I first met Steve Bang Lee and his wife Angela at a new student reception for Talbot in 2008. They were dating at the time. As my wife and I sat down with them, we got to hear their story and to know them. This time would begin their amazing story of God’s faithfulness, in their journey at Talbot School of Theology.
Steve Bang Lee graduated from Talbot with an M.Div. in 2012. He is married to Angela, an anesthesiologist, and they have four children: Isaiah, 8, Elizabeth, 5, Aaron, 3, and Ezra, 1. He currently serves as the teaching pastor at Mariner’s Church in Irvine, California, and as the pastor of Mariner’s North Irvine Neighborhood location.
Can you share about your early ministry experiences?
There were three stages of learning for me. My “First Years” were spent at Arcadia High School when I was part of the Christian club. I actually got to preach for the first time at the age of 16. It was there that my friend Caleb, the club president, believed in me and confirmed me toward a calling to full-time ministry. My second stage was what I call the “Try Years.” This time was spent at NaSung Church, a Korean church in Rowland Heights where I served as a youth pastor. I had a lot of zeal during this time but I lacked maturity. I was fortunate to have older, wiser staff members and pastors who invested in me. Finally, the last stage is what I call the “Learning Years” which was spent at Living Hope Community Church in Brea, California. There I learned to be more professional under the supervision of Pastor Steve Chang, the lead pastor. He gave me multiple opportunities to teach and to serve as the director of the SOLA conference. I am indebted to all of these great learning opportunities.
How was your transition from Living Hope (medium church) to Mariners (a megachurch)?
I think my transition was paradoxical. It was both a steep learning curve and at the same time seamless. I think I had a good sense of my ministry competencies. This was not too hard. That was the seamless part but the steep learning curve was jarring regarding the scale and the level of Mariners. It is much bigger. It works much faster. And the organizational culture is much more complex. Going from 50 to 10,000 people is quite a jump. But I’m thankful for the collaborative support and coworkers who helped me out.
What is your vision for your church and your ministry?
My vision is to inspire people to follow Jesus and fearlessly change the world. That’s the vision of our church and I’m passionate about it. Much like how the church of Philippi started out with people of different socioeconomic backgrounds who had different kinds of gospel encounters with God, I am praying our congregation plays a similar role for many in Orange County.
What were the most valuable lessons that you learned during your time at Talbot?
I think I learned two valuable lessons from my time at Talbot. The first was not just having right theology but doing theology right. What this means is to demonstrate humility and charity in how I interact with others. This was shown to me clearly by Drs. Robert Saucy and Rob Price. The other valuable lesson was how the best lessons of ministry were done off stage and out of the classroom. This was shown through the pastoral care of Drs. Walt Russell and Mark Saucy. They were men who cared for me and my life beyond the classroom. They would ask me how I was doing both personally as well as in my marriage. I am so thankful for their pastoral hearts.
What are some final thoughts and thanks you have toward Biola/Talbot as an alumnus?
My time at Talbot was exactly what I needed during that season of my life. My learnings and experiences in seminary still show up every week in my ministry with my family and in the local church. If I could do seminary all over again, I’d choose Talbot again!
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