The church must repent of addressing "secondary, peripheral issues" rather than "central issues of historic confessional Christianity..."

(Tim) Our parents lived in Cambridge on Mass. Ave when they were first married. Dad was I-V's first staff worker there in New England (it was all his terrritory) and he and Mud (Mother) attended Park Street Church when Ockenga was in his prime. David, Nathan, and I bought our M.Divs at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and while living on Boston's North Shore, were on the most intimate terms with the city's best and brightest.

So I was interested to see the kind of vision being cast for the ministry of the PCA there, now. Turns out the PCA has a congregation there called Citylife Church. The man leading Citylife's work is "Reverend Doctor Stephen Um" and, from the church's web site, here's how Dr. Um describes himself and summarizes his own philosophy of ministry on his congregation's web site:

First, Dr. Um describes...


Having received most of his higher education from institutions near the Boston area, Dr. Um has acquired a unique awareness for the various intellectual and cultural issues confronting Bostonians. He is a graduate of Phillips Academy [check out those pledge totals; high school has gotten expensive since I attended] at Andover, and Boston University where he read Sociology and Philosophy. After receiving a call to ministry, he entered Seminary at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary where he received an M. Div. and a post-graduate degree (Th.M.) in Biblical Theology. He received his Ph.D. in New Testament studies at St. Mary's College (University of St. Andrews) in Scotland. Furthermore, since the beginning of 2002, Dr. Um has been teaching New Testament studies as a faculty member of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He has a burden to propagate the vision of kingdom expansion through church planting to prospective church planters studying in our nation's seminaries.

For the past 16 years, Dr. Um and his wife (who has received a degree in Family Ministry and Counseling from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary) have been involved in several Presbyterian Churches throughout the Northeastern part of the country. They began their ministry by serving at a church in Hartford, CT for a couple of years before planting a multi-cultural college church at Brown University in Providence, RI. From there, they moved down to New York City for five years where they sensed God's call to plant a young professional ministry. He is now the Senior Minister of Citylife Church in Boston, and the author of The Theme of Temple Christology in John's Gospel, The Library of New Testament Studies 2006, T & T Clark International (formerly the Journal for the Study of the New Testament Supplement Series). Dr. Um is a member of the Board of Directors for The Gospel Coalition, for which he serves as the Secretary. Citylife Church in center city Boston is an ethnically diverse group of professional and creative urbanites.

Dr. Um and his wife have three children, Noël, Adeline, and Charlotte.

Next, Dr. Um describes his philosophy of ministry:

What is the greatest, most crying need in the American church today?

"I believe the greatest need for today's American church is for its individual members to make a radical commitment to the centrality of the Gospel as Christ's finished work for every aspect of their life and mission. We need to have the eyes of our hearts enlightened (Eph 1.18) in order to savor the supremacy of Christ in all things and to move away from anything that chokes or blinds our ability to value his worth and glory. Jesus perfectly lived the life that we should have lived by transferring his righteousness to his people so that our religious piety or social morality would be exposed for what it is, a form of self-salvation. The church needs to be aware of her tendency to focus on secondary, peripheral issues, that is addressing behavioristic symptoms, rather than on central issues of historic confessional Christianity, namely justification by faith alone on Jesus perfect record which gives us a vital relationship with a Holy God. The crying need in our churches is for prophetic voices to expose the limitations of all other cultural worldviews (e.g. traditional, modern, or postmodern) while offering an ultimate satisfaction and substitutionary redemption which frees us from all kinds of enslavement. The confidence and humility which Christ's righteousness provides will enable us to embrace this incarnational responsibility to be secure with ourselves while loving God and others. This commitment to a contextualized gospel will cause the church to be missional and counter cultural, and therefore more relevant and theologically sensitive in deconstructing other philosophical paradigms while illuminating both religious and secular people to engage in an organic relationship with the person of Jesus."

- Reverend Doctor Stephen Um

Reverend Doctor Stephen Um is explicitly targeting "an ethnically diverse group of professional and creative urbanites." Sadly, I fear he will only confirm Boston's best and brightest in their conviction that world history has been awaiting their arrival and that the Gospel is extraneous to their burden of actual bloody sins.


One wonders how the Reverend Doctor will preach on that aspect of Jesus' "perfect record" where he rebuked the disciples for shooing the children away and instructed them, "Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." (Matthew 19:14, NASB)


"Dr. Um is a member of the Board of Directors for The Gospel Coalition, for which he serves as the Secretary."

I could be mistaken, but the TGC has a statement of faith from T4G. And one of the many tenets therein is biblical complementarianism.

So in that regard he is running countercultural to the secularists and to the LibProts.

Or so I hope.

I can't tell from those excerpts what Dr. Um is all about, actually. Is he a Bayly, or a Keller? Does he think abortion protesting is central, or distracting? That's why good writing is concrete.

