this third world country.  For the first five or six years he lived in a tent.  When I asked Jeff about his budget he said, “we live on whatever God sends us”.  Stuff does not seem to be a big temptation to Jeff.  He lives as simply as anyone I know.

There are a lots of things I admire about Jeff and what they are doing through Frontline.  I admire…

However, the thing I admire most about Jeff is the genuine Biblical community that he has created.  There are about fifty people (counting kids and all) that are a part of Frontline.  They all live on the same 3-4 acres and do life together.  They eat together.  They share bathroom facilities together.  They  work together.  They play (lots of) basketball together.  They worship together.  Together they love the lost.  Together they love the lonely.  And they really do love each other.  It is perhaps the best example of Acts 2 community that I have seen.  Amazing!  I wanted my family to know about my new friend and a guy I really admire.  I want you to know about him too.

Philippines Trip: Frontline Crusades

Philippines_joshs_testimony_2Frontline Ministry has a long history of doing outreach through crusades all over the Philippines. This photo is Josh giving his testimony at one of the crusades with a translator.  Over the last couple decades more than a million people have made first time commitments to Christ.  Amazing!

Over the last several years Frontline has seen the need to transition their ministry to planting reproducing churches.  Their first church plant, Frontline Worship Center is already one of the largest churches (maybe the largest non-Catholic) in San Pablo.  The vision is for this church to reproduce sites and have 17 sites in each “barangay” (sub-division) in the next ten years.

In the future rather than doing crusades all over the country and not being sure about the follow-up they will be repositioning these crusades as outreaches in each of these “barangay” as a strategy to help people find their way back to God and get them connected into a new site of Frontline Worship Center.  These crusades are more like CCC’s annual “Fallapalooza” than they are like a Billy Graham Crusade.  There is great music and entertainment of all kinds and then a twenty minute felt-need gospel presentation.  I think this is a brilliant strategy for creating a reproducing church.  I love having them in the NewThing Network.

Philippines Trip: Meet Angie

Philippines_angieYesterday I got to meet Angie.  Angie is a ten year old girl who lives on the streets of San Pablo, Philippines.  I met her when I was with the Frontline team who were feeding street kids hanging out on the square of downtown San Pablo.  When we first walked up Angie she was curled up in a corner and hiding from us.  We tried to talk to her but she refused to show her face to any of us.  Eventually we got her to talk.  What we found out was that she was abused by men on the street this past weekend.  The Frontline team was able to take her back to their camp, give her a shower and something to eat.  Today, one of the team members had a meeting with her mother and she signed a paper giving Frontline responsibility for her.

The whole experience was surreal.  It is so two-dimensional when it happens.  You feel like all the traffic should stop and every passerby ought to offer to do something, but none of that happens.  The traffic continues and pedestrians walk on by without ever noticing.  It kind of got to me.  They asked me to pray for her and the other kids.  I did.  I know it was the right thing to do, but in the moment it felt like I needed to do a whole lot more.  Maybe I do.  Maybe we all do.

Update:  The next day I was at a Frontline crusade and guess who sat in the same row as me?  Angie.  She was quiet, but smiling.  Here it was 24 hours later and she was off the streets and in a safe place. She was surrounded by a community of people of all ages that loved her and wanted the very best for her.  This is exactly what God had in mind when He founded the church:  a community of people that relentlessly love all people and include them in their ever expanding eternal community.

Philippines Trip: Josh and the kids

Philippines_josh_kidsWe finally arrived in San Pablo Philippines, the home of Frontline Ministries.  I stayed awake working on the flight to Toyko and then slept on the four hour flight from Toyko to Manila. So, we arrived last night around 2 am and I got another 4 hours before I woke up.  So, I’m feeling pretty good and wondering where the jet lag is going to kick in.  Maybe not!

I like this pic of Josh, my son and a couple of the kids who are part of the ministry here at Frontline.  The smiles are not just for the camera – they are genuine and continuous.

I’m really impressed with the vision of Jeff Pessina and the Frontline Minstry team.  For years they had been involved primarily in evangelistic crusades throughout the country.  The last several year have been a real time of transition as they focus on planting a reproducing church and now have a vision for 17 sites in the next ten years.  There is tremendous alignment between NewThing and Frontline.  They have adopted much of our philosophy about being a reproducing church and our language which includes our slogan “helping people find their way back to God”.

On Vacation…

Floridafortmyersnaples1I’m now on vacation with Sue!  When I get back I have a ton of stuff I’d like to say about the Exponential Conference.  Thanks to all of you who were praying about this event.  I think it was wildly successful!  I’m already pumped about next year.

I’ll talk to you when I get back…


Joy_of_vicotryYou may have noticed that I have not been blogging much over the last week.  (Or maybe you didn’t notice?!?)  It’s because I have been using every spare moment trying to get ready for the National New Church ConferenceThe biggest stress is getting ready for the plenary session that I’m doing.  In the words of Jon Ferguson, “try not to suck!”  Well, it was Thursday morning about 5:15 AM that I had a break through and figured out the direction I want to take this talk.  For me to put a talk together I first need the Big Idea and then I need an outline and then lastly I put all the content around the outline to make sure I’m getting across the Big Idea.  And it was early Thursday morning right after my alarm clock went off that God gave me an outline.  RELIEF!!  I think this picture describes how I felt later on Thursday once I realized that I was going to get this talk finished.

In addition to the plenary session I’m going to doing six presentations and a couple of panels and then an interview or two.  I’m jazzed, but have been kinda stressed about getting it all done in time.  Well, I leave tomorrow for Orlando and I’d love to have you guys praying for me.  I’m going to get to connect with a lot of terrific leaders and speak to over 1800 new church leaders; I want it to really count for Kingdom gain!