SBTS student expands ministry in China

Communications Staff — October 7, 2008

Eight years ago, Myung Whan (Johann) Kim had the idea of starting a musical competition in his native country of Korea to introduce youth to the musical and artistic value of hymns.

After the three years of holding the event in Korea, Kim expanded it to the United States. Next he included Canada. Last year he expanded again to include the Chinese cities of Beijing and Shanghai. And now Kim is broadening his horizons yet again by including 10 Chinese cities in the 2008 International Youth Praise Festival.

Best of all, Kim said, he expects non-Christians in China to be exposed to the Gospel by preparing for the event.

“Sometimes unbelievers come also,” he said. “That is a great opportunity for them.”

Each festival participant performs a musical
arrangement of a Christian hymn on either piano, violin, viola, cello or a woodwind instrument. Voice and ensemble categories are also included in the event.

Evangelism comes in because festival participants often meditate on the words of the hymns as they prepare, Kim said.

“The reaction of students and Christian parents was marvelous,” he said of past competitions. “Christian parents saw their children, who didn’t know anything about hymns, practice hymn arrangements and then experience joy and spiritual progress.”

Kim requested prayer from American believers that the Chinese portion of the festival would produce a great victory for God’s Kingdom. The need for prayer is great, he said, because the Chinese government has attempted to impose restrictions and even made him take a pledge to limit his religious activities while conducting the hymn festival in China.

“Just before and after the Beijing Olympics, the Chinese government did very harsh things to Christian churches and pastors,” he said. “Already some churches have been closed and American missionaries were expelled.”

The Grand Prize winners from across the world will be invited to perform in an international winners’ concert Nov. 29 at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. Previous winners’ concerts have been held in New York’s Carnegie Hall.

Kim, who was a musical composer, university professor and former music minister at the 20,000-member Hallelujah Christian Church in Korea, came to The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary as a student in 2005.
Southern has helped Kim publicize the competition and will encourage participants who plan to enter music ministry to continue their education at the seminary.

Partnering with Southern to publicize the event is particularly appropriate, Kim said, because the festival leads young believers to consider praise and worship ministry as a vocation. Preparing a praise musician requires learning musical skill at a young age and later focusing on theology while pursuing a seminary degree, he said.

“Theology is absolutely necessary for someone who wants to be a prepared praise minister because praise ministers should be prepared musically and spiritually,” Kim said.

“When we train them from childhood on basic musical education, then later in life they have more time for studying theology.”

Learning hymns has great value even for children who do not eventually pursue vocational music ministry because learning the truths of the hymns guards them from being influenced by the evil aspects of culture, Kim said.

“Hymns are a great way to protect the next generation from the worldly culture,” he said. “It’s so important that we evangelize the children in our own families.”

Additional information about the International Youth Praise Festival, as well as recordings of the Carnegie Hall winners’ concert from the past two years, is available online at

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