Our church while we lived in Cambridge Mass was Christ the King, just a block off of Mass Ave in Central Square. See . The assistant pastor while were there in 2001 planted a downtown church in Washington DC a few years ago.

I knew Stephen Um from New York some fifteen years ago. He seemed like a solid second generation Korean-American pastor. In the boroughs of NYC are a huge subculture of second generation Korean congregations.

Some of the wording definitely seems to derive from Redeemer's "Gospel DNA."

But these ideas totally depend on specifically what Dr. Um holds to and how he applies it.

This would be the issue I'd love to ask:

Here is a specific: does the Gospel DNA formulation for evaluating with whom to work lead to us working with and planting not only reformed churches, but others that are charismatic or "broadly evangelical" etc? In the short run, it would seem that the culture could be better reached and better transformed immediately with more churches whatever denomination. But I think all of that effort and energy to plant churches holding to errors on many issues including church polity from the start will tend to lead to churches that, like the seed sown in shallow soil, blossom for a decade or less and then gradually go liberal and turn away from the word of God.

Therefore in Taiwan, I've embraced participating in evangelism projects with many churches, but for church planting, I only want to focus my effort on planting doctrinally sound reformed churches. Even they can fall away. But hopefully they'd be more likely to still faithfully follow God's Word fifty years from now.

If I am not mistaken Citylife was a church plant of CTK.

So our chief end is to "Glorify God and enjoy him forever" but the way he says, "savor the supremacy of Christ" makes it sound like devouring a juicy steak rather than perceiving the blood and body of Christ.

Isn't that the way all of these intellectuals are. You can see the threads and ends of rationalism in these arguments. I don't like the way Chesterton equates Christianity with fairy land but the way he points out that Christians embrace apparent contradictions as the mysteries of God is right on.

Um is taking faith in Christ alone as something that excludes "hold back those staggering toward slaughter." He cannot embrace contradiction because he's worldly-rationalized-intellectualized the gospel and so has destroyed it.

He will take any action at all as an attempt to save oneself because he doesn't want to in faith be holy even as Christ is holy.


Wow, I'm not sure how one gets all this attacks from a short excerpted statement posted on his website.

So because he doesn't mention a whole list of sins, we assume he is turning a blind eye toward sin?

A short web search lead me here:
Where you can find him affirming things like complementarianism and preaching on the Ten Commandments.

Dear Tim,

This presentation the Reverend Doctor Stephen Um makes of himself above is perfectly suited to Boston.



Perhaps you are aware of things that I am not, but I still don't see how it follows that "I fear he will only confirm Boston's best and brightest in their conviction that world history has been awaiting their arrival and that the Gospel is extraneous to their burden of actual bloody sins."

Unless somehow the offense of the cross of Christ isn't foolish in Boston any more. One would think that speaking of satisfaction and substitutionary redemption is hardly going to be a ministry devoid of dealing with real sins that happen in the real world.

It is just a website blurb after all, how does one know he is not just being winsome? Based on what you lay out here, I have trouble finding this as much more than hearsay--or frustration that he didn't say things the way you would have said things. Besides calling for a radical commitment to the gospel in all areas of life will at numerous point challenge the culture no matter how hip and urbanite the community.


>>I have trouble finding this as much more than hearsay--or frustration that he didn't say things the way you would have said things.

Words say things, and I'm trusting for every person who sees winsomeness here, there will be others who see... What needs to be seen here is painfully obvious to me, and has nothing to do with how I want it said. To put it another way, the Reverend Doctor Stephen Um is communicating perfectly if Boston's best and brightest are his audience.

Anyhow, I'm leaving it at that. You think I'm nitpicking and that's fine. We'll see if it plays in Peoria.


There is a video on the link provided above by Mr. Bertolet called, "What are biblical roles for husbands and wives?"

The Reverend Doctor Stephen Um's bottom line is that husbands have tie-breaking authority in the home.

I have actually been to over a dozen services at Citylife church in Boston (most recently, this January), have met with Pastor Um, and have been to a small group through the church. Contrary to the judgements made on the website, Pastor Um does indeed preach on sin, much more boldly than any service I have attended outside of CGS (certainly in Boston). The message he preaches is bold and convicting (I personally left with conviction of specific sins every time I attended a service), and the congregation is small-ish (for such a city) as a result. The congregation contains many students (which is wonderful, since Boston has so many universities) who are very involved in ministering to others on their college campuses. There are also many families and a surprising number of children (many very young) IN the actual service. I would suggest visiting, if you ever have the opportunity, as that would be more telling (and constructive for the purpose of drawing conclusions).

Dear Emily,

Thank you for your commendation of this congregation and its pastor.


It may be one point in his favor that he hasn't attended Westminster Seminary.

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