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The feeding of the 90,000

Sunday worship at the world’s largest Presbyterian church

April 27, 2010

SEOUL

From the outside, Myung-Sung Church doesn’t look any more imposing than any number of "tall-steeple" churches around the world.

Perhaps it's the church’s location, tucked snugly in a modest neighborhood in high-rise punctuated Seoul. Or the steady stream — but not hectic throng — of worshipers  who make their way from the nearby subway station to the front doors of the building. Or the roomy but not overly expansive plaza that fronts the church building.

But one step inside Myung-Sung assures the visitor that this is not just any First Presbyterian Church in Podunk.

Thirty-year-old Myung-Sung Church is the largest Presbyterian Church in the world. Ninety-thousand members large. Eight services per Sunday beginning at 5:00 a.m. large. A separate 550-voice choir for each service large. A series of prayer services six mornings a week beginning at 5:00 a.m. that draw 30,000 participants each week large. Seventy pastors on staff, 70 elders on session, 1,200 deacons, 60 full-time overseas missionaries and another 250 part-time and volunteer mission workers large.

And, incredulously, worship that is surprisingly intimate and personal. The Rev. Kim Sam-whan is a folksy, homespun preacher who laughs easily and self-deprecatingly, is apt to break into a hymn or Sunday school ditty at any time during his sermon and who regularly addresses individuals or groups personally and directly during the service.

Myung-Sung Church copes with its size by involving church members in one of 5,000 "cell groups" which meet in church members homes two hours each week for prayer, Bible study, leadership training and mission education. Last year, the congregation's cell groups raised more than $2 million for the church’s overseas mission efforts.

This is Sunday morning at the largest Presbyterian church in the world.

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