My very first pastor, Pastor Paul, was a ridiculous person. What I mean is, he kept pouring out his life to other people without any kind of tactical advantage to himself, and he never asked for anything back. He took strangers to job interviews, frequented the local hospitals, sent handwritten letters to everyone in the church and across the street, volunteered for clean-up at the park, brought bottled water to the beach all the time, counseled every church member at any hour, and somehow managed a marriage while making it to 6:00 am prayer every morning and preaching three times per week. Try to picture Korean Jesus, and that’s him.
I started attending church a bit late in life, around college, and I was one of those punk kids that any pulpit-pounder should’ve written off. I showed up hung-over on Sundays and bleary-eyed from partying on Saturday nights. I talked loudly in the back-row during the sermon. Church was just an extension of socializing at the club, and I endured the service stuff because I liked the hanging-out stuff. But Pastor Paul was just one of those guys who really brought it in the pulpit, and more than that, he was the real deal outside of it. Some of his sermons started to creep into my brain, and when I met up with him, he never judged me and never flinched at how I lived. He just loved. And without really knowing it, I became drawn to that supernatural pulse that was beating in his veins. I wanted to be like him—and by extension, like Korean Jesus.
I’ve thought about how my pastor’s job was often a thankless role with so much resistance against him, sometimes for no other reason than people just have their own thing going on. He took the hits and stayed around. He somehow served very personally without ever taking it personally. He was really for the other, never using ministry as a way to validate himself first, not as some kind of catharsis, but because he was invited into a story and a calling and a life that was meant to be given away. I loved that about him. I still do. He’s always looking for an angle or avenue to serve, even when he’s not wanted, not in an intrusive way, but to be available. I want to be about that, too.