In lieu of the recent, surprise announcement from my Pastor last Sunday that he is stepping down, and the varying opinions and feelings from my friends who also attend OEM, I was reminded of a lesson that I learned many years back from a story found in Daniel 3. Allow me to give those of you who are not familiar with this story a brief summary.
In the third chapter of Daniel, 3 Jewish men, (Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego) were called out by some jealous, Babylonian rulers for not bowing down to the statue that King Nebuchadnezzar had made. They were summoned to the king’s palace and given another chance to bow down to the statue or suffer the wrath of a flaming furnace. They refused to bow down because bowing to this statue went against the commandments that God had given to Moses for the Jews to live their life by. When they refused the king ordered that they be thrown into the furnace. The furnace was so hot that the heat instantly killed the guards who threw them in. The three men however survived the furnace and were called to come out by the king. When they exited not a hair on their bodies was singed and they didn’t even have the smell of smoke on them. King Nebuchadnezzar realized that the God they serve was the one true God and ordered that anyone who speaks against God be destroyed.
So you may be wondering, what does this have to do with a pastor stepping down from his position? Well, in this chapter, a key character in the book of Daniel is missing. That character is Daniel himself. In the first 2 chapters of Daniel the four men collectively, didn’t back down from the laws God had given them centuries past, even though they had several opportunities to do so in this pagan nation. While other Jews gave in these four didn’t. They trusted God through all the trials and were saved every time. The reason this is so important is because in the first two chapters Daniel was the leader of four men. He was the mouthpiece for speaking on behalf of God’s will and plan for the Jews in Babylon while the other three followed his direction and leadership.
In chapter 3 Daniel is nowhere to be found and these 3 men have to stand up for what is right themselves, without their leader to guide and support them. I believe the same holds true for the members of OEM and the Onnuri Korean Ministry. Pastor Eddie has done an AMAZING job of bringing awareness to some major issues throughout the Korean peninsula and the rest of the world; issues such as the injustice in North Korea, human trafficking, and defending the orphans. He has attacked injustice daringly and boldly; fully aware of the danger that he could face, because of his obedience. He has stepped on the toes of government officials and church leaders in the Korean church, causing some major uncomfort to their comfortable lives. He has done what God calls each and every Christian to do and that is fight against injustice, defending the vulnerable, the widow, and the orphan. While doing this he has also instilled a heart for justice in some who never knew. For me, God used Pastor Eddie to reignite the flame dulled inside me that once burned passionately about these injustices.
Now it is our turn. Soon our leader will be gone, fighting and bringing awareness and justice somewhere else. He is the Daniel in this story and we are Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. God is making a way for us, and the Onnuri Korean Ministry, to continue fighting this battle we have been made aware of, a battle that defends those close to the heart of God, fulfilling the commands He has given to us as Christians. Will we be successful like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, or will we have another ending, one that is sad and cowardly?
So my question to you OEM family is what are you going to do now? Are you going to continue to fight and bring awareness to these justice issues; standing up to defend those that are vulnerable? Are you going to give up, stay angry, be the cause of a church split, and let the enemy win, stopping the work that has already been started in Korea and other parts of the world? The choice is yours so be wise about the decision you make. I really believe this is God’s way of testing our loyalty. Is it to Him or to man? Someone is waiting on the other side of your obedience.
I’m gonna call some of you out now, Why do you even go to OEM? Is it because of Pastor Eddie or is it because you firmly believe this is the church community God has called you to while living in Korea? If you are here because you feel called to the community and work of OEM then I want to encourage you to stick this out, pray for Pastor Eddie on his new journey, pray for the Korean church to continue fighting for the vulnerable in Korea, and support whatever pastor comes to OEM in his place. If you are only here because of Pastor Eddie please pray about your motives before joining another church. People come and go but God is forever faithful. His faithfulness should cause us to desire to be faithful to Him, not to man.
“Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up in haste. He declared to his counselors, ‘Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?’ They answered and said to the king, ‘True, O king.’ He answered and said, ‘But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods.’” ~Daniel 3:24-25