Friends, Food, and Jesus: The Value of Community in a Seminary Setting

Kyongmin Song S’22 learns to appreciate his Korean roots as he deepens his knowledge of faith through Bethel’s Theological Studies program.

By Katie Johnson ’19, content specialist

May 01, 2020 | 3:45 p.m.

Kyongmin Song S'22 speaking

Theological Studies student Kyongmin Song S’22 spoke at the 2019 Scholarship Appreciation Dinner.

Theological Studies student Kyongmin Song S’22 loves Jesus. He also loves cooking—especially Korean food, and especially Korean chicken wings, which are not just any chicken wings. They have to be deep-fried twice to achieve maximum crunchiness, and paired with a sweet and sour sauce that sets mouths on fire, they’re perfect for sharing with one’s friends.

The idea of sharing with one’s friends is what really drew Song to Bethel Seminary. When he visited Bethel, he realized that he would have the opportunity to grow holistically—with an emphasis on every aspect of his life. Academic growth and expertise would be part of his education, but not the primary focus.

“What we’re learning has to be for the edification of the church; otherwise, it’s just for ourselves,” Song says. His seminary classes provide ways to apply what they’re learning immediately with the communities they’re already part of.

One of Song’s communities is a group of friends that gets together every Thursday night to talk about theology, politics, and what it means to live out one’s faith in this modern world. This group and their conversations inspired Song to pursue seminary. “We’re asking questions: ‘Why is the church not politically involved in a lot of ways?’ ‘What does it mean to do politics well as a Christian?’ A lot of those conversations motivated me to come to seminary,” Song says. “I think that dialogue—having that place to talk about those things—helped to develop the ideas that we have.”

One of the ideas Song has wrestled with since coming to seminary is that everyone has their own biases when reading the Bible. He has become aware of his own biases, and it’s been beneficial to process them with his friends, for his context has proven helpful regarding how he understands concepts like grace as a gift.

“Learning is a form of worship. I’m not a big feeler person. I get really excited about God when I’m able to engage my mind and study and learn more about Him."

— Kyongmin Song S'22

Though Song was born in South Korea, he was mostly raised in the U.S., and he has long felt like he would have to leave behind his Korean context to understand the Bible. However, his culture treats gifts as something to be reciprocated, so much that it’s shameful if people don’t respond in that way. “Grace is an invitation to relationship in a lot of ways. God gives us this gift in Jesus and there’s grace and the idea of it is now, we’re supposed to live in response to the grace he has given to us,” Song explains. “My Eastern context gets me closer to the culture of when the Bible was written. It’s something that’s actually really helpful for me to understand the text.”

While he learns to appreciate his own context, Song pours into others who may have similar questions regarding their cultural identity in reference to the Bible. One aspect of his ministry is volunteering with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship to serve Hmong students in the Twin Cities. He says to them: “I think you’ll see Jesus as someone you’re already familiar with in a lot of ways. It’s not about seeing Jesus as a white person or a Westerner, but being able to identify yourself as God’s creation and bearing God’s image and right away being able to read the Bible in a different perspective that’s needed in our American Christian culture.” 

As Song continues to grow at Bethel, he’s excited to develop more connections, apply what he’s learning to his communities, and really deepen his knowledge of theology. He is also grateful for the number of scholarships he has received, which have made his education possible.

“Your investment is not just an investment in the individual person,” Song said at the 2019 Scholarship Appreciation Dinner. “It’s an investment in every sermon preached with sound biblical interpretation, every spiritual formation meeting, every counseling session, every person mentored, every youth group program that inspires children to be lifelong followers of Christ, and every institution with emotionally healthy and mature leaders who point people to Jesus. I sincerely hope you know the impact you are making in the world, for God’s kingdom and for God’s glory.”

Explore Bethel's Theological Studies Program

In Bethel’s M.A. Theological Studies you’ll make in-depth biblical explorations to gain a deep understanding of Scripture. In the process, you’ll acquire interpretive discipline, develop biblical wisdom, and prepare to teach with a focus on either biblical studies or Christian thought and theology. Most of all, you'll gain the confidence of one who handles God's Word with care and applies its truth to contemporary life with relevance.

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