ELC’s initial members are former members of the Evangelical Baptist Church (“EBC”) which is based in South Korea. As chapters of the EBC grew throughout South Korea and then, other parts of the world, a small chapter took root in Ann Arbor, Michigan in the late 1970s. In the course of the following 40 years, over fourty regional chapters formed in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Brazil and many more. In November 2001, these regional chapters in the United States reorganized themselves to reflect this unity by establishing themselves as one single church, the Evangelical Layman’s Church.
There weren’t many people at the beginning of our church — only about 150. In those early days, everyone was able to share his or her testimony and everyone planned together for the future of the fellowship. The first Bible conference from our church was held at Hayang Farm, located about one hour’s drive away from the southeastern city of Daegu. The conference site consisted of a cottage with an apple storehouse made of blocks that was nestled in among ancient apple and peach trees, and it was near a small pond. Since there was not enough room for everyone to share a meal, a temporary cafeteria was built next to the cottage. Lodgings were prepared by laying down apple boxes on the floor of the storehouse. There were times it rained so hard that people were forced to sleep in puddles of water. Loud, chirping cicadas had to be chased away because their noise made it difficult to hear. Conference attendees also suffered from swarms of mosquitoes. Those first conferences were held during the summer, and since water was so expensive, it was carried to the conference site with special yokes. Even though the number of people gathered in that humble place was small, the presence of the living word of God was among them. At the Bible recitation competitions held during the conferences, some of our members were able to recite the entire book of Matthew without pause.
A missionary organization called “The Evangelical Alliance Mission” (TEAM), which had responded positively to our gospel movement, allowed us to use their broadcasting station for spreading the gospel. It was at this time that we were first called the Korean Laymen’s Evangelical Fellowship. A number of non-native speakers, such as Dr. Vernon Mortenson (the President of TEAM), Rev. Richard Winchell, Rev. John Cook, and Uzi Manor, an Israeli ambassador, came to give lectures. Then a small chapter took root in Ann Arbor, Michigan in the late 1970s.
The gospel message was then spread to other cities in the United States and various countries in Europe and the fellowship continued to grow outside of South Korea. Bible Conferences and evangelical meetings are hosted in South Korea, the United States, and Germany.
The Anseong World Mission Center has become the place we hold our annual International Bible Conference in the summer. The Center provides a comfortable setting for people to gather and have fellowship and study the Bible. The natural setting provides a venue for brothers and sisters from abroad to gather and have fellowship. Our hope is to make the trumpet sound of the gospel resonate far and wide from this center for global missionary work, and to live our remaining days to the fullest.
Today, the Evangelical Layman’s Church is comprised of approximately 1,000 members in over 20 cities. Together with its sister churches worldwide, ELC is one part of a body of approximately 50,000 members in over 40 countries. Along with its sister churches such as EBC, ELC Europe and ELC Canada, ELC continues its work through missions in Asia, Europe, and the Americas and through its media arm, The Word Forum, which provides and distributes ELC’s sermons, lectures and books in more than twenty languages to countries across the globe.