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First Korean CRC in the State of Missouri Organizes

The congregation of Korean CRC of St. Louis (Mo.) gathered at Peace Village in Robertsville, Mo. for its 2023 retreat. Pastor Jaebok Choi is in the third row, farthest to the right.

The Korean Christian Reformed Church of St. Louis (Mo.) is the first Korean congregation of the Christian Reformed Church in North America in the state of Missouri. One of only three CRCs in that state, it was recently recognized by Classis Central Plains as an organized congregation and its first slate of five elders and two deacons are to be installed Oct. 1.

Pastor Jaebok Choi, an assistant professor in the oncology division at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, planted the church as a bivocational pastor in April 2021. 

Choi was already a PhD in Molecular Genetics and Developmental Biology, who did postdoctoral work at St. Louis’s Washington University School of Medicine and was promoted to instructor and then assistant professor. He also pursued a Master of Divinity through Calvin Theological Seminary’s distance-learning program, completing the degree after seven years of part-time study. He said he’d been encouraged toward theological training by leaders in past Bible study groups. Once trained, Choi said he approached several pastors offering to support their ministries, but despite his training and desire to minister for no pay, none was interested. So he planted a new congregation. 

“From the earliest stage of church planting of Korean CRC of St. Louis, we have had a statement of faith that has guided and encouraged us over the years,” Choi wrote to Classis Central Plains. “None of what we have done has happened without God’s initiative, without God’s empowerment, without God’s wisdom, direction, and guidance. As Psalm 127 says, ‘Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain.’ We look to God to build the house, and we are grateful he has called us to join in the work.”

Central Plains examined Choi for ordination in February 2021 and he was ordained in April of that year. In May 2023, after already operating for two years, Korean CRC of St. Louis was first designated an emerging congregation, with Trinity CRC in Maryland Heights, Mo., as the parent council. Because the Korean CRC of St. Louis is already self-sufficient and has a leadership team of six, including Choi, the young church sought to organize with its own council as of the next classis meeting set for September 2023.

Classis Central Plains voted in favor of the organized status request on Sept. 15. Stated clerk Jonathan Spronk said, “It was joyfully approved.” 

Choi said the church–which includes 30 adult confessing members, one confessing member under 18 and a few others who have not yet made a profession of faith–meets Sundays at a restaurant owned by one of the members.

“We have three focal points,” Choi said, pointing to the worship service, Knowing God Bible studies led by the church’s lay leaders that meet during the week, and Loving Neighbors commitments. Because the church doesn’t have any paid employees and the worship space is provided, “we set aside 50% of our budget for people or organizations in need,” Choi said. “That’s one way for us to serve communities outside the church.” 

Choi said the church welcomes guest preachers about every five to six weeks, allowing him to be refreshed by other speakers and helping prevent burnout. 

In his occupation at the Washington University School of Medicine, Choi’s lab researches ways to improve outcomes in bone marrow transplants for treating leukemia by reducing the occurrence of graft versus host disease (when healthy donor immune cells react to recipient cells as foreign).

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