Walter Kim became the NAE president in January 2020. He also serves as teacher-in-residence at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Charlottesville, Virginia, after ministering for 15 years at Boston’s historic Park Street Church. He has spent nearly three decades preaching, writing and engaging in collaborative leadership to connect the Bible to the significant intellectual, cultural and social issues of the day. He serves on the boards of Christianity Today and World Relief, and on the Advisory Council of Gordon College. Kim received his Ph.D. from Harvard University in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, his M.Div. from Regent College in Vancouver, and his B.A. from Northwestern University, and he is a licensed minister in the Conservative Congregational Christian Conference.
Walter Kim is a pastor, scholar and thought leader, and he became president of the National Association of Evangelicals in January 2020. Today’s Conversation with Leith Anderson, NAE president emeritus, and Walter Kim offers unique insight into Walter’s background and his hopes for the future of American Christianity.
In this podcast, you’ll hear Walter describe:
- How his parents’ immigration story shaped his view of American life;
- What living in different environments — from a coal town in Pennsylvania to Harvard University — taught him about bridging cultural divides;
- His understanding of “evangelical-isms” within America; and
- What opportunities await evangelicals in today’s cultural moment.
Read a Portion of the Transcript
Leith: Why NAE? What draws you to this opportunity to be the leader, the president of the National Association of Evangelicals?
Walter: I’m convinced that evangelicals need to move away from this controlling metaphor of culture wars. I think we have an opportunity to have a different kind of metaphor — a metaphor of bridge building. Not as a compromise to our deep convictions of the truthfulness of the Gospel — the beauty of Jesus, of orthodoxy — but as a recognition that in this cultural context as America increasingly becomes post-Christian, at least portions of America, that we have this missional opportunity to present the Gospel with a freshness, a vitality, a mandate that we need to do this. What’s going on in our culture is not something that we need to wage war against, as much as we need to reach, love, win over to Gospel.
But it’s a complicated moment. It requires critical thinking. It requires engaging charitably. It requires an irenic spirit. It requires collaboration in the common cause of Christ, and the NAE represents this. When I joined the board in 2013, I was struck by the breadth of denominations and organizations that were represented. Each recognizing that they have distinctives in terms of their theological entities, in terms of their particular organizational focus, but what bound us together in the NAE was so much greater than what differentiated us. The Gospel is this message, this person, that drew people together.
We do not have this in our culture, and rather than lamenting this, I see this as an opportunity. I see this as an opportunity to present Christ anew to the culture. The spirit of NAE is precisely the kind of compelling witness that brings a vitality to the goodness of the Good News that America truly needs in this moment. To be a part of that is exciting. It’s exhilarating. I look forward to that. It’s also daunting. It drives me to my knees. It gives me this sense that, “Lord, if you are not in this, it is doomed to fail.” Yet I believe the Lord is in this, and so I’m excited about what is ahead.
This bridge building for my own story is particularly important. As an Asian American, I feel very strongly about the changing composition ethnically of America. Yes, it provides challenges in an unprecedented way. We are going to have to figure out what does it mean to live in such a diverse country. But it provides an opportunity to mirror in our own country what it means that we are one day going to be worshipping around the throne of God and people from every nation, tribe, tongue and language are going to be there. We get to see a microcosm of that here in America in the decades to come.
The NAE, I think, represents an opportunity to see this robust, diverse, winsome Good News draw people together. So, whether it’s a message that draws people together across ethnic or economic lines or regions of the country, it is precisely this kind of gospel that I believe the NAE is deeply committed to and I’m thrilled, again, for this opportunity.
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- “NAE Appoints Walter Kim as Next President” — NAE press release
- “National Association of Evangelicals New President Hopes to Bring Together a Movement in Crisis” — Christianity Today article
- “National Association of Evangelicals Names New President, Diverse Leadership” — Religion News Service article
Today’s Conversation is brought to you by Wheaton College Graduate School.