Joel Rainey is the Director of Missions at Mid-Maryland Baptist Association, an adjunct professor at Capital Bible Seminary and blogs at Themelios (Twitter – @joelrainey).
These are exciting days for Maryland Baptists for many reasons, but next week marks one of those reasons as we welcome our larger Southern Baptist family to our state’s largest and most influential city. We hope you enjoy Baltimore!
But several weeks ago, our excitement grew exponentially here in the “free state” when we learned that one of our own—Dr. Dennis Manpoong Kim—would be nominated for SBC President. Many of the same things went through our minds that have probably went through yours—how great it would be to have an SBC President who actually lives in a region we seek to reach with the Gospel. How great would it be to have an SBC President who is fluent not only in English, but also a dialect that represents a huge minority of immigrant peoples. And how great would it be for our denomination—with its global aspirations—to be led by a truly global leader?
But for those of us who know Dennis Kim, what has gone through our minds the most is this: “How great is it that Dwight McKissic is nominating one whom we know to be a godly man of integrity—a man who has served his church and Maryland Baptists as well as we are confident he would serve Southern Baptist as a whole?”
If you have been keeping up with the press releases regarding Dr. Kim, you already know that he leads the largest SBC church in Maryland. You already know that, though predominantly Korean, Global Mission Church is a model for multi-cultural and multi-ethnic ministry. You already know that they have planted multiple churches, not only in our own region, but in other areas around our nation and the world. And, you already know of Dr. Kim’s laser-focus on evangelism and disciplemaking that have made Global Mission Church the congregation it is today. But since most of you don’t know him personally, I’d like to give you some insight from those of us who do.
For as long as I have known Brother Dennis, I’ve known he and his church to be people of intense, strategic, and intentional prayer. You can learn much about prayer from listening to sermons on the topic, or by reading books on the topic, but I’ve never learned more about prayer than when I am with our Korean brothers and sisters at 5:30 AM—calling out to God and begging Him for spiritual revival and the continued extension of His Kingdom through our churches. James chides us by saying “you have not because you ask not.” As I observe Global Mission Church, and Dr. Kim’s leadership, I can’t help but think that the primary reason they have seen growth, maturity, and Kingdom multiplication is because they model for the rest of us how to ask for it daily. We speak much about praying for revival in our denomination. Our leaders call for it constantly. Brother Dennis does it.
I also know Brother Dennis to be a consensus-builder and unifier. I have a few pastors like this in my own Association, and I thank God for these men who love, not only their own church, but who love other pastors and other churches, and support them. The last time Brother Dennis and I spoke face to face was about a month ago. Korean Hope Church of Glenwood Maryland honored me by asking me to speak at their Constituting service as a new church. When I got up to speak, I noticed Dr. Kim sitting in the front row to my right. I would learn later that his busy schedule made his ability to speak at this event uncertain, but when he realized he could make it, he simply came to show his support. Here was the pastor of the largest church in Maryland sitting in a service where he would not speak, simply because he cared for this new church, and wanted to join the strong support that our Korean brothers and sisters always give to new churches when they launch. That afternoon, he stayed to join the rest of us for fantastic Korean food, and a beautiful outdoor event celebrating this new church. As always, he was “just one of the guys,” a pastor’s pastor if ever anyone could be given that title. This is the kind of humble, unassuming man I’ve always known Brother Dennis to be. In Asian cultural contexts, it is not considered rude or inappropriate for someone of his stature to presume a certain position or recognition, but I have always observed Brother Dennis to have the heart of a servant-leader. There is a unique unity among Baptists in Maryland, and much of that unity and focus on mission can be attributed to men like Dr. Kim.
But when you take the prayerful humility I’ve described and you wrap it in a globally-aware, bilingual, strategic thinker like Dr. Kim, the result is a man poised to lead our denomination—still a largely regional group of churches—into its future as a truly global Convention. No one understands the world nearly as well as one who has lived on both sides of it, and we have in Dr. Kim a man eminently qualified to help us engage all of that world.
I am thankful to be part of a Convention that is able to present three good and godly people as Presidential nominees, and each will have his unique strengths described for our consideration during the nomination process. But if I am asked who I think is best suited to lead us toward becoming the globally effective people we aspire to be, I have no doubt that the life experience, ministry expertise, and Christ-centered passion of Dennis Manpoong Kim make him the best choice. I will be honored on Tuesday morning to cast my vote for a man whose leadership I have followed in Maryland for years, and whose leadership I would gladly submit to should our Convention feel the same way.